DressageDaily On the Scene - Dressage at Devon 2008
Devon, Penn. – Lars Petersen narrowly edged out Ashley Holzer for the win at the prestigious Dressage at Devon Freestyle. The popular Saturday evening event drew its usual crowd, although some clearly stayed away for fear of rain. A light drizzle alternated with a heavier rain throughout the evening competition, making for a rather mucky ring, but the horses handled it well.
Petersen took the win with Succes and with a score of 75.250. Holzer and Pop Art scored 75.100. Third and fourth was a battle between Jacqueline Brooks, riding Gran Gesto, and Jane Hannigan, riding Maksymilian. Both of them scored 71.050 percent. Brooks took third place based on the technical marks, leaving Hannigan and Maksymilian to finish fourth.
Holzer wasn’t surprised by her placing, noting that while she won Friday’s Grand Prix, the freestyle win at Devon always seems to elude her.”I never win that freestyle and it’s always Lars. He always beats me by a little bit. I was second last year as well to him. Congratulations Lars,” she said looking at him. “Next year, if you could not come, I’d appreciate it.”
On a serious note, Holzer said she was pleased at how well Pop Art, an 11-year-old Dutch gelding, dealt with the crowd. He came in a bit nervous to see so many people so close to the ring, but by the end of his ride, “he was getting into it.” That nervous edge at the start is part of what put her in second, said Gary Rockwell, president of the ground jury, who recently also judged the Olympics. “Ashley had a very nice test, but her horse reacted to the crowd in a negative way a couple of times,” he said.
Rockwell called Petersen’s ride a pleasure for both judges and spectators. “It’s a very pleasing freestyle to watch. The people like it and the judges like it. It’s a harmonious pair. The flying changes, the twos to the ones, that was really quite nice.”
Rain and wet footing has been an issue throughout the performance portion of Dressage at Devon. During the Grand Prix Freestyle, some riders rode through drizzle, others through outright rain, but all rode through sloppy footing. Rockwell noted that the footing made clear which horses were balanced and which were not. “The horses that can handle it are the well-balanced ones,” he said.
The footing did put a number or riders ahead or behind their music because the sloppy footing, Rockwell said, does change the timing. One who was off his music was Petersen who said he messed up the last two pirouettes “because I was chasing the music.” But for the most part, he said he paid little attention to the footing issues and it didn’t change the way he rode. “I came in and I just tried to ride,” he said.
Petersen said the atmosphere in the Dixon Oval ring was electric and it had an impact on Succes, a 13-year-old Danish gelding. “It gets him up, even more when people clap in the middle, but people also need to have fun and watch riding, so I think its fun that they get into it.” He said he’s aiming for the 2009 World Cup with Succes in Las Vegas and perhaps even next year’s European Championships.
Holzer and Brooks both said they had to decide on Devon before leaving for the Olympics. And, while they wanted to compete at Devon in order to earn points to qualify for the World Cup, they weren’t sure if either horse would have the energy for Devon after traveling first to Aachen and then to Hong Kong.
"At Hong Kong they were a little bit like flat tires. They were hot and tired. It was hard on them. We came back and they hit no humidity and cold weather and they were both like, ‘let’s go’,” Holzer said. “They needed no time off,” Brooks added.
If she makes it to the World Cup, Holzer said she’ll have a different freestyle for Pop Art because since the horse has matured and strengthened, it’s time for a change. “I’ve been to the Olympics and seen the risks they take in the freestyle and it opens your eyes a little bit more to what you really need at the top.”