Sarah Tubman Fulfills Grand Prix Freestyle Dreams at TerraNova Dressage II

Sunday, October 23, 2022
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Sarah Tubman fulfilled a lifelong dream Saturday night when she and First Apple bested Jan Ebeling by 1.64 percentage points for the top spot in the CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle at TerraNova Dressage II in Myakka City, Florida. Tubman and First Apple, a 2010 KWPN stallion (Vivaldi-Oogappel, T.C.N. Partout) owned by Summit Farms, earned a 77.945%.for the win. The pair also claimed the top prize in the CDI-W Grand Prix Friday night.

Photo - Sarah Tubman and First Apple. (Al Green) 

"So my very first ever CDI when I was much younger, Steffen [Peters] and Jan were first and second and I was third and I cried and I cried," Tubman said. She went home and vowed to someday compete against Peters or Ebeling and win. "So I have to say this is a life goal. Just to be able to be out there in the arena with these guys is great."

Jan Ebeling and Bellena. (Photo: Al Green)
Jan Ebeling and Bellena. (Photo: Al Green)

Tubman and her husband and coach, Lee Tubman, who is also an FEI 4* judge, spent time during the summer with the Ebeling family as they competed in Europe. "There's such spirit and camaraderie in the sport," Sarah Tubman said. "It's really special to have other professionals in the industry pick you up when you need [them] to and pat you on your back and it's all good and healthy competition. We all want each other to do well."


Tubman's freestyle choreography and music was created by Terry Ciotti Gallo of Klassic Kur and featured a circle of two-tempi changes. "This freestyle really gives me goosebumps every time I ride it. We designed the freestyle to highlight some of Apple's better movements or things where we can push the level of difficulty and show off. He has a giant, big, beautiful canter and he is most of the time very on my aids for the changes. So that 20-meter circle with twos is really fun, especially when we can be right on cue with the music."

Ebeling took second place with a 76.105% in the CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle aboard Bellena, a 2010 Hanoverian mare (Belissimo NRW-Wellfair 30, Welser) owned by Ann Romney. His freestyle was originally designed by Karen Robinson for a different horse and was borrowed and reworked for Bellena. "We did a couple of things last minute, which was good because it increased my degree of difficulty and, without that, I would not have beat my son [in the Grand Prix Freestyle class]. I would never hear the end of that," he laughed.

Jan Ebeling said his family spent several months in Europe competing and enjoying the time together. They recently moved from California to live full-time in Wellington.

Dream Come True

Lehua Custer and F.J. Ramzes. (Photo: Al Green)
Lehua Custer and F.J. Ramzes. (Photo: Al Green)

Fellow Wellington, Florida, resident Lahua Custer fulfilled her dream of earning more than 70% in the CDI Grand Prix Freestyle when she achieved a 71.277% aboard F.J. Ramzes, a 2010 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Juventus-J. Rambiance, Rampal) owned by Wendy Sasser. Sasser burst into tears when the score was announced.

"This was probably overall the first ride where I felt like I was driving the bus," Custer said. "If you touch the reins too much, he'll just shorten just in front instead of wanting to come together. So I have to be really cautious about how I ask him to come short and compress. Today he let me in."

Sasser said it was a dream come true for her as well. "I mean. I could never do it myself because I didn't start riding until I was in my 20s," she said.

"We could have chosen to just make him a horse for her," Custer said. "And, she came to me when he was 7 and she said, 'I really want you to see what you can do with him.' And it's the best path I could be on."

Thankful for the Journey

Custer said she and Sasser scrimped and saved to make their dreams come true. "We eat a lot of Top Ramen," she laughed. "We kind of have sacrificed a lot of social life and vacations and spending and fancy cars. I hope that other people can realize that dreams come in different directions and our dream came about in a surprising way. And we hope to just keep going with it. I'm lucky to be on the journey with Wendy and thankful that she sacrificed her original goal and dream for one that we're sharing."

Patricia Ferrando, who rides for Venezuela, placed second in the CDI4* Grand Prix Special with a 68.362% aboard her and Patricia Zilio's Honnaisseur SJ, a 2012 KWPN gelding (Connassseur-Arlina, Jazz). It was Honnaisseur's, aka Big Hugo, first Grand Prix Special.

Hugo and Ferrando are heading to the CDI-W at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala in November. 'We're ready and we have time to fix those details," she said. "We're on the right path. He was focused and he was listening. We're doing an amazing job. I thank [trainers] Lars [Petersen] and Melissa [Taylor]. I'm so grateful because they're helping me to get there – to get where we want to go.

"I'm grateful for that horse," she continued. "I think he's very special. He is the entire package, I mean, he has the quality, he has the head, he has the heart. He's my baby."