Saugerties, N.Y. – Juli Sherif showed that he’s back in top form at this past weekend’s New England Dressage Association Fall Festival CDI-W/Y/J taking double Grand Prix wins in CDI competition. The 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding had missed competing at the last month because he wasn’t feeling quite right, but he’s clearly back on track.
Juli Sherif and his rider and owner Sharon McCusker were offered an invite to last month’s National Dressage Championships and World Equestrian Games Selection Trials, but McCusker turned it down.
“We did the WEG trials in Florida and got good scores and qualified to go to Gladstone, but he wasn’t feeling quite right,” McCusker said of her partner. Instead, the two went home and Juli Sherif had a break. McCusker said she never did figure out what was wrong with Juli Sherif, but time seemed to be the cure. “It wasn’t anything you could put your finger on and nothing that you could see. I gave him a little time and whatever it was, it just worked itself out.”
Juli Sherif and McCusker took the win in Friday’s CDI Grand Prix with a score of 64.043 and they won Sunday’s CDI Grand Prix Freestyle, developed with the help of Ruth Hogan-Poulsen and ridden to music of Sarah Brightman, with a score of 69.150. “We’re back,” McCusker said afterward. “He feels fine now and he felt great in the ring, like he really wanted to be here and wanted to go to work.”
She said it was a great ending to the summer show season in the Northeast and that it was. “It was a beautiful weekend, everything was so perfect,” McCusker said. Show officials would agree. The NEDA Fall Festival combines CDI competition with the U.S. Dressage Federation’s Region 8 Championships and with a large breed show, all of which runs over six days of competition. This year’s show was one of the largest with more than 420 riders just in the regional championship classes alone.
The NEDA show was held at the HITS-on-the-Hudson grounds during the same time that hunter/jumper riders were gathered on the grounds for the Marshall and Sterling League finals. At the height of the competition, more than a dozen rings were in action. Amazingly, perfect fall weather greeted nearly every day of the show, with rain showers arriving only for one evening. Hunter/jumper VIPs came in and out by helicopter and dressage VIPs and competitors were kept well-supplied with excellent food and wine by show sponsors, making it as much a social event as a competitive one.
Coming in second behind Juli Sherif and McCusker, in both the CDI Grand Prix and the CDI Grand Prix Freestyle, was Manette DC, ridden by Susan Dutta. The 11-year-old KWPN mare, owned by Dutta and her husband Tim, was narrowly defeated. She and Dutta scored a 63.872 in Friday’s CDI Grand Prix and a 69.100 in the Freestyle.
Manette’s freestyle, using the music of Madonna, was developed by Marlene Whitaker, and Dutta admits it’s her favorite ever. “It’s wonderful. I love my freestyle. It’s the best I’ve had and I had a really good one with Gumshoes, but this is my favorite one.”
Dutta said she wasn’t terribly disappointed at finishing second twice over the weekend, especially considering that Manette is quite green at Grand Prix. “She has only done five grand prix and she’s a lovely, honest horse. But, when you leave a show placing second twice, you go home to work a little bit.”
Winner of the CDI Grand Prix Special was the Canadian team of Abrikos and Denielle Legriffon with a score of 62.542. Right behind them in second was another Canadian duo – Lindor’s Finest and Ute Busse with a score of 62.458.
And in CDI Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire competition, Lori Washton’sonce again rode away with a hat trick taking wins in the CDI Prix St. Georges, the CDI Intermediaire I and the CDI Intermediaire Freestyle with Cesar Parra aboard. The 14-year-old KWPN gelding was also this year’s U.S. National Intermediaire Champion.
Parra also won Saturday’s FEI Intermediaire II with the nine-year-old Westfalen geling Grandioso, owned by Michael Davis. That gave Parra four FEI wins at this year’s NEDA show and after adding up the wins, he said, “I think this makes 15 wins at the FEI level at NEDA shows.” Saying that such success “takes more than luck,” Parra gave much credit to the support of his team of sponsors, horse owners, riders and “my wife, for sure.”
Winning is nothing new for Olympia, but Parra said the wins at NEDA were important because they came before a panel of CDI judges not all of whom are familiar with the horse. “When you know the judges, you get an idea of what they like and don’t like and you can adjust for them. But, this is a new panel that hasn’t seen the horse before and they have very high standards. So, it’s exciting to see them also giving us the points. I think this horse really tries hard and you can see that he’s still getting better and better.”