Jane Cleveland feels like she has the best young five-year-old horse in the country right now. She and her Trakehner gelding Kavalier just won the Midwest finals for young horses at Lamplight in Chicago with the country's highest score, an 8.375. Out of three Finals in the US, the others held at DG Bar Ranch in CA and the Capital Classic Dressage show in Raleigh, NC, the pair had the highest score of any horse/rider combination in the country.
Cleveland said that Kavalier, a son of Amatcho, who is by Macho, and out of an Erzsand mare, was stiff from the travel and cold; Chicago was far chillier than their home in Nashville, TN. She rode him in the qualifier, as a warm-up, and then used the judges' suggestions, which are given in a commentary immediately following each ride, to improve her ride on Sunday.
Now Cleveland is focusing on raising money to take Kavalier to Verden, Germany for the World Championships in August. "I've earned a spot but as we all know it's expensive," she said. "I'm trying to do fundraising now and figure out a way to get there. I'd love to go." If she can organize things to go, she plans to spend a couple of weeks before the show training in Germany, and to compete in another show as a warm-up for the Championships.
She has been training with Jan Brons and had very successful season in Florida. During the long, complicated qualifying procedure, the pair won at all but one show, where they placed fourth and fifth. Last year Kavalier showed brilliance but was so excitable that he left the arena of his own accord right in the middle of a test once; with Cleveland's patient training he has blossomed into a consistent performer.
His story reads like a dramatic novel: Cleveland had another horse, Ocho, by Olympic Ferro, whom she had bought as a four-year-old. This was her first horse that could really take her places,, and they had just completed a successful show season when he became ill. Despite the best efforts of Dr. Scott Hopper, D.V.M. in Lexingon, KY, they lost him due to a complicated problem with his digestive system.
Clevland decided to replace him immediately, and traveled with her coach at the time, Marco Bernal, to Germany and Holland to look at horses. "I looked at over 70 horses, but Kavalier was the only one I was interested in," she said.
Following last year's successful competitive season, Cleveland planned to compete in the Test for Five-Year-Olds with him in the winter of 2002. Those plans were almost brought to a screeching halt.
In January Kavalier developed a bump on his face that veterinarians told her was a huge mass. Cleveland was devastated by the news, but would not give up on her horse; she took him to Lexington to Dr. Hopper, who operated and removed a grapefruit-sized benign tumor. Twelve days later, staples still intact, she was riding Kavalier again, and within six weeks they were winning in Florida.
She said that if she were to rename the grey gelding, she would call him "Silver Lining." Now without even a scar to show, they have proved that they are serious contenders ready to represent the United States in International competition.
"The US has made big progress this year," said Cleveland, who last year competed in the Test for Six-year-olds with her Westphalian gelding, Enigma, (Ehrentusch / Anastasia), who is now competing in Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire 1. "They're doing it like they do in Europe. Down in Wellington [FL], they held the classes in the morning and the crowd was really interested."
Last year there was some controversy that the Test for Five-Year-Olds asked the horses to progress to quickly in their training, but Cleveland said that it was right on track for her. "It's such a great program, why not attempt it?" she said. "It's a nice way to determine some of the better horses in the country. It's been nice to think I have one of the better horses in the country -- and even better to think that I have the best horse in the country. That's a great feeling!"