Burbank, California – Much of the final day of competition at the Cornerstone Event Management's Festival of the Horse CDI*** was devoted to the Markel/USEF young horse competition with qualifying classes being held for four-, five- and six-year-old horses. The top four-year-old horse was Zalona DG. The top five-year-old was Chevalier and the top six-year-old horse was Hit Parade SFS.
Second went to Elizabeth McConnell and the Swedish Warmblood mare Chocolatt, by Bellini out of Ambience, with a score of 7.30. Third went to Stephen Adler Birchall and Sunshine, a Dutch Warmblood mare sired by Special D out of Sarah, with a score of 6.88.
Speaking for the panel of judges, Joan Macartney said Zalona DG was "a lovely young horse, a very elegant horse with an uphill tendency, especially in the trot work." Judges were clearly impressed with the mare's training. Of her gaits, judges were particularly impressed with the walk. "We loved the clear rhythm, the ground covering and the activity of the walk," Macartney said. "We're clearly impressed with this horse. There's lots of potential for much higher marks."
Winner of the five-year-old competition was Chevalier, ridden by Susan Halasz with a score of 8.64. Chevalier is a Holsteiner stallion sired by Con Air and owned by the Chevalier Group. Halasz has only been working with the horse since January after being purchased in Germany. He's very beautiful and talented and incredibly good-natured. I'm not surprised that he won today because I think he's really wonderful," Halasz said. "This is really only his second time in the five-year-old class. He's got an incredible work ethic and he's just a really cool guy with a great heart."
Coming in second in the Markel/USEF Five-Year-Old Test was Merrie Velden and the Oldenburgstallion Sandomere, by Sandro Hit out of Romina. Third went to another young horse ridden by Willy Arts – Woodwind. The Dutch Warmblood mare, by Contester out of Muziek and owned by DG Bar Ranch, scored 7.98.
Trio of Sisters Own Winner of Markel/USEF Six-Year-Old Test
Winner of the Markel/USEF Six-Year-Old competition at the Cornerstone Event Management's Festival of the Horse CDI*** was Hit Parade SFS, a Rhiendlander stallion by Show Star out of Esprina. Hit Parade scored 8.48 with rider Sandra Burns-Gardner. Burns-Gardner co-owns the stallion with her sisters, Jeanne Burns and Kathy Schack.
"We're a group," Burns-Gardner said. The sisters purchased the horse from a friend in Holland, Norbert Geiling. "He has a really good character and a fantastic work ethic. And, of course, he has beautiful gaits." Hit Parade was fourth overall in last year's national five-year-old competition. "He's just a pleasure to ride every day," said Burns-Gardner who works with Guenter Seidel. She said all Hit Parade needs is time to develop and grow stronger.
The judges clearly liked Hit Parade and awarded him a 9.3 for his trot, which Betsy Berrey called the highlight of the test. "The horse is uphill, balanced, active and covers ground." Berrey said it's clear the horse has the ability for collection. His weak areas in his test were lack of suppleness and difficulties in the flying changes. "He does need to be a bit more supple and due to some difficulties in the flying changes, his submission score went down to 7.8."
Second in the six-year-old competition went to Valeska, ridden by Willy Arts, with a score of 8.18. Valeska is a Dutch Warmblood mare by C Krack out of Polimbria that is owned by DG Bar Ranch. Third went to Weltino's Magic, ridden by Shannon Peters, with a score of 8.16. The Westfalen gelding, sired by Weltino, is owned by Jen Hlavacek.
Steffen Peters Again at the Top of the List in Grand Prix Competition at Cornerstone Event Management's Festival of the Horse CDI***
Steffen Peters and Ravel took the blue ribbon in the CDI Grand Prix Freestyle competition riding to the freestyle that had been used for Peters' previous mount – Floriano. Peters and Ravel earned their win with a score of 76.45. Behind them in second was Canadian Leslie Reid and Orion with a score of 70.90 percent.
"Everybody calls it Floriano's freestyle, but it was actually Grandeur's freestyle that we had modified for Floriano," Peters said. It wasn't necessary to modify it again for Ravel because Peters said that Floriano and Ravel are very similar in movement.
Despite how well the freestyle worked for Ravel, Peters said that he is working on a new one for Ravel, which will be used in the Olympic selection trials. Peters wouldn't say what music is being used other than that "it's the music that I grew up with in the 80s."
When asked why change at all, Peters said "because this freestyle has been out there for quite some time and I think it's always exciting to try and improve the freestyle. And, if we want to place higher, the choreography must become a bit more difficult and I believe the music could be a touch more exciting. When the new one is done, we will analyze it very carefully to make sure it is better."
With her second-place score of 70.90 percent, Reid is well-positioned to make a run for the 2008 Canadian Olympic Dressage Team, but admits it's not her top priority. "I haven't made the Olympics as a big aim because he's green, really green.
So, it's hard to say it's my goal. If he chooses to be confirmed enough and consistent enough through all of these CDIs and we get a spot, then great. But, we'll see," Reid said.
The Grand Prix freestyle ride at the Festival of the Horse was actually the first time that Reid and Orion competed with that freestyle. "I was really happy with it and it was comfortable for me to ride. It worked well for me and I think that once I've ridden it a few times, it'll be really comfortable."