Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival Of Champions

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Posted by Lynndee


Liz Austin Set to Defend Brentina Cup Title as Father and Son Stallions Gather at Gladstone

Winner of last year’s inaugural Brentina Cup, Austin is back at Gladstone to defend her title. Her victory last year earned her a trip to Germany to train with Klaus Balkenhol, This up-and-coming dressage star has been busy making her move into the world of professional Grand Prix rider.

Austin will be defending her title during the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions with the partner who helped her win last year – Olivier, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood affectionately called Fizzy. He’ll see a familiar face around the show grounds during competition because his father, Idocus, will also be there competing with his current rider Courtney King.

Since being re-paired with Idocus nearly two years ago, King and the 17-year-old Dutch stallion owned by Christine McCarthy have been on quite a streak that involved winning a to compete in this year’s Dressage World Cup in Las Vegas. The Gladstone competition will most likely be their last U.S. appearance for awhile because they’ll soon after be off to Europe to train and compete. Idocus is the sire of Olivier with whom Austin collected a number or ribbons during the Florida Grand Prix circuit, including a Grand Prix win at the highly competitive Palm Beach Dressage Derby with a 66 percent.

“The more times I can take him down the centerline and have a good experience, the better we’ll do. You have to start somewhere and we’ve started,” said Austin, who only did her first Grand Prix last fall during her European training trip with Balkenhol. The outings in Europe were the first steps in testing the waters of Grand Prix, but this past winter in Florida, Austin and Olivier jumped right in.

At the WEF Dressage Classic in Wellington, the pair earned a 71 percent for their Grand Prix in an FEI Test of Choice class, despite the fact that Olivier spooked at the start. “He was awesome, but something scared him as we came down centerline and he took off, bolted and bucked,” Austin said. After Olivier halted at X, he wouldn’t move, causing the opening halt to score a two. “But then we went on and he ended up getting a 71 percent, even with a naughty halt.”

The pair’s successes this past winter earned them the right to compete again for the Brentina Cup and they’ll be a tough pair to beat. Austin trains with Arlene “Tuny” Page, who is currently in Europe training with Wild One, and she gives Page much credit for helping her develop confidence this past winter as a competitive rider. “Tuny has been amazing. She’s done a lot of hand holding because I’ve not had much confidence in myself, believing that I’m not ready for Grand Prix.”


Liz Austin Set to Defend Brentina Cup Title as Father and Son Stallions Gather at Gladstone

It Takes a Village

And Liz Austin is full of nothing but gratitude for everyone who has made her riding dreams come true. “I am simply speechless over the amount of time and effort people have put into helping me achieve my dreams. I can only hope that one day, I can give back to the community and help other riders, who perhaps aren't financially, well off, to reach for the top,” Austin said.

Ask Austin how it is that at the young age of 23 she’s come so far and she’ll tell you she didn’t get there alone. The first person on the list to whom she gives credit is her mother, Madeleine Austin. Not only did her mother teach her to ride and support her through the early years of her riding career, she also provided Austin with the horses she needed to improve her riding, including Olivier. The family runs a breeding farm in northern Vermont.

“I am so thankful to my mom, Madeleine, for breeding a horse like Fizzy, and even more importantly, keeping him for me to ride when the offers to buy him started to roll in from around the world. I consider myself so lucky to have the horses and people in my life that I do,” Austin said.

Austin is quick to rattle off a long list of people who have supported her and guided her riding career – Lendon Gray, Jennifer Baumert and most recently Page for whom Austin began working after she returned from Germany last fall.

“I came to Tuny's not knowing what to expect, but things have worked out perfectly. She has given me so much confidence, and as I've said from the start, how well Fizzy does is purely a result of how well I can ride him. He really is a horse with no limit to his abilities,” Austin said. “Tuny made it possible for me to show in Florida this winter by allowing me to work for her and thus, keep Fizzy in Florida virtually for free. It was the perfect situation.”

Within a moment of meeting Austin, one can easily see why the young rider has so much support. She’s gracious, enthusiastic, hard-working and hasn’t a bad word to say about anyone, not even other riders against whom she competes. She easily wins over people, as evidenced by the long list of sponsors she credits with supporting her.

“I have a number of sponsors who have made a tremendous difference in what I've been able to do with Fizzy,” Austin said. DevonWood Equestrian Centre (www.devonwoodec.com) helped in her road to the Brentina Cup victory and paid part of her trip to Germany. “Individual sponsors who helped were Mrs. Webster, Mrs. Seaver and Mrs. Bartlett,” Austin said.

She said additional support for her training trip to Europe came from the Dressage Foundation (www.dressagefoundation.org), Dressage4Kids (www.dressage4kids.com) and from the New England Dressage Association (www.neda.org). The Dutta Corporation (www.timdutta.com) gave her a reduced shipping rate to Europe for Olivier.


Champagne of a Beer Budget

“I am also incredibly thankful to the Equus&Equestrian Sport Foundation (equusfoundation.com) and, specifically Dr. Simmons, for their continued support,” Austin said. “What’s been hardest for me is giving Fizzy the very best equipment, feed, supplements, etc. without having the funding to pay for it. How does the phrase go? Champagne taste on a beer budget? I feel so fortunate that so many people have stepped forward to help us, including Kate from Dutchess Bridle and Saddle (dutchessbridleandsaddle.com), who has outfitted Fizzy in the very best Albion equipment (including a beautiful new Albion Platinum Ultima). Peter from Nutrena (nutrenaworld.com) for giving Fizzy XTN for a year. Rod from HorseTech (www.horsetech.com) for providing us with the best sugar-free electrolytes (Quench) and most complete joint supplement on the market (ReitSport-HA100). And finally Allyson at Saratoga Horseworks for making sure Fizzy is dressed to the nines on all outings (saratogahorseworks.com).”

Photo by Betsy Nye

Austin said that additional financial support is coming from the fact that Olivier is siring quality foals and the word is spreading. “Every breeding helps us in one way or another. It was fantastic of Mary Phelps to help me by doing a Stallion Spotlight for him, as well as a Who's Who for me, which made more people aware of what I am trying to accomplish.”

Despite Austin’s recent success, she’s not letting it go to her head and she gives thanks to the creature most responsible for getting her to Grand Prix. “Tomorrow, everything could change, but today you couldn't wipe the smile off my face. With a lot of luck and a lot of faith and a lot of help, I am hoping that this is just the beginning of what could be one amazing ride,” she said. “Thank you Fizzy, for allowing me to have the opportunity to go on such an incredible journey.”

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