Wellington, Florida – North American riders took the top spots in Grand Prix Special competition at the 2010 EXQUIS World Dressage Masters CDI5*. American Leslie Morse with Tip Top 962 finished first with a score of 65.708 percent and second went to Canadian rider Belinda Trussell riding Anton and finishing with a score of 65.167. Third place went to the youngest rider in this year’s competition, American Elisabeth Austin riding Olivier to a score of 64.875. Europe’s best hope for victory in the Grand Prix Special was Germany’s Ulla Salzgeber, but she retired from her ride on Wakana soon after entering the ring.
The nine-year-old mare just couldn’t settle at the venue, part of which Salzgeber said may have been the quarantine situation Wakana had to deal with as a mare. She was hopeful that once home, Wakana would be back to her old self. It didn’t help that although the storms of the day before had cleared away by morning, Saturday was a blustery day, which certainly added to the challenge for some of the horses.
For her part, Morse was thrilled with her winning ride, but knew her score could have been better were it not for some errors in her ride. “Everything was going well and then I had a moment where I just got a little confused,” she said. “I thought the canter work was really good, then I came to the extended canter and he got a little ahead of me.” Morse said after an error she managed to “save the canter pirouette” but then Tip Top got a bit ahead of her again and she had to catch up. The errors in their Grand Prix Special ride were not normal for them, Morse said, but they were costly. “They dropped the score tremendously, but that’s just the way it is.”
Still, Morse was thrilled with her win and with the entire event. “It’s been a great competition and a beautiful venue,” she said. She hasn’t been showing much in recent months, partly, she said, because she took some down time during the holidays and also because she has been busy with young horses that she is bringing along. There are also no World Cup qualifying shows in California this year, which is where Morse lives. So, her goal was to earn an invite to the Masters. Her ultimate aim is the 2012 Olympics in London and at 16, Morse said Tip Top, a Swedish Warmblood Stallion owned by Morse and Laura Petroff, “is just getting better. We’re just getting the hang of it now.” After the Masters, Morse and Tip Top were heading home to California to compete in some CDI competitions and to prepare for the upcoming 2010 Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games Selection Trials.
Trussell was absolutely thrilled with her second-place finish with Anton, a 10-year-old Saxon gelding owned by Robyn Eames. “It’s an honor to be here. This venue is fantastic. This is such an opportunity because we don’t have venues like this back home in Canada,” she said. Trussell arrived in Florida in January and plans to stay through March. She trains with Christliot Boylen and Udo Mange and said that both of her coaches are working well with Canada’s new dressage team coach, Robert Dover, and she is optimistic that Dover will help put the Canadian team on the international map. “His enthusiasm is wonderful. I think that he’s the guy who is going to do it for us. It’s wonderful to have him on board.” Trussell was just as happy with the performance of her horse, which she bought from her coaches as a six-year-old. “He has lots of heart and is a very, very kind horse. I’m thrilled with his performance here and how he handled the ring here. I feel that we’re on the road.” It’s also worth noting that Trussell is quick to help fellow competitors. She and Anton tried to help Salzgeber’s Wakana settle by staying with them in the warm-up ring and guiding them into the show ring. “I wanted to help because I know that no one likes to be in that situation with a horse,” Trussell said.