Don’t be fooled by the conservative scoring. The opening day of the Gold Coast Opener Festival CDI-W/Y/J/P was a successful one. As Robert Dover said about the Grand Prix class, “This is a real class.” Hence, the judging was tough. Some of the world's most known and experienced judges are on hand at this year's Opener – among them Bo Jena, Lorraine McDonald, Axel Steiner, Natalie Lamping and Stephen Clarke. The prestigious judging panel reflects the importance of this year's Opener CDI as a qualifying competition for the upcoming 2010 Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games, scheduled to be held this fall in Kentucky. Another indicator of the importance of this year's show was the large number of competitors in CDI competition, especially in Grand Prix, which was so large that it was split into two classes. The FEI-level competition brought out many of the best horse and rider pairs in North America. Among them were the two Grand Prix winners of day one – Todd Flettrich and Otto and the Canadian pair of Ashley Holzer and Pop Art.
Flettrich and Otto, a Danish Warmblood sired by Rambo, won the Grand Prix CDI with a 67.872 percent. Flettrich’s ride featured exquisite extended trots, great suspension throughout in the half passes and the passage, and an active piaffe. Judge Bo Jena commented that Otto’s piaffe and passage received all 8s and was quite impressive. Flettrich was pleased with his win. “I was delighted with my ride, especially with Otto. My goal was to not make mistakes. He’s super in the piaffe and the passage.” Flettrich was pleasantly surprised by his win because he had not shown Otto since Dressage at Devon.
Lauren Sammis riding Sagacious HF, a KWPN gelding by Welt Hit II, came in second in the Grand Prix CDI with a score of 65.787 percent, and Pierre St. Jacque on Lucky Tiger by Lucky Light came in third place with a 65.064. In spite of issues of resistance in the piaffe, Sammis’ ride, according to Bo Jena, showed elasticity, balance, and power, while that of Pierre St. Jacque and Lucky Tiger showed “incredible harmony between the horse and rider,” Jena said.
The second Grand Prix CDI class was won by the Canadian Olympic pair of Holzer and Pop Art, a Dutch Warmblood gelding sired by Amsterdam, with a score of 71.489 percent. “I was very happy with him,” Holzer said of Pop Art. “I was a little nervous because it was the first show of the season for us, but I’m glad to have this under my belt.” Holzer and the Canadian high performance riders have been training with Olympian Robert Dover. “He’s such a positive and enthusiastic person, and you always feel like you have support behind you,” Holzer said.
Mikala Gundersen riding Leonberg, a 16-year-old bay Rheinlander stallion by Lonely Boy XX, came in second with a 64.255 and Susan Jaccoma on Wadamur, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Sandro, took third place with a score of 63.191.
One Grand Prix competitor who had a great ride, but unfortunately was eliminated was Shawna Harding. During her first extended trot, Come On III bit his lip and because some blood could be seen from his mouth, the rules required that the pair be eliminated. Harding was able to complete her test, however, because Axel Steiner, the head of the ground jury, was sitting at C, and from that position could not see that Come On III had blood in his mouth. It was Stephen Clarke at B who noticed the blood and brought it to Steiner’s attention. For Harding and Come On III, it was an unfortunate end to a beautiful test.
Overall, both the U.S. and Canada were well represented in Day 1 of the Gold Coast Opener in the Grand Prix CDI classes. Check back for continuous coverage of the show this weekend and for more On The Scene in Wellington, 2010.