The afternoon's competition at AGDF featured a FEI Grand Prix Freestyle 3*, presented by The Dutta Corp., with a top finish for Kelly Layne (AUS) riding Whistlejacket Farm LLC's Udon P, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding by Hierarch, out of Maleida. The pair earned their highest score ever with a 73.625%. Germany's Kim Jesse and Dirk Haese's Charming 8 finished second with a score of 70.200%. Susan Dutta (USA) and Currency DC placed third with a 69.925%. Layne and Udon P finished second in Thursday's FEI Grand Prix 3*, and the rider explained that her horse felt very relaxed for this afternoon's freestyle. "He warmed up as calm as he ever has for a competition," she stated. "He was very concentrated, very focused. He is starting to know his music cues and that is kind of cool. It makes the whole routine feel much smoother and then I can be more harmonious with the horse and really ride to my music. I think that just comes from more experience in the ring."
Layne was very excited to get the freestyle win and earn her best score yet with Udon P. "It was awesome," she smiled. "It was certainly exciting to win a CDI in Wellington. I could not be happier with the horse and also with the result. It was my best score absolutely in a grand prix and for the freestyle my best score again today. The horse is steadily improving all of the time. I think it will certainly help with our plans to go to Europe for the summer and campaign for a position on the Australian team (for the World Equestrian Games)."
Layne spoke about Udon's strengths in his freestyle, noting that this was only his fourth freestyle ever. "For sure the piaffe/passage is very good for him," she described. "With the choreography, we try to make it so that we can show that off to all of the judges from all of the views, which is important. I think that suits him very well. He is also very strong on the flying changes, and they were very good today."
"He is 18.1 hands high and he is a bit of a scaredy cat," Layne said of Udon's personality. "He kind of clings to me, but he is not super affectionate. He is one of those horses that has to come to you; you can't go to him. If you go to put your hand to him, he doesn't know what to do, but if you stand there and he touches you first, then you can touch him anywhere. He has a real character, real personality."
Second place finisher, Kim Jesse, is back in the ring after some time off from competing with her mount Charming 8, a 16-year-old Rheinlander stallion by Champus out of Lesley S, and was very happy with her ride on Friday.
"He is just two days out from quarantine, so we did not really have enough time for training, but he did a good job," Jesse noted, going on to describe her horse's strengths and personality as well. "For a stallion, he is pretty clear in the head and he likes his music. We change it sometimes and now it fits very good. He is always focused and always concentrated on what he is doing and what I want from him. He is a very supple horse. He is always using his body and always loose in the muscles. He has good strength behind. Pirouettes are absolutely his favorite; he loves to do pirouettes."
"I was out for nearly half a year not riding because I was ill, and now we are just trying to get back together and do some competitions," Jesse explained. "Today was the first day where we were together again in the ring and had a good feeling together."
This is Jesse's first year competing at AGDF and she has liked the stability of showing in one location for an extended period of time.
"I really enjoy it. It is super conditions for the horses," she stated. "The footing is very good, and the weather is good. In Europe now it is pretty cold and the option to ride so many international competitions in one spot is great. It is a win-win situation. It is absolutely good to ride here with your horses, train them, and ride and compete in one place. It is absolutely amazing."
Jesse also had the convenience of flying her horses to Florida for the competition through AGDF sponsor, The Dutta Corp. She thanked them for their great service.
"The traveling was great," she acknowledged. "They picked us up from the airport, and we didn't have to do anything. It was only one journey. In Europe you have to load the horse every second weekend, so thank you to them."
Susan Dutta finished third with her horse, Currency DC, a 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Clintino, out of Cinderella. Dutta was happy with how her freestyle finished out after having to restart due to a musical problem.
"He was good," Dutta stated. "We had an unfortunate mishap with the music, and you always wonder how they are going to feel when you have to start again. He is really sensitive, but he handled it so well."
Dutta is no stranger to the AGDF competition and explained that the venue is very comfortable for her. "I feel really settled as a rider at this horse show and for him, I feel like we are in a rhythm," Dutta said. "That is the really nice thing of having all of these shows here. You get in a rhythm and you get relaxed and then you start to ride better in the ring. It is so nice. Then you can improve and fix things and get better quality and new feelings."
"We are so lucky," she smiled. "This is quite a venue. I compete all over the world, and we have a lovely venue here. It has a lot of atmosphere. You can put it against anything in the world."