Albuquerque, NM –kicked off his European Tour with a bang this weekend at CDI-O Rotterdam in the Netherlands. With Mikala Gundersen in the saddle, the 17-hand stallion impressed the judges in the freestyle to finish in fifth place with a 73.95% behind Edward Gal, Imke Schelleken-Bartels and Anky Van Grunsven. The pair also claimed the Team Bronze in the Nations Cup with the Danish team and earned a 67.575% in the Grand Prix and. They will also join the team that will represent Denmark this July at CHIO Aachen, the most prestigious horse show in the world.
Photo Credit: Susan Stickle
“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Anne Sparks, owner of Leonberg and Horses Unlimited. “Rotterdam is an important horse show with some of the world’s best riders, so to finish this well in top company is fantastic.” Their strong finish in Rotterdam, along with an impressive show season in the United States earlier this spring and winter, earned Leonberg and Gundersen a place on Denmark’s team for CHIO Aachen. Held June 26-July 5, 2009, Aachen is considered one of the sport’s most important horse shows, not just for dressage, but also for jumping and combined driving. This year’s edition is a pre-cursor for the European Championships that are scheduled for August at Windsor Castle.
“I am so happy,” explained a thrilled Gundersen. “I still cannot believe it!” The pair performed their freestyle to a medley of Elvis Presley tunes, which they have used throughout the season, but with constantly updated choreography.
Gundersen began showing Leonberg in 2008 and has built a solid relationship with the stallion. Among the duo’s dozen top placings this year: a win in the Grand Prix at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI-W, and a second place in the Grand Prix Freestyle with a 73.650% at the WEF Dressage Classic CDI-W. “Leonberg is finally reaching his potential,” Sparks explains. “I knew from the first minute that I saw him that he was really a special horse and I’m really glad that I put my faith in Mikala.”
In addition to Leonberg, the Horses Unlimited stallion roster includes the 1998 Oldenburg Showjumping Stallion of the Year, Noble Champion; USDF Horse of the Year and top ranked Hanoverian sire, Pik L; and 2005 Nurnberger Burgpokal Finals Reserve Champion, Wild Dance.