Superior Footing Keeps the Action Going at the Ocala Spring Dressage at The Florida Horse Park

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Ocala, Florida – It took Erin Brinkman four hours to travel to the Florida Horse Park for the Ocala Spring Dressage show. It’s normally an hour-and-a-half drive. And several times she almost changed her mind and turned for home. But if she had, she wouldn’t now have those blue ribbons she won at the show.

“The weather was horrible driving there on Friday. We almost turned around like four times. I wasn’t sure I was going to that show,” said Brinkman, owner of Spica Dressage in Wellborn, Florida. “And then, we slept at the show grounds Friday night. I got so wet. I must have changed clothes four times.”

It was at Ocala Spring Dressage, held March 8-9, that Brinkman competed her home-bred Influential in his first Fourth Level tests. And he won the Open Fourth Level Test 1 with a score of 66.512 percent. The nine-year-old Trakehner, sired by Donaufurst placed second in Fourth Level Test 2 with score of 66.136. “I was super happy with him,” Brinkman said. “Last year was sixth in nation in Third Level and this year we’re starting out with Fourth and hope to move up to Prix St. Georges.”

With Bella Luna, Brinkman cleaned up in Intermediaire II competition winning once on a score of 63.902 percent and again with score of 66.098. The 13-year-old Bella Luna, sired by Brentano II, is owned by Delight Willing, who, Brinkman said, “has a good sense of humor about her name. She was at a show once and coming in the ring and the judged looked at her and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ She just laughed.”


The Hanoverian mare has been with Brinkman for two years and will hopefully move up to Grand Prix this year. “She’s very, very good. I really love her. She’s just getting strength where can do passage with elevation,” Brinkman said. Bella Luna was last year’s Freestyle Horse of the Year at the Intermediaire I level and Brinkman said that at Ocala Spring Dressage, judge Jessica Ransehousen even commented that the mare was ready for the CDI tour.

Brinkman trains with Herwig Radnetter, of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, and also with Walter Zettl. Betsy Steiner also helps as her coach. She credits them with helping her with her success, but gives the most credit to the two horses that withstood the weather at Ocala. The rains had stopped by show day, but not the wind.

“It was trying for them. Because of downpours on Thursday and Friday, they didn’t get worked. So they sat in their stalls for two days before the show. And then with the wind at the show, they were saints. I think I rode half my I-2 test with my hand on my hat. I thought this is good test if we can ride through this,” Brinkman said.

Brinkman Praises the Florida Horse Park for Showing Dressage


It helps that both Influential and Bella Luna like to show. “They’re funny because they take their showing very seriously,” Brinkman said. Like most riders who compete at the Florida Horse Park, Brinkman couldn’t say enough good things about the footing. Amazingly, it held up through two days of pouring rain before the show. “I tell you, I love the Horse Park. The footing is great,” Brinkman said. “I also like that it’s so open. You can see all the rings and I had a following. At most shows, people don’t really see you but here, wherever people are, they can see you in the ring and everyone watches one another.”

It was just over a year ago that the Horse Park upgraded its footing to a material called Polytrack, designed by England’s Martin Collins Surfaces and Footings. It turned out to be a wise choice. The new footing has held up in all kinds of weather, including pouring rain, said Lloyd Landkamer, show secretary. “We had really bad rain on Friday before the show but with that footing in place, it was just fantastic. The rain didn’t stop anyone from competing.”

Some competitors reported, however, that just down the road at HITS Ocala, some classes were cancelled due to wet footing. Polytrack is one of several footings being considered for use in the rings for the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. It’s a good thing it held up at the Florida Horse Park, because more than 100 horses turned out for the Ocala Spring Dressage and riders would have been disappointed had the rings been awash and the show cancelled. “I know people had a good time because they came by the office and told us and many of them talked about how nice the footing was,” Landkamer said.

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