Gladstone, NJ - The third day of the 2011 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions meant the second day of the USEF Intermediaire I National Dressage Championship. The results remained unchanged as Steffen Peters won his third class in a row taking the top spot in the Intermediaire I test on Weltino's Magic with a score of 76.421%. He fought back from a couple of mistakes early on and overcame a couple of misunderstandings to duplicate his win in yesterday's Prix St. Georges. "It wasn't quite as easy," said Peters. "There were a couple of misunderstandings. When I asked for the left half-pass he thought extended trot. In the two-tempis one of the changes felt short behind. Where I think we won it was with really good pirouettes and the walk."
Peters explained that when things aren't going to plan in the test, he tries not to let it distract him from the task at hand.
"He's a pretty straightforward horse," said Peters. "If I don't screw up, he doesn't screw up."
The Intermediaire I Championship also serves as the USEF Selection Trials for the 2011 Pan American Games, and Peters, despite being an Olympic and World Championship veteran and medalist, has never ridden on a Pan American Team. He and Jen Hlavacek's 9-year-old Westphalian gelding have been winning at a record pace not only on the West Coast but they also swept the small tour in Aachen this summer. Peters has been nearly invincible with this horse and with Ravel in the Grand Prix and lead a dressage resurrection in the United States.
His quest for improvement is never-ending.
"You can never rest on the scores you had the day before," said Peters. "It's much easier to be the underdog."
The Prix St. Georges counts for 40%, the Intermediaire I counts for 45% and the Freestyle on Sunday counts for 15% of the championship total.
Heather Blitz was close to tears at the end of her test, because despite the fact that Paragon has been winning at nearly every turn, this test was one of the highlights of their lives together. They scored 74.684% in an effort that spoke volumes about the strength of their partnership.
"I did go for it more today," said Blitz. "I could, because yesterday he told me he was ready. He did absolutely everything for me, he was very honest. We were completely on the same page today."
Blitz was there when Paragon was born, and standing 18 hands now, he was a big foal eight years ago. She says that their relationship since day one helps them in the ring.
"I know everything about him," said Blitz about her 8-year-old Danish Warmblood.
Rounding out the top three was the defending Championship from 2010. Cesar Parra (Whitehouse Station, NJ) rode Grandioso, owned by Sarah and Michael Davis. The 10-year-old Westphalian had a couple of mistakes today that Parra believes were because of improvements they are making to the overall quality of the work.
Grandioso broke to trot during the flying changes.
"We are doing some minor adjustments to get him a little longer in the neck for eights," said Parra. "He thought I was giving a half halt to trot."
Grandioso was the 2007 6-year-old Champion at the Markel/USEF National Young Horse Championships and was then third in 2009 at the Developing Horse Championships, formerly ridden by Jason Canton. Parra represented Colombia in 2003 at the Pan American Games where he finished fourth individually, he is looking forward to the opportunity to represent the United States after becoming a citizen in 2010.
Isabelle Leibler and Watson 108 Hang on to Win the USEF National Young Rider Dressage Championship
Isabelle Leibler was the only rider to pull off two scores over 70% in the Young Rider Championship and by doing so she claimed the top spot just like she did at the 2011 Adequan/FEI Junior & Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North (NAJYRC) in July. There they helped their team to Team Bronze, but swept the Individual medals.The 16-year-old from Greenwich, CT, rode with poise and determination and Watson 108 delivered for her over both days. They scored 70.158% in Saturday's Young Rider Team Test to ensure that their two-day average was over 70, at 70.211%
Leibler had a hugely successful pony career, and spent a significant amount of time competing them in Europe last year as well as being fortunate to find Watson while she was there. She struggled to find her groove with the 14-year-old Westphalian gelding, but this summer they have hit their stride.
"It's pretty unreal to have a summer like this," said Leibler. "I've had him for a year and we've had a lot of confidence issues between the two of us. For the first season there was something missing, we didn't click. But the whole team helped us find our stride and I'm really thankful that it came together at the right moment."
Leibler would like to return to NAJYRC in 2012, but she is going to let Watson define his role in life.
"Watson's really good at his job and he loves it," said Leibler. "He's a small tour horse...he's definitely going to stay at this level."
Brandi Roenick (Scottsdale, AZ) wasn't going to let Leibler get away easily - she gave her a serious run for her money, winning the Young Rider Individual on a score of 71.579% to finish the two-day effort on 69.790%. Pretty Lady has returned from an injury in 2008 and after rebuilding their partnership - today it all came back together.
"Lady and I have had a struggle getting back into the arena since 2008," said Roenick. "Today I felt the horse and rider combination from back in 2008. It feels really great to have my horse back and connect with her."
Pretty Lady and Roenick have come up through the ranks together, they won Team and Individual Gold at the Junior Championships at NAJYRC in 2008 and Team Gold and Individual Silver in 2011. Roenick is 16 and she got the 14-year-old Dutch mare as a 10th birthday present.
"She was a 5-year-old redhead and I saw her and said, 'That's my partner.'"
Katie Lynne Foster (Hazelhurst, WI) and Sacramento moved up to third overall after a third-place effort in the Young Rider Team Test. They are also NAJYRC veterans, but they excelled at Gladstone, and the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood has been a very dependable horse for his 19-year-old rider.
"I was really happy with my ride today," said Foster. "Yesterday I made some mistakes...and today I was determined to nail my pirouettes and keeping our trot quality where it needed to be."
Foster, 20, does a lot of training on her own in Wisconsin. She is a Junior at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Allison Cyprus Wins First USEF National Pony Rider Championship on Maple Lane Kero
Maple Leaf Kero made Allison Cyprus' trip from Texas worth every mile by sweeping the inaugural USEF National Pony Rider Championship. An 8-year-old Welsh Cob, Maple Leaf Kero was obedient and forward, and scored 64.632% on Saturday to break open a close competition from Friday.
"It was really exciting," said Cyprus of riding in the first Championship. "'Peaches' was really good today, I just wanted to cry."
The emotion in the ring was evident to the spectators and Cyprus felt the sense of occasion of riding at the USET Foundation Headquarters.
"I was extremely nervous yesterday," she said. "But after I went I wanted to go in the ring again. But I was nervous again this morning."
Cyprus rides at Yellow Rose Dressage in Montgomery, TX, with Nancy Hinz. "(Nancy) told me to go out there and have fun and breath," said Cyprus. Cyprus got Peaches, who is a Cremello, as a Christmas present in 2009 and they have come up to the FEI level together.
Barbara 'Bebe' Davis was disappointed with Bohdjan's performance today but she is looking very much forward to returning to the Championship in 2012 with her Dutch Sport Pony. They scored 57.632% today; Bohdjan was never settled in the atmosphere. Davis put the disappointment behind her and enjoyed the opportunity.
"I knew it would be small," said Davis of the division. "But I was surprised at the fans out to watch our 8 a.m. rides. It was a good experience definitely. It was fun, I really enjoyed it. I am hoping the ponies will grow for next year. It was fun, these are beautiful grounds."
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