Dressage at Flintridge Highlights Markel Young Horse Dressage Western Selection Trial

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Posted by Christy


The historic Flintridge show in La Cañada Flintridge is a favorite in the California show circuit.  The beautiful show ground has an old-fashion feel. Lined with large oak trees shading the arena, setting area and clubhouse, the tranquility of the riding club always makes for a relaxing and enjoyable weekend.  The show is a host to the last qualifier in California for the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Intermediaire Championships and the FEI North American JR/YR Championships.

In addition, this show hosted the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Western Selection Trial for the FEI World Breeding Championships for Young Horses. The FEI Five-Year-Old division, as well as the Six-Year-Old division competed on Saturday and Sunday in front of FEI “O” Judge Axel Steiner, FEI “O” Judge Linda Zang and FEI “I” Judge Jayne Ayers.

Merrie Velden and Sandomere FEI Six-Year-Old Champions

Last year’s Five-Year-Old West Coast Champion, Merrie Velden and Sandomere (Sandro Hit x Ramiro’s Match), who qualified and competed at the National Championships in Lexington, Kentucky, once again qualified to compete at the West Coast Selection Trials.

This year, Merrie Velden rode Holly Reimers’s gorgeous black stallion, Sandomere, who is now a six-year-old. The paired earned a combined score of 76.840%. Velden was delighted with her rides both days. “I am very pleased with him and how he was on both days,” stated Velden. “He was a little strong on Saturday in the trot work, and Sunday he was a little tired. However, I felt the canter work was much better on Sunday.” Velden and Sandomere must have been right on, because after two days of competition, they got to wear the Champion’s ribbon.

Velden feels that the Young Horse program has helped the stallion immensely; however, she feels that this year was more challenging for Sandomere. “This year has been more difficult for him. Sandomere has had some funky growth spurts where he will have too much hind leg and I have had to back off his training.” In addition, Velden agrees with the judging for the weekend. “I felt that the judge’s comments were right on and I totally agreed with what they had to say.”

However, Velden did feel that he was not quite ready for the Trials like he was last year. “We weren’t at our peak this year, he would have probably been better in a couple months. But I am still happy.”  When asked what the pair will do next, Velden stated, “Now we have to decide if we will go to Chicago for the National Championships,” which will be held in the middle of August. “Sandomere needs to get stronger before he is ready for the National Championships.”

Finishing in the Reserved Champion position was Jo Moran and Walking on Sunshine, a Hanoverian mare owned by Robin Shearer. Moran and Walking on Sunshine received a total combined score of 72.44%.

Louise Koch and San Shivago Capture FEI Five-Year-Old Title

In the Five Year Old division, Louise Kock and San Shivago (Sandro Hit x Donnerhall) topped the leader board with an overall score of 80.240%, receiving high scores on both the trot and canter.

Koch, who found the young stallion in Germany with friends, Jennifer and Jurgen Hoffman, was delighted with her horse over the weekend. “He was fabulous! He was a little scared the first day at the flags but when I asked him to step it up he really did.” The pair won both days to capture the Championship title.

“I bought San Shivago when he had only 20 days under saddle,” laughs Koch. “It was my fourth trip to Europe when I found him. I decided to leave him in Europe to get more training and to do his stallion testing.” While Koch was in Europe she had the opportunity to watch the World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany. “I watch the Young Horses Championships in Europe and it gave me an idea of what the judges are looking for in these young horses,” stated Koch. “They are not necessarily looking for the most brilliant moving horse, but they are looking for elasticity and relaxation.”

Koch is also very pleased with the Young Horse program in the United States. “I think it is fabulous that we have the 5 and 6 year old division. It is different than any other program in the United States and I am truly enjoying it!” The pair is currently ranked number one in the country as a five-year-old. “We will take it one step at a time to determine what is best for San Shivago. I am considering taking him to Chicago for the National Championships as we are ranked so high.”

Taking the Reserved Champion title in the Five Year Old division was Sabine Schut-Kery and Adora’s Radiant Heart, a Westphalian mare owned by Alice Womble. The pair finished with a combined score of 78.72% receiving a 9.0 for the trot on Saturday and an 8.8 on Sunday. However, the canter and walk scores were a little lower.

USEF Young Horse Coach, Scott Hassler, in Attendance

The USEF Young Horse coach Scott Hassler was in attendance at the Flintridge Riding Clue to help the West Coast riders prepare their young horses for the Western Regional Selection Trials. Hassler has been involved with the USEF Young Horse program since it has begun. Although employed by USEF to oversee its FEI Young Horse program, Hassler stated that the World Young Horse Championships itself is an international program and is under the rules and regulation of both the FEI and the World Breed Federation for Sport Horses.

The FEI and WBFSH determine the number of horses each nation can send to compete at Verden’s Young Horse Championships. “Germany and the Netherlands have six horses each and the U.S. only has two. USEF used to send horses to Europe to compete in the Championships with a required score of 7.8; however, now the required score is 8.2.” There are three US Selection Trials: Western Trail held at Flintridge, Eastern Trail held at Raleigh, and the Central Trail held at Lamplight.

Each Selection Trial are officiated by three judges. Hassler noted, “Another new requirement that has helped the program is that two of the three judges must judge at each venue. This year Axel Steiner and Jane Ayres have been those consistent two.” He added that after two of the Selection trials, no horse has yet received the necessary score of 8.2 to go to Verden.”  Hassler recognizes that this higher score requirement has aroused controversy in the US, but stated, “It is so difficult for our young horses to travel that far. It is hard on them. I feel riders who are serious about this program should take it upon themselves to visit the World Championships and see firsthand the atmosphere and the type of horses that do well there.”