Gladstone, NJ (September 14, 2011) – The inaugural USEF National Pony Rider Championships may have been a small division at the 2011 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Champions in Gladstone, New Jersey, but for Massachusetts resident Barbara “Bebe” Davis it was a big experience and one she will remember the rest of her life. Competing on her pony Bohdjan, Davis captured the Reserve Championship in the new National Pony division, but also experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in one single weekend.
Riders in the USEF Pony Rider Championship are the future of dressage riders for our country, and Davis said she would use her experience at Gladstone to grow and as a stepping-stone for future national competitions. Davis grew up in Cohasset, Massachusetts, and her family bought a home in New Jersey to be close to their trainer, Dr. Cesar Parra, and his Piaffe Performance Farm. “Bohdjan did really well the first day. We came in second with a score of 63.611% while Allison Cyprus came in first with a 63.944%, so I felt confident with such a close race,” Davis said. “During the awards ceremony my pony got scared and he never settled down the rest of the weekend and was certainly nervous during our second test and didn’t perform well. I was disappointed, to say the least, because I didn’t want to let my trainer Dr. Cesar Parra down.”
Parra, who trains Davis out of his Piaffe-Performance farm in New Jersey, praised the 13-year-old rider and said disappointment was the furthest thing from his mind. “I was really proud of Bebe. It’s very special to ride at Gladstone and coming up the hill to the arena, knowing there is a crowd of people on both sides can be intimidating,” Parra said. “Bebe handled it really well and it was a great and growing experience for her. A show like the Festival of Champions makes you a better and stronger rider mentally and no one can ever take the experience, and what you gain from it, away from you.”
Despite her pony’s unsettled nerves, Davis not only rode like a champion but mastered taking part in two press conferences before taking home the coveted Reserve National Championship cooler. “I really did learn a lot at Gladstone and it was an experience I will never forget,” Davis said. “The best part is when I return next year on my new pony, I will have had this experience under my belt and will have so much more confidence. And as I hope to ride on the U.S. Dressage team someday, I plan on many return trips to Gladstone.”
The new National Pony Rider division at Gladstone had the pony riders up bright and early to compete at 8 a.m. and Davis said she was surprised that fans were there to cheer the ponies on that early in the morning. “It was really nice that so many people came out to watch,” Davis said. “Even though I was disappointed, I know that it is part of life and part of our sport. I have to remember that I still qualified and competed at Gladstone, which was a really big deal.”
Davis said her weekend at the Festival of Champions had plenty of highlights, including the fact that her trainer competed on Grandioso, a horse owned by her family, and earned a spot on the 2011 Pan Am Games team that will compete in Mexico. “That was very exciting and Dr. Parra has certainly showed me that hard work and dedication can pay off,” she said. “I am so happy that he made the team and I can’t wait to see them compete in Mexico.”
For more information on Davis, Parra or Piaffe-Performance, visit their website at www.piaffe-performance.com.