Heather Mason and Zar Triumph in FEI Intermediaire-I

Heather Mason and Zar  Photo: SusanJStickle
Heather Mason and Zar Photo: SusanJStickle

Heather Mason (USA) and Zar won the FEI Intermediaire-I presented by Chesapeake Dressage Institute on Saturday afternoon. Mason and Zar also won the FEI Intermediaire Freestyle during the first week of competition and topped week three's class with a score of 71.842%. Second place went to Brittany Fraser of Canada and All In for their score of 71.053%. Fellow Canadian Chris Von Martels rounded out the top three with Zilverstar. The pair finished on a score of 70.868%. The 2014 AGDF was Mason's first, but she and Zar certainly made the most of their trip south. Her goal for the year was to qualify Zar of the Festival of Champions (Ky.), which, thanks to her multiple wins at AGDF, she has already accomplished. Mason worked with Lars Petersen while in Wellington, who she credits with putting them on the path to success. 

Heather Mason and Zar  Photo: SusanJStickle
Heather Mason and Zar Photo: SusanJStickle

"I've been working with Lars [twice a week] since I've been here. We've been working on more power and more engagement, especially in the extensions. I need to keep going like this and build the strength now. Our goal coming here was to qualify for the Festival, which now he's pretty sure to be in [since] his average is over 70," Mason explained.

Following the Festival of Champions, Mason's focus with Zar will be moving him up to the grand prix level. It's time for her "backburner horse" she's owned since he was four months old to step into the big leagues.
"It's been a challenge," Mason admitted when asked about her and Zar's journey. A habitually spooky horse that Mason describes as "an honest to goodness chicken," Zar has certainly tested Mason's fortitude. It all came together Saturday afternoon, although the 10-year-old KWPN gelding was briefly unnerved as the test began.
"Zar was more relaxed than yesterday, so I could go for a little bit more. We did have one major spook at A. But everything else was good. After the spook, I upped the ante a little bit more and pushed a little bit harder to make up the points," Mason commented. "He was much more rideable, minus the spook, which actually surprised me."
When Mason first arrived in Florida, she hadn't had a lesson with Petersen on Zar for some time. Not wanting to push the gelding too quickly, they played it conservative during AGDF 1 before going for more week three.
"This show I definitely pushed for more. It helps to have Lars standing out there yelling at me," she joked. "We played it low-key at the last show, but we knew we could ask for more. Yesterday, I had to be conservative again, but today, Lars was like 'Go for it!'"  
The final test for Mason and Zar at the 2014 AGDF will be the FEI Intermediaire Freestyle, which will wrap up competition for the third week of the AGDF. Mason and Zar will head back to Mason's Flying Change Farm, based in Lebanon, NJ, at the end of the month, but the AGDF carries on with nine more weeks of world-class dressage competition through March 30.
Final Results: FEI Intermediaire-1, presented by the Chesapeake Dressage Institute
Rider, Country, Horse: Judge E%, Judge H%, Judge C%, Judge M%, Judge B%, Total%
1 Heather Mason, USA, Zar: 70.132%, 71.316%, 71.711%, 73.533%, 72.500%, 71.842%
2 Brittany Fraser, CAN, All In: 73.026%, 72.105%, 71.316%, 69.737%, 69.079%, 71.503%
3 Chris Von Martels, CAN, Zilverstar: 71.184%, 70.789%, 71.053%, 70.395%, 70.921%, 70.868%
4 Juan Matute, Jr., ESP, Don Diego Ymas: 68.684%, 68.026%, 71.842%, 68.158%, 68.684%, 69.079%
5 Tom Dvorak, CAN, Ribot: 67.368%, 66.579%, 68.829%, 66.579%, 68.816%, 67.526%
6 Gabriela Stumpf ,AUT, Finally Love: 67.632%, 66.053%, 66.184%, 66.447, 66.579%, 66.579%
7 Melissa Jackson, USA, Whirpool: 66.316%, 65.000%, 65.658%, 66.842%, 65.395%, 65.842%
8 Mary-Haskins Gurganus, USA, Richmond HL: 67.105%, 62.105%, 66.711%, 64.079%, 66.447%, 65.289%
For more information go to: www.globaldressagefestival.net