Dressage in California: Cool August Nights at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Posted by Kelly Sanchez


Nina Winternheimer and Ari
Nina Winternheimer and Ari
A Unique Partnership - If it takes a village to raise a child, then the same could be said for a 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood named Ari. At the Cool August Nights Dressage show, August 25–28, owner Lori Lauver looked on intently as trainer Nina Winternheimer competed in the Intermediaire I Freestyle. But Lauver and Winternheimer’s roles could just as easily have been reversed: In an unusual twist on the typical owner-rider relationship, both women compete the 16.2-hand gelding - Lauver as an adult amateur and Winternheimer as a professional. The partnership works because of Lauver’s focus and perseverance, says Winternheimer. “Lori is very driven and determined. Every time I ride, she’s there; I’m always explaining to her what I’m doing.”

Lauver and Winternheimer alternate riding and showing. If Winternheimer is competing, Lauver may take a lesson a week or take the horse on the trail. Lauver admits that keeping up with a professional like Winternheimer, who trained at both the prestigious Flyinge and Strömsholm in her native Sweden, takes some doing. But Lauver, a small-animal vet, isn’t one to back down from a challenge. She found Ari (Amorex–Kristol, Argus) as a yearling with the help of the late Trip Harting. (“It’s pretty unique for an amateur to buy a baby and have something actually come out of it,” marvels Winternheimer.)

As the horse moved up the levels with Winternheimer, Lauver realized she needed to up her own game, so she set her mind to building her strength and endurance. “Ari is a good horse and doesn’t deserve a low-end amateur owner, so I went to the gym—I need the extra exercise to ride well.” Lauver even began training for triathlons, competing in her first event in May (“all hills and torture, but good for conditioning,” she says).

Lori Lauver and Ari
Lori Lauver and Ari
Lauver’s dedication has paid off. This year she earned her USDF Silver Medal. But she’s quick to credit her mentors. “Nina brought Ari from Second Level to I-I in two years. She’s a great trainer and instructor. We’re also privileged to have the help of Ulf Wadeborn (a trainer who’s also president of the Swedish Warmblood Association of America) and Hilda Gurney.”

Lauver and Winternheimer agree that Ari is not the easiest horse to train. “It’s been a lot of hard work,” laughs Winternheimer. “He’s a bit of an Alpha horse—if he doesn’t think he has to do it, he’s not going to do it. He needs a strong leader.”

The I-I Freestyle, with music from the film Slumdog Millionaire, was created by Tigger Montague. “Tigger was a good friend of Trip’s, and she’d created a Second Level Freestyle for me and Ari,” says Lauver. “The I-I freestyle has a lot of difficulty, such as three tempi changes on a 20-meter circle, pirouettes out of the corner, followed by two tempi changes on a serpentine and an extended trot directly out of the opening halt and salute.” At Cool August Nights, Ari and Winternheimer earned a 68.75% for the routine, with a 69.5% for their technical score, and 68% for artistic.

Winternheimer, who’s just begun working with a young Swedish Warmblood of her own, says that her goal for Ari is not to have a show horse for herself. “I’m just trying to bring the horse up so Lori can have a Grand Prix schoolmaster.”

“I wish I could ride like Nina, but I can’t,” says Lauver. “But I learn every day whether I’m on the ground or in the saddle. Dressage should be fun. We have fun with it, for sure.”

Jaye Cherry and Santana
Jaye Cherry and Santana
Jaye Cherry Makes Music with Santana

Jaye Cherry continues to rack up high marks with Marta Kauffman’s 4-year-old Oldenburg gelding Santana (Show Star–Andra, Donnerschwee). At Cool August Nights, “Carlos” won all of his classes, and he and Cherry were Markel/Cornerstone High Point Open Champions.

With scores consistently in the 70s and even an 80% at the Dressage at Flintridge show in May, Cherry believes there’s no telling what the horse can achieve. “His mechanics are very good. He’s got a beautiful, big shoulder. His canter is lovely, his walk is outstanding, and he’s perfectly cheerful about his work. I think he’s the kindest, nicest horse I’ve ever worked with. He’s really special.”

Cherry has collaborated with writer-producer Kauffman (“Friends,” “Veronica’s Closet”) since 2000. Kauffman purchased Santana last December at the 2010 Oldenburg Special Auction in Vechta, Germany. At the time, he was listed at 15.3 hands, but by the time he arrived in California he was already 16 hands (he currently measures 16.1).

Kauffman herself used to ride when she lived in New York, and when she moved to the West Coast, she started riding at the L.A. Equestrian Center. There she noticed Cherry working with a young stallion. “Marta approached me about finding a young horse that I would train,” says Cherry. “She absolutely loves the process; she has no interest in buying trained horses.”

Cool August Nights gave Team Cherry another reason to celebrate. Riding Kauffman’s Baby Doll, a Weser-Ems pony mare, Cherry’s student, 14-year-old Bryce Quinto, won two junior reserve championships. Kauffman purchased Baby Doll (Botticelli–Maisha) as an Elite Foal at the Oldenburg Elite Auction. “She was about the size of a collie,” recalls Cherry. “When Marta saw her, she said, ‘We have to have her!''

Kauffman has another up-and-coming star currently making headlines in Germany: Sondheim, a 5-year-old Sandro Hit stallion that was the top-priced horse at the 2010 Oldenburg Spring Elite Auction. He has qualified for the 2011 Bundeschampionate, the German National Championships for Young Horses, which will be held in September. Cherry says she loves the idea of “the two musicians” (Sondheim and Santana) going to Verden next year. “If it works out, that would be really fun.”