Devon, Penn. – Tina Konyot rode through the rain to take her first Dressage at Devon Grand Prix Freestyle win. Riding Calecto V to a score of 72.600, Konyot beat out a field of 10 to claim the freestyle title. Behind her in second was Canadian rider Jacqueline Brooks riding Balmoral to a score of 69.80. In third was Lauren Sammis who scored 69.750 with Sagacious HF. “I’m overwhelmed. I’m just thrilled and I might even be happier than Jacqueline and I’m very happy for her, but I’m extremely happy with my horse. But I’m happy with my horse every day,” said Konyot, who splits her time between Connecticut and Florida. “I’ve won the small tour here in years past, but not this.” Photo: Stacy Lynne PhotographyJudge Linda Zang said of Konyot’s ride, “I think Tina did a very good job today. Yesterday, I thought she had maybe a little too much energy behind so in the passage it was getting a little high, almost asking for too much. So, the horse wasn’t able to carry what he was asking. Today, it was a little calmer. Tina has a very nice horse with a big future if she can just settle down a bit and allow the horse to be a little more relaxed and swing forward.”
Konyot certainly agrees with Zang that Calecto V, an 11-year-old Danish Warmblood owned by Konyot, is a horse with the potential to represent the U.S. in international competition. Konyot said this was her first time riding a freestyle with Calecto and they had only practiced it a few times before. However, she had used it in the past for her mare Anna Karenina. “That was the last, very nice horse that I had and they orchestrated this music for her.” Konyot said she didn’t have time to create a freestyle for Calecto so she used what she had and “thank God, it worked. Not perfectly, but it will work for now.” When Konyot said that she was looking for new music for Calecto, both Sammis and Brooks suggested that she come up with something “much worse.” Joked Brooks, “obviously, this one didn’t work for you.”
When asked about the impact of the rain and how it affected the judging, Zang said that “rain does count but that’s the part of competition. You have to be able to do it indoors or outdoors, rain or shine.” In reality, Saturday evening’s rain wasn’t nearly what competitors faced during the 2008 Dressage at Devon when downpours caused serious flooding in the ring and the barn areas. Sammis said the light rain may have actually improved the footing. “It was better with the mist all day.” Brooks agreed, saying that “the footing felt solid,” but it would not have mattered to Balmoral, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Anne Welch, even if it had been muddy. “Fortunately, for me, my horse is a mudder and he’s always been great in any kind of weather. He’s always been great in his balance. I actually got a 10 on him at Second Level in a huge thunderstorm.”
Brooks said that she learned much while riding her freestyle at Devon because it’s still a work in progress. The freestyle was created by Tamara Williamson of Kurboom. With the help of her drummer, Williamson wrote the musical score just for Balmoral. Asked what she learned about her freestyle during her Devon ride, Brooks joked, “my horse is moving much differently now than when we wrote it. So, we’re going to go and tweak some things. I’ve had a great weekend with that horse. I’ve learned a lot about him.” She had at one time thought that if Balmoral wasn’t meant for CDI she’d go looking for something else. But, what she has learned is that what she was looking for, was right there. “And now, I’m very excited about that horse. He’s really doing it all by himself out there.” When asked whether Balmoral or her Olympic partner Gran Gesto would be her partner in her quest for a spot at the World Equestrian Games, Brooks said, “whichever one wants to be.” She’ll be competing both in Florida for qualifying scores. Brooks and Balmoral, who was bred in Canada and was a North American breed winner at Devon in past years, won Friday’s Grand Prix for the Freestyle and Brooks said that after the win she called her friend Ashley Holzer. Holzer was scheduled to compete at Devon with Pop Art, but her father passed away the week before. Brooks said that Holzer “was very excited and she really believed that Pops was somehow involved in yesterday’s win. That was a big win for us.”
Of Sammis and Sagacious, Zang, who had never judged the pair before, said Sagacious seemed a bit star-struck by the lights of the Dixon Oval ring. Sammis agreed, saying, “It was a bit like foreigners going down 42nd Street in New York.” Interestingly, Sammis was once a working student for Konyot and said that Konyot was one of the biggest influences on her riding. “I learned a tremendous amount. Not just about riding, but about being a rider in the sport,” Sammis said. “She took my riding and broke it down and restarted me. She was the number one influence in my riding.”
When asked if she also had a connection to Konyot, Brooks joked that it was a party connection. And now that Konyot is dating Canadian racehorse trainer Roger Attfield, Konyot is spending much more time in Ontario where Brooks is based. “He’s a very special gentleman,” said Konyot, who is now off to spend five weeks in Canada. “I’m taking Jacqueline to the races,” she said. “Everyone is connected here,” Konyot said.
Her other connection in Saturday evening’s freestyle was Danielle Gallagher-Legri, who placed fifth in the freestyle. She rode a horse that had once been Konyot’s – Abrikos. Gallagher-Legri was also awarded the Valerie Kahan Memorial Trophy, given to the high score adult amateur Grand Prix rider.
Photo Credit: Sharon Packer - Horse Sport Photography