James Armstrong, riding Patsy Ward's Gustaaf, won the blue ribbon in the USET Grand Prix de Dressage (63.467) during Dressage at Equestrian Estates, March 29-April 1 in Loxahatchee, Florida. The pair also placed second in the Grand Prix musical freestyle (65.625).
Gustaaf is a KWPN gelding by the Swedish stallion Flamingo; too hot for his amateur owner, he was sent to Armstrong for training over the summer. The relationship between horse and rider blossomed and Ward left Gustaaf with Armstrong for the long-term to develop his full potential. With the scores that he has now, Armstrong plans to compete at the USET Festival of Champions in Gladstone, New Jersey. He also would like to qualify for the World Championships next year.
He had planned to compete in Europe later this summer, but because of foot and mouth disease he now hopes to go there in the fall. "I'd like to compete in Amsterdam, but it's hard to get in," he said." Their biggest accomplishment has been representing the US at last year's Volvo World Cup Final in Washington.
Recently he has been getting help from Kenneth Dyrby, who he says has been a big part of changing Gustaaf's outlook. "He's a small horse, only sixteen hands," said Armstrong. "We're working on regularity in his piaffe and passage, which are his strong points, right now."
Armstrong spends the winter in Wellington, Florida and is based in Maryland the rest of the year. "Being in Florida is like a vacation for me," he said. "I work harder in Maryland; I can focus on my own goals while I'm in Florida.
Text by Amber Heintzberger