Lars Petersen swept the board in the feature class of the day at the 2014 CDI Wellington, the "Friday Night Stars" Grand Prix Freestyle 4*. The Grand Prix Freestyle 3* was held earlier in the day with a top ride for Kelly Layne (AUS) aboard Udon P. Juan Matute, Jr. (ESP) and Don Diego Ymas took another win in the Prix St. Georges.
Denmark's Lars Petersen and Mariett, owned by Marcia M. Pepper, have been on quite a roll this week. The pair topped Friday night's $80,000 Grand Prix Freestyle 4* with a score of 76.400%. Tina Konyot (USA) and Calecto V placed second with an overall score of 75.500%, and Mikala Munter Gundersen (DEN) guided Janne Rumbough's My Lady to a 72.825% to place third.
Mariett, a 16-year-old Danish Warmblood mare (by Come Back II out of Zendi), was a bit hot for Petersen in Thursday's Grand Prix class, but the rider noted that she was on her game tonight and felt great. "I thought she was really good to ride tonight. I was very, very happy," Petersen stated. "Yesterday she was maybe not so easy to ride, but tonight she was with me. She came down a bit."
Petersen spoke about Mariett's sweet demeanor and how she enjoys performing in the impressive atmosphere under the lights. "In the stable, she's like a dog," he described. "She's a really sweet horse, all the way around. She's a little bit more 'up' here (than at home). Otherwise it's the same. The lights, the music, the people. In some ways, that's also what makes them good, when they come in and they get up a little bit."
Tina Konyot was happy with her ride aboard Calecto V Friday night after a difficult day on Thursday with the 16-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion (Come Back II out of Bahera) who finished only 11th in the Grand Prix with 66.400%. She explained that the pair had many frustrating mistakes in the Grand Prix, but came back better after a little re-evaluation and some words of advice from U.S. Dressage Chef d'Equipe Robert Dover.
"I had so many mistakes yesterday. I was a little bit frustrated with it," Konyot admitted. "One of them I can definitely attribute to myself because I was frustrated with some of the other ones because I didn't understand why they happened. You always have to concentrate on the moment, and I lost my moment. It was a bad day yesterday. I thank God that Robert is such a huge support behind us. He said to forget about it and concentrate on what the horse can do, and he was so much better than yesterday."
"He's not quite as fit as he could be," Konyot noted. "I'm just getting back into the show program here for the winter. He needs a little bit more fitness level to him, to be a little bit sharper, but overall I was happy with him. It was a great evening."
Third place finisher, Mikala Munter Gundersen, enjoyed her freestyle with My Lady, a 14-year-old Danish Warmblood mare by Michellino out of Marion.
"She felt really good today as well," Gundersen stated. "I'm really impressed with the mare. When we got her two years ago, she was terrified. We had to feed her sugar to get her in the ring. We would go and practice during the week and feed her sugar from the tent just to get her over here. Now she walks in there by herself. She loves to go in there and present herself. I'm very thrilled. I think that's the most important thing, that the horses have fun doing what they are doing. These tests are really hard, and it's just amazing to have a horse who really wants to do it."
Judge Lilo Fore spoke about the evening's fantastic performances and the level of competition that the top three exhibited.
"I was very happy tonight because all three of these top horses showed themselves today really very well," Fore stated. "Yesterday I was a tad worried there because all three had just a little mistake here and there. They were all a little hot under the collar, but I think tonight they were all really with the rider. When you look at these three horses, all three are amazingly talented. They have three wonderful gaits, they have really super minds. A really good grand prix horse has to be a bit hot because if they're not, you're not going to get through a grand prix test."
"They have to have that special desire to be a little on the explosive side," Fore continued. "If you can channel that kind of energy and you put it into the movement you need to do, put it under your seat and saddle and into your own riding, it's an amazing horse to ride. That is the kind of horse which is only able to go to the international circuit. I think they are top horses. It doesn't matter which country you're talking about. I think all of us judges agreed totally."
Kelly Layne and Udon P Excel in Grand Prix Kur 3*
The afternoon's competition featured a Grand Prix Freestyle 3* with a top finish for Kelly Layne (AUS) riding Whistlejacket Farm LLC's Udon P, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding (by Hierarch out of Maleida). The pair earned their highest score ever with a 73.625%. Germany's Kim Jesse and Dirk Haese's Charming finished second with a score of 70.200%. Susan Dutta (USA) and Currency DC placed third with a 69.925%.
Layne and Udon P finished second in Thursday's Grand Prix 3*, and the rider explained that her horse felt very relaxed for this afternoon's freestyle. "He warmed up as calm as he ever has for a competition," she stated. "He was very concentrated, very focused. He is starting to know his music cues and that is kind of cool. It makes the whole routine feel much smoother and then I can be more harmonious with the horse and really ride to my music. I think that just comes from more experience in the ring."
Layne was very excited to get the freestyle win and earn her best score yet with Udon P. "It was awesome," she smiled. "It was certainly exciting to win a CDI in Wellington. I could not be happier with the horse and also with the result. It was my best score absolutely in a grand prix and for the freestyle my best score again today. The horse is steadily improving all of the time. I think it will certainly help with our plans to go to Europe for the summer and campaign for a position on the Australian team (for the World Equestrian Games)."
Layne spoke about Udon's strengths in his freestyle, noting that this was only his fourth freestyle ever. "For sure the piaffe/passage is very good for him," she described. "With the choreography, we try to make it so that we can show that off to all of the judges from all of the views, which is important. I think that suits him very well. He is also very strong on the flying changes, and they were very good today."
"He is 18.1 hands high and he is a bit of a scaredy cat," Layne said of Udon's personality. "He kind of clings to me, but he is not super affectionate. He is one of those horses that has to come to you; you can't go to him. If you go to put your hand to him, he doesn't know what to do, but if you stand there and he touches you first, then you can touch him anywhere. He has a real character, real personality."
Second place finisher, Kim Jesse, is back in the ring after some time off from competing with her mount Charming, a 16-year-old Rheinlander stallion (by Champus x Lancer II), and was very happy with her ride on Friday. In 2012 Charming was competed by Japanese Meiko Yagi but the dark bay stallion returned to Jesse in 2013.
"He is just two days out from quarantine, so we did not really have enough time for training, but he did a good job," Jesse noted, going on to describe her horse's strengths and personality as well. "For a stallion, he is pretty clear in the head and he likes his music. We change it sometimes and now it fits very good. He is always focused and always concentrated on what he is doing and what I want from him. He is a very supple horse. He is always using his body and always loose in the muscles. He has good strength behind. Pirouettes are absolutely his favorite; he loves to do pirouettes."
"I was out for nearly half a year not riding because I was ill, and now we are just trying to get back together and do some competitions," Jesse explained. "Today was the first day where we were together again in the ring and had a good feeling together."
This is Jesse's first year competing in Florida and she has liked the stability of showing in one location for an extended period of time.
"I really enjoy it. It is super conditions for the horses," she stated. "The footing is very good, and the weather is good. In Europe now it is pretty cold and the option to ride so many international competitions in one spot is great. It is a win-win situation. It is absolutely good to ride here with your horses, train them, and ride and compete in one place. It is absolutely amazing."
Susan Dutta finished third with her horse, Currency DC, a 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Clintino out of Cinderella. Dutta was happy with how her freestyle finished out after having to restart due to a musical problem. "He was good," Dutta stated. "We had an unfortunate mishap with the music, and you always wonder how they are going to feel when you have to start again. He is really sensitive, but he handled it so well."
Dutta is no stranger to the Wellington competition and explained that the venue is very comfortable for her. "I feel really settled as a rider at this horse show and for him, I feel like we are in a rhythm," Dutta said. "That is the really nice thing of having all of these shows here. You get in a rhythm and you get relaxed and then you start to ride better in the ring. It is so nice. Then you can improve and fix things and get better quality and new feelings."
"We are so lucky," she smiled. "This is quite a venue. I compete all over the world, and we have a lovely venue here. It has a lot of atmosphere. You can put it against anything in the world."
The CDI 3* Kur to Music was judged by routiniers Wust, Rockwell, Fore, Baarup, and Almasy but the results produced quite some disturbing score discrepancies between the individual judges. Third placed Susan Dutta received scores ranging from 72.125 (Rockwell) to 65.500 (Baarup). Canadian Gary van der Ploeg saw his scores fluctuate from 70.250% (Fore) to 64.625% (Baarup) and the judges individually saw totally different tests in Italian Silvia Rizzo's ride as Wust had her at 66.375% and Rockwell at 60.625%.
Juan Matute Guimon Rides to Another Small Tour Victory in the Prix St. Georges
Spanish junior rider Juan Matute Guimon has made the most of his 2014 debut on the small tour with Don Diego, picking up another first place prize on Friday morning in the Prix St. Georges. Matute topped the class with a score of 71.184% aboard his family's 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding. Second place went to American Christopher Hickey and Ronaldo, an 8-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Cecelia Stewart. Canadian Brittany Fraser rounded out the top three with a 69.296% with her own All In, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding.
Matute was not expecting his first year of competing to start with such success. The 16-year-old, who rides for Spain but is based in Wellington, has collected four victories with Don Diego in three weeks of showing in Wellington. Friday marked his second Prix St. Georges win with the horse.
"I think Don Diego and I really work together great and fit together," Matute noted. "He can do the movements perfectly. I don't think the level was a problem for him, but at a CDI, [you have] big riders and great horses as well, so it was not expected to do so well."
Matute felt the best part of his test with Don Diego Ymas was their trot work and was understandably pleased with how he and the horse are progressing. "I thought [the test] was great. I think there's always stuff to improve on. Show after show, I believe Don Diego and I are creating a strong bond with more confidence in each other. We're completely partners," he commented. He continued, "The trot work was a bit more solid this morning. We had a little bit of mistakes in the canter with the contact. The pirouettes were maybe a little bit too small. The trot work was the highlight today."
Don Diego has been in the Matute Family's barn for years, and the two essentially grew up together. The Matutes purchased Don Diego Ymas when Matute was only nine years old. Now 16, he appreciates knowing the horse inside and out. "When you build up a horse [from a young age], you get to know each other better. You have more knowledge about him. You know his highlights, his weaknesses, his personality. You know maybe he will spook here, and he might not spook there. It's a little bit like brothers, when you grow up together," Matute described.
The youthful Matute beat out veteran dressage competitor Christopher Hickey, but Hickey was happy to have competition from an up-and-coming rider.
"I think it's super for us to have young riders coming along and riding so exquisitely. He's a beautiful, elegant rider, and when you see riding like that in the warm up from one of the 'kids,' it makes us all proud, but it also makes a beautiful picture," Hickey detailed. "It makes the old guys be like 'Oh my god, we have to be careful,' because here are some young people coming along. There's more than just [Juan] and his sister looking like that at horse shows. I think that's a huge piece. We all talk about our country getting stronger and getting better. We need these people to come in and come through the ranks and be in the open classes with us and kick our [butt] for us to have to rise to the occasion."
Hickey was pleased with how his young horse performed in The Stadium, noting the atmosphere was good exposure for Ronaldo. The gelding was quite impressed by the arena's setting, but Hickey simply chalked it up to a young horse learning his way. "My horse is not spooky, but today coming around in the first turn he was startled by the surroundings. That doesn't bother me because he's young, and he's never been in this environment before," Hickey explained. "He's such a big mover, and he has so much elasticity. I feel that those horses sometimes take a little bit longer to develop. He lost his balance and his rhythm in the extended trot which is an expensive mistake, and that will get better with strength and age."
One of Hickey's favorite moments of competition happened entirely by coincidence during the jog on Wednesday. "He followed his mother (in the jog), who is here competing in the grand prix division. When I went into the jog and they announced her name, she jogged literally right before him, which was totally an accident. I thought that was pretty cool that at his first CDI, he jogged after his mother," Hickey smiled.
Watching Ronaldo's progress has been especially meaningful for Hickey, who brought the horse up through the ranks after owner Stewart bought him as a 4-year-old. Hickey has trained several of his most successful horses from the time they were young, including Regent and Cabana Boy. It's an experience he relishes.
Historically, he's been more successful on horses he's brought up himself. Hickey believes this is a result of the irreplaceable bond created between a horse and rider over such an extended period of time.
"When you purchase horses, you can buy great horses. It's easy to pick out a lovely moving horse, but you don't know their true temperament. And when you buy a young horse, it's such a risk. You have the risk of [whether] this horse will take the work physically and mentally. When you buy a mature horse, you have proof. The horse will take the work. The horse is taking the work. But you don't have the information you have when you bring them along yourself," Hickey explained.
Earlier on Friday, Tanya-Strasser-Shostak (CAN) won the FEI Young Rider Team class aboard Action Tyme. The pair earned a 65.921%.
press release, edited by Eurodressage
Photos © Sue Stickle