Mikala Munter Gundersen broke her streak of third place finishes with a victory on Thursday at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF). Gundersen and Janne Rumbough's My Lady finished first in the FEI Grand Prix, during the AGDF 10 CDI W and CPEDI 3*. The week's feature event, the "Friday Night Stars" FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI will take place on Friday, March 14, at 7:00 p.m. at The Stadium. An impressive fifteen horse and rider combinations are expected to take part in the class as every rider aims to earn valuable qualifying points for the FEI World Cup Dressage Finals.
During "Friday Night Stars," spectators will also be treated to performances by a woodwind quintet from the renowned Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, beginning at 6:30 when gates open and also during the break of competition. The quintet, composed of Jon Anderson, Kim Everett, Daniel Velasco, Isabel Thompson, and Carlos Felipe Vina will also perform the National Anthem prior to beginning of competition for the evening. A Pas de Deux performance from top Canadian rider Evi Strasser and her daughter, young rider Tanya Shostak-Strasser, will take place before the Grand Prix Freestyle awards ceremony.
Elena Lusenti, photographer for the Equestrian Lifestyle Destination book, will also host a book signing on Friday evening at the Global Pavilion beginning at 6:00 p.m. Books are available for purchase at the WEF Boutique on the Main Grounds of PBIEC or at the book signing. Anyone who purchases a book will have the exclusive opportunity to be entered in a drawing to win the chance to get a special edition copy signed by top show jumping and dressage stars and Olympic riders.
Gundersen topped an impressive field of 32 riders from eight countries around the world with My Lady, a 14-year-old Danish Warmblood mare out of Marion by Michellino. My Lady and Gundersen were the final pair to go, edging out fellow Dane Lars Petersen with a score of 73.120%. Petersen finished second with Mariett on a 72.700%, while American Catherine Haddad-Staller and Mane Stream Hotmail rounded out the top three with a 71.560%.
Gundersen was also the recipient of the Champion Equine Insurance Dressage Style Award, presented by Laura Fetterman.
Olympian judge Dr. Wojtek Markowski (POL) was highly complementary of the class, describing the caliber of riders as greater than what he may see in Europe. "I think this class was very good. You have top riders on the same level, so that was very interesting to see. This is promising in front of all the processes for selecting the members of the teams for the [Alltech World] Equestrian Games," Dr. Markowski explained.
He continued, "I think if I compare it to last year, the level [of competition] is much better. Together, all the riders did a very good job. It was nice to judge all of them. In Europe, not all the shows have a good class like we had today. Very often, we have less good riders. So that is promising for the riders who are based here from different nations."
Gundersen was ecstatic to break her "Yellow Lady" streak after placing third in seven out of her eight previous tests. "I'm so happy! I'm really, really excited. I've had an amazing season. It's been so consistent and has slowly gotten better and better. I'm really, really happy," Gundersen beamed. "I'm very proud because it was a very big class. I was looking at the [start] list and I was like, 'Whoa.' I would have been happy if I was in the top six."
Gundersen admitted she hasn't been able to get in the saddle as much as she hoped to after injuring herself at the end of 2013, but the AGDF circuit full of CDI competitions has helped her and My Lady progress to a higher level.
"I think it's really important that we have all these shows, so we can have more and more experience. We have amazing judges coming in from Europe all the time, so we get great feedback. I think all of our horses have developed. All of the horses are just getting better and better throughout the season. It's very nice," Gundersen commented.
After finishing second two weeks ago in the AGDF 8 FEI World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix Freestyle, Gundersen felt My Lady had made marked development in her movements.
"My feeling in the tempi changes was really good. She has already really good changes, but it felt today like she was really jumping in them. I think I had some good piaffe work. Now, the piaffe is a double coefficient, so it's important that we have that and the transitions and everything come together. She felt better in her body overall," Gundersen explained.