Category Archives: Adequan Global Dressage Festival

Last-Drawn Riders Secure Four-Star Victories in Week 10 at AGDF

LaGoy-Weltz and Lonoir. Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL — March 15, 2018 — In both CDI4* grand prix classes of the day, it was the last horse who took home the winning sash and rug. Olivia LaGoy-Weltz (USA) was the beneficiary in the Grand Prix CDI4*, presented by Havensafe Farm, putting an unassailable 73.783% on the score board. It was the showcase class on the second day of week 10 of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida.

LaGoy-Weltz and her own Lonoir, a 14-year-old Danish warmblood gelding by Le Noir, have won four of their last five CDI starts — interrupted only by Adrienne Lyle (USA) on Salvino.

“We managed to get everything in that test,” said LaGoy-Weltz, a Virginia native, referring to mistakes made in previous tests this season. “It seems like it’s been a case of if we get one thing, then something else goes away. There’s still stuff that can be better; he can pirouette for an eight in training, for example, but in there he was anticipating them and making them a hair too small. But I was super happy with his rideability and relaxation today.

“In Wellington, I keep him over at Oded Shimoni’s place and go to Debbie McDonald’s for lessons,” she explained. “If I’m riding at Oded’s then either he or Robert [Dover] is keeping an eye on me, so the past few weeks I haven’t been allowed to get off the straight and narrow.”

LaGoy-Weltz’s ultimate aim for the season is the FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon, North Carolina, in the fall, and she is conscious of peaking at the right time.

“There’s still a lot to improve, but we’re stepping in the right direction and things are becoming a little less exciting than they were in the first two shows,” she added. “It’s really crucial to try to make sure your curve goes up and up to that spot and it’s quite a few months that we’re working over; starting here and wanting to continue to make things better. We’re heading in the right direction — even though there is a bit more homework to do.”

The all-American, all-female top three featured Arlene ‘Tuny’ Page, whose 70% on Woodstock, a dainty 15-year-old by Havel, was good enough for second. Katherine Bateson-Chandler was a whisker under 70% in third, finishing on 69.696% with her own Contango gelding Alcazar after she took an uncharacteristic wrong turn.

From last draw of 11 starters in the Grand Prix CDI4*, presented by Mission Control, Canada’s Brittany Fraser’s 71.957% — a personal best in the grand prix test for her and the 13-year-old All In — was enough to grab victory by 0.1% from Shelly Francis (USA) and Danilo, who had led the class from the outset. Fraser’s trainer Ashley Holzer — a four-time Canadian Olympian who now rides for the United States — finished third on Havanna 145 (70.783%).

“That was awesome,” enthused Fraser. “I had a really good feeling coming up to this show — we were working on getting the piaffe a little more confirmed — and every time I sent him forward, he came right back to me. He was really on my aids and it was the first time we’ve won a grand prix. On the last center line he was right there for me; I aided and he did it. It’s his third year at grand prix and I feel he finally knows his job and feels more confident in what he’s doing. I’m so happy!”

Fraser bought the horse as a five-year-old from the Equine Elite Auction in the Netherlands, after riding him “for 10 minutes”. Even then, the big-gaited horse had immense power.

“At five he was already huge, but awesome, and felt like a rocket ship taking off,” recalled the 29-year-old, who was logging her first win of the season on the Tango gelding. “I started at first level with him and worked my way up. He’s been an amazing horse for me and I’m so thankful.”

Fraser has been based in New York with Holzer for the past five years, but in September 2017 she and her husband Marc-Andre Beaulieu bought a house in Montreal.

“I’m married now and thought that I need to start my own business and do my own thing, and took All In there for a rest in the fall after competing in Europe last year,” she said. “Then I came down to Wellington to train with Ashley in December. But because Ashley has half the grand prix horses in all these classes, Jacquie Brooks has been amazing to step up and help me. We all work together and it’s an amazing, supportive team. That’s how you make it.”

She has not decided yet whether to compete on the European circuit in the summer of 2018, and it is not mandatory for Canadian riders wishing to put themselves forward for selection for WEG in September. The pair’s next stops include the Tryon CDI in April and Ottawa CDI in May.

Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven brought Benetton Dream FRH back into the international arena for the first time in over a year and won the Grand Prix CDI3* (for special) with 71.522%. She and Lovsta Stuteri’s stallion held the lead from first draw at 8am, just 30 minutes after the sunrise in South Florida, thanks to the recent change in the clocks for daylight savings.

Despite a year off due to injury, this was the Brentano II son’s second highest score in the grand prix test, and his first international win since his hugely successful young horse class days. This is the 14-year-old’s fourth year in a row contesting the big tour classes at the AGDF in Wellington.

Megan Lane (CAN) and her own 17-year-old Caravella came closest to beating Vilhelmson-Silfven — and was even trending higher at some points in the test — but had to settle for second place with 71% after a break to canter on the final center line. Third place went to the USA’s Adrienne Lyle, who was riding Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Juliano’s 11-year-old mare Horizon at international grand prix for the first time. The pair scored 70.109%.

It was another all-American podium in the FEI Grand Prix CDI3* (to qualify for the freestyle), with Beatrice Marienau and her own Stefano 8, by Gribaldi, taking the spoils with 68.174%. Stefano was the equal oldest horse in the class, at 19, and he has been competing at international grand prix since 2010.

Bianca Tota filled second on her own Cadento V (66.804%) in the horse’s third ever FEI test, and first-drawn James Koford was third on Sherry Koella’s striking colored Friesian sport horse mare, Adiah HP (65.804%).

For more information and results, visit

Handsome Is as Handsome Does on Opening Day of Record-Breaking CDI at AGDF

Jennifer Baumert and Handsome. Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL — March 14, 2018 — From an early draw, the USA’s Jennifer Baumert held on to the lead in the Prix St Georges CDI3*, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors. It was the highlight class of the opening day of action during week 10 of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida.

This four-star CDI show is the largest ever staged outside Western Europe, and was extended by a day — starting early on the Wednesday — to accommodate the huge number of accepted entries across the 35 international classes.

The top three in the Prix St Georges all broke the 70% barrier. Baumert and Handsome scored 70.441%, with Canada’s Brittany Fraser nipping at their heels in second (70.294%) on Jill Irving’s Soccer City. Jodie Kelly-Baxley (USA) finished third with 70.235% on Beth Godwin’s home-bred 11-year-old Caymus, by Sir Sinclair.

Handsome, by Hochadel, is owned by Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Juliano, who bought him four years ago in California from Marie Meyers and used to ride the gelding herself. But she handed the reins over to Baumert almost 18 months ago.

After only a year competing internationally under Baumert, the 13-year-old has clocked up eight wins in his 18 small tour starts — all of which have been at the AGDF.

“He’s a really special horse,” said Baumert, who turned 47 two days earlier. “Today he felt really good. He was soft and relaxed; though there were a few small things in the contact that I’d like to be better, but overall I couldn’t be happier.”

Juliano, who also owns Adrienne Lyle’s grand prix rides Horizon and Salvino, added: “I’ve owned Handsome close to four years but the main reason I stopped riding him is that he’s really talented and I felt he needs a rider who has equally as much talent. I also became very busy with my work — I own a litigation support and management business that I started 35 years ago tomorrow — and that has kept me away from riding consistently.

“So I asked Jen to finish him at grand prix, which she will do, but right now he’s doing so well in this division [small tour], that we’ll continue with it for now. I thought it best for Handsome to flourish under Jen’s guidance and Debbie McDonald’s training.”

Baumert clearly remembers the first time she rode Handsome: “Betsy and I were just getting to know each other. I lived in another state and I was there to help for a couple of days,” she said. “The first time I went, Betsy asked me to sit a little bit on every horse, and I especially remember Handsome because he’s an amazing mover, he’s got so much power — it’s really something to feel. I remember how, even though I was a new rider for him, he was really tuned in and that was pretty special, because they don’t all do that.”

“I’ve also had judges comment that he’s handsome, and then they look down at their sheet and say, ‘Oh it is Handsome!’,” she added.

“We’ll be old and grey together, the two of us,” added Juliano, who also praised the horse’s work ethic and temperament. “I keep all my horses, so I have 15 now. Some are in the ‘assisted living division’ all year round in Ohio, and then the performance horses come down here.”

This week, Handsome will contest the Intermediate I straight class and the freestyle. He is schooling the grand prix at home, and will return to Ohio with Baumert to continue his education at the end of the AGDF season.

In the first of the youth division classes — the under-25 Intermediate II, presented by Diamante Farms — 20-year-old Natalie Pai (USA) triumphed from first draw riding her mother Melanie’s 17-year-old Jazz gelding, Unlimited. They scored 67.235% to edge out 23-year-old Canadian rider Tanya Strasser-Shostak who posted 67.029% on Renaissance Tyme, another riding a horse owned by her mother — Evi Strasser.

For more information and results, visit

AGDF Awards Winners at Week Nine National Show

Patricia Koschel and Leuchtfeuer DE. Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL – March 12, 2018 – Week nine of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) produced many firsts in the national arenas during competition on March 9-11, 2018, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

Just three weeks ago, Patricia Koschel — wife of German senior team medalist Christoph — rode her first ever grand prix level test. This week, she won both grands prix classes she entered, both with over 70% aboard her long-time partner, Leuchtfeuer DE.

“I was a little surprised, to be honest,” said Koschel, who dipped her toe in the CDI arena the previous week, but saw her scores plummet. “In my first national grand prix I got over 69% and even beat my husband, so I thought I would be ready to try international, but I was competing as an amateur over there and I was totally nervous and my horse was too. So I decided to go back in the national ring to get some more experience without the pressure and it went super well. I was a bit shocked — in a positive way. I learned so much in the first test that we decided I would ride again the next day — you can train all you like at home, but the only way you can learn to show in a nice way is in the ring.”

The 47-year-old mother of two has been riding the 15-year-old gelding by Londonderry x De Niro since he was four and has racked up 70 wins with him. He is the most successful dressage horse from his recently deceased sire.

“When I got him, my goal was prix st georges as I’d never done it before. And we’ve gone one step at a time, up and up. I’m just a housewife with a hobby,” added Koschel, who lives at the famous Kasselman stables in Germany, where the couple are in the process of putting up a new 17-stall facility. “Running a barn, often you have no time for yourself. I organize everyone else and my riding is not the focus; I’m the least trained person in the yard!”

After four seasons competing at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, the Koschels have made Wellington their second home, and even bought a house here last year.

“We’re starting to convince everyone from home that Wellington should be on their list. We couldn’t live without coming here now,” she said.

Boston native Nancy Later Lavoie stepped out between the white boards for the first time on Enzo, topping the fourth level test two on the Sunday with 71.25%. Karen Barth’s nine-year-old by Vivaldi has only recently partnered with Lavoie, after the previous trainer came down with ill health.

“It was one of those days when you don’t care what the judges think,” said Lavoie, 54. “Enzo listened to me and was right with me. We came out, we’d both had a great time and the owners were happy. Then we were even happier that the judges liked it, too.

“He’s new to me and super fun. He’s been a delight to be training. He has a great attitude and, even though he hadn’t been in the show ring for a couple of years, he was so fabulous. He has a lot of blood and a lot of energy and is really interested in pleasing his rider; it’s the perfect combo.”

She continued: “He’s had to get fit and get with the program to start the higher level stuff. He’s been a dream, though he still needs more strength and fitness for the collected work. He loves participating and learning and I think he’s an up-and-coming grand prix horse. He turns himself inside out just to make you happy, and there’s nothing better than that.”

Lavoie plans to return to her base in Massachusetts at the end of the season and for the talented Dutch warmblood to go with her, which will mean much longer journeys for Barth to see her horse.

“She’ll have to make some trips to Boston!” added Lavoie, who trains with both Conrad Schumacher and Australian ‘dressage cowboy’ Tristan Tucker.

Another talented horse laid down another first in week nine’s national arenas. Olympian Adrienne Lyle rode Betsy Juliano’s Horizon, an Oldenburg mare by Hotline x Don Schufro, in the mare’s first ever grand prix special to a staggering score of 77.979%. They may have been the only combination in the class, but they more than earned the blue ribbon for their electric performance.

This superb performance came just a month after the horse’s debut at the level, also at the AGDF, where the pair scored 72.283%.

Canadian rider Lindsay Kellock, who was manager and assistant trainer to Ashley Holzer for seven years, rode to victory in Sunday’s test of choice class riding an intermediaire II. At only his third attempt at the level, Enterprise Farms LLC’s 12-year-old Sandro Hit x Fidermark gelding Sebastian scored 70.368% to win the class by 5%.

“I’m so happy with the effort that the horse put in,” said Kellock. “He’s green at the level, but he really tried. I can feel the potential in him; he’s offering more and more each time. I get the feeling he’ll be a pretty good grand prix horse.

“Just over a year ago I went out on my own to work for Enterprise Farms in New York, which is when I started riding Sebastian,” said the 27-year-old. “He’s an amazing horse and I’ve taken a lot of time to get to know him and it’s paying off. My goal is to bring him up to grand prix in the next few weeks and see how we go with him — with the ultimate goal being international.”

Kellock is Holzer’s god-daughter and still has four horses with her former boss.

“We help each other all the time still, and I credit her for everything,” said Kellock. “She’s such an incredible trainer. Actually, I’ve only ever had two trainers — the other one is Jacquie Brooks who also trains with Ashley — so we’re one big family.”

For more information and results, visit

Endel Ots and Lucky Strike Smokin’ at Global Dressage Festival

Photo courtesy of Wilma Frentz, Custom Saddlery.

Wellington, FL (March 8, 2017) – Endel Ots and Lucky Strike enjoyed their 2018 debut at the Global Dressage Festival and proved that Ots’ slow and steady approach to the young star’s training is a formula for success.  Ots and the Hanoverian gelding Lucky Strike (Lord Laurie x His Highness) that ignited FEI World Breeding Dressage Championships arenas not once but twice as one of the few American horses ever to represent US Dressage there, posted a victorious 73.235% ride in the USEF Developing Prix St Georges and were third (68.088%) in the FEI Prix St George, launching a confident return to the show ring during week eight and the Palm Beach Dressage Derby at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida.

“I had to brush the cobwebs off a little,” joked a modest Ots, who has been on a competitive hiatus while focusing on developing a string of bright stars for Everglades Dressage LLC of Wellington. “This was his first test since the Developing Young Horse Championships and we won. It was a nice, clean test and he went very nicely in front of me. I was especially happy with his solid canter pirouettes. He’s come back stronger between the last championships and now.” Lucky Strike, owned by Endel and his father, neurosurgeon Dr. Max Ots, was the 2016 USEF 6-Year-Old Division Champion.

Ots hasn’t been in a hurry and the results speak for themselves: “A young horse is going to take as long as they take. I want to create a happy relationship, where they will be with me in the tests and let them have time to develop, enjoy the show ring and make US teams.

“As Lucky Strike develops, my sponsor, Custom Saddlery has been so helpful in fitting his saddle,” Ots added. “It sounds like a little thing, but comfort is so important to horses when we are asking them to give us more.  Lucky and I are, well, ‘lucky’ to have such a great support team.  I was also happy that the Custom team from Holland was on hand to see how nicely Lucky is progressing this weekend.”

In addition to Lucky Strike, he’s casting an optimistic eye on a Developing Grand Prix mare, Rosenschon, that he hopes to start on a “little show tour” in April, and a Developing 5-Year-Old, owned by Tonya Reed, that he hopes to take to Chicago and represents a second generation of dressage horses that he has campaigned: “I competed his sire in Developing Grand Prix.”

Ots is a USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold medalist and 2011 Pan American Games US Team Alternate who has finished multiple horses to Grand Prix level. In 2017, he won the Reserve Champion title in the Developing Horse Prix St George at the Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse National Championships, and coached both Chase Hickok (who campaigns Sagacious HF for Hyperion Farm) to become the top-scoring American rider on the FEI Nations Cup teams for Fasterbo, Sweden and Hickstead, England, and Bebe Davis and Fiderhit OLD, winners of the Individual Gold medal at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Dressage Championships.

“His notable track record is proof of his dressage expertise,” Young Rider Lauren Gorton has said about Ots, who has been industriously furthering his own skills with Robert Dover, Albrecht Hinneman, Debbie McDonald and Christine Traurig.

The only thing as important as developing a young horse is developing its rider. Ots likes to quote the American captain of industry and harnesser of horsepower, Henry Ford: “The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right. Which one are you?” To contact Ots, call (920) 562-5714 or email or visit

Jan Ebeling Is Knocking at the Door of Grand Prix with ‘Awesome’ Horse at AGDF

Jan Ebeling and Sergio Leone. Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL — March 4, 2018 — It was the final rider who triumphed on the final day in week eight of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida. The USA’s Jan Ebeling scored 71.958% — the only plus-70% score — to land the Intermediate I Freestyle CDI3*, presented by ProElite®.

It was the second win of the week for Ann Romney’s 10-year-old gelding, his first having come in the Intermediate I CDI3* class.

In the Prix St Georges CDI3*, this small tour series’ first contest, Canada’s Tom Dvorak pipped Ebeling to the post on Carla Bahr’s nine-year-old gelding Cyrus, but Ebeling pulled out all the stops in the freestyle on Sergio Leone to regain the top step of the podium.

“He was awesome in there. He was ‘on’ in the I-1 already, and today he was even better,” said the German-born U.S. Olympian. “In the first test — the prix st georges — he’s always a little timid. Although he’s shown a lot, he’s always been like that in the first test. He’s a little tight and tense looking at the arena, but he was great today; super easy.

“This is a fun freestyle designed by Karen Robinson, who does all my freestyles and has done for many years,” added Ebeling. “It was actually designed for another horse that has very similar movement, who is not here. The CDI season is fairly new for ‘Santo’ — he used to be called Santo Domingo — so he’s now borrowed that freestyle for two weeks in a row and he’s doing well with it.”

Although only lightly shown in CDIs, Ebeling has been competing the Oldenburg gelding by Sir Donnerhall x Stedinger in national classes since he was five after sourcing him through Christian Heinrich in Bremen, Germany.

“We started showing him years ago at third level and we’re just about ready to move into grand prix with him now,” continued Ebeling, 59. “I haven’t done many CDIs with him and I want to take my time and do the small tour one more time, but he’s pretty much schooling the whole grand prix so I think maybe before we leave to go back home to California at the end of the season, I might put him in an Intermediate II or a young horse grand prix.”

Although there are plenty of competitive opportunities in California, Ebeling praised the Wellington circuit, saying: “My wife Amy and a friend of ours own a 16-horse ranch here; we felt that the Florida circuit is very competitive and it’s a fun environment. It’s horse heaven and rider heaven and I feel like I can OD on horses every day for three months. We also have a wonderful circuit over there in California, but this Florida circuit has been so established for so many years and it’s gotten bigger and bigger. The organizers have done such an amazing job — putting money into it — it’s turned into this animal that has a life of its own. It’s so much fun to be here; I just love it.”

In the pony division, 11-year-old Paige Hendrick recorded her second win of the week, topping the FEI Pony Freestyle on Otinio. Hendrick is the youngest American rider to gain the US Dressage Federation silver medal. Remarkably, she has already been out competing at prix st georges level. She is also the youngest rider to be selected for Robert Dover’s 2018 Christian Kennedy Future Stars Scholarship program.

Otinio is a 20-year-old New Forest pony who is trained to grand prix level and can perform 17 one-time changes as well as piaffe and passage. The family made the trip down from their home in Rhode Island. Otinio is familiar with Florida as he competed at the AGDF numerous times between 2012 and 2015 under his previous rider, Asia Ondaatje Rupert (USA), and won most of the classes he contested.

Hendrick and Otinio led the freestyle class with 66.575%, just 0.075% ahead of second-placed Scarlett Hansen (CAN) and Reve De Glatigny.

Vanessa Creech-Terauds, daughter of Diane — scored a double, topping both the young rider freestyle, sponsored by Yeguada de Ymas, and the under-25 grand prix freestyle, presented by Diamante Farms. The Canadian rode Devon L, who was unbeaten in both his starts in week eight, to 67.8% at grand prix level, and Rob Roy, by Rubin Royal, to 70.9% in the young riders’ class. Both horses are owned by Leatherdale Farms.

For more information and results, visit

Ashley Holzer Scores Emotional Grand Prix Special Win in Week Eight of AGDF

Ashley Holzer and Sir Caramello. Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL — March 3, 2018 — The USA’s Ashley Holzer recorded Sir Caramello’s first ever international grand prix win in just his fourth CDI test, topping the Grand Prix Special CDI3*, presented by Peacock Ridge, with 70.149%. They were the only combination to break through the 70% barrier in the class of 13 finishers in week eight of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida.

The class was sponsored by PJ Rizvi’s Peacock Ridge, which was fitting as she is also the owner of the winning horse. Holzer was flabbergasted to win, having finished seventh in the qualifying grand prix. Sadly, she was not able to attend the prize-giving as she had to leave to catch a flight to Toronto.

“I’m speechless,” said Holzer. “This horse has been on the most incredible journey. Never in a million years did I think he’d win — I thought we might do a 65% test. But I’ve just watched the video back and some of the things he did in that test were unbelievable. And he whinnied at me for this first time in his life this week; I’m feeling very emotional about it.”

Indeed, the liver chestnut gelding’s extravagant movement and uphill frame command attention in the ring. At only 11 years old, the horse still has plenty of time to gain confidence, and Holzer blamed the only big blip — a miscommunication in the passage to canter transition at X — firmly on herself.

“I timed the canter aid completely wrong,” she said. “He is such a power machine and he’s been challenging to bring on. Andreas Helgstrand once described him as the most talented but most difficult horse he’d ever seen. He was sold at the PSI auction in 2011 as a four-year-old [for €500,000 to Russia], then ended up with Patrik Kittel, who called PJ and I about him.

“It’s been hard for him to balance his huge gaits and then close up again for the collected work; that’s taken a long time to develop,” she added. “I also got some last minute advice from Robert Dover and Carl Hester yesterday — about taking my time in the corners, and not worrying about him being too ‘up’ in the frame.”

Holzer credits Rizvi’s patience and understanding as an owner for allowing her the time she needed to turn the horse around.

“PJ’s been behind him 100% of the time and, believe me, we’ve had some major lows with convincing him that everything would be okay,” added Holzer. “This win is testament to the importance of having a supportive owner who understands these things — so it was fitting she was the sponsor of the class.”

Holzer plans to show Sir Caramello (Sir Donnerhall x Feiner Stern) in one more CDI at AGDF before whisking him off to Europe for the summer.

Katherine Bateson Chandler — another to benefit from British Olympian Carl Hester’s advice on-site — was second with Alcazar. The local rider was nip and tuck on the trending scores with Holzer until small mistakes crept in in the two sets of one-time changes. The finished on 69.979%. Like Holzer, she plans to spend the summer in Europe, training with Hester.

The top non-US rider was Canadian Olympian Megan Lane, who rode Deer Ridge Equestrian’s Zodiac MW, by Rousseau, to 67.915% for third place. The winner of the qualifying grand prix, the Dominican Republic’s Yvonne Losos de Muñiz, had to settle for sixth place aboard Foco Loco W.

In the Intermediate I CDI1*, Spain’s young talent Pablo Gomez Molina made it two wins from two starts with Yeguada de Ymas’ 10-year-old mare Finest Ymas, a Westfalian by For Compliment. He also finished third in the class on Ulises De Ymas, with Germany’s Michael Klimke (Harmony’s Diabolo) splitting the 24-year-old’s two rides. Gomez Molina, who is competing at AGDF for the fourth consecutive year, scored over 67% on both his rides in the 11-strong class.

For more information and results, visit

Laura Graves Sets New AGDF Record High Score with Astonishing Freestyle

Laura Graves and Verdades. Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL — March 2, 2018 — The USA’s number one dressage combination Laura Graves and Verdades proved their prowess beyond doubt with an astonishing performance in the Grand Prix Freestyle CDIW, presented by U.S. Trust & Bank of America Merrill Lynch. They scored 84.975% during “Friday Night Stars” under the floodlights in week eight’s headline class of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida. It is the highest score ever achieved at AGDF.

Second-placed Adrienne Lyle rode Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Juliano’s Salvino to another record: the highest score in her long international career, 78.275%. She rode to music made for her former top ride, Wizard. Juan Matute Guimon put a couple of glitches aside to log 73.8%, good enough for third on his father’s Don Diego Ymas, by Don Frederico. The 20-year-old Spanish rider became a U.S. citizen two weeks ago; he’ll remain riding for Spain in 2018 before deciding whether to switch nationalities for competitive purposes.

Graves has now performed an extraordinary ‘triple double’ on the 16-year-old son of Florett As, having won both the grand prix and freestyle classes in all three weeks they have competed at AGDF this season. It came close to Graves’ best ever score of 85.307%, achieved to stand reserve champion at the FEI World Cup Final in April 2017 in Omaha, Nebraska.

“It was fun to come out every ride and have some new things to talk about with my coach Debbie McDonald,” said Graves, who is ranked number four in the world. “I had some brilliant lightbulb moments for myself with my own riding tonight, which is super exciting. We don’t go in there just to tack on miles; there’s always a purpose, and tonight was no different.”

Graves is “groom-less” for the week, so her fellow team bronze medalist from the Rio Olympics, Kasey Perry-Glass, has been helping and was awarded the $500 grooms’ award from Adequan®.

Graves has fully embraced the FEI’s new degree of difficulty calculating system, and her test leveraged the degree of difficulty score to the max. It included four double pirouettes linked together by huge tempi changes straight down the center line. If it weren’t for a spook near the judge at C just after one of the pirouettes, the score would have been even higher.

“I’m still learning to ride this horse when he’s as hot as he is,” said Graves. “He’s super duper hot in this atmosphere and it’s a bigger atmosphere than some of the indoor shows. And when we do three shows here under the lights, the structure and repetitiveness really gets him fired up. It gives me a lot to work with, but I always embrace difficult experiences because it puts me a little ahead of the game for next time, hopefully.”

Lyle was returning to the AGDF’s “Friday Night Stars” for the first time in four years — the last time she rode Wizard on the circuit.

“I was dying to get back out there,” she said. “It was Salvino’s first time under the lights doing a freestyle, so that’s a big unknown, but I was completely thrilled with how he handled everything — he was probably even more relaxed and easy going than in the [grand prix] test. I wanted to give him a good experience, give him confidence, and make it something he’d enjoy in the future. I think we accomplished that.”

Matute Guimon’s bold riding — he began with an extended canter down the center line straight out of the first halt — was richly rewarded, despite a few sticky moments in the piaffe.

“I was surprised and happy with the score and placing; it was quite an electric test,” he admitted. “But it felt fresh and active with a lot of expression, and it was a goal to add more impulsion and competitive attitude. We were really trying to go for it.”

On the question of which flag to ride under, he added: “It’s a huge, emotional decision that will determine the future of my career. It’s very difficult because I love Spain and am very attached to it, but at the same time I did grow up here and have actually lived in the U.S more than half my life and have been given so many opportunities here.”

Judge at C Anne Gribbons praised the standard of riding, and the winner in particular: “I was very proud of the two American horses and I think they were outstanding,” she said. “In Verdades’ first two movements he was tense, but then he was ‘on’. I think this was probably Laura’s best freestyle overall; in the piaffe the horse got it together, he sat down and really did a good job. And Salvino is amazing for being so green. He’s very calm and happy in his skin. This is very promising for the team to have these horses.”

The class was the final FEI World Cup qualifier in North America, and confirms qualification for both Graves and Shelly Francis. The Dominican Republic’s Yvonne Losos de Muñiz has secured the spot for non-league riders.

Graves and Verdades can next be seen in public during week 12 of the AGDF, when they will give a demo of their spectacularly technical freestyle. Lyle and Salvino are working on a new arrangement with Terry Gallo, who is also responsible for Graves’ music. If it is ready, Lyle will debut the new routine in competition in week 12.

The iconic Palm Beach Dressage Derby exhibition class, presented by Yeguada de Ymas, culminated during the break in the freestyle. Germany’s Christoph Koschel, the defending champion, retained his title. The senior team championships medalist has achieved the remarkable feat of not only successfully defending his Palm Beach Dressage Derby trophy, to his list of Derby wins that include the Hamburg and Munich classes, too.

“It was challenging and a lot of fun,” he said of his ride in the final on Fausto, a 10-year-old bay gelding by Fidertanz normally ridden by Karen Pavicic. Both Koschel and Canada’s Brittany Fraser made it through to the final in the afternoon’s head-to-head knockout-style contest, beating Juan Matute Guimon and Olivia LaGoy-Weltz (USA) in the process. In all rounds, riders have just five minutes to familiarize themselves with an unknown horse before they perform a prix st georges test.

“This is what horse sport is about,” added Koschel, whose 66.588% edged out Fraser’s 65.206%. “It’s a very short period of time to build a partnership, but it’s great for the audience to watch. We need more classes like this to help make the sport exciting and accessible. I really liked the horse even though he was spooky to start with. And if I rode him again, I’d definitely choose smaller spurs as he was more sensitive than I was expecting!”

In the Intermediate I CDI3* class, presented by ProElite®, the top two from the prix st georges contest were reversed, with victory on this occasion going to the USA’s Jan Ebeling on Sergio Leone with 68.529%. Canada’s Tom Dvorak was just 0.19% behind on Cyrus.

Ebeling has been competing Sergio Leone less than a year, and they have a dozen FEI small tour results to their name. He is owned by Ann Romney, who also owned Ebeling’s Olympic ride Rafalca. This was the 10-year-old Sir Donnerhall x Stedinger son’s second international win.

In the FEI Prix St Georges CDI1*, only one combination breached the 70% tidemark: Spain’s Pablo Gomez Molina rode the Yeguada de Ymas’ 10-year-old mare Finest Ymas, a Westfalian by For Compliment, to 70.245%. This was their first ever CDI class. Another European rider, Germany’s Michael Klimke, filled second with 68.824% on Harmony Sporthorses’ Harmony’s Diabolo, who is just eight years old. The son of Kristina Sprehe’s Olympic stallion Desperados was performing only his third FEI test. The top American, Tina Konyot, finished third on Diamantino II, who is also by Desperados. They scored 68.382%.

Gomez Molina, 24, said: “I’m so proud to hear the national anthem and so happy with ‘Fifi’. It was our first CDI and what better way to start than with a win?”

For more information and results, visit

Palm Beach Derby Week Kicks Off with Another Win for Unstoppable Laura Graves at AGDF

Laura Graves and Verdades. Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL — March 1, 2018 — It was the last three riders in the Grand Prix CDIW, presented by U.S. Trust & Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who filled the top three spots, making it an all-female, all-American podium in the highlight class of the opening day of action of during week eight of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida.

Laura Graves and the 16-year-old gelding Verdades emerged victorious with over 78%, despite a blip in the one-time changes that was rewarded with fours and fives from the five-strong panel of judges. The pair is ranked fourth in the world and, in 2016, were instrumental players in bringing home the team bronze medal from the Rio Olympics.

Adrienne Lyle finished second with a convincing, mistake-free ride on Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Juliano’s Sandro Hit stallion Salvino for 74.457%, with Chase Hickok and Sagacious HF filling third with 69.5%.

“Nothing went wrong that I can’t take the blame for,” said Graves, 30, who was riding in sweltering Florida temperatures and claimed her fifth consecutive victory. “I was super, super happy with how he went in this heat; we had a hot show at the five-star show also and it’s nice to know — looking ahead to the World Games in Tryon — that our horses are fit in this weather. And he [Verdades] is super fit. He came out sweaty and breathing, but not even a hint of feeling like he was out of steam.”

On the contrary, ‘Diddy’ finished the test’s final center line with his customary power and enthusiasm, snorting and powering into the final halt.

“Kasey Perry [who was also on the team at the Rio Olympics] is helping me this week as I’m groom-less, and her husband Dana actually calls him ‘Diddy Dino’,” added Graves, who is seeking FEI World Cup final qualification through these performances.

“With a horse with as much experience as he has — now in his fourth year of grand prix — we’re looking at our path to Tryon a little differently than perhaps some of the others are,” said Graves. “I don’t want to have to show him a lot, so I’m going to try to be where I have the toughest competition, and that looks like the World Cup Final and probably Aachen, where we get to go head-to-head with some of the other top five in the world. We want to know where we stand going into North Carolina.”

Graves credited the horse’s workmanlike attitude with his ongoing ability to perform at the top.

“He’s so ambitious you think that it would be in his nature to try to predict the movements now he knows the test so well, but he’s so respectful when you’re riding that he waits — he waits all the time,” added Graves, who owns the horse with her partner Curt Maes. “And if he waits too long and you have to make a little correction, he feels guilty for a week. He’s very smart like that. He doesn’t want to rush and I get the feeling that he really likes it. He lets me ride every step still; it’s rather amazing.”

In the Grand Prix CDI3*, presented by Peacock Ridge, the Dominican Republic’s Yvonne Losos de Muñiz replicated her wins last month on the 13-year-old Belgian warmblood Foco Loco W.

In a class of 20, Losos de Muñiz scored 71.13% to take the blue ribbon, leading an all-female podium. Canada’s Belinda Trussell — last to go on her own Tattoo 15 — filled second place with 70.022%, with the USA’s Katherine Bateson Chandler finishing third on Jane Forbes-Clark’s Alcazar (69.283%).

This was Losos de Muñiz and Foco Loco W’s best grand prix score to date, and follows hot on the heels of their double win in week five of the 2018 AGDF.

Canada’s Tom Dvorak, rode Carla Bahr’s nine-year-old gelding Cyrus to victory in the Prix St Georges CDI3*, presented by ProElite®, edging out the USA’s Jan Ebeling on Sergio Leone. Dvorak was recording the son of Contucci’s first win of the season, having been in touching distance already three times during the 2018 AGDF.

For more information and results, visit

‘Perfect Robbie’ Tops Showcase Freestyle Class as Week Seven of AGDF Wraps Up

Diane Creech on Robbie W. Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL — February 25, 2018 — All three podium finishers in the Intermediate I Freestyle CDI3*, presented by Wellington Regional Medical Center, topped 72%, but it was Canada’s Diane Creech who emerged triumphant. She scored 72.925% on Louise Leatherdale’s Robbie W on the final day of week seven of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida.

Creech overtook the long-time leader Jennifer Baumert (USA), who was drawn first to go of the 14 starters and laid down 72.125% on Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Juliano’s Handsome, a 13-year-old Hochadel gelding. The USA’s Melissa Taylor, last to go, pulled out all the stops on Nicole Polaski’s Special D gelding Ansgar. Their 72.275% was enough to slot snugly into second place, handing victory to Creech.

“He was so great in the freestyle; he enjoys the music so much,” said Creech, who was riding to a compilation by Karen Robinson. “Robbie has the best character — he talks in his sleep — and he thinks every human he interacts with is a nice human. He lives in his own little happy bubble because nothing bad has ever happened to him. He’s so laid-back yet so consistent and really loves his job. Grandmothers could go out hacking on him. We call him Perfect Robbie; he’s so much fun to have.”

Creech and Leatherdale found the horse at Blue Hors Stud in Denmark after seeing him on video around six years ago and flying out to try him.

“We knew right away he was the one; you sit on a horse and you just feel connected or you don’t. With him, I was totally connected. He was still very dark dappled grey and his temperament was outgoing — he’s a horse who’s been loved all his life and he believes in the goodness of people. He wakes up happy and goes to bed happy,” added Creech, 55.

The 15-year-old gelding by Rubin Royal out of a mare by Inschallah is so relaxed that even the 27-hour journey by road from Creech’s home base in Canada doesn’t faze him.

“It’s a bit of a hike, but he does not stress,” added Creech, who is hoping to contest the Pan American Games — which are a small tour contest — in Lima, Peru in 2019.

The winner of the two previous small tour classes in week seven, Heather Blitz on Praestemarkens Quatero, had to settle for seventh after an expensive mistake in the pirouette work.

Kerrigan Gluch (USA) was the best of the five entrants in the under-25 Grand Prix Freestyle, coming tantalizingly close to 70%. The 22-year-old rode Hampton Green Farm’s 14-year-old Spanish stallion Bolero CXLVIII to 69.95%.

For more information and results, visit

Olivia LaGoy-Weltz Throws Down a Challenge on Lonoir in Week Seven of AGDF

Olivia LaGoy-Weltz and Lonoir. Photo Credit: ©SusanJStickle.

Wellington, FL — February 24, 2018 — Olivia LaGoy-Weltz (USA) put clear water between herself and her fellow competitors when winning the Grand Prix Special CDI3*, presented by Chesapeake Dressage Institute, in week seven of the 2018 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida.

Riding her own Lonoir, a 14-year-old Danish warmblood gelding by De Noir, she notched up 73.319%. The closest chaser was fellow American Arlene ‘Tuny’ Page, who rode Woodstock to 70.298% despite the discomfort of a fractured heel. The Dominican Republic’s Yvonne Losos de Muñiz filled third on Aquamarijn, a 13-year-old mare by United.

“I was happy, though it still wasn’t perfectly clean,” said LaGoy-Weltz, referring to a mistake at the beginning of the two-tempis, which resulted in fours and fives from the seven judges. “It’s awesome that we’re still climbing up the scores despite that. It’s all in there; it’s a question of me learning how to put it together and us finding the right recipe of power and containment. We’re at a point where I need to show; I can get the changes at home, but I need to keep riding it better in tests and he needs to understand the difference between the two tests and find his relaxation and stay on the aids.”

LaGoy-Weltz found Lonoir when he was a seven-year-old at Danish Olympian Andreas Helgstrand’s barn in Denmark when predominantly looking for sales horses with her former boss, Kathy Priest.

“We were also looking for something for me to bring on and I didn’t have a big budget,” continued LaGoy-Weltz, who now trains with Debbie McDonald and is based in Wellington for the season. “Kathy helped me buy him as he was more than I could afford. We got him home and he’s always been a kind horse, but he’s very sensitive to pressure and can get claustrophobic. He needs to chill and Andreas and I have exchanged emails laughing about how far ‘Lono’ has come when nobody really expected that; it’s wonderful.”

The rider from Virginia praised the AGDF circuit, adding: “It’s fabulous. In Europe they have the indoor circuit, and things keep going year-round. For us, this is our circuit and gives us the opportunity to keep going in week after week. And it can be a challenging arena — like Aachen or Rotterdam — it’s not just a quiet arena that we go to week after week and think we’re really going great and then go to these huge venues and get a shock. There are so many shows here and it’s a fantastic opportunity for us.”

LaGoy-Weltz hopes to make it onto the list of eight American riders who will be invited to Europe for the summer to campaign for a place on the FEI World Equestrian Games team. Her next show with Lonoir will be the CDI4*, taking place at PBIEC on March 15-18.

Canada’s Brittany Fraser added to her ribbon count with her second small tour win of the week on Jill Irving’s Soccer City in the Intermediate I CDI1*. The pair was the unanimous winners, finishing on 70.971% — the only plus-70% score in the 11-strong class.

Irving, who bought the chestnut gelding by Sir Donnerhall x Weltmeyer at the 2010 PSI Auction in Germany for a hammer price of €250,000 (around $300,000 USD), has handed the ride to her friend and compatriot while she concentrates on her two actively-competing grand prix horses, Degas 12 and Arthur.

For more information and results, visit