It was an emotional victory for Kelly Burke Hayner as she rode Rantaro in his very first freestyle competition to win this evening's $3,000 FEI Grand Prix Freestyle. Hampton Green Farm generously sponsored all of Dressage by the Bay's FEI classes, and Gary Rockwell judged tonight's freestyles. A total of $5,000 in prize money was given out to the winner's of the freestyle classes thanks to Horse Sports by the Bay, Inc. co-owners Dean and Alex Rheinheimer.
Kelly Burke Hayner and Rantaro scored a 68.500% over Brad Cutshall and Pointjack's second place score of 65.00% to win tonight's class. Rantaro is a 13-year-old bay Holsteiner gelding (Rantaras x High Voltage MMP) that just started competing at the Grand Prix level this year.
"I put this freestyle together at the last minute," Hayner stated. "I never thought for a moment that he would be ready for a freestyle the first year doing Grand Prix, but he surprised me. The first few shows he was very steady and had consistent scores, so I just put something together and I did it all myself. I was a little worried, but I worked very hard and found music that is very close to my heart that I thought fit this horse very well."
Hayner used music from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean and explained that she choreographed the freestyle two weeks ago and had the music done just four days before the show. "I am very proud of him and I am completely overwhelmed," she expressed. "There is just something about this horse that reminds me of Captain Jack, the little guy with the big personality. I love the music, I felt emotional about the music, and I just really wanted to ride a freestyle with this horse."
Hayner noted that she listened to her favorite country music on her ipod while warming up, which helped her stay calm and focused. "I didn't want to be distracted by the crowd or the other people's music, so I just listened to my ipod and I stayed very relaxed and so did he. He was wonderful through the warm up and wonderful in the show ring. That was probably the best run through he has had of that freestyle and I just couldn't be more proud of him."
Hayner acknowledged how great it was to have a crowd there to watch and cheer them on. "I loved riding with the crowd," she smiled. "It makes you realize that there is a reason why you work so hard at this sport. It is for moments like that when you can come out and put a smile on other people's faces and not just your own."
Prior to the Grand Prix Freestyle, the $2,000 FEI Intermediaire I Freestyle was held, with another victory going to two of this week's most consistent competitors, Colleen Haveman and Warello. Haveman and Warello scored a 68.750% to win the class over second place finishers Kelly Gormley and Irioso, who finished with a 66.750%. Haveman is a Traverse City resident, and has owned Warello, a 15-year-old chestnut Hanoverian gelding (Werther x Carolin), for a little over a year.
"I was very happy with my freestyle," Haveman said. "I don't think there was anything that could have been better technically. It was my best ride of the whole weekend on him and I am just extremely happy and happy to be here."
Haveman explained that Nick Vasquez at the local Rolling Thunder Studios put her music together a little over a week ago, so she was very happy that they were able to put the choreography together so quickly. "I have to say I really like the walk music. It matches his footfalls extremely well," she stated.
Haveman was also very pleased with the large turn out of the crowd, which was much bigger than she thought it would be. She added a special thank you to her family and friends, saying, "I am really lucky to have such a supportive family and I really appreciate everyone that has helped me."
The $1,000 FEI Junior/Young Rider Freestyle was held at the start of this evening's competition and Robyn Weston of Grandville, MI, rode Willow to the top score with a 65.500%. Willow is a nine-year-old chestnut Hanoverian gelding (Wolkenglanz x Toskana).
Dressage by the Bay will conclude tomorrow with breed and young horse classes. The month-long Horse Shows by the Bay Equestrian Festival will come to its grand finale tomorrow afternoon with the exciting Polo by the Bay competition, held in the Grand Prix Ring at 2 p.m. For more information, please visit www.horseshowsbythebay.com.