Danish rider Mikala Gundersen based in Wellington Florida admitted she did not feel in the right frame of mind to go out and compete on the final day of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby. "This has been a very emotional weekend with many ups and downs because of Courtney. It has touched all of us equestrians deeply.” Gundersen said. “I sat down and listened to some of my tapes and starting kicking myself and said, Courtney would be strong and go out there and compete so I wanted to do the same." Riding Horses UnLimited’s Rheinlander stallion (Lonely Boy xx) in the Grand Prix Freestyle Gundersen pulled it together showing the harmony of their relationship and bringing them one step closer to a chance to compete in the 2010 Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games.
The only duo to actually earn a score over 70% the pair finished with a 73.250. Canadian Jacqueline Brooks places second with Balmoral with a 69.750, and North Carolina’s Joe Sandven on Rachmaninoff were third with a 67.700. "It is awesome to win here and both days, I'm ecstatic. The season has been coming along for us. When it started we hadn't shown for 6 months and at the Masters things started coming together. I can see it coming and hopefully go up from here. We are pointing towards the World Equestrian Games as our goal and so we will keep working hard and see if that happens. I'm so proud of Leonberg and I'm excited to see what 2010 brings."
"Yesterday was challenging because he was hot like he can and I had too much time going around the arena before the test, like three times, so at the end I felt that he was a bit tired. Today he was much more relaxed coming into the ring and I could keep the energy throughout the test. We've worked a lot on throughness the last few months and focused our daily work on that. I can feel that it is paying off as I have more lightness in the passage and piaffe."
Horses Unlimited’s Anne Sparks was excited as well to get the call her stallion was once again at the top of the class. “The sweep for Anne and Leonberg is really exciting and I couldn't be happier because Mikala has been working so hard. It is awesome to see them be so successful. They have come so far in their partnership in two short years. That is what I love about Mikala, her commitment to the horse and building the relationship. Now they have a true, solid connection built on trust. You can see that when you watch them in the ring. And it is nice when hard work pays off.”
“It is wonderful to see one of my stallions competing solidly at such a high level and at the same time be able to see his first babies maturing. He is turning out to be just as great as a sire. I'm very lucky to have him. He already has one licensed son and his first filly will compete under saddle next month in the FEI 4 Year Old classes. This month Mikala will be riding a couple of his babies in Wellington at her open house so I hope people get a chance to see them while they are there."