Laura Graves and Verdades. Photos copyright SusanJStickle.com.
Bateson Chandler, Gundersen, Wilcox, and Fraser Record CDI Wins
Wellington, FL – March 28, 2015 – Laura Graves (USA) and Verdades wowed the crowd again at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival, this time receiving an 80.175% in their FEI Grand Prix Freestyle as part of the Stillpoint Farm FEI Nations Cup CDIO3*. The class, which combined pairs from Intermediaire-1 Freestyle and the Grand Prix Freestyle, was the individual portion of this year’s Nations Cup competition. Chris Von Martels (CAN) and Zilverstar finished in second with a 75.600% performing the I-1 Freestyle and fellow Canadian Belinda Trussell and Anton followed in third with a 75.475% in the Grand Prix Freestyle. Four other CDI classes were held today at AGDF as well to conclude the 2015 season.
Graves and Verdades have won the final three Grand Prix Freestyles of the 2015 season at AGDF, and the pair is moving towards a very competitive showing at the FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas in two weeks’ time. “The ride I felt he was very consistent throughout. We had one little hiccup in our right canter half-pass where my rein actually got hooked around my foot and my spur I think. I went to give my right rein and I couldn’t because my hand was stuck so I had to kind of move my leg and untangle myself,” she laughed. “I got it out before the end of half-pass which was very lucky and I was going back towards ‘A,’ but my horse could not have cared less about it. I’m so thankful he has matured this far in his life that he will allow me to handle situations like that, and I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Watch the 80% ride for Laura and Verdades! Videos courtesy of Campfield Videos.
Today was the second occasion on which the pair has scored above 80% in the Grand Prix Freestyle, as they recorded an 82.036% at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Caen, France, last August. This was also only the second time in AGDF history that a rider has scored at least 80%; Lars Petersen and Mariett are the other pair.
“I don’t ever go into a competition with any expectations and to go in and be called double gold-medal winning, kind of gives you goose bumps,” stated Graves about her team and individual performances. “I’ve never really been in the position to be on a podium except here at Nations Cup, and it’s a really nice event to have sponsored by Stillpoint Farm and Adequan® and really bring home gold medals. It’s an amazing thing.”
Chris Von Martels has also had consistent success this season aboard Zilverstar and feels confident in where the pair will be heading in the coming months. “He really has stepped up to the plate this season, and I feel that there is always room for improvement, as we as riders know,” explained Von Martels. “I feel that we’re on a good path at the moment, and as long as we can keep going in that direction we will be quite happy.”
As for the future, the Pan American Games are in their sights and Von Martels will take advantage of the opportunity to compete at Palgrave, the site of equestrian competition at the games this summer. “We’re lucky that we’ve competed there in the past and it will be a good first show to do when we get back. I also would like to take some time to focus on the training and give him a break because it has been a long season, and he has been spectacular.”
Fellow Canadian Belinda Trussell had a fantastic week aboard Anton, finishing the Freestyle competition today in third place. The pair will contest one of the three CDI competitions in Toronto before the Pan American Games and will ultimately vie for a spot on the Canadian team. “He’s at a place in his life where he is very confident and understands his job, and he’s also happy to do it,” commented Trussell.
The pair finished with a silver medal yesterday in the Stillpoint Farm FEI Nations Cup CDIO3* team competition and adding a bronze today was a thrilling experience for Trussell. “Sometimes going into events like this, you don’t know if it’s always possible to come out with a medal because there is really tough competition,” she explained, “For Canada to have a second and third place rider up here is a big deal for us too. It’s so rare to have an opportunity to have a competition like this in North America, and I can’t thank the organizers and sponsors enough for giving us this opportunity.”
Graves, who received the Best Horse Owner Award for the Grand Prix Freestyle presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty three consecutive weeks in a row for her wins, has decided to donate the awarded $15,000 to the United States Equestrian Team Foundation. She commented on her decision to donate to the USET Foundation, “This is a real pleasure for me to donate money. Personally I’m not in a financial situation to be able to donate funds like that. For it to be presented that I have this gift to give in my name is a feeling that I get to be generous and give back to a program that has supported me for so long and has given me opportunities that I would not have been able to have any other way.”
Graves hopes the money will allow another up and coming American rider an opportunity to really showcase their talents. “Hopefully I will be able to give that opportunity to someone else, another fellow American, and that is really heartwarming. It feels so nice to be able to give back,” she said.
Arlene “Tuny” Page, owner of Stillpoint Farm, sponsors of the FEI Nations Cup CDIO3* this week, was thrilled with the performances and success of the show, explaining its imperative importance to riders in North America. “I think it is impossible to overstate how it important it is honestly,” she said. “I think we’ve seen sport here this winter and certainly this weekend on an exceedingly high level and I think we can give Europeans a run for their money.”
Page also commented on the need for riders to experience team competition in a setting and venue such as AGDF. “It’s also very important as riders that we have the opportunities to compete in the team format like Laura said and feel the support from our countries. It’s so important to the building of our national programs.”
The show, which was postponed yesterday due to severe weather, took a serious level of organization to reschedule and the team at AGDF could not have pulled it off any better. “It was a bit tricky and I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of the people working here at AGDF, including Lloyd Landkamer and his team, the ground crew, judges, stewards, officials, and Jim Pitzer and the crew in the pavilion,” remarked Thomas Baur, Director of Sport at Adequan® Global Dressage Festival. “This season has been absolutely spectacular, and we are already looking forward to 2016.”
Mikala Gundersen (DEN) and My Lady topped the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 3*, presented by Martha Jolicoeur and Maria Mendelsohn of Illustrated Properties, to cap off an incredible season for the pair. They received a 76.450% to take the win. Lisa Wilcox (USA) and Denzello finished just behind Gundersen with a 76.050%, and Susie Dutta (USA) aboard Currency DC placed third with a 74.350%.
Gundersen and My Lady are a crowd favorite each season at AGDF, and 2015 was no different. The mare has continued to flourish under the reins of Gundersen, and the two will look to take their talents to Las Vegas for the FEI World Cup Finals. “We only found out on Monday that we made the cut for Vegas so I’m actually glad we decided to do this show. I needed to go one more time and I just rode today. I love my music so much, and I just enjoy it,” she smiled when describing her test today.
Gundersen and Wilcox, longtime friends, were so excited to be a part of the winners circle together. “I’m so happy to be up here with Lisa. This has been a long time coming,” laughed Gundersen. Wilcox added, “We go way, way back and this has been something we have always talked about and to think that twenty years ago we talked about it and now we’re sitting here together. It’s really special.”
Wilcox and Denzello had a great week of competition with two-second place finishes behind Gundersen. “He felt great today, just perfect. He’s in a place now where he’s confident,” commented Wilcox, as the horse is known to react to intense environments. “At first he was petrified and now I know he has let go and I can really ride him. He was so nice to ride and when I started hitting all of these points in the music, it just felt great,” she continued. “He loves his music and I think it almost calms him when he hears it, and he let go of that tension today.”
The successful AGDF season has come to an end for Gundersen and My Lady and Gundersen commented on the improvements she’s seen in “Lady” throughout the circuit. “I feel like I have more piaffe and passage from her and I think that was a highlight this circuit, but every day is a highlight on her,” she remarked.
Katherine Bateson Chandler (USA) and Alcazar took home the win in the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 3*, presented by Martha Jolicoeur and Maria Mendelsohn of Illustrated Properties, with a score of 71.529%. Lara Griffith (GBR) and Rubin Al Asad followed in second and Arlene Page (USA) and Alina in third.
Bateson Chandler, who will fly back to her summer base with Carl Hester in the U.K. in a few short weeks, is proud of the progress Alcazar has made so far this season and is looking forward to developing his newfound confidence this summer with Hester. She explained, “He’s very green and new to the Grand Prix, so it’s fun when it comes together. He’s suffered a lot from show and ring nerves in the past, and he’s a much easier Grand Prix horse than a Small Tour horse.”
The duo has just tapped into the potential Bateson Chandler and Hester see in the gelding and now that there is more confidence, she’s thrilled to see what else Alcazar has in store. “He still has tons of room for improvement, and I don’t even feel like that’s the most he can do. He had a couple of mistakes and he gets a little nervous still and then we work through that. But even when he’s doing that, he’s still getting great scores.”
Confidence is key when teaching a young, green horse the ropes of Grand Prix, and Bateson Chandler is returning to the U.K. with more than she arrived with, which was the goal of the season. “He seems to really like this arena and now he’s starting to understand that when he gets in the ring, it’s a place where he can feel safe and confident,” she said. Bateson Chandler explained that is a new feeling for the pair and she is looking forward to their progress, as she truly believes the gelding is world-class.
Lara Griffith and Rubin Al Asad have made the most of their time in Wellington after also traveling from the U.K. to compete at AGDF alongside trainer Laura Tomlinson. “Rufus was amazing today, and I was so impressed with him. I felt like our Grand Prix earlier in the week was a little bit underpowered, but today I could fire him up and that was main thing I was looking to do,” commented Griffith.
The pair is still new to the level and Griffith was pleased with the fact that she was able to tap into a level of power she had yet to achieve in competition. “The power was there today which has been the most promising thing for us so far this season. He answered me without a single question or feeling like he was starting to suck back. It was definitely our best test so far this season,” she remarked.
Both pairs will return to England this month and will begin their competition season in Europe competing against each other once again at the Royal Windsor Horse Show at Windsor Castle in May.
The FEI Intermediaire-1 CDI 1* class, presented by Regal Horse Products, began on Friday but due to thunderstorms rolling in, it was halted, and the final three riders of the class completed their tests on Saturday morning. With the most exciting test of the week, Brittany Fraser of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Canada, and All In showed grace under pressure by winning the class with a score of 72.632%.
Fraser and All In began their test yesterday. She recalled, “I just finished the walk, and I picked up the canter and lightning struck almost right by the ring actually. Then immediately there was a crack of thunder and everyone screamed, ‘Get out!’ I had to stop, and the weather was too bad to carry on.”
She and All In, who train with Ashley Holzer, recouped this morning to put in “one of his better tests.” She explained, “I went in and had to pick up where I left off yesterday. I just trotted around and walked at B, then picked up my canter at P and started from there. It’s for sure the most interesting class I’ve ever won. I’ve never experienced that before. My horse was really good for me. He worked for me. It was a good way to end the season.”
Second place in the class was Belinda Trussell (CAN) riding Tattoo with a score of 70.500%, while third place went to Lisa Wilcox (USA) and Galant, who scored 70.263%.
In the FEI Intermediaire-1 Freestyle CDI1*, presented by Regal Horse Products, Lisa Wilcox (USA) and Galant won their second class of the week, this time with a score of 71.475%. Susanne Hassler and Harmony’s Boitano came in second place with a score of 70.825%, and third place went to Katharina Stumpf and For My Love on a score of 70.300%.
Wilcox and Galant have been paired together since he was four years old, and their ascent just over the months of AGDF has been particularly gratifying for Wilcox. “It’s been amazing how much he’s grown since the beginning of the season. I’ve watched him change to what he is now over three months; (it’s) amazing,” she expressed. “We knew we had a scopey horse and that he has talent, but what he was able to muster up with a few little tweaks that Robert did with me with him have just made a difference and the horse we’re seeing today.”
This was only the third freestyle that Galant has performed, so Wilcox feels that a victory today was very meaningful. She picked out specific music for him that would fit his personality and relative inexperience riding to music.
She explained, “I’ve specifically selected something a little more subtle that isn’t going to key him up. Especially with these horses that have the potential of being expressive, I want to be careful. This is where you make or break their desire to ride to music. I don’t want to scare him. We already have atmosphere, so I selected piano. It’s beautiful, and he’s very elegant, so it fits him perfectly.”
AGDF would like to thank all of the exhibitors, sponsors, staff, and spectators for making 2015 such an incredible success. For more information on the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival, please visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
About the Adequan Global Dressage Festival:
The Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) is one of the world’s largest international and national dressage circuits featuring 7 FEI Dressage events, including a 5* and the only FEI Nations’ Cup Series CDIO in the Western Hemisphere. The AGDF offers more than $650,000 in prize money for the seven international competitions, making it one of the richest circuits in the world. The Stadium at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center facility includes the Van Kampen covered arena (made possible by Kimberly and Frederic Boyer and family) and four outdoor arenas with world-class footing, 200 permanent stalls, and a VIP seating area.
Adequan Global Dressage Festival is located at
13500 South Shore Blvd, Wellington, Florida 33414
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