In 1993 Marisa Festerling attended her first Del Mar National Dressage Show with trainer Marie Meyers, and she’s never forgotten it. “I sat beside the warm-up ring all day long and got the biggest sunburn.” A lot can happen in 18 years. This year, there were others watching her as she tuned up her 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Big Tyme, who’s a serious contender for this fall’s Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. They’re currently ranked fourth in the nation at Intermediaire I. Festerling and “Frankie” are no strangers to big-time competition. They competed at the 2010 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions in Gladstone, NJ, finishing fifth in the USEF National Intermediaire I Championship. Visitors to the Young Horse Exhibition at the 2009 World Cup in Las Vegas will remember the pair’s gorgeous extended trot across the Thomas & Mack Arena. Their first exposure on the world dressage stage was in 2006 at the World Championships for Young Horses in Verden, Germany.
In the $1,500 FEI Intermediaire I class at the Del Mar National, the pair finished third with a 68.114 percent, behind Steffen Peters and Weltino’s Magic and Guenter Seidel and Sundayboy. “We were thrilled to be behind Steffen and Guenter,” said Meyers.
Big Tyme, by Saros van’t Gestelhof out of Elvira by Wendekreis, is co-owned by Anne-Marie Walter. Meyers, an alternate for the U.S. dressage team at the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, imported the 17.1-hand horse from Europe for herself in 2005, but Festerling “clicked” with the horse.
Festerling praises his refinement. “He’s a big horse, but he’s good for a woman,” she says. “He’s light in the mouth.” He’s also the perfect gentleman with Festerling’s three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Ella Grace. “She has a little ladder outside his stall and puts carrots and sugar in his bucket,” Festerling says.
The pair will take off a month from competition at Marie Meyers Stables in Moorpark, California, and then they’ll get back in the show arena. “Frankie gets bored at home,” says Festerling. “He loves to show!” But she’s looking ahead to the Pan American Games selection trials in September in Gladstone, New Jersey. “It’s a big trip. We’re trying to think ahead, but you don’t want to jinx it,” she said. “We’d like to plan all kinds of fund-raisers, but we’ll just have to see how everything pans out.”