Markel Insurance Young Horse Finals Brings Out The Best in the West

Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Posted by Kim F Miller


David Blake & Lion Heart-2.jpeg

When the Young Riders closed out the CDI, the spotlight moved to the 5, 6 and 7-year-old Young Horse Finals, presented by Markel Insurance. USEF/US Dressage Young Horse coach Christine Traurig and DG Bar Ranch's Willy Arts were among the luminaries gathered to ride, coach or just eyeball spectacular horses likely to fill the CDI pipeline in coming years.

Photo David Blake and Lion Heart ©

Strong Track Record

David Blake and Rebecca Rigdon's strong track record for young horse development added more accolades. David rode G.Q. and Lion Heart to the Markel Insurance 6-Year-Old and 7-Year-Old Championship, respectively, while Rebecca was 2nd in the 6-Year-Olds with MSJ for VIPS and 3rd in the 7-Year-Olds with Lionell VE.

G.Q.'s 83.800% from judges Anne Cizaldo and Sarah Geikie continued a steady ascent for the Danish Warmblood by Grand Galaxy Win.
G.Q.'s 83.800% from judges Anne Cizaldo and Sarah Geikie continued a steady ascent for the Danish Warmblood by Grand Galaxy Win. ©

"Working through the training scale has been very smooth with him," said David, even though they've only been together since G.Q. was imported last November. "He has a really willing attitude. He tries and tries, he has an amazing attitude and he has the looks, too!" The judges appreciated all three of his gaits, noting the great articulation in each and scope to spare.

David plans to continue showing C.Q. through his 6-year-old year, then he'll become the ride of his owner Helen Stacy. "Helen wanted to learn how to train a horse, so that's what we're going to do."

Rebecca Rigdon was right behind her husband David in the Markel Insurance 6-Year-Old Final. She and MSJ for VIPS, an Oldenburg by Foundation, scored an 83.200%. Young horse master Willy Arts of DG Bar Ranch rode the Rock Forever mare Makanabria DG to a 3rd-ranking 81.000%.

7-Year-Old Star

David Blake's winning partner in the FEI 7-Year-Old Finals, Lion Heart, is a half-brother to G.Q., through their sire Grand Galaxy Win. They share similar personalities and mannerisms in the barn, but under saddle seem dramatically unrelated, David shared.

"Lion Heart is much more sensitive, delicate horse, so I have to be much more sensitive and delicate in my riding. He's one of those horses that was coming along, then all of a sudden, he just got it -- he was an FEI horse."

Christine Traurig's Words Ringing in His Ears

He credits coaching from Christine Traurig with helping achieve the level of sensitivity required from the saddle, especially in their pirouette work. "At a recent young horse clinic Laura Roberts put on for us, Christine told me to make sure he's bending from behind, not just collecting and turn. So, that's what I'm hearing in the ring during the pirouettes -- Christine's voice saying 'haunch, haunch...'"

Sabine Schut-Kery and Gorgeous Latino Making the Markel Mark

Their 81.000% from Anne Cizaldo topped a strong field in the FEI 7-Year-Old finals. Tokyo Team silver medalist Sabine Schut-Kery and Gorgeous Latino were the Markel Insurance 6-Year-Old Finals at the Spring Benefit last year and won Saturday's Preliminary class for the 7-Year-Old Finals. They were a close 2nd on a 79.80% for the Dutch Warmblood stallion sired by Glocks Toto Jr. Rebecca Rigdon and Lionell VE were not far off for 3rd on a 79.400% for the Dutch Warmblood by Negro.

California Racking Results for Young Horse Finalists

Christine Traurig, Rebecca Rigdon and David Blake
Christine Traurig, Rebecca Rigdon and David Blake at the recent Markel Young Horse Training Session at Blake and Rigdon's facility.

In the Markel 5-Year-Old Final, For Edition, ridden by Alyssa Doverspike-Burkett, emerged the winner on an 80.600% from Anne Cizaldo and Sarah Geikie. The Westphalian youngers is by For Gold.

Stephen Birchall and Nero were 2nd on a 75.600%, and Jackie Ahl-Eckhaus and News Man MVS were third on a 74.200%. Nero is a KWPN chestnut gelding by Desperado, and News Man MVS is a bay Dutch Warmblood, also by Desperado.

In the USEF 4-Year-Old Young Horse class, Oxford B took top honors with a 79.00% from Sarah Geikie. The KWPN is sired by Romanov and owned and ridden by amateur Anne Buchanan. Alyssa Doverspike Burkett and Furst Adventure were 2nd on a 74.800% and Blair Niemcziek and Optima where third on a 74.200%. Furst Adventure is a Hanoverian by Fuerstenball, and Optima is a KWPN by Furst Toto.

Development Opportunities

David Blake and Rebecca Rigdon have been happy DASC Spring Benefit participants since the show debuted in 2021. “This facility is really nice and getting better and better and we are grateful to have so many shows in our area,” David noted. Not so long ago, the West Coast competition calendar was so spotty that it was often impossible to target national and international ambitions without substantial travel.

“Rebecca and I made a commitment to attend every show in California,” David said. “We want to support them so we can keep them and, every time our horses show, they get better. It’s wonderful having enough shows so that we can wait one out if a young horse needs that, or compete in all of them and have a drop score to use.”