New York, NY- The Rolex Central Park Horse Show hosted its first-ever international dressage grand prix CDI4* in Wollman Rink on Friday afternoon with a win for Olympians Judy Reynolds and Vancouver K of Ireland with a high score of 73.80%. Reynolds guided the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (by Jazz out of Phantastia) through a beautiful test for the first time in Central Park and had a great experience.
On making the decision to travel to New York after their Olympic appearance, Reynolds stated, "After the Olympics in Rio, I had intended on taking a little bit of a longer break, but I was back home and I got a text message from Thomas Baur asking what I was doing on these dates. I said, 'Nothing at the moment, what have you got in mind?' And he asked if I wanted to come to Central Park. I thought it sounded like really great fun. I had seen the pictures from the last couple of years, and it was just one of these competitions that I thought, 'That's one I really want to do at some point.' It is an amazing location, and I think it is definitely one you can't miss."
Owned by Joe and Kathleen Reynolds, Vancouver K has come long way with Reynolds and proved his development with a solid performance in the exciting atmosphere of Central Park.
"A little less than two years ago we made the decision to really expose him to atmosphere because he had not been dealing with it that well," Reynolds detailed. "He is quite a hot horse. We went to the World Equestrian Games in 2014, and it just did not work at all. He just did not deal with the atmosphere and all the attention, so we made the decision to go to big competitions. We did World Cup and things like that last year, which really exposed him to different venues and environments, and that was really important for us.
"We had a busy winter and spring qualifying for Rio because I had to go to (as an) individual. That was quite a tough qualifying process," Reynolds continued. "Then we took a little bit of a break after qualifying, and we did four competitions leading up to Rio. He is better when he competes often, so we take long breaks and then do more intense periods of competition. That is just what works for him. I am glad we have taken the route of exposing him to different things because otherwise this would not have worked. You are walking through the park and there is just so much going on, so they have to be able to focus on you still through all that. I would not have missed this for the world."
Sweden's Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and Lovsta Stuteri's Paridon Magi finished second with a score of 73.14%. Canada's Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu and her own All In placed third with a 71.06%.
Vilhelmson-Silfven was also at the Olympic Games in Rio with her top mount Don Auriello and took the opportunity to rest the stallion while bringing Paridon Magi back to Central Park for his second year at the competition.
The seven-time Olympian was also very happy to have this year's CDI4* rating and enjoyed her Grand Prix test on Friday. "I think that is really important of course, and I hope that is going to make more riders come," Vilhelmson-Silfven stated. "The feeling to ride into this atmosphere with the backdrop is really amazing. It was a bit different this year than last year. Last year, the Pope was here on Friday, so it was very empty in the park. Now there was a lot going on in the park when we walked up to the arena. That was very exciting, but also very good I think that the horses can handle that, and they can. You don't feel that at all once you get into the arena. It's almost like they say, 'Phew, now I'm here, now I can work.' I had a great feeling in there, and I am happy to be able to have a second horse like him to pull out of my sleeve and show sometimes. I think he is a great horse to do this with."
Third place finisher Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu of Canada also had a great time competing in Central Park. This was her first time in the busy atmosphere of the Park and her horse All In took it in stride.
"There is really nothing that compares to a show like this and the atmosphere," Fraser-Beaulieu stated. "I was not sure how he would handle the atmosphere. There were people playing ball and kids were screaming, but he came down to the ring and was totally settled in. I took the summer off from competing and just took time to train, and I think it really made a difference."
Judge Gary Rockwell commented on the day's results and acknowledged the top three horses and riders on their efforts.
"I think it is a top-notch competition. The setting is obviously something no one else has in the world," Rockwell noted. "There is a lot going on here, but I was quite impressed with how obedient the horses were in the arena. No one had any problems with distractions or anything, so it is definitely a setting that can handle a CDI 4* like this. I am very happy with the rides today. Especially these three horses; every time I see them they are better, so I am always happy to see that."
Dressage competition continues on tonight with the U.S. Open $75,000 FEI Dressage Freestyle CDI 4*, presented by Axel Johnson. The evening will also feature a special freestyle demonstration from three-time Olympic gold medalists Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.
Competition in Central Park's Wollman Rink continues through Sunday, September 25, with more multi-discipline equestrian sport. For more information and full results, visit www.centralparkhorseshow.com.
Final Results: U.S. Open Dressage Grand Prix CDI 4*, presented by Axel Johnson