Young Riders in the News
Young Rider Brianna Zwilling, 21, of New Hope, Minn., and her eight-year-old Oldenburg, DiMaggio, captured the Open Freestyle Class at the Midwest Regional Championships, Sept. 4-6, Mason City, Iowa, with an impressive score of 77.917 percent from Judges Janet (Dolly) Hannon and Beverly Rogers. Zwilling just missed the opportunity to perform her freestyle at her first NAJYRC Championships July 22-26 in Lexington, Ky., so her decisive win was also her debut of the Fourth-Level freestyle.
Young Riders in the News- Watch the Video
Making the win over horse-rider combinations from First Level to Grand Prix even sweeter and more impressive is that Zwilling, assistant trainer at Brandywine Farm, Hamel, Minn., has trained her 18.1-hand gelding herself. “He was so on,” she said recently during a Janet Brown Foy clinic at Brandywine. “He was giving me 150 percent. And there was so much more power in there, it was like on reserve. I kept asking for more, and he kept giving it. As soon as the music started, he was bucking and passaging; he just wanted to go in there.”
Indeed, throughout their ride to Celtic music selected and edited by Terri Gallo of Klassic Kur, DiMaggio grew prouder and more majestic with each movement. After her final salute on centerline, Zwilling basked in the enthusiastic applause of the crowd. “That was really awesome,” she said. “Mason City is kind of my home. I’ve grown up there, so I was really happy I could do it in front of the home crowd so to speak.”
Zwilling, daughter of Ruth Wiechman and Denny Zwilling, is quick to credit William (Bill) Solyntjes and Lloyd Landkamer, who own Brandywine Farm, for much of her success. She also participates regularly in clinics with Foy and Hannon and had the opportunity this year to ride for Steffen Peters who compared DiMaggio to Grandeur. Solyntjes, Landkamer, and Foy assisted in the choreography for the freestyle. Foy recalled that she and Zwilling initially liked different musical selections Gallo had sent, but an informally gathered audience of friends and dressage enthusiasts gave the best “applause-meter” rating to the Celtic-themed music. “No bagpipes,” Zwilling added.
The journey to successful Fourth Level/Young Rider competition has not been without challenges, which Zwilling embraces with her typical quiet patience and belief in her horse. DiMaggio, who is her first warmblood and first young horse, was quite a transition from the Arabian and Thoroughbred she rode previously. Purchased by Landkamer as a weanling in Germany, DiMaggio was a tall youngster from the start.
Zwilling bought him as a four-year-old in 2005 and recalls thinking he was “way more trained than he was.” With perseverance, however, they progressed and competed successfully at Training Level with scores topping 70 percent the following year. Since then, they’ve moved gradually through the levels, concentrating on the basics and quality of the work from the start.
Another highlight this year was winning the Individual Young Rider Test with a score of 68.070 percent at the Dressage at Lamplight CDI*** competition in May. “It’s been an experience,” Zwilling said, “just taking it one step at a time, really slowing it down. We have worked through confidence issues as well as the training.” Because DiMaggio is so big, improving his collection is an issue which judges remarked on at the NAJYRC Championships. Improving his strength through riding accurate, smaller circles has been part of her program.
Zwilling finds the work rewarding, and the bond she has developed with her gelding is clear. Not only does the tall and lithe Zwilling make an elegant picture on DiMaggio, but she also is attuned to his physical and mental needs. When they’re not training and competing, she enjoys grooming him and giving him treats, including oranges, which he loves. At shows, the pair spends all their time together. Zwilling says DiMaggio knows when he’s getting ready to go to a show because “he’s so nibbly and wild the night before.” But the next day he’s all business and walks right on the trailer.
Solyntjes, an S judge, points out that Zwilling is one of a handful of Young Riders training her own horse as she goes. She also trains and sometimes shows boarders’ horses at Brandywine and has started the training and showing of Royal Gem, a talented four-year-old Oldenburg gelding bred and raised by Landkamer. If his training proceeds well, the plan is to show Gem in the Five-Year-Old classes next year. She’s also hoping to show DiMaggio in the Developing Horse classes for seven-to-nine-year-old horses with a goal of competing at the Developing Horse National Championships.
“She is one of the trainers and riders of the future,” Solyntjes says.
Zwilling, who thanks not only her mentors but also her parents and her many sponsors, is delighted to tackle every aspect of her work with equal energy and passion. “I would not be where I am without Bill and Lloyd and everyone at the barn,” she said.
After taking a break from her studies this past year to focus on Young Riders, she plans to return to school in January at Argosy University, Eagan, Minn., to pursue a veterinary technician’s degree. In addition to training at Brandywine, Zwilling also works at Anoka Equine Clinic, Elk River, Minn.
Watch the video clip of her NAJYRC Individual Test and Midwest Regional Open Freestyle win.