Dr. Cesar Parra, founder and head trainer of Performance Farms, brought another winning team to Dressage at Devon this year. Performance Farms, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey and in Jupiter, Florida, has dominated classes at the famed International horse show for nearly two decades. This year was no different - Parra and his team claimed blue ribbons in Fourth Level, two Four-Year-Old tests, the Intermediate II, the Under 25 Grand Prix, and the U25 Grand Prix Freestyle at the September 26 - October 1 event in Devon, Pennsylvania.
“We’ve been competing at Dressage at Devon for at least 18 years in a row now; I never miss it,” said Parra, an Olympic dressage rider. “The atmosphere at Devon is really nice. It’s such a beautiful area, the organizers are super, and it’s very close to home. It’s one of the very few places in America that we can compete in a stadium with people from all over the country."
The annual event has always been a special show for Parra and his team, who have a history of winning across the levels there. “I’ve had over 20 victories at Devon myself through the years with 7 different horses, so it’s a show very dear to my heart,” said Parra. “My students had won at the show over 25 times before this year, and this weekend we went over 30. It’s been an amazing weekend!”
Parra’s student Merita Hagren first came to the United States from Finland to train at Performance Farms nearly four years ago. “She arrived as a 21-year-old riding at Third Level, and now she’s winning in the U25 on a horse that we trained ourselves through the Grand Prix,” said Parra. At Dressage at Devon, Hagren won the FEI Under 25 Grand Prix and the FEI Intermediate II on Viveur, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Parra. Viveur and Hagren also came in second in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle. On Supremont, an Oldenburg gelding (San Amour I x Grafine) owned by Parra in partnership with Heather and Gurdon Horner, Hagren won both Four-Year-Old tests and was the overall Young Horse Champion of the show.
“Merita is a very confident and strong rider, but also very sweet and very humble,” said Parra. “She’s a real joy to have around and very serious in her work. Devon was our first time showing Viveur in a CDI, so we were very happy to get first and second placings.”
Hagren added, “I’m so thankful to Cesar Parra for being our mentor, coach, trainer, and so much more. He makes us a team, and always encourages us to dream bigger and work harder! He saw something in this Third Level rider three years ago, and now turned her into the winner of the CDI U25 Grand Prix in Devon!”
Rodrigo Encinas Fuentes, who rides for Spain, has been a member of the Performance Farms team for years, and is also flourishing in the show ring. Fuentes won the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle on Van the Man, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Obelisk and owned by Parra and GK Elite Sport, after finishing second in the Intermediate II and third place in the Under 25 Grand Prix. On Dakhir, a seven-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Don Diamond and owned by Nicoletta Ghribi, Encinas took third and fourth place in Fourth Level.
“Van the Man was once not a very easy horse to ride, but now it looks like the horse really enjoys what he’s doing. It’s a great satisfaction,” said Parra. “Rodrigo did amazing. These riders are like my kids to me, and I really love them all very dearly. I think they enjoy the journey more than they enjoy the actual ribbon. Rodrigo was so keen to do his very best - I was very proud of him.”
“I’m thankful to my trainer Cesar Parra for letting me ride this great horse and for teaching me all that I know,” said Fuentes.
Performance Farms rider Roberto Brasil also put in impressive rides, earning second place in the Intermediate A and third place in the Intermediate B on Whoopie Gold, a 13-year-old Oldenburg mare owned by Parra.
“We were laughing because I was the only trainer at the show that had three students showing three horses of my own at the Grand Prix level, while I was showing in Fourth Level,” said Parra. The trainer won Fourth Level on his own seven-year-old Westphalian gelding, Don Cesar (Desperados x Manhattan). “For me, it’s more the joy of the ride than anything else. I love my horse Don Cesar, I really do enjoy riding him very much. We helped these young riders develop, the horses were happy, and I’m enjoying my horse. So the show was a win-win for everybody.”
For Performance Farms, focusing on the horses’ well-being is the top priority, and a key part of success. “We have been very closely following one of the strongest philosophies of our biggest sponsor, Mrs. Ghribi of GK Horses,” Parra explained. “I am very grateful to her. She puts the welfare of the horses before anything. It’s about whether the horse has the propensity to do certain movements - you can train a horse to do it, but if they don’t have the natural talent or don’t want to with their full potential, it’s better to leave that horse as he is, let him be happy, and find another horse that wants to do it. It can be hard to do this as a professional, but it’s what we’ve been doing and we’ve been getting great results.”
Now that another successful year at Dressage at Devon has past, Parra and his team plan to continue training and winning as they look forward to next year. “We put Dressage at Devon on the calendar a year ahead of time, and we’re looking forward to that weekend!” said Parra. To learn more about the training, lessons, and horse sales offered by Dr. Parra at Performance Farms, visit www.Piaffe-Performance.com.