Dressage at Saratoga Continues a 17-Year Tradition

Friday, June 3, 2011

Larry Poulin and Wiley (Photo: Reflections Photography Inc)
Larry Poulin and Wiley (Photo: Reflections Photography Inc)
Saratoga Springs, NY - With the red and white awnings of the historic grand stand at Saratoga’s Race Course visible across the vast green infield, dressage horses and riders conducted their tests in three rings set on the actual race track, thanks to the generosity of the New York Racing Association (NYRA). Downsized in the last several years from four to two days over the Memorial Day weekend, the relaxed ambiance remains popular for competitors who call it a vacation show. Everyone appreciated the backstretch’s tree-shaded shed rows and pathways to cool off. “It’s a nice atmosphere to prep horses for the summer show season,” commented Lawrence Poulin from Petersham, MA.

“The first time I stepped on the track, I almost cried thinking about all the great horses that have run here,” said Kim Porter of Ipswich, MA who’s made a special pilgrimage to show her home-bred Thoroughbred, Polaris, at DAS eight out of the last nine years here. “The race track in Saratoga is one of a kind, a beautiful setting which is prepared for us each year for the competition by the NYRA, and we appreciate all they do for us,” said show organizer Regina Cristo.

Run by the Eastern New York Dressage & Combined Training Association (ENYDCTA), a volunteer, non-profit organization, qualifying classes were offered for: the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Pony Rider, Junior and Young Rider Championships, the FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships, Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Program and the GAIG/USDF Regional Championships. Bonus $1,500 High Point Awards for Adult Amateur, Open, Junior/Young Rider and Para Equestrian. Judges: Ida R. Anderson, Janet Black, Cindy Canace, Sarah C. Geike.

"Times are still tough economically, and we are grateful to all who chose to come to Saratoga this year,” said show organizer Regina Cristo. “We had wonderful riders from all over the Northeast and our generous Sponsors donated nearly $25,000 in cash, prizes and in kind help, including Kinetic Technologies, NYRA, Marriott, Grand Meadows, Pyranha, Eqyss Products and Cristo Demolition who were the High Point Corporate Sponsors. Along with many others, they are critical to make our show a success.” Cristo says her team is always looking for ways to improve and encourages riders to fill out the show evaluations so they know what riders are thinking. “It is very important to us."
Larry Poulin Driving Riva uses driving to help his dressage horses. (Photo: PhelpsPhotos.com)
Larry Poulin Driving Riva uses driving to help his dressage horses. (Photo: PhelpsPhotos.com)
Driven to Dressage

“Driving is one way to recycle horses,” described Lawrence Poulin who rode his former champion gray and bay competitive driving pair individually to double Fourth Level wins and high score of 68.8% with the gray Oldenburg Rivage by Riverman x Renomee and and a first and second aboard the sometimes spooky Wiley, a Hanoverian by Wolkentazz x Wanja in the FWI Intermediate I. Both horses are owned by Natasha Grigg.

Although retired from competitive driving, he uses driving as a handy tool to train and develop the horses for dressage. A good driving horse already has the power and a good trot. Taking his time with both horses, patience is paying off. He notes that it’s a big jump up from Intermediate I to 2 but he enjoys helping these horses finesse through a test or movement. Poulin’s soft, stylish rides mirror his classic touch guiding his carriage teams. “I would love to do Grand Prix one day, maybe Rivage will get there,” he says. His wife, Christine Valardi Poulin, rode her Holsteiner, Logan by Lesanta to the Fourth Level Amateur Adult High Score.

Susan Barisone-Gilson aboard Wedekind (Photo: Reflections Photography Inc)
Susan Barisone-Gilson aboard Wedekind (Photo: Reflections Photography Inc)
Maiden Voyage

Musical freestyles drew a crowd to the rail both days. On Sunday, elegant rides by Mary Beth Bain on her black Westfalen gelding, Dimension, riding a USDF Second Level test and Susan Barisone-Gilson aboard her striking dapple gray Wedekind performed her first FEI Freestyle, Intermediate I receiving a 69.5. Gilson of Webster, NY had a fruitful weekend. “I really had my dream ride on him on Saturday. He hung on my every word in the arena and every movement was so wonderful to feel. When 71.6% came in for Intermediare I, I let out a whoop-de-do my husband heard from our trailer.”

She says she tries to find horses bred in North America to develop - “it is a personal goal of mine,” and that the 2001 Hanoverian/Oldenburg cross (Wonderful Thyme x Avalone) bred by Claude Diotte in Quebec, is a very friendly, kind horse, but also a real character. “Widdy has been a wonderful challenge for the last couple of years but he is really starting to come into his own just now. I have wanted to give up so many times, including right up to the arrival day of the show.

Her silky smooth freestyle was actually Gilson’s maiden voyage. She choreographed it during a dry spell in April and spent a couple weeks sifting through mp3 downloads to find the right music. Two family friends, Dru and Dirk Malavase, edited the string quartet of Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead to the ride. But then she lost the use of her outdoor arena and her indoor isn’t a standard size.

“A week before the show, I couldn’t get the timing right, and Widdy was so angry with me for stressing over it. At the show, I have no idea why but I was so calm. I told myself to ride it calmly and don't panic - it will come out fine. I could not believe how well it all went together as I rode it and was so pleased.”

As a bonus, her husband, Philip, a beginning dressage rider, won two First Level classes on his Freisian Haicko S and pulled in three 66% rides. “I haven't been to Saratoga for many years. What a beautiful place to be, and a wonderfully well run show! A sincere thank you to everyone who runs the show, it’s always been a pleasure to go to ENYDCTA and Saratoga!”
Donna Ponessa aboard Otto (Photo: Reflections Photography Inc)
Donna Ponessa aboard Otto (Photo: Reflections Photography Inc)
Para Excellence

Ashley Rosendale, 16-years-old from Branchville, NJ had her “best ride ever” receiving a 70.4 on Papagena, her leased 1992 Hanoverian mare by Prince Thatch owned by Mickey Bregman who showed the mare for several years at Fourth Level. Her trainer Kathryn Theallet of Waterbury Dressage, Warwick, NY said she wasn’t sure when Rosendale’s parents called her last fall. Rosendale had a stroke at birth when the umbilical cord wrapped around her cutting off oxygen. “I wasn’t sure what her capabilities were but she’s a better rider than a lot of able-bodied riders. I’ve taught hundreds of riders and I’ve had three who really get it - this kid gets it. I tell her something and she can do it, she understands feel.” As the only young rider at her barn, Ashley will benefit when Theallet’s trainer, Tina Konyot, comes to gives private lessons June 3-4. Rosedale also has Lendon Gray’s Youth Dressage Festival on her calendar.


At Saratoga, Theallet won both Prix St. Georges, a repeat feat from 2010 on her impressive black 2000 Russian Warmblood, Teodore, imported from Germany, also owned by Bregman.

The PE High Point Award was split between junior Rosendale and adult Donna Ponessa who scored a 70.00 riding the Grade 1a test on Otto, a 1996 KWPN by Kassander, owned by Kristi Niblo. Ponessa rides out of Maple Wood Warmbloods but trains with Wes Dunham of Woostock Stables in Millbrook, NY.

“She just needs show mileage,” says Dunham about Ponessa who has MS and uses a wheelchair and a ventilator when she’s not in the saddle. “If you have a mistake, deal with it, the next letter is a fresh score but you only get the experience at shows.” Ponessa played wheelchair tennis at the Olympic level in Beijing and is competitive by nature. After some mistakes on the second day, she added Training Level 1 for practice finishing 4th out of 12 entries.

Martin Sosnoff with Sirocco (Photo: Reflections Photography Inc)
Martin Sosnoff with Sirocco (Photo: Reflections Photography Inc)
Sirocco and the Silver Fox

“Dressage is like Zen. You get into it heart and soul and hope to reach that rarified zone of perfection where you are floating in the wild blue yonder but not too close to the sun.” At 79 years young, Martin Sosnoff is a devoted student of dressage and passionate about his horses. He completed the Centurion test (where the horse and rider’s ages added together total 100 or more) a few years ago with his 24-year-old Fourth Level horse, a beautiful liver chestnut, named Big Red.

Sosnoff took up riding some 40 years ago with his new wife, Toni. Together, they rode Bonnie and Clyde. After a couple of bad spills, Toni retired but Martin’s kept at it. He built his own riding facility at his residence in Rhinebeck, NY. He trains with Wes Dunham, based in Millbrook, NY weekly and expects to work with Cesar Parra from whom he purchased Libertino, an upper level horse, along with his third horse, Cambridge.

“Sirocco is the most pliant of my three guys, loves to learn, but sometimes is too forward and not fully engaged with his hind legs. Based on last Sunday at Saratoga, where my trainer, Wes, beat me by a couple of points, we need to get more bending in the half passes, both at the trot and canter. We were marked down big time and I'm determined to correct this issue.”

Sirocco, a 1995 Danish Warmblood (Supermax x Schwadronuer), is one of his three “still promising” horses, all in their early teens. He says each is very different in temperament, equally athletic but pose different schooling issues. “I sense Sirocco loves me and will do whatever I want with him, but Libertino and Cambridge have a greater sense of entitlement. They act like crown princes, and must be ridden impeccably or they turn grouchy real fast. We've trained Sirocco up from a First Level horse and hope to see him compete at Prix St. George, possibly later this year.”

Sosnoff is only able to ride three days a week due to his work schedule in NYC but is a stellar example of defying the notion of age limits. He keeps supple with a regime of pilates, gym work, tennis and swimming. “You can do all this if you get up at 5:30 am.” Pursuing his passion for horses and dressage may well be Sosnoff’s fountain of youth but attending the show in a town known for its race track and mineral springs is strictly from a horseman’s point of reference.

“The Saratoga venue interests me because it's normally a very busy place and my horses get spoiled working alone in the ring at home. Cambridge hates warm-up rings and shies from any horse within 20 feet of his track. Big Red hated to see flower pots around the dressage arena. You never know what to expect away from home. I never went to a show anywhere that I didn't learn something about my horses and myself.”


Nicole Nowak on Gismo (Photo: Reflections Photography Inc)
Nicole Nowak on Gismo (Photo: Reflections Photography Inc)
FEI Young Riders

A solid group of six contested the Junior/Young Rider classes with Nicole Nowak, East Greenwich, RI on Gismo, a chestnut 1994 Hanoverian, placing first in FEI Junior team test with a 63.9. Jannike Gray, Easton, CT on Di Maestro, a 1999 Oldenburg by De Niro out of Desiree topped the FEI Junior Individual at 64.2.

Two riders rode their Prix St. George with Stephanie Nowak on Malipacao scoring a 65.1 over Ali Potasky, Holyoke, MA aboard Chackomo M, a 1996 black Wurttemburg gelding with a 64.5. Emily Smith, Belmont, MA won the FEI JR Freestyle riding Augustus, a 1993 Hanoverian by Azkent II x Bounty, bred by Riverhouse Hanoverians.

All Kinds and Second Chances

A judge’s comment to a rider on a Fjord, “That was the best test by a non-traditional horse I’ve ever seen.” Dressage, at least at the lower levels, is a democracy. At DAS, many stand out ponies were on display from the three Fjords, a Dell Pony, stunning Welsh Cob pony stallions up to the Baroque breeds, along with plenty of colorful Paint crosses.


Jeffrey Lindberg with Dr. Yelon (Photo:Reflections Photography Inc)
Jeffrey Lindberg with Dr. Yelon (Photo:Reflections Photography Inc)

Fittingly, Dr. Yelon, a 2000 off-the-track Thoroughbred, ridden by Jeffrey Lindberg won both the Open First Level, Test 3 with 61.4 and Open Second Level, Test 1 with 66.5. Sired by Cor de Naskra, the gray gelding is owned by Anna Hollander, an exercise rider and ex-jockey, of Saratoga Springs, NY.

Hollander has had Yelon since the end of his track career and has done a variety of things with him. “He started to show an aptitude for the dressage work last year in training, so we decided to pursue that with him for a while,” said Lindberg. “He has an uphill build and a naturally elegant round movement, well suited to dressage. He has a great mind for the discipline as well, so he should continue to be successful. We're very proud of him!”

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