The View from Above - Invitational FEI Dresssage Grand Prix in Las Vegas

They’re not competing for dressage world champion, but six lucky riders got the chance to compete before a World Cup crowd Friday afternoon in Vegas. The Invitational FEI Grand Prix featured five competitors and one test rider, who got the chance to ride through the Grand Prix test without the stress of competition.

“It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” said Mette Rosencrantz. “Everybody is trying to move on and go to bigger shows but it’s hard to get the experience in an environment of pressure and big shows. Especially in this ring, everybody is so close. If we go to Europe, this is what it will look like.”

“I didn’t know how my horse would deal with this environment,” said Kristina Harrison-Naness. “I think this experience much better prepares all of us for the future.”

The lucky test rider was Californian Jan Ebeling, who did the test ride with the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare, Rafalca (Rohdiamant), owned by Ebeling’s wife Amy and Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. While Ebeling rode through the test, FEI ‘O’ judge Axel Steiner explained the movements to spectators.

Prior to Ebeling’s ride, spectators were treated to the usual Vegas-style entertainment. Friday’s dressage competition was launched with laser shows and a performance by the Red Men of “Le Reve.” And, as has become typical of Las Vegas Dressage World Cup competition, a rather rowdy crowd of thousands was on hand to watch. It was hard to tell who was having more fun dancing to the music between breaks – spectators in the stands or announcer Nico Meredith.

The five competitors were riding for $10,000 in prize money and the first to go was Jennifer Hoffman with the 10-year-old Dutch gelding Petit Danseur, owned by Georgia Griffiths. Without a doubt, the close proximity of California gave its riders a big advantage when it came to the Invitational Grand Prix. First off, four of the five competitors were from California and it was an easy drive for them. Second, it seemed that their students and fans made the drive as well because they sure had fans in the stands. Petit Danseur made it clear that the indoor ring surrounded by the mass of spectators was a bit stressful, which showed itself in a rear in the piaffe. The pair finished with a score of 58.333 percent.

They were followed by fellow Californian Rosencrantz. One of California’s top riders, Rosencrantz had no shortage of fans in the arena. When she hit that final salute, calls of “Yea Mette” came from all directions. She credits the background music with helping her through the ride. Not just for Rosencrantz, but for all the rides, the background music fit as well as a choreographed freestyle. When Rosencrantz and Basquewille (Woernitz x Loewenbrau), a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, hit the diagonal with their tempi changes, the background music was right on target.

Rosencrantz and Basquewille finished on a final score of 63.542, sitting the bar rather high for the following three riders. She was certainly proud of her horse. “My horse is strong. He’s fun to ride and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

The first attempt to pass the score set by Rosencrantz was made by Californian Jo Moran riding the 12-year-old Swedish mare Minna (Bernstein x Marco). It proved to be quite a challenge for Moran to settle Minna in the electrified atmosphere of the Thomas and Mack Arena. Particularly in the passage-piaffe transitions, the mare’s tension came through as she hollowed and tossed her head.

Their final score of 57.583 reflected Minna’s tension. But this was one sympathetic crowd filled with amateur and professional dressage competitors who know the embarrassment of having things go wrong in the middle of a dressage test. And no doubt, they felt for Moran as she sorted out the mare under the watchful eyes of thousands. To her credit, she managed to recover and finish out with a nice, though rather conservative, ride. With her final salute, the crowd gave her a resounding round of applause. The difficult moments of her ride were not enough to dampen Moran’s enthusiasm over getting to compete at the World Cup venue. She left the ring with a brilliant smile.


PRE Stallion Tests the Waters

Next to ride was, of course, another Californian – Kristina Harrison-Naness on the 12-year-old PRE stallion Rociero XV (Rociero VIII x Jenson). No doubt a good number of horse owners in the crowd were thinking that this handsome gray has a tail to die for. Once again, the background music was a perfect fit – a Latin theme with tempo transitions that perfectly matched those of the ride. Like the Californians before her, Harrison-Naness seemed to have traveled to Vegas with her fan club in tow. Most certainly, she and Rociero tapped into the hearts of the Iberian lovers.

“He’s a great character and a great personality. This is his fifth Grand Prix,” Harrison-Naness said of Rociero. “I love the Spanish horses. He’s my first Spanish horse and I’ve had him one year.” They finished with a score of 61.625 percent.

Last to go was a foreigner of sorts – East Coast-based rider Michael Barisone. Barisone had been on the West Coast for some weeks after traveling to Southern California to compete in the U.S. League Finals in Burbank. He didn’t make the final World Cup U.S. Team cut, but he did get an invite to ride in Vegas. Barisone and the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Neruda (Haarlem x Ladalco) came closest to knocking Rosencrantz and Basquewille out of first place.

Neruda was definitely feeling some tension despite the fact that the horse has competed in an indoor environment before. “He was definitely distracted. And I had some mistakes,” Barisone said. “And when you make three or four mistakes you lose points.” Still, Barisone managed to settle him and put in a good ride, despite the tension, missed tempis and other errors. The pair finished with a score of 63.042 percent, which landed them in second place.

Grand Prix - Iinvitational

  • 1. Mete Rosencrantz - Basquewille - 63.541
  • 2. Michael Barisone - Neruda - 63.041
  • 3. Kristina Harrison Naness - Rociero - 61.625
  • 4. Jennifer Hoffmann - Petit Danseur - 58.333
  • 5. Jo Moran - Minna - 57.583

Lusitano Stallion Shines with Portugese Rider in Las Vegas on a Wild Card

The twelve dressage riders who qualified to compete in Saturday’s Dressage World Cup Freestyle championship had a day of rest on Friday, but for the four who didn’t, Friday was their day for showing off their freestyle rides to a Vegas crowd. The four riders who didn’t make it to Saturday’s final event competed in their own freestyle competition Friday afternoon – the Rolex FEI World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle B-Final. And in that competition, it was a Lusitano stallion with a Portuguese rider atop that came in first.

Daniel Pinto and the 13-year-old Galopin de la Font (Expanto x Zorro), owned by Sylvain and Ingrid Massaa, wowed the crowd with their beautiful freestyle to Portuguese bullfighting music and apparently also the judges. They won with a score of 71.650 percent.

Mariette Withages translated for Pinto who said that he was “extremely happy to be in the World Cup final and that it’s an honor for the Lusitano breed and important for the World Cup to have an exotic horse.” Pinto also said that he was very touched and moved by the reaction of the public.

Asked what was so good about Pinto’s ride, judge Cara Witham said “it was really exciting and I think that Daniel made the best advantage of his horse’s strong points. He had a lot of degrees of difficulty and very interesting choreography and the music was absolutely perfect for this horse.”

The Grand Prix Freestyle B competition gave those competitors who didn’t make the cut for Saturday’s World Cup Freestyle Championship a chance to show their freestyle and it gave the Friday afternoon audience a chance to watch some great musical rides.

Pinto was the last to go among a field of four. The first was Canadian Jacqueline Brooks riding 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Gran Gesto (Grannox x Goldstern). Their routine included much piaffe work, which was the pair’s weakness on Friday. Still, they finished up with a respectable fourth place score of 64.050 percent.



By Lynndee Kemmet for

Britain's Wayne Channon and Lorenzo Ride to "The Godfather"

Next in competition was British rider Wayne Channon who entered to Italian music reminiscent of the music from the movie “The Godfather.” It was a rather fitting choice for the dark black Dutch stallion named Lorenzo CH (Ferro x Wolfgang). Channon said a section of the music even includes the Italian national anthem and Lorenzo likes it. When the horse first heard it, he stopped short and Channon said he realized that “he’s actually listening to the music.” The pair’s score of 68.50 percent was enough to put them in second place.

When asked what he thought of his ride and second-place finish, Channon said he was “ecstatic.” He said he has only a few problems left to sort out with Lorenzo and once done he believes the horse is set for stardom. “I can sort of see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s worth persevering.”

The third to ride was the popular Canadian pair of Evi Strasser and Quantum Tyme. There’s a clear Canadian contingent at this year’s World Cup cheering her on. Strasser and Quantum Tyme (Quattro x Argentinius) rode to music from the Disney film, “Circle of Life,” which sent a chill down the spine as one watched the elegant pair glide around the ring with an air of complete confidence.

Strasser and the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding risked some difficult moves, including a passage half-pass. They get credit for daring but their final score of 67.750 percent wasn’t enough pass Channon and Lorenzo.

Pinto was last to go and his music and his ride pleased the crowd as much as the judges. His one-handed hand gallop down centerline to a canter pirouette made Witham comment that next time he should do a one-handed pirouette in both directions. The strong points of Pinto’s ride were “the ways that he intermingled his movements and risked quite a bit. For example, in the canter away from me he was absolutely straight with the reins in one hand and then to come back to the pirouette still with the reins in one hand.”

Pinto knew his ride went well. And he can be proud that the audience really liked his music, which he and his wife did on their own. They specifically chose the bullfighting music to show there is a link between the perfection and control required in modern dressage riding and that of the classical riding used in bullfighting. Also, he said the use of such music helps attract people back home to come watch dressage. Pinto must have known how well his ride went because he couldn’t have left the ring with a bigger smile.

One of the beautiful things about World Cup competition in Las Vegas is the crowd is never left to sit and risk boredom. Where else can one attend a dressage show and have entertainment while waiting for the awards ceremony to start? While the ring was cleared and preparations made for awards, spectators were treated to an exhibition of “silk dancing” – gymnasts showing their talent while hanging about on silk ropes. Watching these Vegas acts one must admire the entertainers for their ingenuity in coming up with unique ways to ply their trade and entertain.

Grand Prix Kur to Music - B Finals

  • 1. Daniel Pinto - Galopin de la Font - 71.650 (Portugal)
  • 2. Wayne Channon - Lorenzo CH - 68.500 (England)
  • 3. Evi Strasser - Quantum Tyme - 67.750 (Canada)
  • 4. Jacqueline Brooks - Gran Gesto - 64.050 (Canada)

HorsesDaily On The Scene at the 2007 Rolex FEI Dressage World Cup Final