Gladstone, NJ - With more than just a USEF National Championship title on the line in 2010, the competition was fierce in the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Grand Prix Dressage Championship at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions as 15 horse/rider combinations also vied for selection for the US Team at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. In glorious conditions in the recently renovated Dick and Jane Brown arena at the USET Foundation Headquarters, classy veterans and exciting new faces went to task this morning in the Grand Prix. Tina Konyot (Palm City, FL) was not going to be denied with Calecto V and rode into the ring like a woman on a mission. A score of 74.894% rewarded the effort which was brave and forward with excellent transitions, expressive changes and very accurate riding.
Fresh from their trip to CHIO Aachen where they gained measures of European experience, Konyot rode with confidence and Calecto V thrived in the atmosphere. "It was my best score," said Konyot. "I was very, very happy - it is a little bit of a journey right now. We've been home for two weeks, I've been riding him less than a week, and Wednesday night was the first night I rode him. I went to work a week ago Thursday, it's been a short time and a lot of travel. He feels great. It wasn't my best test, but I couldn't ask more from him. He works for me; I never have to push him but it's a personal feeling, he just didn't feel at his very, very best, but it's ok because they can't feel at their best all the time."
Konyot and Calecto V success is based on the strength of their partnership, they are the ultimate team and it is evident by their mutual trust in the ring. Konyot owns Calecto herself and noted the financial strain of producing and maintaining a horse at this level. But she would never imagine parting with him, she has had him for 12 years and the 15-year-old gelding seems to be peaking for her at exactly the right time.
"He is my closest friend in my life," said Konyot of Calecto V.
Katherine Bateson-Chandler (Wellington, FL), who was the 2009 Intermediaire I Champion, has started off on the right foot with her brand new ride Nartan. Owned by Jane Forbes Clark, a stalwart supporter of the US High Performance programs, Nartan rose to the occasion for Bateson-Chandler and delivered big time. Flawless lateral work, beautiful canter work and accurate riding highlighted a picture of composure and elegance for a mark of 71.872% from the five judges.
"My horse was great," said Bateson-Chandler. "I have room for improvement for sure. The horse is as honest as the day is long, as long as I don't screw it up we are in good shape. It's only my fourth grand prix on him which is a challenge in itself. It's been a challenge but he's so honest." Nartan and Bateson-Chandler have forged a quick partnership since their first introduction the second week of May.
"There's always trepidation buying a horse, spending other people's money," said Bateson-Chandler. "Jane is amazingly supportive and trusts me and said, 'If you think you can do it, let's do it.'" It's been a change for them both, and Bateson-Chandler got some European experience after Nartan came under her care - this is their first show in the US.
"I've had to adjust myself to him and he's had to adjust to me," said Bateson-Chandler. "I had to ride him a little differently and he's had to become my horse. Since we came home in the last week and a half he has become my horse."
Bateson-Chandler worked for US Dressage great Robert Dover for many years and has come in to her own professionally over the last five years. Based in Florida, she has produced horses to the FEI level but Nartan came to her stable already confirmed at Grand Prix with the World Games firmly part of the plan.
"He's very sweet and well behaved but he has opinions about things like all the best horses do," said Bateson-Chandler. "He knows who he is. They know they're good and they have confidence. The only reason I could even try to do this is because I have confidence in him."
Todd Flettrich (Royal Palm City, FL) and Otto delivered on the expectation of their performance with a stellar effort in the Grand Prix to round out the top three. The pair scored 71.404% for a test highlighted by expressive piaffe and passage and good transitions. Flettrich rode a determined test and Otto stayed with him and regained his composure after a tough start.
Flettrich said his warm-up was interrupted by the drag break in the indoor, so his test didn't start off the way his was expecting.
"It was a little difficult, I was expecting to warm up in the indoor," said Flettrich. "I wanted a short warm up because I worked him too hard in the heat yesterday. I had to go up the hill and down the hill and he got very distracted he's not a spooky horse, but for him it was too long a trip and I wasn't expecting it. It caught me off guard and at the beginning of test he was not himself." The distraction was overcome and Flettrich and Otto excelled throughout the final two-thirds of their test.
"There was a little tension, he was distracted at the beginning," said Flettrich. "He's a very logical horse, he's very sensible, so I just had to be patient and ride through the beginning and then he came back to me. It was definitely one of the first time with him in that situation, he can came back to me, the canter work is usually harder, but today my trot work was the weakest. My canter work was good. My score went up from 58 to a 71%."
There is, however, a long way to go in the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Grand Prix Dressage Championship, there are three more tests to complete the prestigious competition, Sunday's Grand Prix Special at 9 am, the Grand Prix a week from Friday and then the finale: the Grand Prix Freestyle next Sunday. The scores are cumulative over the four classes. The two Grand Prix count for 30% each of the total score, the Special counts for 25% and the Freestyle for 15%.
For live results and news please visit: http://www.usef.org/_IFrames/breedsDisciplines/discipline/competitions/FestivalOfChampions.aspx