Special fillies and colts strutted their stuff on the opening day of Dressage at Devon. These youngsters demonstrated the power of North American breeders when all of Tuesday's champions were awarded above 81% on the way to their tri-colors. A full day of classes ran late into the night at the continent's premier breed show as the young horses kicked off six days of great competition celebrating the show's 35th Anniversary.
Taking home the top honors of Young Horse Champion, as well as the Colt Championship, was El Paso ISF, a yearling son of UB40 that was bred by Iron Spring Farm. The chestnut KWPN colt with flaxen mane and tail demonstrated stellar movement and exceptional presence as he won the Yearling Colts class over 16 other talented youngsters. The colt didn't leave any ribbons on the table when he also won the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Breeders Colt Championship. El Paso ISF is a previous winner at Dressage at Devon; he took home the blue ribbon last year in the Weanling Colts class.
Close on El Paso's hooves was Dazzle, bred by Victoria Lamas Wanner and owned by Taylor Minnucci. The striking KWPN dark brown filly by Jazz started her DAD experience by winning the Two-Year-Old Filly class, was awarded the Filly Championship and finished off the day by being named Reserve Young Horse Champion. "This filly is so special. I sold her as a yearling, but I'm back here at Devon to help her new owner," said her breeder who selected Jazz for her mare Zizarma by Special D in order to achieve the ideal combination of sensible and hot.
Another returning Dressage at Devon winner was Marmara, who this year won the Three-Year-Old Filly class, as well as the Filly Reserve Championship. Marmara, by Licotus out of the Landadel mare La Montana is owned by Nancy Holowesko, and was bred by Eric Sathoff.
Royal Tradition, by Royal Prince out of a Puritano mare, took home the Foal Championship for breeder and owner Christine Loudon of Lebanon, Ohio. The colt had the high score of the day when he received 82.8 from judge Hilda Gurney. "We had a very, very good day," said a thrilled Loudon, who also bred the colt's dam.
For Loudon, a retiree, this has been a labor of love for nearly five years, as she tried to get her mare in foal. With the efforts of Paard Hill Farm and Denise Osborne, along with Hilltop Farm, Loudon persevered. She continues, "To pick a sire I went to Hilltop Farm and they evaluated my mare. I looked at the stallions, watched them being ridden, their movement and just fell in love with Royal Prince. I can't say enough good things about Hilltop and the Osbornes. I have been trying to have a foal since 2006. There was a lot of heartache that happened before this, but that really makes it special!"
Finishing with the Foal Reserve Championship was Quintessa MF, bred by Maryanna Haymon, who has five horses showing at Dressage at Devon. The Columbus, SC resident explains, "These horses are my kids and grandkids."
Quintessa MF is by the popular stallion Quaterback out of EM Rising Star MF by Rotspon. "I chose Quaterback specifically for this mare," Haymon said. "This mare needs a fancier trot and more elegance and Quaterback delivers that. I wanted to strengthen a quick hind leg when I bred him to Rising Star. I see that Quaterback is consistently passing on his trot and canter. He gave us exactly what we were looking for as a sire for this mare. Quintessa could go all the way based on her gaits."
Haymon has a strategy when selecting mares and stallions. She explains, " When I breed a horse I keep in mind that I want something that I can handle and ride. I do all the work at my farm. They have to have a good mind and temperament. You also have to have a good work ethic. If you don't have a work ethic, you don't have an upper level horse. I love what I have at the farm. I can handle them; I hold them for farrier; worm them out in the field. They load and clip. I do it by myself."
Another Haymon entry, and a personal favorite, Duet MF by Don Principe out of EM Rotina by Rotspon, claimed the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Breeders Filly Championship. Haymon comments, "Prince (Don Principe) and Duet are two of the best I've ever had. There is something extraordinary about them."
The Grand Championship at Dressage at Devon is always a nail biter, but this year's group of champions really impressed with incredible movement, type and conformation as they competed for this big award. To the thrill of the crowd, two beautiful mares trotted away with the show's most coveted ribbons during the breed division. Wearing the championship neck sash once again was Iron Spring Farm's Rabiola, the gorgeous KWPN mare who has won more than ten championships at the show over the years. Finishing with the Reserve Grand Championship was Dazzle, a two-year-old mare by Jazz, who also has quality gaits and charisma.
Rabiola kicked off her day by winning the Four-Year-Old and Older Broodmares class. She then trotted to the Mare and Mature Horse Championships before clinching the title of Grand Champion. The mare, by Metall out of Fabiola by Zadok, is not only frequently a big winner at DAD, she's also a mom of several Dressage at Devon winners. "She's the Queen," said a very happy Mary Alice Malone, owner of Rabiola. "This was really amazing. I'm really lucky to own her."
Dazzle repeated her winning ways from Tuesday when she was named Reserve Grand Champion. It was especially sweet for Wanner. "I've been showing at Dressage at Devon since 1992," she said. "I thought the competition this year was really strong. In the Championship today it was thrilling to see such good horses with such good bloodlines. It was everything you could possibly hope for!" Wanner praised the judges, who included Hilda Gurney, Janine Malone, Dr. Jürgen Miller and Debbie Riehl-Rodriguez, for rewarding horses with talent for performance careers. Wanner continued, "We are all looking for future Grand Prix horses. I love to see judges who are looking down the road." Dazzle also received the Born in the USA Breeders Award for Two Year Old Fillies.
Another Born in the USA winner was the Reserve Champion Mare, Conturri. The Contucci daughter, bred and owned by Hilltop Farm, won the Four-Year-Old and Older Maiden and Yeld Mares class with an 82.150%.
The Born in the USA Breeders Awards were developed in 2003 to recognize and reward the achievements of American sport horse breeders. Only horses that were conceived and foaled in the U.S.A. are eligible. More than $54,000 has been awarded since the program began.
Taking home the overall Champion Born in the USA Breeder's Award was De Feiner Star, a 2006 AHS stallion by De Laurentis out of Feiner Dance by Feiner Stern. The flashy chestnut with four white socks had a busy day, also winning the Stallions class and the 4-and 5-Year-Old Stallions Materiale class before claiming the Stallion Championship. Owner Greg Strait, along with co-owner Melinda Brown, selected De Feiner Star as a weanling after seeing a photo on the Internet. "I basically bought him sight unseen," Strait recalls. "He's got a great mind and is very smart. He's very easy to deal with." Although they are both in California, Strait and Brown decided to keep De Feiner Star on the East Coast and have nothing but praise for breeder Meg Sherman, rider Christopher Schruefer and Trevelyan Farm who brought the talented horse along very slowly. "It's been great. We've given him a lot of time to grow up," Strait said.
While Rabiola, Dazzle, Conturri and De Feiner Star are likely choices for champions at Dressage at Devon, the Reserve Champion Stallion is unexpected. Padré is a 10-year-old Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Mustang that was born wild in the Palomino Valley, NV herd. Rounded up and then adopted by Dr. Rick Redden as a yearling, Padré spent time at the International Equine Podiatry Center in Versailles, KY before becoming Patti Gruber's partner as a seven-year-old. The Vernon Hills, IL resident had met Padré as a two-year-old and thought he had naturally beautiful gaits. The duo quickly developed a bond and is now schooling third level. Patti hopes to ride down centerline at Dressage at Devon next year.
Dressage at Devon continued on day three with a fullroster of breed show classes. Hanoverians, Oldenburgs and KWPN horses were among the more than 20 breeds represented. Spectators were also treated to the Gypsy Vanner and Nokota, along with other flamboyant horses.
Earning the blue ribbon in the Nokota class was the six-year-old gelding Red Cloud, owned and shown by Terri Fuellgraf of Saxonburg, PA. "He has a lot of potential for dressage," Fuellgraf said. The red roan pinto gelding also enjoys riding out and he competes in judged trail rides. This versatility and athletic ability are common to this rare breed. Descended from ranch and Indian horses, no more than 1,200 of these sturdy horses remain. Fuellgraf continued, "They are extremely people-oriented and bond with their owners."
Claiming the Gypsy Vanner class was Majestic Legend, a two-year-old stallion bred by Powerpaint Gypsy Farm. Carol Camiola purchased the young stallion a year ago and plans to use him for trail riding. "They are bombproof," says his breeder MaryAnn Riess. "Anyone can handle Gypsies, even beginners."
Yesterday Courtney Walsh charmed the crowd with her American Miniature Lovett Farms Full House in the Junior Handler class. The five-month-old colt with his flashy black and white coat is a fun project for his young owner. Watch the video on Dressage at Devon's Facebook page.
Although their stablemate Rabiola won the big prize yesterday, the stallions at Iron Spring Farm also earned accolades on Wednesday. UB40 won the blue ribbon in the Get of Sire class, with Florianus II placing second. Both young stallions have been recognized as successful show horses and now they are making names for themselves as sires. "UB40 is doing well in the show ring and it's the mark of a good stallion to be a good show horse and have nice offspring," said Mary Alice Malone, owner of Iron Spring Farm. "I'm also very excited for Florianus. He's a fantastic show horse and this is first crop of foals."
Maryanna Haymon, owner of Marydell Farms in Columbus, NC, continued her winning streak when she claimed the Breeders Group class. She explained that she uses shows like Dressage at Devon not only for showcasing her stock, but also for the educational value. She explains, "As a breeder, I need the outside criticism to improve. Maybe it will give you an outside view of your horses."
The Performance Show
The Performance Show
Spectators come to Dressage at Devon to see show stopping performances, and Catherine Haddad with her exuberant Winyamaro delivered during the Grand Prix Freestyle and Grand Prix. The striking chestnut with the flowing flaxen forelock demonstrated powerful passage and floating half-passes to the music of Pink from her Funhouse album. The crowd cheered their approval and the judges rewarded the effort with a 74.250% and the blue ribbon for the second consecutive evening.
"I never had so much fun riding in a horse show," said a clearly elated Catherine Haddad. "The atmosphere is fantastic." Haddad compared Dressage at Devon with the World Cup qualifiers in Europe and found the electric environment perfectly suited her 10-year-old gelding's personality. The flashy Hanoverian, by Walt Disney I, seemed to enjoy the crowd and his job. Haddad chose Pink's music for Winyamaro because, "He's Pink trapped in a horse's body! When you turn on music like that, he just dances."
Not only did Haddad have fun with her music, she also made a fashion statement in a brown shadbelly, brown boots and a beautiful copper brown hat from L' Hiver. The total effect made quite a positive impact.
Although Haddad was the reserve rider for the American World Equestrian Games team that competed earlier this week, she is already thinking ahead to next year's important events. With her sights set on qualifying for the 2011 FEI World Cup Dressage Finals, Haddad strategically chose Dressage at Devon and the 20 points she will receive for tonight's win. The expatriate will return to her home base in Germany next week and continue with additional qualifiers this fall and winter in hopes of representing the USA at the Final next spring.
Finishing behind Haddad in second place was Joe Sandven and the 12-year-old Hanoverian Rachmaninoff. The elegant pair naturally rode to an arrangement by the gelding's namesake and delivered a flowing, smooth test that received a 70.800%. "It's fun when it all comes together," he expressed.
Also repeating her victory from Friday night was Shawna Harding. With her 11-year-old gelding Come On III, Harding sparkled in a solid Grand Prix Special test with fantastic piaffe and passage, and expressive tempi changes. The pair received a 68.292% from the judges. "I was just so pleased with my ride," she said. "The crowd this evening was so good-that's more [like] the European atmosphere." Although this was Come On's first time with a large cheering crowd under lights, he focused on Harding. "He's getting more confident... He trusts me and I trust him," she said.
Although he competed in the selection trials for the World Equestrian Games, this is only the 11-year-old gelding's first year at Grand Prix. She continued, "He's just now figuring out the Grand Prix. He's only getting stronger." Harding is hoping to compete in Europe next year and has the 2012 Olympic Games in London on her mind.
Gary Rockwell, the FEI 5* judge who served as Head of the Ground Jury, felt that both Come On III and Winyamaro are talented young horses with bright futures. "I thought they were exciting," he said of both horses. Rockwell also praised Diane Creech's Devon, who finished second in the Special.
Heather Blitz and Paragon handily won the large Prix St. Georges class with a 72.263% and duplicated their efforts in the Intermediaire I class with a 70.474%. Although this was only Paragon's fourth show, he rose to the challenge and delivered tests full of high point moments. "The whole [Prix St. Georges] test was a highlight to me," said a clearly pleased Blitz. She particularly enjoyed the second extended trot, pirouettes and tempi-changes. "They were really big and expressive," she commented.
While some riders have worked with their horses for years, Blitz can say that she has been with her horse since before he was a twinkle in his mom's eye. "I designed him," she says of the 7-year-old Danish gelding. "I was there when he was born." Blitz rode Paragon's mother, Pari Lord, and recognized that the mare would be a nice cross with Don Schufro. Oak Hill Ranch believed in Blitz's plan and made the match. The resulting 17.3 hand gelding has exceeded Heather's expectations.
"He combines relaxation and expression more than any horse I've ever ridden," she explained. "He was born to do this." While his expressive gaits are surely a highlight, it's his temperament that separates him from the pack. "He's really a very mellow-minded horse. He has enjoyed the cooler weather here and he has felt fantastic."
After finishing third in the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I classes, Cesar Parra rode for the win in the Intermediaire Freestyle and succeeded, receiving a 73.50% and the blue ribbon.
"I wanted to go full power," Parra said of his pre-ride plan. He felt he had ridden conservatively on Friday and wanted the last day of the show to reflect his horse Olympia's potential. The 14-year-old gelding by Jazz does his best work when he is able to go with more power, explained Parra. "He likes that tempo. He likes when...he can just go." For Parra, the freestyle is one of his favorite classes. "I hear the music and I just get excited," he said of his Earth, Wind and Fire music.
Kassie Barteau finished second in all three small tour classes, including the Freestyle where she was awarded a score of 72.80%. She was pleased with the efforts of her 10-year-old gelding Toscano, who is also by Jazz. "I was really proud of him and his attention span," she said. During her ride, Barteau's stock tie came loose, but she didn't let that impact her efforts. The pirouettes were a highlight, but Kassie was also extremely pleased with her walk work. She rode to a selection of music that included tunes from the animated movies Madagascar and Shrek, along with Driving Miss Daisy. Rounding out the top three was David Marcus with Don Kontes who received a 72.10%.
In the Young Rider division, Meagan Davis scored a Dressage at Devon hat trick when she won the Freestyle, after also claiming first position in the Team and Individual tests.
Davis and Bentley have been together for two years. "We've really developed our partnership," said the Stone Ridge, NY resident. Davis continues to work with Lendon Gray with the goal of competing in the small tour classes in 2011.
Julia Burtt clinched the Junior Team Test and Freestyle. Burtt describes her horse Aaron VI as a very levelheaded, steady guy who's really talented. "He's honestly the coolest horse I've ever had," said the 16-year-old. "I was so proud of him." In addition to being a top-level dressage horse, Aaron VI happily gives rides to Burtt's older brother, and will even let her and her friend Meagan Davis ride double.
On the last day of the Junior division, Julia Burtt returned to the winner's circle in the Freestyle with a 65.30%. Kaitlin Blythe was second with a 65.100%.
The Junior Individual Test on Saturday was won by Dominique Cassavetis. The Whitehouse Station, NJ resident rode a lovely program on Charming Princess, a 12-year-old mare by Plarido and received a 64.737%.
Adult amateur rider Alice Tarjan with her horse Somer Hit were the inaugural winners of the Dressage at Devon Young Performance Horse Championship. "I'm very proud of him," Tarjan said of her elegant Hanoverian stallion by Sandro Hit. The pair, who train with Chris Hickey and Silke Rembacz, won the USEF Test for 4-Year-Olds on Friday with an 82.20% and finished second in the same class on Saturday with an 80.60%. Somer Hit was bred in the U.S. by Rolling Stone Farm in Slatington, PA. De Feiner Star finished the week with the Reserve Young Performance Horse Championship.
It wasn't all competition at Dressage at Devon. Ladies Hat Day once again provided top- notch entertainment. Among the creative millinery concoctions were hats topped with a squirrel and a turkey. In addition, the veterinarians at New Bolton Center provided educational workshops, while ride-by-ride commentary and rider interviews were available on Dressage with the Experts radio.
While Dressage at Devon is recognized worldwide for its international competition and breed show, there is another side to the event-community service. Thorncroft Therapeutic Horseback Riding Inc., the nation's largest and oldest therapeutic riding program, has been the show's beneficiary since 1986. Their mission is to help build the physical, emotional and mental well-being of all people, particularly those with special needs, through establishing an atmosphere of cooperation, respect and love in an equestrian environment.
As part of their community outreach, the organization is represented by the Thorncroft Mainstreamers. This ten-member team consists of riders with and without disabilities, ranging in age from ten to fifteen. They work and ride together, encouraging proficient performances and mutual understanding. When this team comes together and performs their musical drill on horseback you can feel the magic in the air. To the delight of the Dressage at Devon crowd, the Mainstreamers gave beautiful demonstrations during the competition and showcased what horses and humans can do when they truly connect.
Complete results, videos, photos and more can be found on Facebook and the Dressage at Devon website www.dressageatdevon.org.