Mikala Munter Gundersen and My Lady with judge Axel Steiner and Terri Kane of Diamante Farms. Photo © SusanJStickle.com
Following Lars Petersen's victory in Saturday evening's freestyle, Mikala Munter Gundersen collected another top prize in Denmark's honor with My Lady in the FEI Grand Prix Special 5* presented by Diamante Farms. The FEI Grand Prix Special 5* was the final 5* class of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) Wellington 5*, presented by Diamante Farms and hosted at That Stadium at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Gundersen and My Lady were the lone pair to break 70% in the class, finishing with a score of 70.063%. My Lady, a thirteen-year-old Danish Warmblood mare, is owned by Janne Rumbough. Diane Creech (CAN) and Devon L finished second with a final score of 67.917%. Evi Strasser (CAN) and Action Tyme were third with 65.813% and James Koford (USA) finished fourth aboard Rhett with a 63.229%. Judges for the class were: Lilo Fore at E, Raphael Saleh at H, Axel Steiner at C, Peter Holler at M, and Stephen Clarke at B. Gundersen, who is now based in Wellington, was admittedly emotional following the second 5* victory for Denmark for the weekend. "It was wonderful to hear the Danish national anthem again! It made me cry today. I'm really happy for Lars," Gundersen remarked.
Mikala Munter Gundersen and My Lady. Photo © SusanJStickle.com
Gundersen attributed her winning performance to My Lady's laser-like focus in the International Arena. "She was really with me in the ring today. She was 100% focused on me. Yes, we were both a little bit tired maybe, this morning, but we pulled it together when we got in there," Gundersen commented. "I think we had some great pirouettes, some great ones and twos," Gundersen continued. "I had a little mistake in my second piaffe. I pushed a little too much, and she told me that was not correct. She's very good at correcting me when I make mistakes! So I try very hard to stay out of her way and do things as correct as I can." Gundersen has ridden predominately stallions for many years, but has been pleasantly surprised with the relationship she has forged with the opinionated mare. "It's so different to ride a mare. It's so giving. If you have to come to an agreement, they're going to stick with you. I've had stallions for many years, as I said, and now I have three very good mares. They're all very different horses with very different personalities, but they all work for me in the ring. They all want to do their best. It's amazing, I love the mares," Gundersen expressed. Like many competitors at the AGDF, Gundersen is happy to see her mount's rideability progress throughout the season in Florida. "She has developed a lot. She's a lot stronger. She's a lot fitter. She's much more supple. When I was at the [World Dressage] Masters [in January], she was still very strong for me. Now, she's as soft as butter to ride," Gundersen described. Gundersen utilized the season in Florida to prepare My Lady for a trip overseas for the Danish Championships. The pair will compete in Europe for a few months before coming back to the United States for the Dressage at Devon Horse Show in September. "We used this season to get to know each other and I've used this season as preparation to go to Europe this summer. I really wanted to make sure I got there and would be well prepared and know her in different atmospheres. I think we're ready to go now. As ready as we'll ever be," Gundersen laughed.
Gundersen felt the only preparation left for Europe was to fine-tune My Lady's skills. "She is so strong in everything now it's really about the suppleness, the conditioning, making transitions sharper. Now we're going into the little details, which is amazing. It's a very nice feeling. Lucky me!" Gundersen concluded.
The AGDF will host its final show, the Wellington Nations Cup CDIO3*/CDI 3* on April 11-14, 2013.