Saugerties, NY - Catherine Haddad-Staller crossed the Atlantic to campaign her proteges, Winyamaro, the recognizable chestnut 10-year-old Hanoverian (Walt Disney-Taiga, Trapper) and Cadillac 35, the 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Solos Carex-Miss Ragtimes Minuet, Ragtime) to make their presence visible in an effort to find sponsorship or supporters to keep them. At the New England Dressage Association's Fall Festival, Haddad prevailed taking first in the CDI Grand Prix on Winyamaro (68.66) and second with Cadillac 35 (68.55), then winning the CDI Grand Prix Special with Cadillac (67.75). Winyamaro also placed second in the CDI Grand Prix Freestyle.
At her own stable in Vechta, Germany, she runs a successful training business, but struggles to cover the costs of campaigning both her horses at the international level. An active clinician and trainer, she says "As much as I enjoy my work, it takes me away from my priority right now--training my best horses to the highest possible level of competitive fitness in order to pursue a shot at the London Olympics. I need financial backing to stay home and concentrate on the task at hand."
Recently married, Haddad plans to move permanently back to the USA to join her husband, Gregory Staller, DVM, in New Jersey after the 2012 London Olympics. Highly educated in and dedicated to the sport of dressage, she has a lot to offer to the United States in the future.
Haddad is headed for Dressage at Devon next weekend where she and Winyamaro triumphed in the Grand Prix division in 2010 before heading back to Germany after the WEG.
Q & A with Catherine Haddad:
What were your expectations going into the NEDA show for each horse? When I compete, I compete only against myself. My horses are very well trained at the Grand Prix level now. I can ride a steady and nearly error free test with both horses, but I had set different goals for us in Saugerties. I wanted to show power, intensity and real expression in all my tests. My expectations were that I would be able to step up to the plate as a rider and show a new approach in the arena. I felt successful in that!
What was your assessment of your ride Sunday in the GP Special? Great power and expression! Unfortunately, my horse was bit distracted by the activity behind the judge's booth at C, so riding error-free wasn't possible. I threw away a lot of points on the pirouette-one tempi-pirouette centerline where my horse is normally his strongest. So I couldn't expect a good score. But I think it was the best piaffe-passage-trot tour I ever rode. I'm very excited about that!
Cadillac had most of 2010 off - was that due to concentrating on Winyamaro, injury or just a rest for him? Cadillac was injured at the end of 2009 and was ALMOST ready to compete again for our Selection Trials in 2010. But I decided not to take the risk of re-injury so I brought Winyamaro with me last year to Gladstone and gave Cadillac more time to recover. I also gave myself more time to train him differently and approach his throughness and expression in a different way. That has really paid off.
How different are their personalities/temperament? My horses are as different as A to Z! But what was really interesting for me a few weeks ago was the comment that Robert Dover made after riding each of them: "They are so alike!" Which made me understand that my training system is really paying off for me. One of my greatest challenges has been to make Winyamaro more like Cadillac (power and self carriage without limit) and Cadillac more like Winyamaro (focus, rhythm and forward energy without limit). I think I am succeeding in that now and it is making both horses better than ever.
Is it any different riding back in the U.S.? Yes and no. My training at home is the same anywhere I take it in the world. But showing is a little different. In Europe, the sport of dressage is as popular and well attended as basketball is in the United States. I would like to see the popularity of dressage reach the same level as in Europe and I am one rider who is dedicated to that goal!
You mention on your blog that many former German riders have found success in the U.S., whereas you are a U.S. rider based there for training, showing, experience and your business - do you think that it makes you less visible for sponsor opportunities?
You mention on your blog that many former German riders have found success in the U.S., whereas you are a U.S. rider based there for training, showing, experience and your business - do you think that it makes you less visible for sponsor opportunities?Spending the last twenty years in Germany has given me an incredible grasp of the system I use for training Grand Prix horses and exposed me to competition at the highest level. I wouldn't trade those years for anything! But I have not had a lot of exposure in the United States and I do feel like I have many more contacts and supporters in Europe than I do on my home turf. That was part of my reasoning in planning this trip to the USA. I want more people in the USA to see my horses, see my riding and, hopefully, I will find someone who would like to support me not only in my Olympic bid but also in bringing my expertise back to the United States next year. I know I can make valuable contributions to dressage in this country, even more so than I already have in the past.
What does it mean to you to keep your partnership with these horses? If I am successful in finding a sponsor, it would mean the opportunity to pursue a spot on our Olympic Team for 2012. This is not an end goal for me but a very important achievement along the way. A lot of credibility and respect goes along with participation in the sport at the Olympic level. I already enjoy that honor in Europe as a professional rider but I would like to be recognized as a top level trainer and competitor in my own country as well.
Your impression of the Saugerties facility? Saugerties has the potential to be a lovely international venue. Everything is in place for the perfect show--excellent footing, safe stabling and capacity for many competitors. After competing at numerous international competitions around the world, I would say that the organization of the CDI needs to adhere more closely to the spirit of the FEI rules for international competitions.
I know you briefly met Para rider Donna Ponessa who despite being in a wheelchair has a fierce passion and competitive spirit - did you watch any of the para riders? Maybe you have seen para dressage in Germany? Any impressions? I watched a lot of the Para riders in training and must admit that I was very impressed by the skill and grace with which they handle and ride their horses! I have not had the opportunity to watch para riding in Germany but after being bitten by the "para bug" in Saugerties, I will definitely make an effort in the future.
For more information on Catherine Haddad-Staller, visit: www.internationaldressage.com