Devon, Pennsylvania – In her first competition riding for Lithuania, Julia Vysniauskas earned a score of 71.00%, a personal best, for her Grand Prix Freestyle performance at the prestigious CDI*** Dressage at Devon held September 29 to October 2 in Pennsylvania.
Formerly representing Canada, 24-year-old Vysniauskas officially changed her nationality in August to her family’s native Lithuania. Making her international debut under the new flag at CDI Devon, Vysniauskas placed fourth among the 15-horse starting field in the Grand Prix for the Freestyle, earning a score of 65.292%. Dressage at Devon’s Saturday evening Freestyle performances, held under the lights in the Dixon Oval Arena, have become legendary. Vysniauskas added to the story, earning an impressive score of 71.00% from the five-member panel of international judges for her technically demanding freestyle program set to a medley of Abba music.
“He loves crowds, and the bigger the crowd is, the better he performs!” raved Vysniauskas of her Grand Prix partner Syntax, a 13-year-old Czechoslovakian Warmblood gelding. “It is a freestyle program that the crowd enjoys and that Syntax enjoys performing.”
Vysniauskas returned to competition in Devon after being sidelined briefly with a head injury and severe lung infection.
“I am back on track and feeling much better,” said Vysniauskas, who is looking forward to competing on the Florida circuit this winter. “We missed three Canadian CDI competitions this season, but at least I was able to make it to Devon and attend one show this year.”
In addition to her Grand Prix results with Syntax, Vysniauskas also earned an impressive victory in the Intermediaire I riding Papillion, a horse she purchased in Belgium just over a year ago. In their first show together at CDI*** Allentown, NJ, in 2004, the pair were crowned the Fourth Level Champions, then continued to show in Florida over the winter with good results. This summer, they moved up to the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire divisions and made their CDI debut at Devon.
After earning a score of 66.167% in the Prix St. Georges, Vysniauskas and the bay German Sport Horse gelding topped 36 of the best horses and riders currently competing in North America to win the Intermediaire I with a score of 70.00%.
“He had so much energy, but he did not make one mistake,” Vysniauskas said of their winning test. “He has great extensions, excellent pirouettes and a strong walk. And, in his first Freestyle ever, we placed seventh overall with a score of 68.575%. I am very proud of him and he is only eight years old, so I am looking forward to the road ahead of us. Overall, I am very happy with the way both of my horses performed, and all five of my tests were great.”
Riding under a new flag, Vysniauskas became the first equestrian athlete to ever represent Lithuania in international competition.
“Changing nationalities was a very difficult decision to make, but when they played the Lithuanian anthem, I was very proud of my decision,” said Vysniauskas, a duel citizen whose grandparents came to Canada following the Second World War. “Both of my parents are of Lithuanian descent and I still have family that lives there, so it is very special to be able to represent my heritage.
“I am starting a new phase in my life, and Devon was a wonderful show to make it all happen!” continued Vysniauskas who currently makes her home in Guelph, ON. “My mother was able to be with me at Devon, and that made it even more special. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family.”
Vysniauskas first found success on the international stage when she placed fourth individually at the 2001 North American Young Riders’ Championship riding Freuden Tanzer. She made her Grand Prix debut in 2003 and contested the FEI Canadian League World Cup Final the same year at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto, ON, where she placed third overall.
Originally from Cochrane, AB, where her mother operates Kestrel Ridge Farm, Vysniauskas now trains with Lorraine Stubbs at her Rockeden Farms in Rockwood, ON. A veteran of Olympic, World Championship and Pan American Games, Stubbs is also an FEI ‘I’ judge.