Arlene Page and Wild One Win the FEI Grand Prix CDI-W
With pomp and circumstance, the USEF National Grand Prix Freestyle Championship/U.S. League Final CDI-W, the Official Selection for the 2006 FEI World Cup Dressage Final, kicked off in Wellington, Florida, tonight for the first time in its five-year history. More than 1,200 spectators gathered for the competition, held under brilliant lights in the outdoor De Nemethy Arena at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club, with over 300 guests enjoying dinner in the chandelier-lit Jockey Club overlooking the ring. Opening ceremonies included presentations honoring the top three placers in both of the two CDI classes held earlier today at the Zada Enterprises, LLC WEF Dressage Classic CDI-W CDI 3* /Y, followed by the singing of the National Anthem, and a demonstration of Grand Prix movements exhibited by Leslie Morse with Kingston and Ashley Holzer aboard Pop Art.
Competition in the FEI Grand Prix CDI-W, the first night of the two-night competition in the USEF National Grand Prix Freestyle Championship/U.S. League Final CDI-W, got underway with the first four of the eight competitors unable to score above 65%. Spectators watched the scoreboard, which registered scores from each of the five judges for every movement and flashed the total percentage from each judge and the final score. Following a half-time break featuring a musical freestyle exhibition by Frieze Frame Friesians, competition resumed, but it was not until the sixth rider in the ring that the scoreboard registered a percentage above 65%.
Arlene “Tuny” Page of Wellington, Florida, in the irons on her own Wild One, put in a solid and harmonious performance which earned a score of 68.792%, and proved to be unbeatable by the last two competitors, giving her the victory. An appreciative crowd loudly cheered the “hometown hero” as Page pumped her fist in elation after the final halt.
Next in the order, Leslie Morse of Beverly Hills, California, riding her own Tip Top 962, had uncharacteristic errors, including a spook at C after the first halt and a bobble in the one tempis. The duo earned a score of 66.500%, which ultimately gave Morse a second place finish.
George Williams of Richwood, Ohio, aboard Marnix for owner Joann Smith was the last rider to go, and had a solid ride apart from insufficient scores in the piaffe/passage tour, which resulted in a score of 65.125% and a final placement of third.
The panel of five international judges all placed Page first, with the judge at H placing her in a tie for first with Morse. Officiating were Stephen Clarke (O) Great Britain at E; Angelika Froemming (I) Germany at H; Elizabeth McMullen (O) Canada at C; Michael Poulin (I) USA at M; and Axel Steiner (O) USA at B.
All eight riders and their mounts were called back to participate in the awards ceremony and the ever-exciting victory lap of pumped-up Grand Prix horses. The steadfast Wild One took his solo lap in stride to thunderous cheers.
Wild One is a 10-year-old Hannoverian gelding by Wanderer out of Graefin that Page has owned for three years. Page was pleased with her horse, known as “Double V,” and their performance together tonight. “All I care about is that there’s harmony. If there’s harmony he will do everything. What you saw tonight, 68% – there is easily another 8% in there,” she stated. “I was so happy because I just felt the whole way through that if he doubted anything, all I needed to do was give a reassuring half halt or just a reminder with the leg and he was right back on the job.”
Page acknowledges that Wild One has lived up to his name on many outings in the ring and she admitted that she questioned how he would react to the night’s festive atmosphere, it was also the first time she had ever shown him under lights at night. “We’ve had some rough times just because he’s fearful,” she noted, “so I am just thrilled to ride, from start to finish, and feel like he just kept believing everything I told him. And I’m starting to tell him the right things.”
Page has been receiving training help from U.S. Dressage Team Coach Klaus Balkenhol and also from Lars Petersen, a Wellington resident. While Page is in contention for the opportunity to represent the U.S. at the 2006 FEI Dressage World Cup Final, which will be held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, April 20-23, she philosophized that that was not her aim for tonight’s ride. “I’m aiming to ride him like this every day. That’s what I’m aiming to do.”
Page described what was best about tonight’s ride for her. “The zigzag has always been hard for me to ride because I’m not a fast thinker and a lot is happening in the changes of bend and the flying changes and the half halt and so on,” she explained, “and this is something that Lars and Klaus have been terrific with just getting me to be absolutely convinced about riding the half halt. When I half halt, he’s got to come back and sit down, which is, of course, the key to riding the Grand Prix. It’s the key to everything but without it the Grand Prix is a struggle. I don’t even know what marks I got, but for me the zigzag just felt easy.” She added that she was also pleased with her horse’s piaffe/passage tour and canter work. She concluded by stating, “I liked the whole test. The whole test felt good.”
While Wild One has had to overcome some of his mental fears, Page notes that physically “he’s young and he’s strong and he can take the work beautifully. He’s worked very consistently and when you do things well, it’s easy on him. Obviously I have a great team of people to help.” Page noted that her veterinarian, chiropractor and farrier stepped in shortly before the competition when an accident in the stabling area resulted in Wild One losing a shoe and cutting his ankle – they were on the scene within an hour to administer to her horse.
To prepare Wild One for this stage of his career, Page has consistently shown him and has had to deal with his reactions to a variety of venues, but she never lost faith in his talent and abilities. “I never once felt that he didn’t have the personality. There were times, where I thought – he has everything it takes, but I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to ride him,” she admitted. “It’s taken him a long time to believe that I won’t put him in harm’s way. I’ve never had any doubts about him, but I just wondered whether or not I could make it. But starting a year or so ago, I was quite confident that I could do it, once I got him to the Grand Prix.” In tonight’s ride, Page explained that she felt she could “just set him up and go do the movements” in part because he is becoming more and more secure.
Page acknowledged that winning in front of such a throng of appreciative fans in her hometown was gratifying. “It was cool,” she smiled. “Everybody was like ‘Rah, go for the home team!’ – that’s for sure. That was great.”
FEI Grand Prix CDI-W
Place Horse Rider Total
- 1 Wild One Arlene Page 68.792%
- 2 Tip Top 962 Leslie Morse 66.500%
- 3 Marnix George Williams 65.125%
- 4 Cambay Jessica Jo Tate 64.250%
- 5 Caribi Karen Lipp 63.458
- 6 Hexagon’s Louisville Karin Reid Offield 62.917%
- 7 Succes Melissa Taylor Yee 60.458%
- 8 Lucky Tiger Pierre St. Jacques 59.750%
The USEF National Grand Prix Freestyle Championship/U.S. League Final CDI-W, the Official Selection for the 2006 FEI World Cup Dressage Final, concludes tomorrow night, March 18, starting at 7:00 pm at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club.