Suzanne Graham and Helga de Carolina Share First Place with Sir Sinclair and Blue Sky By Shaneen Kohler
Three riders shared a special moment when the scores were tallied in the FEI Prix St. Georges class on March 12. They had each achieved a score of 64%, tying them all for first place. Suzanne Graham of Jacksonville, Fla. riding Helga de Carolina was one of the three, as were Lindsey Cross with Blue Sky and Belinda Nairn Wertman with Sir Sinclair.
Helga de Carolina, a Selle Francais bred by Fernando Cardenas of Citra, Fla., was Graham’s partner for the reserve championship at Fourth Level at the 2005 U.S. Dressage Federation Region 3 Championships. She is by Quik du Rouet and out of True Petra by Orpheus.
Graham said, “(Cardenas) made me buy her as a 2-year-old. It was the best thing I ever did. I was so glad he saw the fit.”
Graham said the ride “was wonderful, which is just what you want when you are riding in the show ring. I was really happy with it.” She said her canter-pirouettes could use some work, but they are improving.
For the past 15 years, Graham has trained with dressage judge Susan Woods, who comes up to Graham’s Jacksonville farm to give her lessons on Helga. “Susan has worked with me since I bought Helga, whom I got as a 2-year-old and have had for eight years.”
She started her as a baby, put her first saddle on her and is showing her up to Intermediaire I, currently. “As soon as she learns to passage and piaffe, we can move up. She is definitely capable of it. There is no question she will be able to do the Grand Prix.”
One of the biggest challenges is training Helga while Graham teaches herself. “I have not ridden that far, so I am learning as I am teaching her. We have come up the levels together.”
Graham not only had a connection to some of the dressage riders at the event, she shared a few moments with trail riders passing through, as well. Graham believes in incorporating “pleasure time” into Helga’s training regime and does this by going on trail rides or hacking a couple days a week. It helps get the muscles elongated and not too tight in addition to being relaxing, said Graham, who also has a Quarter Horse she likes taking out on the trails.
The trail riders who passed through during Ocala Dressage were Karen Lappi of Altoona riding Opie, Terry Dehaan of Belleview riding Jetta, and Jack and Sandy Walsh of Altoona riding Bo and Bell, Tennessee Walkers. They were testing out the proposed course for the Children’s Miracle Network spring trail ride that will be starting at the Ocala Foxtrotter Ranch and winding through parts of the Florida Horse Park and along the Greenway trails, April 8. The 10-mile trail ride will benefit Shands Children’s Hospital at the University of Florida.
Cheryl Holekamp Earns Grand Prix Win
It took four years, but for Cheryl Holekamp the wait was worth it. Holekamp rode her home-bred mare Hera to a 63.75% in an FEI Grand Prix Level class and earned the blue ribbon, placing above James Koford on Donatelli II, Erin Brinkman on Hailo and Eleanor Rawle on Waldaire.
“I felt that Hera and I had a pretty good test and was hoping for a 60%,” said Holekamp. “I was amazingly surprised when I went to the scoreboard and saw that we had not only earned a 63.7%, but that we had won the class. Hera is a small mare that has three correct gaits but is not a big mover, so 8s are very hard to come by. We must ride a very correct and accurate test to get good scores. Hera gave me her very best that day as usual and I managed to be a worthy partner and rode her well.”
Since deciding to compete in dressage rather than eventing, Holekamps’s goal has not been only to breed a Grand Prix Level horse, but also be its rider and trainer, which she did with assistance from coaches Gunnar Ostergaard and Jayne Ayers. “Gunnar was the one to recognize the abilities of my ‘plain brown wrapper’ of a mare and fondly refers to her as a female Seabiscut,” said Holekamp. “She is a once-in-a-lifetime horse, cheerfully trying her best each and every day.”
Hera, a Trakehner by Garabaldi and out of Havel by Matador, is just one of the top Trakehners owned by Tim and Cheryl Holekamp of New Spring Farm in Columbia, Mo. and Ocala, Fla. Windfall II, who was Darren Chiacchia’s eventing mount at the 2004 Athens Olympics, is perhaps their most well-known horse. But, Hera may be on her way to joining Windfall II at the top. With Holekamp riding, the mare has earned her USDF Silver Medal and is one 60% score away from earning her Gold. Also with Holekamp riding, Hera was the third-placed winner in the 1998 ATA Dressage Futurity and two years later won the U.S. Combined Training Association Area IV Training Level Eventing Championship.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to compete at the Florida Horse Park,” said Holekamp. “The rapid development of this park into a first-class competition facility has truly been amazing. The footing is the best on which I have ever competed. I look forward to the continued development of the Florida Horse Park.”