Jodie Kelly-Baxley and Grayton Beach Make Dressage Grand Prix Debut in Ocala With and Impressive Entourage to Cheer Her On

Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Posted by Mary Phelps



The World Equestrian Center began their 2023 Dressage season with a full four ring National Show January 19-22, Ocala the first rated dressage shows of the year at WEC – Ocala, kicking off a full calendar of expanded dressage action planned for the world-class facility in 2023.

Jodie Kelly and Grayton Beach
Kelly-Baxley and Grayton Beach notched scores of 71.739% and 75.761% over the two days of competition. Photo by Q2 Photography

Running classes from Training Level to FEI Grand Prix the show is an official qualifying competition for the 2023 Great American/USDF Regional Championships and was sponsored by Hampton Green Farm and Discover Dressage. 

Riding her own Grayton Beach in his very first tests at the level, Kelly-Baxley racked up a pair of wins on the 12-year-old gelding, chalking up 71.739% on Friday and then a spectacular 75.761% the following day.

“This was his first grand prix, and it was a really big milestone,” said Kelly-Baxley. “I was a little apprehensive about whether he was ready, but are we ever fully ready? On Friday I went in and was a little too careful as I was so worried about over-facing him. He only gets worried when he makes a mistake, so I didn’t want to ask too much. It was a little underpowered but he still got over 71%. I was a little nervous, and I’m not one to get nervous.

Ready to Rock and Roll

“On Saturday I was more myself and ready to rock and roll — and it paid off,” added Kelly-Baxley, who is from Destin, Florida. “Grayton is a really big guy with very big movement and the one-time changes have been a real struggle just because he has such a big canter. He got all 15 of them — they weren’t pretty, but they will get better. That was a really big accomplishment for him.”

Kelly-Baxley has owned the 17.3-hand gelding by Negro x UB40 since he was three after her Dutch trainer Toine Hoefs found him in Holland.

“He’d been looking for a horse for me and called me one day and said, ‘I’ve found your horse.’ He was three and I could barely steer him, but I brought him over straight away. He’s a really special guy and an amazing character, but needed help organizing his long legs. I’ve been careful and taken it really slow because of his size. It’s paid off. It was a super special and really fun weekend,” added Kelly-Baxley, who reports that the friendly gelding’s favorite treat is Nerds Gummy Clusters.

Spending Her First Winter in Ocala and Loving It

Jodie and Laurie Kelly with Grayton Beach
Jodie and Laurie Kelly with Grayton Beach

Kelly-Baxley is wintering in Ocala to be close to both World Equestrian Center and her trainer, Anne Gribbons. Gribbons could not make it to the show but watched closely on the live stream and took notes on each movement, advising on how to boost the score from Friday’s performance to Saturday’s top score. Kelly-Baxley will stick to national shows for now with Grayton Beach, but her loftiest goals are to represent the United States on him one day.

She will also be taking her "Team Pink" her horses and those of her many students to Wellington for the CDI season through March, but is loving the green life of quality turn out, easy living and an easier distance to her home base in Destin, Florida. 

But it is Ocala that has captured her heart and that of most of her entourage, and an entourage she has! Kelly-Baxley travels throughout the US to give clinics and coaching, and has a large team of supporters, fans and family who have followed her career since she was very young and spent summers in the Netherlands working with Toine Hoefs.