Chester Weber and team during the Cones phase. ©Sue Stickle Photography & ©TIEC.
TRYON, NC, USA – April 23, 2018 – Chester Weber (USA) maintained his hold on the lead through the Cones phase of FEI CAI 2* Four-in-Hand competition as part of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG) Dressage, Driving, and Para-Dressage Test Events at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), guiding his team to victory after blazing cleanly through the Richard Nicoll (USA)-designed course. The all-American podium remained unchanged from day two: Weber landed on 159.38 points after three days, while Misdee Wrigley-Miller (USA) maintained second place after driving Bravour, Beau, Bolino D, and Calipso to a score of 173.34 on a clean run, and James Fairclough (USA) finished in third with Bento V, Citens, Dapper and Zenden on a final penalty score of 180.21.
Weber spoke highly of his day-three team, consisting of Amadeus, Asjemenou, Gouveneur, and Ultra, and explained that he added Gouvenuer into the team after testing potential WEG contender, Reno, in his place for the Marathon phase. “I drove the Dressage team again, which was my plan from the beginning and they were really nice,” he said. “I have a sort of inexperienced seven-year-old in the group [Gouvenuer], and I wanted to know what I had in him for a Cones leader and he actually did really well. I was really pleased with him.”
As he predicted, the Cones course had the essence of designer Nicoll and suited Weber’s driving style, but remained a true precision test for competing combinations.
“I thought the course was really nice. Richard [Nicoll] always tries to have a little bit of flow to the course, which was good and I thought it was fair in that way. We measure the course typically with a GPS watch, and there’s some margin of error there. When I measured it was 840 meters and they were saying it was more like a 750 – it was pretty obvious to me we were going to have to go really, really fast. I worked on trying to figure out how to get the time as good as I could, but it was still a big challenge.”
Speaking to the emotional connection he feels to Team USA and what representing the States in the fall would mean, Weber reflected on the shared history of his and teammate Fairclough’s careers, and said, “It means a lot to me to represent the United States. Ever since I was a young guy starting Driving, I always wanted to have a blazer with a [USA] patch on it and drive on the U.S. team. I think for all of the U.S. Four in-Hand team medals, Jimmy and I have been part of those teams. I think we hope to come here in the fall and try and secure a team medal for the U.S. It would mean a lot to me.”
Wrigley-Miller maintained her podium spot with a speedy round through the Cones phase and complimented the noticeable improvement in harmony for her team. “The team is really starting to gel and come together to work as a team and that was really what I noticed. They were all balanced together. I could really drive more forward, they felt great in my hands, and the obstacles drove so well,” she emphasized. “I just feel like we’ve been a work in progress and we made huge strides yesterday. I was really pleased with our Marathon, but I went back and watched the videos and thought, ‘I can go faster!’ So, I think the horses and I have good timing going forward.”
Wrigley-Miller was eager to contest the Marathon course and had good things to report: “From what I’ve heard, there will not be a lot of change in the obstacles – I think they’re beautifully built, and Richard [Nicoll] does such a great job of flagging them. He asks the right questions of horses and drivers. I think it’s going to be really great.”
While she made adjustments to the team between Dressage and Marathon, her horses remained as consistent as their results, and she used the same pairings for the final two days of competition.
“It was a good course,” she said of the final phase. “It was what I’ve come to expect from Richard – that you drive the lines. It’s Dressage training in Cones. The horses have to be supple and flexible and move forward with nice curves – it was a nice course. It had its little pieces that made us drivers think!”
For Fairclough, this week’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 Test Event was his first chance to drive obstacles and Cones since Live Oak International a month ago, and described how the weather at home had really thrown a kink in his ability to train, but had not dampened his competitiveness at TIEC.
“I didn’t spend the winter in Florida, so I went down for Live Oak International three weeks before, and Dressage was okay this week. I was pleased with the horses. It’s a long way to September before the FEI World Equestrian Games. For the Marathon yesterday, I hadn’t driven a hazard since I was at Live Oak because I went back home and had 13 days out of 27 with snow, so I wasn’t able to train that or Cones. Marathon was very nice. The horses were plenty fit, and I was happy with that. Cones today surprised me – I thought I’d be able to keep the pace up a little bit more, but I lost a lot of time at 10, 11, and 12. The footing has a [different feel] than grass, so it was difficult to make that time,” he added.
Like Weber and Wrigley-Miller, Fairclough is pleased with his experience at the venue, he said. “I think the facility is fantastic. It’s a work in progress, but it’s really nice when you get to do a Marathon on a golf course. I guess we got to use some of the hazards that will be used [in September], and the course was technical – tight if you wanted that option in a couple of them. I think the terrain may surprise some Europeans, but the valley where the obstacles are is very nice.”
Fairclough also hopes to return in the fall and emphasized the honor of representing Team USA. He said, “It’s wonderful to represent team USA and to have the Games here. The few times that we [Weber and I] have had the national anthem played for us, there’s nothing better. But, to be an ambassador for our country is really an honor. It’s a real thrill no matter what, when you do it.”
Perry-Glass Victorious in FEI CDI 3* Grand Prix Special
The FEI Grand Prix podium remained unchanged from Friday’s lineup, as the FEI CDI 3* Grand Prix Special presented by Adequan®, saw Kasey Perry-Glass (USA) dance with partner Goerklintgaards Dublet to an impressive score of 75.830%, taking the victory ahead of Adrienne Lyle (USA) and Horizon who finished in second on a score of 71.660%. Belinda Trussell (CAN) rode her own Tattoo 15 to third place honors with a score of 69.319%.
Perry-Glass and the 2003 Danish Warmblood gelding (Diamond Hit x Ferro) owned by Diane Perry put in a more relaxed effort without losing the energy of Friday’s winning ride. “My test, I felt, was a lot more thought out. After the Grand Prix, I was just really challenging myself to go in there and focus on what we do in the warm-up and get it in the show ring. That was my highlight. He’s so talented as it is, that he does everything really well, but I think the passage tour was really good, as well as his changes.”
Regarding “Dublet’s” reaction to the arena after a weekend of acclimation, she continued, “He’s still a spring chicken in there – he didn’t lose any motivation or any kind of spark. He was actually more relaxed, but with energy. That’s what all of his pre-show training was for, getting his mind really good, the aqua-tread, and all the work we do outside the arena. I feel like it’s really translated to his stamina and how he holds his energy.”
The pair is just coming back into competition after an eight-month break, and while the late start to competition schedule had Perry-Glass feeling uncertain before, she said the payoff was worth it, for both her horse and herself.
“With any athlete, I think you kind of need time to wind down to re-adjust and get your head right. I think for the last three years we’ve just been going and it was a well-needed break for us, for me too, and it just helps him come back stronger. Yeah, we’re starting our shows a little bit later than everyone else, but I think that he’s showing that he can be right up there with the others and I’m happy we did it. At some points we were questioning whether it was the right thing to do, to wait so long, but for us it really worked.”
Lyle and Elizabeth Juliano’s 2003 Oldenburg mare (Hot Line x Don Schufro) proved their consistency with another second-place finish and for Lyle, Horizon’s consistency is especially encouraging to see. She elaborated, “I was thrilled with her and how reliable she’s getting. To have a clean test in the third Special she’s ever done in her life – one of them being a national show and with her first CDI not even two months ago, for her to come into a new venue and prove that she can put in clean and consistent performances in this environment is a big deal for her. I’m very proud of her.”
Lyle also had Harmony’s Duval, another young horse, break into Grand Prix competition, and noted that she’s thrilled to see a long-term relationship with “Duval” truly succeed. “I’m really happy with him. I’ve had him since before he was saddle broke and we’ve done everything from Training level on up with him, so it was a really fun weekend all around to have such great rides on Horizon and then be able to finally get Duval into the Grand Prix ring after years and years of work,” she said.
Trussell and her own “Tattoo,” a 2003 Westfalen gelding (Tuareg x Ramiro’s Son), also remained consistent to place third on a score of 69.319% despite a bobble in one of the gelding’s usual highlight movements, she explained.
“I think the biggest change I see for him [since Florida] is that he’s getting a lot stronger in his passage work; he’s such an exuberant mover and to be able to access that and put it in the right direction [is improving]. I think that this show I had the best passage work that I’ve had yet in the ring itself. His highlight is his changes and today we had a mistake in the twos, which is not good, because I need those points, but those are also becoming more reliable and consistent, so that feels great.”
As an experienced competitor at FEI World Equestrian Games™, including appearances in Jerez, Spain, Lexington, KY, and most recently in Normandy, France, Trussell described her excitement for the Games to return to North America. “This venue was just fabulous to come here for the Test Event and to experience it and be a part of this. It was such a great stepping stone for us in preparation for WEG,” she said. “It’s so nice, as a North American athlete, to have this event in North America because we almost always have to go to Europe. It’s not so far, the horses don’t have to get on an airplane, for family it’s easier to come, and to have this quality of venue in North America is huge. I am so grateful for this facility, grateful for the United States to put this together and it’s wonderful,” she concluded.
The atmosphere was exuberant at the in-gate, especially for the large support wearing red, white and blue – the American entourage was in full force and both Lyle and Perry-Glass expressed gratitude for the strength of the USA contingent.
“We have an incredible support staff from all of USEF,” said Lyle. “They’re absolutely amazing and take care of any question you may have. You can call them in the middle of the night and they’re here to help you! It really helps to have such great backing, then beyond that, we have an incredible camaraderie between us as teammates,” she continued. “Laura [Graves] is here watching and cheering on, and we’re all really good friends. We say that all the time, but it’s not just for show – we all are really good friends. It’s really exciting to see everyone be so successful. It only elevates your own riding and your own training when you can be around people like that, and I feel very blessed that we are that way.”
Perry-Glass agreed. “You look down the ranking list, and even people that are not on the ranking list or that are on the B squad, it’s amazing to see that you’re so close to them.” She also noted the importance of this strong team unit as a team sport.
“There’s only one class that’s individual. Growing up in team sports, you have to have that camaraderie and be to be a team player. I think it elevates everyone’s sportsmanship and I think it makes you perform better. Plus, you can lean on them when you have questions or concerns or ideas, and especially in stressful situations.”
FEI CPEDI 3* Freestyles Wrap Up Weekend
In the CPEDI 3* Grade I Freestyle Test, Roxanne Trunnell (USA) and Kate Shoemaker’s Dolton stayed perfect to finish first with a 73.278%, while Laurietta Oakleaf (USA) rode her own Niekele Fan Busenitz to second receiving a score of 69.311%, and Winona Hartvikson (CAN) and Ultimo, a 2001 gelding (Invasor III x Teodoro) owned by herself and Jane Macdonald, earned third place honors with a 68.556%.
Trunnell, who represented the United States at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games™, as well as at the 2016 Paralympic Games, piloted a newer mount, and the pair was awarded overall champions of the show after three successful rides for the USA.
The Grade II Freestyle saw Jason Surnoski (CAN) and Phoenix score a 66.878% overtake fellow Canadian Sharon Buffitt and her own Elektra II, who scored 66.233%.
“I was very pleased with Phoenix,” commented Surnoski. “He did everything I asked for and I was just enjoying it. We’ve been working on trying to get him more up in his frame because he tends to kind of come down on me, so all week we’ve been trying to do that. I found that in this test in particular he kept it. I just enjoyed the ride.”
Surnoski began competing in the FEI CPEDIs two years ago, but has only had this particular ride for six months. “He’s a funny character, He loves attention and he loves his treats – the more treats he gets, the more he begs – and he just enjoys his job. It’s my first CPEDI with him and he’s nineteen, so he passed everything I could ask of him. Now it’s onward and upward.”
“It’s been a very difficult transition because he has a lot of movement when he’s going properly, and I’ve ridden many horses that don’t have that particular movement. This guy has a lot when he’s going well. So, even today I had a little bit of difficulty controlling it with my body, but I think I did a good job considering I bumped up my percentage each test,” added Surnoski.
Having declared for WEG, Surnoski will travel to Ottawa next month to contest another FEI CPEDI competition. With a strong desire to make the team at the forefront of his mind, he concluded, “I love that WEG will be here because it’s close to home. I’m from Toronto, so it’s like a fourteen-hour drive, depending on traffic, so it’s doable, and I’m hoping I can qualify and be here for it!”
The Grade III Freestyle saw a change in top placing, as Lauren Barwick (CAN) and her own Engelbrecht, a 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Vivaldi x Rimini 41) rode to blue and a score of 72.233%. The Grade IV Freestyle once again awarded Angela Peavy (USA) the victory, earning a score of 72.892% aboard Rebecca Reno’s 2008 Oldenburg mare (Doruto x Don Larino) Royal Dark Chocolate. Grade V Freestyle rider Katie Jackson (USA) rode her new 2003 Oldenburg gelding (De Niro x Welt Hit II) mount Diesel to a score of 70.608%, achieving their third first place honor.