Category Archives: *Featured/Spotlights

Special features, spotlights, headlines

AGDF 5 Welcomes Win and Personal Best Score for Nick Wagman and Don John

Nick Wagman and Don John ©SusanStickle.

Wellington, FL – February 11, 2021 – The 2021 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) continued competition during AGDF 5 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL on Thursday, February 11, with a win for the USA’s Nick Wagman and Don John in the FEI Grand Prix CDI 3* for Special, presented by CabanaCoast.

Riding to a personal best score of 73.848%, Nick Wagman and Beverly Jean Gepfer’s 2008 KWPN gelding by Johnson TN didn’t let their nerves hinder their day’s performance.

“This is our first real show in a year, so we were both nervous,” Wagman began. “Don John was pretty hot in there, but he knows his job, so I think that was his biggest strength, despite the fact that I was nervous. He didn’t let me down. I just watched the video [before the awards ceremony], and there are always things that you want to do better. I felt like he was exuberant but he did look fairly controlled when I watched the re-play. I’m glad that I got this one under my belt, so now we can really focus on getting our confidence back.”

Wagman continued, “He’s been around the block a few times now, coming to Florida, so he knows the routine. I was a little surprised at how hot he was in the warmup, but I think it’s just a weird time of day for us to ride, because he’s been such a Steady Eddie since we’ve been here.”

Wagman has his hopes set on the Tokyo Olympics, and his overall plan here in Florida will cater to that goal, but this week, the pair is working on having a solid start in the FEI ring after almost a year away. “There was a lot riding on today because I’m trying to get qualified for the five star, so I just need to get through this weekend. My number one goal is to have a successful show where we both get our confidence up, and I do what I need to do, and move on to the next one. To win like this is a wonderful bonus.”

For more information and results, please visit www.GlobalDressageFestival.com.

WEF Season Success for OMA Students

Taylor Landstrom and Inferno (Photo courtesy of Jen Wood Media)

Wellington, FL (February 10, 2021) – Open Minds Academy is a popular winter season academic hub for ambitious young riders, and with the Winter Equestrian Festival well underway, OMA is celebrating excellence not only in the show ring, but also in the classroom! Their individualized tutoring makes it easy for equestrians and equestrian families to execute a seamless transition from the barn to the classroom, or even to bring the classroom to the barn. OMA’s custom learning programs include virtual options, in-person 3-1 groups at their COVID-protocol optimized Wellington center, weekly status updates, extracurricular classes, and monitoring for seasonal students to ensure they keep up with their home school. Wellington’s seasonal equestrians are one of the main groups utilizing OMA to excel both in school and the show ring.

Sophia Ercolano finished WEF 3 with numerous top placings in the Low Children’s Hunters. As a 12-year-old student currently in the 6th grade, Sophia attends OMA’s virtual schooling sessions, maximizing her time with their certified teachers and time for training at the farm. She is based out of Flemington, New Jersey most of the year where she trains with Linda Sheridan and returns each season to Wellington for the winter horse show.

Taylor Landstrom is another OMA student with blue ribbons in hand for 2021. She and Inferno were the top rider in the EMO Insurance Group USHJA 3’3″ Jumper Seat Medal Section A during WEF 4. Taylor’s schedule at OMA is centered around her morning training, meaning she spends the afternoon as an in-person student at OMA’s Wellington learning center, which is located behind the Kick Back Tavern (formerly Backstreets). She enjoys the learning environment and seeing her seasonal friends each year at OMA, where Language Arts is her favorite subject.

“During season many of our equestrian clients are thrilled with the flexible scheduling and full service offered by Open Minds Academy,” said co-founder Sara Frost. “Whether they’re children of equestrians here to show or showing themselves, we work to make sure they can focus on learning and making the most of their schedule. If there’s a big show week 6, we adjust the curriculum to be lighter that week and distribute the work over less busy weeks to make sure they stay on course in school and at the horse show.”

Open Minds Academy was founded by Tyler Shernoff and Sara Frost in 2014 to meet the growing demand for individualized tutoring and teaching. Their student list has grown to include many seasonal equestrians and Wellington residents as well as students from across south Florida. Their full range of tutoring, personalized teaching, and virtual learning includes classes ranging from Pre-K through the 12th grade, while the equestrian programs generally focus on Pre-K through the 8th grade. From the beginning, their deliberately small class sizes have ensured optimal learning, and now they are the most ideally situated for COVID friendly teaching protocols as well as virtual schooling. Open Minds Academy is a one stop resource for parents and students to achieve their academic goals, boost enrichment activities, and maximize their Wellington learning program.

For additional information on Open Minds Academy, visit www.OpenMindsAcademy.org.

Media contact:
Equinium Sports Marketing, LLC
Holly Johnson
holly@equinium.com
www.equinium.com

Florida Horse Racing Fans Face First Year without Calder Track

Horse race at Fonner Park, Grand Island, Nebraska. Grand Island Tourism.

For horse and racing fans in Florida, 2021 will mark the end of an era. The 40-day run at Calder Race Track (which has been rebranded as Gulfstream Park West), which took place last October, was the last that is ever hosted at Calder race course. The track has been an integral part of the Florida racing calendar since it first started operating in 1971. With that in mind, we take a look back at the long and illustrious past of the Calder Race Track.

First Opened in 1971

Horse racing has long been in the blood of many Florida residents, and that was shown no more than on the day that Calder opened: 6th May 1971. There were officially 16,263 race fans in the park that day, but reports showed that so many people were trying to get into the track to ensure the racing on its opening day that people were being turned away, and the gates were closed to new arrivals. Fifty years later, and it looks like those days of Calder Park being a bustling hive of activity will be a thing of the past.

It was thanks to Calder that the concept of year-round horse racing in Florida was introduced. At that point, there was a gap between the winter and early spring meets in the State, and the meets at Calder served to bridge this gap. It may not have been one of the most glamorous tracks on the racing schedule, but it has made its mark on racing history, thanks to the huge number of world class horses, trainers and jockeys who all got their start there. Calder is perhaps best known for the initiative it introduced in 2000, the ‘Summit of Speed’: this was a series of sprints which were all high stake races, ensuring that the meet attracted plenty of attention, and for all the right reasons.

In 2014 the racing operation on the site was leased to Gulfstream Park’s current owners, The Stronach Group. It was the Stronach Group who renamed the race track Gulfstream Park West. This has been the status of the track site until the end of 2020, when the lease between Churchill Downs Inc and the Stronach Group expired and, for the first time in fifty years, the TSG created a 2021 racing schedule that didn’t have any racing at Gulfstream Park West (or Calder) included on it.

A Working Man’s Racetrack

At its heart, Calder was a no-nonsense, working man’s racetrack. But when it was taken over by Churchill Downs Inc in 1999 (at a cost of $87 million), the focus of the track began to change. In 2010, Churchill opened a casino at Calder, and this became the main focus of the site: in order to maintain a casino license for Calder, Churchill had to run a race on the site at least once every 40 days but found a loophole in the law and argued that any form of pari-mutuel wagering would satisfy the requirements for a casino. Sadly, this didn’t fly with Florida State’s Department of Business, and the courts determined that the track was not fulfilling its obligations. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

Whilst there will be horses continuing to be stabled at Calder, the agreement to keep the horses there expires on April 1st. Whilst many people will continue to remember the heydays of this glorious race track, those days are gone and the many great horses and jockeys that raced at Calder will be a thing of the past.

Over $1 Million Distributed to Local Non-Profit Orgs. at the 12th Annual Great Charity Challenge

Shane Sweetnam and Heart on Fire ©Sportfot.

Wellington, FL – February 6, 2021 – HOPE: one word, four letters and so much more. For 46 Palm Beach County Charities, the feeling of hope shifted into a reality on Saturday, February 6, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). What is usually the biggest night of the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), the Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments® (GCC) pivoted to a blend of in-person competition for riders and virtual celebration for charities and supporters. Those supporters cheered as equestrians and their mounts, representing local non-profit organizations, competed for a share of more than $1 million in prize money.

Held at PBIEC in Wellington, Palm Beach County, Florida the past 12 years, the GCC has become a highlight of the winter season and has distributed a stunning $15,928,227.66 to 276 local non-profit organizations.

Determined to show the power of united communities, the GCC is an exciting show jumping event that combines equestrian sports and philanthropy, bringing hope to Palm Beach County charities every year. Three riders made up the top team of the night out of 23 pro-am combinations, which are paired with randomly selected Palm Beach County charities. Each team was made up of junior and amateur riders competing side-by-side with top professionals, including Olympians.

In addition to the 23 charities that were part of the GCC competition, an additional 24 non-profits received funding through grants that were awarded leading up to the event. For a full list of benefiting non-profit organizations, we invite you to visit: www.GreatCharityChallenge.com.

“Seeing the level of need in our community and knowing how difficult the past year has been, we quickly realized that we couldn’t turn our backs on our most vulnerable neighbors,” said GCC co-founder Mark Bellissimo. “We are truly grateful to see that the community was able to adapt to this format while stepping up to provide crucial funding to local organizations.”

A moment of silence at the beginning of the event paid recognition to all of the friends of GCC we lost and those who we lost to the pandemic in the past year.

Following a year of uncertainties and challenges, the GCC featured riders dressed up in costumes and horses adorned to match them, paying recognition to the #Heroes who stepped up during the pandemic as well as those who have inspired us to push beyond our own limits and driven us to “dream bigger.”

The winning team of riders – Lindsey Tomeu riding Bonapart, Ashley Vogel on Lucy in the Sky, and Shane Sweetnam aboard Heart on Fire – sponsored by team sponsor Spy Coast and Preston and corporate sponsor Diamante Dressage, came in the ring representing the United States Army as their heroes and finished with a time of 91.664 seconds. Their strategy and teamwork paid off for their assigned charity YWCA of Palm Beach County, a local non-profit organization that is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all, earning them the top prize of $100,000. The sliding scale for the balance of the proceeds, down to 22nd place winning a minimum of $15,000, ensured that everyone was a winner.

For more information and results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.

US Para Dressage Team Maintains Their Spot after First CPEDI3* in 2021

Roxanne Trunnell and Dolton. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall for the USPEA.

Wellington, Florida – February 4, 2021 – Adequan® U.S. Para Dressage Team maintains their stride as the number one ranked FEI Team in Para-Dressage after a solid weekend (January 27-30, 2021) at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) CPEDI3*. The Wellington, Florida venue was an excellent location for the launch of an important Paralympic Year. Chef d’Equipe Michel Assouline and USEF Head of Coach Development & Para Dressage Technical Advisor led the four-woman squad to top results. The Team included Sydney Collier (Ann Arbor, Mich.) with All In One, Rebecca Hart (Loxahatchee, Fla.) riding Fortune 500, Kate Shoemaker (Wellington, Fla.) with Solitaer 40, and Roxanne Trunnell (Wellington, Fla.) aboard Dolton.

Bronze Medal (2018 WEG) rider Trunnell, who recently received the USET Foundation award of the 2021 Whitney Stone Cup, rode Dolton who also earned the US Equestrian Federation Award of 2020 International Horse of Honor Award to the High Point Para-Dressage athlete at the CPEDI3*. Dolton is owned by Flintwoode Farms LLC and Karin Flint. Trunnell (USA Grade I) has had a fantastic year leading the FEI Rankings as the number one Para-Dressage rider in the world.

U.S. Teammate Kate Shoemaker and Solitaer 40 earned the Reserve Champion High Point in the CPEDI3*. With an extra year to prepare not only were the top combinations earning their best scores, but new horses and rider pairs were seen giving the judges the best view of the United States Para-Dressage high performance depth. Even athletes in the national para-dressage show earned outstanding test percentages over the weekend.

The ground jury included Kjell Myhre (Norway), Anne Prain (FRA), and Adrienne Pot (USA). Athletes will prepare in the next few months for the March 24-28, Wellington Para-Dressage National Competition, followed by the June 17-20, 2021, Tryon CPEDI and final Paralympic Observation Event which takes place before the Tokyo Paralympic Games August 24 – September 5, 2021.

Chef d’Equipe Michel Assouline and USEF Head of Coach Development & Para Dressage Technical Advisor noted, “All went beyond expectations. I would expect for athletes in Tokyo contention to not peak too early and be fairly conservative since we have a long way to the Games. The judging panel was of particular interest to me as both Anne Prain (FRA) and Kjell Myhre (NOR) are both part of the future Tokyo Paralympics official jury. It will give our selectors and coaches a solid evaluation of their performances. The team of four, Roxanne Trunnell, Sydney Collier, Rebecca Hart, and Kate Shoemaker, did well. Rebecca Hart had a personal best with Fortune in the Freestyle with a score over 76%, Roxanne Trunnell continues to impress with scores hovering the 80% mark, maintaining her FEI World one strong hold, Sydney Collier was consistent, riding conservatively as there is still a long way to the June Tryon CPEDI, and team rider Kate Shoemaker also rode a soft ‘economical’ test to save her horse for this long road to selection towards Tokyo.

“However, even with this approach in mind, our team achieved a remarkable average of 74.45%. That is keeping the US Para Dressage in its first FEI ranking position. A dream for all involved. Eyes were on the new partnership of Charlotte Merle Smith (Grade III) with her lovely grey mare Guata. She really impressed the judges in their first international; scores were solidly around the 72% mark each day. Beatrice De Lavalette also rode her new partner Clarc, very promising horse indeed, with the same level of score quality. All the other riders improved their performances throughout the three days with most moving to the magic 70% in the freestyle. We received a special accolade from our foreign judges about the ever-increasing quality of horses and riding in the US. Happy team and coaches.”

To view this press release in full, please visit: http://uspea.org/category/recent-uspea-press-news/.

For more information, please visit www.USPEA.org.

Oppose Roundup of 1,000 Wild Horses in Western Nevada’s Surprise Complex

Sometimes it feels like it will never end – the Bureau of Land Management seems determined to eradicate of our iconic wild horses and burros. At the Cloud Foundation, we know one thing: we can’t give up! If we don’t keep pushing back, the injustice & brutality will continue until it’s too late.

If we keep fighting for America’s wild horses & burros, we WILL prevail.

Please take a minute to oppose the roundup of 1,000 wild horses and 11 burros in western Nevada’s Surprise Complex. The BLM refuses to give wild horses their fair share on the public lands of the Surprise Complex, where they allocate 84% of the forage to private livestock. The BLM also threatens these mares with Gonacon, a fertility control that shrivels and destroys their ovaries, eliminating important natural hormone production that is the basis of natural wild behaviors. These BLM actions challenge the resilience and genetic diversity of wild herds, threatening their very existence.

YOUR VOICE MATTERS. Please speak up for the wild horses of Nevada now!

Protect the Wild in Wild Horses: Building a Fair, Humane Program

Last month we shared with you the good news that President Biden has nominated Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM) to serve as Secretary for the Department of the Interior which oversees the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Rep. Haaland’s Senate nomination hearing is expected to begin in the coming weeks. We will keep you posted.

In the meantime, we wanted to outline the basic tenets necessary to fix the rigged system that has scapegoated and wrongly demonized wild horses and burros for decades. In the coming weeks and months we will deliver this message to Congress and the new Administration… and we will ask for your help to make sure they hear the message loud and clear. Below are three foundational issues that will repair the broken Wild Horse and Burro Program.

First, Protect Natural Wild Horse Behaviors. Natural, wild behaviors are the basis of the wondrous and complex social structure of America’s wild herds. Without these natural behaviors, our majestic wild mustangs become simply ungentled pasture horses. When protecting natural behaviors is a priority, fertility control methods such as gelding, ovariectomies, Gonacon (all of which destroy natural behaviors) cannot be used.

Second, Give Wild Horses and Burros Their Fair Share on Public Lands. Currently, livestock is given more than 80% of the forage on Congressionally-designated wild horse and burro habitat. We must ensure these herd areas are, as the 1971 Wild, Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act requires, “devoted principally” for the welfare of wild horses and burros. Restore the 40% of original herd areas that have been zeroed out for wild horse and burro use where possible.

Third, Establish Meaningful Humane Standards. The BLM’s current animal welfare program is inadequate and lacks transparency. Humane standards must include:

– transparency for the use of helicopters and trap pens by having GPS-live feed cameras for public access;

– prohibition of helicopter roundups in extreme weather (freezing or below and 90 degrees or over);

– restrictions on helicopters chases from the current unlimited miles to 10 miles.

In summary our message is: Protect the Wild in Wild Horses, Give Them Their Fair Share and Humane Treatment.

The Cloud Foundation
www.thecloudfoundation.org

Guenter Seidel and Equirelle Conclude AGDF 3 with Win in Pair’s First Grand Prix Freestyle

Guenter Seidel and Equirelle. ©SusanStickle.

Wellington, FL – January 31, 2021 – Week three of the 2021 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) concluded on Sunday, January 31, with victory for the USA’s Guenter Seidel and Equirelle in the Grand Prix Freestyle CDI4*, presented by U.S. P.R.E. Association.

In their first freestyle performance together, Seidel and Leatherdale Farms and Louise Leatherdale’s 2009 KWPN mare by Florett AS earned a 75.830% from judges to top the class.

“It was our first freestyle,” he began, “so I was a little conservative and kept everything fairly easy. Our floor plan was fairly easy. She’s a very hot horse and has had her issues in the ring, so I wanted to use this test to give her some confidence out there. The more it went along the more secure she seemed to get, and she was really fun to ride. Most of the test was very pleasing. I know there’s quality in there, but sometimes that’s hard to show because she can get tight or scared, but it was nice to see that she is learning how to hold it together. It was not easy for her with the wind, but I was very happy with her.”

Seidel rode the mare to a freestyle he used with a previous horse, but noted his method for getting Equirelle more experience before they dive into creating a freestyle of their own. “The music is from a horse I’ve ridden before,” he explained. “I figured I’d get her feet wet in the freestyle before I created an entirely new one. I really like the music so it works well with her for now.”

The partnership is only a few years old, and Seidel explained that his current plan with the mare is to help her gain experience throughout the remainder of the AGDF circuit. “I’ve had her for a couple of years,” he said, “and she is a very generous horse. She doesn’t want to make mistakes, but she gets hot. I think it takes time to get into a successful partnership with a horse like that at this level, but I feel like she will be a very good horse in a few years. I am going to use the shows here to get her seasoned and get her more confident in the ring. If it backfires and she starts to get nervous I will back off, but if she keeps going like this, we will keep competing.”

For more information and results, please visit www.GlobalDressageFestival.com.

FEI Grand Prix Special CDI4* Welcomes Consecutive Win for Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper

Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper. ©SusanStickle.

Wellington, FL – January 30, 2021 – The Adequan® Global Dressage Festival continued on Saturday, January 30, with a consecutive win for the USA’s Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper in the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI4*, presented by Havensafe Farm. Peters and Akiko Yamazaki and Four Winds Farm’s 2008 KWPN gelding by Spielberg topped the class of 11 entries, earning a final score of 75.766%.

“The grand prix special is always my favorite test,” began Peters. “It has those beautiful transitions from extended trot to passage, and then the half-passes are a little easier to ride, so there was a bit more of a throttle there with Mopsie today because he was so relaxed. The passage tour felt really good, and I really thought I had him there for the one tempis – I really collected him on the short side, and then I risked it a little and it was just a tad too much, so we had a small mistake. But he’s done five shows in a row without a single mistake, and at the end of the day I am human, and they’re horses and not machines, so those things happen.”

Peters was happy with his mount’s strengths during the performance and noted his relaxation in the walk and patient transitions into piaffe. He explained, “He walked nicely, which is a challenge for him in the grand prix special because he gets so fired up from all of the extensions and all of the passage, and to get him to relax is not an easy thing. However, he waited patiently for me to ask for the piaffe; he didn’t anticipate it, so overall it was a good test and I’m happy with it.”

The pair won’t be back in the Global Stadium Arena at Equestrian Village until the five-star at AGDF 7, and Peters plans to work with U.S. Dressage coach Debbie McDonald on improvements between now and then. However, he noted, Mopsie will get some time to relax as well.

For more information and results, please visit www.GlobalDressageFestival.com.

Christoph Koschel Tops FEI Grand Prix CDI4* at AGDF 3

Christoph Koschel and Eaton Unitechno. ©SusanStickle.

Wellington, FL – January 29, 2021 – Week three of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival continued on Friday, January 29, and Christoph Koschel (GER) took the day’s lead in the FEI Grand Prix CDI4* for freestyle, presented by U.S. P.R.E. Association piloting Eaton Unitechno.

Koschel and Eaton Unitechno, a 2009 KWPN gelding by Wynton owned by Unitechno, Inc., rode to a score of 70.065%, the only combination in the day’s class to earn above a 70%.

“He felt a bit spicy today,” began Koschel. “The horse is really expressive, but he can do better in the canter tour, so this is definitely something we want to improve. He has competed well lately, but the atmosphere is a little chilly tonight, and he knows this arena, but he was still a little nervous. For a start to this season, I was pretty happy with it.”

Koschel’s winter plan is to give the gelding more time in the competition arena before taking him back to Europe for the summer. “We want to get as much experience together as we can get,” he continued, “and I am looking forward to my first freestyle with him on Sunday. When he feels good, I want to keep competing and see where we end up. We can do better with more suppleness and less tension, but that will come.”

For more information and results, please visit www.GlobalDressageFestival.com.

Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper Earn Sixteenth Win in a Row to Open AGDF 3

Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper. ©SusanStickle.com.

Wellington, FL – January 29, 2021 – The 2021 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) continued competition during AGDF 3 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL on Thursday, January 28, with a red, white, and blue victory for Steffen Peters (USA) and Suppenkasper in the Grand Prix CDI4* for Special, presented by Havensafe Farm.

Peters and Suppenkasper, Akiko Yamazaki and Four Wind Farm’s 2008 KWPN gelding by Spielberg, have notched 16 wins in a row now, concluding their Grand Prix performance with a 76.761% in the Grand Prix CDI4* for Special.

“We had a nice ride this morning,” Peters began. “Usually I work him twice on competition days. He felt great so I did exactly 22 minutes of work at 9:00 am, and 25 minutes in the warm-up today before the test, because sometimes the longer I work him, the hotter he gets. Remembering last year when I went into this ring, he was a firecracker, and the first test we did wasn’t as good. I rode a little bit with that mindset today, and rode a little more conservatively, and he surprised me. I think I could’ve ridden him a little more, but it’s a good start with a clean test, and I’m very happy with him. Usually the wind and cold air bothers him too, so he’s growing up.”

Peters and the gelding took part of the spring off, enjoying California and the break from competition. “I think for both of us it was great to take a break,” he admitted. “I was pretty bummed that the World Cup didn’t happen last year, as that’s always such a highlight riding in front of an American crowd. But then you accept it, and for both of us it was good to take it easy. I enjoyed biking and boating, and Mopsie certainly took it easy in April and May, and then in June we picked it up again a little bit.”

For more information and results, please visit www.GlobalDressageFestival.com.