Loxahatchee, FL - Lars Petersen of Denmark scored a personal best for the season aboard Mariett to win the Grand Prix Freestyle at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI-W against a field of tough competition on a chilly and windy South Florida day. Petersen and Mariett earned a 76.400% with the judge at C, Axel Steiner, awarding them a 77.875%. The victory capped an impressive weekend for the pair at the 30th anniversary of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, set at the International Horse Sport (IHS) Champions Park at Equestrian Estates in Loxahatchee, FL. They won the opening day Grand Prix with a score of 72.745%.
Their freestyle success made it four wins in a row for Petersen and Mariett, who captured the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special in their last outing at the Wellington Classic Dressage Spring Challenge CDI3* (Feb. 7-10). The duo performed today's freestyle with gusto to a routine set to energetic circus music. Although they went slightly off the prescribed choreography, their poise and precision made up for any change of course.
"I was very happy with the horse," Petersen said. "I had a little mistake in my choreography, and I did a little bit of taking my own line in the middle of it. I thought about the jumping riders, but otherwise I was very happy with my horse today." When asked if the wind had anything to do with the change of course, he replied that it was all him. "There is nobody else to blame but this one," he laughed, tapping himself on the head.
USA's Shelly Francis and Doktor came in second with a 73.625%, mirroring their No. 2 spot from Friday's Grand Prix when they scored a 69.391%. An enthusiastic crowd of supporters cheered on Francis, a local favorite who lives in White Fences at a neighboring property and has had great success this season with the rapidly improving Doktor.
"That was a lot of fun," she said with a grin. "He was so good. He tries so hard. He's awesome. I think I'll keep him."
Mikala Gundersen, also from Denmark, came away with the third place spot aboard My Lady with a 72.775%. They moved up the ranks from Friday's fifth place finish in the Grand Prix with a freestyle featuring well-timed canter half-pass zig-zags to "Always On My Mind."
"There's some Elvis and some Bee Gees and some fun stuff in there," Gundersen said. "I like my music to be fun and to sing along a little bit while I ride. It makes me more relaxed."
Diane Creech from Canada rode to dramatic music that highlighted Devon L's extensions. Their 70.950% placed them in fourth place, also moving them up from a ninth place finish on Friday in the Grand Prix. "Devon was really good," Creech said. "He really did his best. I was able to make sure he focused and stayed with me, and I was very happy."
She added that the strong wind sometimes caught the music, changing the volume. "It makes it sound a little wild," she explained. "That's why he was a little distracted. Sometimes the wind would bring the music in, and then it would take it away and then bring it back again. But I am so happy that he dealt with it."
Jaimey Irwin, also from Canada, placed fifth with a 70.725% riding Lindor’s Finest. The pair demonstrated well-timed passage to “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon, and “Happy Birthday” played over the loudspeakers as they exited the ring to celebrate Irwin’s birthday.
“It had a lot of very good parts,” Irwin said. “Some little mistakes, but I’m very happy with him in the things we’ve been working on.”
Fellow Canadian, Jacqueline Brooks, rode D Niro to music from Canadian artists including double pirouettes to “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell. They scored a 70.325% to take the sixth place spot. Brooks was pleased with her ride and kept repeating “You’re such a good boy” to D Niro on the way out of the arena. “It was a nice windy day,” she grinned. “He had lots of energy and I’m really proud of him.”
James Koford and Rhett’s ground-covering changes to American-Indian themed freestyle music scored a 69.950% to take the seventh place spot. “I’m riding to a new freestyle for me,” he said. “It’s the 40th anniversary of the Battle at Wounded Knee, so it’s fun to actually ride it on the anniversary of that.”
David Marcus and Don Kontes earned eighth place with 69.100%. Their freestyle choreography meshed seamlessly with the dramatic music. “Overall, I was happy with him,” Marcus said. “He always tries his hardest. We had some communication errors and he was a little bit tired today, but he keeps rising to the occasion every time. Each show he gets a little stronger and a little more confident. Now it’s just all fine-tuning.”
Jodie Stevens Kelly rounded out the Grand Prix Freestyle field in ninth place with 66.800%. Kelly, who lives in Destin, FL, adopted the Auburn University football music theme as her freestyle music. “That’s my music and I love it,” she said. “I have so much fun with it.”
Petersen was not the only rider to pick up two wins at the Dressage Derby. Kim Herslow and Rosmarin added to Friday’s Intermediaire I victory by collecting first place in Sunday’s Intermediaire I Freestyle with a 71.650%. Herslow and Rosmarin, who were each making their debut in freestyle competition, looked like seasoned professionals as they coasted to the win.
“Terry Gallo did my music and she did a super job,” Herslow said. “She came out to help me do the choreography and get the timing. We used ‘Moves Like Jagger’ for our trot music and ‘Alessandro’ for our walk music and ‘Faith’ by George Michael for our canter music. It was really fun and Reno felt like he was really into it when he was in the ring. He moves like Jagger, so it fits him really well.”
Herslow, of Stockton, NJ, plans to compete Rosmarin once more in Florida before heading home, where they will prepare for summer competitions. Herslow is hoping to qualify Rosmarin for August’s Markel/USEF National Developing Horse Dressage Championships, and she was encouraged by their Dressage Derby results.
“I’m thrilled that he went in there really trying hard and really doing it for the first time with me,” Herslow said. “The music fits him so well, so he brought that presence into the ring with us today."
FEI Grand Prix Freestyle
1. Lars Petersen (DEN) - Mariett - 76.400%
2. Shelly Francis (USA) - Doktor - 73.625%
3. Mikala Gundersen (DEN) - My Lady - 72.775%
4. Diane Creech (CAN) - Devon L - 70.950%
5. Jaimey Irwin (CAN) - Lindor’s Finest - 70.725%
6. Jacqueline Brooks (CAN) - D Niro - 70.325%
7. James Koford (USA) - Rhett - 69.950%
8. David Marcus (CAN) - Don Kontes - 69.100%
9. Jodie Stevens Kelly (USA) - Manhattan - 66.800%
FEI Junior Rider Freestyle
1. Mattie Zepernick (USA) - Wencenza - 66.475%
FEI Young Rider Freestyle
1. Tanya Strasser-Shostak (CAN) - Dancing Tyme - 65.725%
FEI Intermediaire I Freestyle
1. Kimberly Herslow (USA) - Rosmarin - 71.650%
2. Evi Strasser (CAN) - Rigaudon Tyme - 69.150%
3. Kristy Truebenbach Lund (USA) - Reel Adventure - 63.450%
4. Melissa Taylor (USA) - Chicco Roslev - 61.475%