It’s a Wet Warm-up at 2010 EXQUIS World Dressage Masters

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Wellington, Florida – Rain storms hit the 2010 EXQUIS World Dressage Masters right before the Friday evening festivities at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, causing a delay in events. But the worst of the storm passed over before most of the riders made their way to the ring for the evening dressage warm-up. Everyone got a bit wet, but not all got drenched. And, as German rider Isabell Werth put it, “It’s not perfect weather, but there is no perfect weather. At home it is snowing and cold.” Werth is just coming back into competition from a break to have a baby. Her son was born three months ago and she said she got back in the saddle as soon as possible because riding “is my life. I’m hungry to start again and compete again.” Spectators were cozy in the tent overlooking the arena, as John McGinty with Cesar Parra (and company) relaxed during the break.

It’s clear that those attending this year’s EXQUIS World Dressage Masters are thrilled at the chance to see many of the world’s best riders. Spectator John McGinty, a former hunter/jumper trainer and judge who has shifted his focus to dressage, said he is now rather optimistic about this year’s Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games after seeing the competition. “I think that the U.S. has a great chance. I think the U.S. has come a long way.” McGinty, who lives in Pennsylvania but winters in Florida, has three horses in training with Cesar Parra, who he credits for doing “tremendous work with me and my horses and making a life-long dream of mine come true.” McGinty started riding dressage seven years ago. He says many of his hunter/jumper friends have come to appreciate the sport and he’s rather excited that many have bought tickets to the Saturday evening Grand Prix Freestyle. He said his hunter/jumper friends are coming to understand his passion for dressage. “My true love has been dressage, because of the discipline, the journey to perfection – that elusive 10. It’s really about the journey.”

Riders competing were given the chance to school their horses Friday evening inside the competition ring and under the lights. Most riders were not given that opportunity last year and it was decided this year, that all should have the chance to school in the ring to help prepare their horses for Saturday’s evening competition. Eight riders will compete in Saturday afternoon’s Grand Prix Special for a chance at part of the $42,000 in prize money. And eight riders will compete in Saturday evening’s Grand Prix Freestyle with $84,000 in prize money. One of those is Danish rider Mikala Munter-Gundersen, who commented Friday evening that it was a rare opportunity for dressage riders to compete for money. After riding her warm-up in the rain, she also jokingly asked if Friday evening was meant to be a wet T-shirt contest.

Entertainment was very much a part of Friday evening’s activities. It all started with a Pas de Trois in which rider John Zopatti performed on horseback while dancers Doreen Scheinpflug and Andreas Luetzner from the Fred Astaire Dance Studios in West Palm Beach performed a tango in the center. One of the fun highlights was a pony quadrille involving four fabulous ponies dressed as mice, complete with mouse ears, while their riders wore chefs outfits. The quadrille was created by dressage rider Lisa Hyslop. The riders were Hyslop, Rachel Chowanec, Katie Butt and Rebecca Cohen, who owned three of the ponies. They were followed by the final rider to school that evening, American Steffen Peters riding Ravel. The pair won Thursday’s opening day Grand Prix, but Ravel clearly showed enthusiasm after he left the ring and Peters said that Friday’s schooling session gave him the chance to make sure everything was “back under control” with Ravel.