Tina Konyot and Calecto V Photo: SusanJStickle
Competition for the AGDF 12 CDI 5* continued on Friday at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) with four major classes. Starting out the day, American Chris Hickey topped the FEI Prix St. Georges, presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty, with Cecelia Stewart's Ronaldo earlier in the day on Friday. Fellow American Adrienne Lyle finished first with Peggy Thomas' Wizard in the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 5*, presented by Diamante Farms, which sponsored all of the large tour classes for the week. Megan Lane (CAN) and Caravella clinched the first place prize in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 3* and Tina Konyot (USA) and Calecto V took top prize in Friday's feature class, the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 5*. The FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 5* was the finale event of the "Friday Night Stars" series at the 2014 AGDF, and ended it in great fashion with a packed house of spectators.Devon Kane of Diamante Farms was thrilled with Friday evening's class after watching the AGDF develop from its infancy to the world-class dressage competition it has turned into. "We're just thrilled to be a part of this whole adventure," Kane beamed. "These guys were amazing tonight; it's spectacular to watch. You can see the crowd was so excited, and everybody's just thrilled to have not only these people here that are blowing us all away but [riders of all levels]." Of sponsoring the season's only five-star event, Kane commented, "We take great pride in that. It's amazing to have a five star here in Wellington, and to be able to provide the upper echelon with that opportunity, we definitely take that seriously. We're thrilled to be a part of the team and all the founding sponsors here."
Tina Konyot and Calecto V with ringmaster Gustavo Murcia, judge Anne Gribbons, Terri Kane of Diamante Farms, Allyn Mann of Adequan, and Katherine and Mark Bellissimo of Equestrian Sport Productions
President of Equestrian Sport Productions Mark Bellissimo reflected on a hugely successful season for the AGDF, "We thought it would take four or five years for this to take hold, and I think we thought this is where we would be two years from now," Bellissimo acknowledged. "We have a tremendous amount of interest, with people visiting and talking about coming next year, so it's going to continue to grow. I want to thank Diamante Farms and all the other sponsors in this, because I think this is going to be one of the great places in the world for dressage. To be a part of it is an honor, and I think it will endure the test of time."
Allyn Mann of Adequan shared his thoughts on the AGDF circuit as it reaches the half-way point of its final week of competition, reflecting on the 2014 circuit and the incredible growth the show has experienced since its inception three years ago.
"As I sit here and I reflect on this journey these last three months, the blessings have abounded big time. I think because of what we have, and what we have seen over these past few weeks, and where the future is going thanks to Mark and what your vision has been, [AGDF has turned into a world-class competition]. It'll only get better, so we are honored to be in this wonderful position, to support a wonderful sport. It's a blessing, and we're very grateful to be a part of it," Mann expressed.
Of the evening's competition, judge Anne Gribbons added, "I've seen also now some horses that were struggling in the beginning of the season, and tonight came around and looked beautiful. Some of our up-and-coming horses had a fantastic effort tonight. It was a very tough class to judge. It's been a fantastic venue and a really wonderful finale."
Konyot (USA) received a crystal horse from the Esperanza Collection of Swarovski for her winning ride with Calecto V, her 16-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion out of Bahera by Come Back II. The pair earned an impressive 79.250% to pick up the top prize for the class, while second place finisher Mikala Gundersen scored a 76.775% with My Lady. Third place went to fellow Dane Lars Petersen and Mariett. The pair scored a 76.625% for their performance. Petersen was also awarded the Mary Ann McPhail Award for maintaining the highest international ranking of any rider throughout the twelve weeks of the AGDF. "Calecto is like a fine wine," Konyot grinned. "He just keeps getting better. I had a wonderful ride, just a great way to end the season. I had a wonderful experience; a great ride, a great feeling, great energy."
Konyot was happy that Calecto seems to be peaking as he heads into the FEI World Cup Dressage Finals in April and was also especially pleased to earn their highest score yet in the grand prix freestyle.
"I've always been up in the 70s, but this has been my highest score so far. It's a very good feeling, especially going into the World Cup, where [the freestyle] is an important score for me, so I'm very happy about that," Konyot shared.
For the weeks leading up to the World Cup, Konyot will continue the same routine with Calecto, always striving to put her partner's needs first to ensure his happiness and health. "He's 16 years old, he's done a WEG, an Olympics. This is not new for him, it's not new for myself either, so we just want to have a great frame of mind, keep ourselves fresh, happy and healthy," Konyot remarked.
Mikala Gundersen and My Lady Photo: SusanJStickle
Second place finisher Gundersen also enjoyed a personal best on Friday evening after a season of working on the mare's fitness. "I have the vet check her after each show just to make sure everything is great, and he says, 'It's just amazing- this horse gets better and better every time I see her,'" Gundersen smiled.
She continued, "I'm very happy with tonight. I had more collection in the canter today. I had been missing that a little bit in my prior tests, and that's getting much better. I had some really good things in there today. For sure it's our best test so far."
Gundersen sang the praises of the AGDF for giving her the opportunity to develop her horse over the course of six CDI competitions. "I think she's also gotten better in the season," Gundrsen commented. "She's not a young horse, but she's still quite young in the grand prix, so having all these shows one after another has been very good for her. She's matured enormously this season. She was so calm and so wonderful to ride tonight."
Lars Petersen and Mariett Photo: SusanJStickle
Petersen also felt that Mariett was at the top of her game tonight. Of his ride, he commented, "I think tonight she was the best to ride that she has been, actually. I have a little thing at the moment with my piaffes, I have to keep them a little forward. And that's a little bit expensive, but I'm very happy with her tonight."
Petersen has used his trademark circus-themed music for his freestyle for the past two years, but tweaked the choreography at the end of the season. He edited the one and two tempi changes, originally performed on a 20 meter circle in the middle of the arena before another line of two tempis.
"I'm getting too old to be riding that many tempis on a 20 meter circle!" Petersen joked. "That's very difficult to do, and it's such a big risk. You get one mistake in 31 tempis [and it can be costly], so that's why I took it out. It's too risky."
Full Results for FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 5*, presented by Diamante Farms
Rider, Country, Horse, Breeding, Age: Judge E%, Hudge H%, Judge C%, Judge M%, Judge B%, Total %
1 Tina Konyot, USA, Calecto V, 16-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion owned by rider, Bahera x Come Back II: 79.000%, 80.500%, 76.750%, 80.750%, 79.250%, 79.250%
2 Mikala Gundersen, DEN, My Lady, 14-year-old Danish Warmblood mare owned by Janne Rumbough, Marion x Michellino: 77.500%, 79.125%, 73.875%, 75.625%, 77.750% ,76.775%
3 Lars Petersen, DEN, Mariett, 16-year-old Danish Warmblood mare owned by Marcia M. Pepper, Zendi x Comeback II: 76.500%, 78.625%, 75.750%, 75.250%, 77.000%, 76.625%
4 Shelly Francis, USA, Doktor, 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Patricia Stempel, Gurena x Diamond Hit: 75.250%, 76.250%, 75.125%, 75.250%, 78.625%, 76.100%
5 Belinda Trussell, CAN, Anton, 14-year-old Sachsen gelding owned by Robyn Eames, Shirley x Anteaus: 74.740%, 76.500%, 72.625%, 74.875%, 76.000%, 74.950%
6 Catherine Haddad-Staller, USA, Mane Stream Hotmail, 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by rider, Rederna x Michellino: 71.625%, 74.500%, 74.500%, 76.125%, 75.250%, 74.400%
7 Carolina Roffman, USA, Her Highness O, 11-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by rider, Wild Lady O x Hohenstein: 73.125%, 74.375%, 73.750%, 74.125%, 73.625%, 73.800%
8 David Marcus, CAN, Chrevi's Capital, 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Deborah Kinzinger-Miculinic, Indira Gandhi x Obelisk: 74.375%, 74.250%, 70.625%, 73.500%, 71.750%, 72.900%.