EquestriSol News: November 17, 2009

Congratulations to…

Laura Teodori and Kasoar D’Uxelles on their success in the CSIO Nations Cup in Buenos Aires – they were the only double clear! Laura is now working on the east coast. We wish her the best.

$1,000 Thoroughbred Hunter Champions Classic this weekend

As a kickoff for the Thoroughbred Show Horse Association, which will take membership paid to offer prize money for classes throughout the year, the Autumn Jubilee Show at Industry Hills Equestrian Center on November 21-22 will host a $1,000 Thoroughbred Hunter Champions Classic. Call Duncan McIntosh for more information or to join at 818-943-7102.

Clinics Coming to Town

Before Santa comes you can give yourself an early Christmas present by participating in and/or auditing at some upcoming clinics. Names synonymous with the world’s best in the sport – Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Joe Fargis and George Morris – will be in sunny California hosting clinics at three beautiful locations. Clinic sessions are filling fast but auditing is the next best thing to riding…

November 20-22: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum at El Campeon Farms
Contact Kasey Ament: 805-794-6107

December 2-3: Joe Fargis at Menlo Circus Club
Contact Nathan Stiles: 209-765-7755

December 11-13: George Morris at Shelburne Farms – clinic space is full.
Auditing available at $75 p/day. No auditing reservations needed.
Contact Melissa Jones: 805-370-1941

Save The Date! December 10th – 7-10 pm: Anthropologie Holiday Shopping Soiree to Benefit the Equestrian Aid Foundation

Enjoy fabulous hors d’oeuvres and Stephen Vincent sauvignon blanc while shopping and benefitting a great cause. All attendees receive a 15% discount. Click here for details.

2010 Horse Mastership

Already looking forward to 2010, riders invited to participate in the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session January 5-9, 2010 in Wellington, Florida were just announced. Invited west coast riders include Zazou Hoffman, Tina Dilandri and Theodore Boris. If you happen to be in Wellington in January, auditing the training session is free.

USHJA’S Emerging Athletes Program Level 3 is coming

The inaugural EAP National Training Session is also coming in 2010. On January 8-10, 2010 the top 12 finalists will spend three days on their riding, horsemanship and stable management skills. The 12 riders selected to participate will be announced at the end of November. Auditors are welcome at $75 per day.

Host Facility: Maplewood Stables
Location: Reno, Nevada
Main Clinician: Peter Wylde
Veterinarian Seminar/Asst Stable Mgr: Dr. Midge Leitch
Horsemanship Seminar: Mindy Bower
Course Designer: Chrystine Tauber
Judge: Melanie Smith Taylor
Host Hotel: Peppermill Resort

EAP Level 2 clinician Bernie Traurig had some encouraging words to share. “I was extremely impressed with the level of riding. There were eighteen kids there, some who showed a high level of talent. I think that directly reflects on the quality of our west coast trainers. They are doing their job– these kids are getting a high level of training.”

For more EAP information, visit: www.ushja.org.

E-news Announcement

Our last e-news had tremendous response – thank you! Unfortunately, the email list server went down for several hours so for anyone that got an error when trying to view it, here is the enews link again

 

Showcasing Young Talent: Ashlee Bond

By Jackie McFarland

Ashlee Bond: Riding the Wave
 I recently had a chance to interview the invincible Ashlee Bond. Last week in the $40,000 Summer Classic Grand Prix she was first, fourth and seventh on her three entries in a class of 56 horses. She has taken the show jumping world by storm and continues to ride that winning wave. Ashlee has had an uncanny raw talent since she was a little girl on ponies, winning from the moment she stepped into the show arena. She didn’t know nor understand her ability – when her father, Steve, asked her if she realized what she had done when she was champion at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show at age 11, she commented, “No, not really, but I sure had fun.”

Like many young girls, Ashlee has Olympic dreams. Also a southern California girl originally, the young Meredith Michaels Beerbaum would state that she was going to be the number one rider in the world. These aspirations mixed with years of work, an intense competitive edge and the right horse equal to gold medals, World Cup victories, European Championships and more. This is not luck. The lucky part is that this phenomenal horse, Cadett 7, and rider have found each other. Like Meredith and Shutterfly, these two flow together so flawlessly it’s poetry in motion.

EqSol: Where to start… Does it feel like a dream or a path? 
AB: It feels like a little bit like both – it’s always been a dream to get to the top, it also feels like it’s meant to be. I think it’s cool to have proven that this is where I belong, that I am on the right track.

EqSol: Remember when we interviewed you just two years back when you were one-two here at Blenheim on Southern Girl & Tommy Gun… 
AB: That was when I had just come back from taking some time off – getting my feet wet again. It was a good start. The win helped build my confidence and boosted the rest of my career. I knew I still had a lot of work to do and I needed a legitimate 1.60m horse.

EqSol: Those two mounts were homebred. Any plans to continue with the breeding program? 
AB: Yes! It’s a great partnership between my dad and me when we work with the babies. He breaks them and I train them over fences. We have a seven-year-old Super Girl [Best of Luck x Surfer Girl] that we bred. She did the futures at HITS and was fourth in 1.35m this week. She’ll go to Spruce Masters with us. I think she has a big future. I have high hopes for her. We also have two four-year-olds, Good Girl [Good Times x Super Girl] and Moondoggie [Lord Continuet x Southern Girl] and two Indoctro babeis now three-year-olds, Isabella and Gidget. They all show great natural talent and will come along end of this year, beginning of next.

EqSol: Tell us about buying Cadett – when you first tried him did he feel like ‘the one’? 
AB: Ilan Ferder found him in Europe for Aurora Griffin from top Swedish rider Lotta Schultz. The moment we saw Cadett in the Meredith Michaels Beerbaum clinic in Thermal almost two years ago my dad and I both saw something in him. We told Ilan to please let us know if he was ever for sale. Then it all just magically worked out. Aurora only had him for seven months when we tried him in June of 2008 – right before we were leaving for Spruce – I rode him once and it was a perfect fit. I competed on him the last two weeks and on the final day of the second week I won the $75,000 Sunlife Financial Grand Prix.

We realized that he needed conditioning so once we were home we put him on the treadmill every day. He also had to learn to trust me – he’s a careful horse. You never know if a horse will step up, but every time we went in the ring our partnership kept growing and growing – beginning in Thermal this year and in Europe it exploded. I couldn’t have imagined we were going to achieve anything close to what we accomplished. It was amazing.

EqSol: Starting with your indoor season ending in Vegas at the World Cup Finals – give us your thoughts on your rides, the courses etc. 
AB: At the World Cup I made an error in each round that caused me a rail. I was close each day – but not as good as I would have liked. Thermal prepared us well. But it was huge. Anthony D’Ambrosio was spectacular and did an amazing job. It was an eye opener to what was to come in Europe.

EqSol: Your thoughts when you walk those big European courses… 
AB: At first in Europe I was the alternate for the team, so I had to prove myself. When I walked the 1.50m speed class, the qualifier for the Grand Prix, I knew I had a shot. I thought ‘this is my opportunity to show them I belong here.’ And I did it! I was the only American to place that day (7th). And then George decided to put me on the team. We walked the Nations Cup and I was pretty calm. I still felt like I needed to put the pressure on and prove myself. I was clean in the Nations Cup, both rounds. Actually I was clean in each Nations Cup – La Baule, Rome and St. Gallen. My dad said the FEI claimed that had never been done – fault free six consecutive times. It’s been quite a summer! I have an amazing support team. I am very close to my family. My parents are incredibly supportive through thick and thin. My dad is an integral part to our program. Richard (Spooner) and I work great together – he knows my horse and me. Plus I know myself, and I am confident in us as a team. I don’t over-analyze the courses – I don’t change my ride because of where I am and what level we are competing at. So each course I stay true to who I am and my instincts.

EqSol: And those Super League shows you attended in Europe?
AB: We jumped on a lot of beautiful big grass fields. These are the top shows with the top players – everything is done to perfection. The athletes are treated like stars. Simply wonderful shows from the atmosphere – the vibe – the crowds – signing autographs –thousands of people screaming your name. All of Europe was amazing. Rotterdam was so beautiful – we were in a forest and Aachen – what can I say? It was Aachen, first class all the way.

EqSol: The most valuable lessons you’ve learned in the last two years? 
AB: To not take anything for granted. To appreciate where you are – what goes up can come down, so enjoy every moment and learn from every mistake. Everyone knows in this sport – you can be up and down – even in the same class.

The best lessons were when I was down and out, not doing well and had to pick myself up – you learn who you are, your character that you can pull yourself together and come through. Then you appreciate the ups so much more. The same person doesn’t always win. You aim to be consistent and on any given day you never know what’s going to happen. You try to make it your day, your moment – give it your best shot.

EqSol: Fall-winter competition plans? 
AB: We are bringing some of our young horses and all the Grand Prix horses to Showpark and then we head to Spruce for the Masters, looks like Florida for the WEG trials – hopefully that will put me on the European tour again, the WEG and so on until the Olympics – end goal is the 2012 Olympics.

EqSol: Do you feel like this is destiny? 
AB: I love to sing – but it was NOT FUN to sing in front of a crowd, it was totally nerve wracking. I love to compete and when I go into the ring I’m not nervous. Actually I’m nervous and anxious the day before. When I walk in that class it’s time for me to be with my horse – the rest of the world falls away and I get strangely calm. My brother Dylan is big into surfing – he talks about being at one with the wave, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. That’s how I am in the ring. Riding the wave.

Thank you, Ashlee! We wish you continued success.

What A World

While we make our way through one of the most challenging economic times we’ve had as a nation, if not the world, there are shining stars and glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. Whether the economy is up or down, our own niche of sport horses never ceases to please and amaze us. Take a close look at this week’s stories from Carleton to Compton to World Cup.

Touted as one of the best World Cups ever, we are still talking about the once-in-a-lifetime events that occurred in Sin City at the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals. First, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum not only won for the third time in her career, but she was the leader in every round. McLain Ward tried to catch her and came quite close; he also had an extremely successful weekend, finishing second to Meredith by two seconds over four rounds and a jump off (Friday).

Next, our American top hats are off to Steffen Peters who dressaged his way to a World Cup win over some of the world’s best riders. His high scores included a 93 in the artistic category on the final night, as his horse Ravel danced to the music of his freestyle ride. Notable that Meredith was American-born, but is now a German citizen whereas Steffen was German-born and now lives and trains in nearby Escondido, CA.

Rich Fellers rode the relatively green Kilkenny Rindo to the blue in the Las Vegas Grand Prix on Saturday of World Cup week. Very pleased with the horse, Rich is currently bringing along a number of jumpers for the Boyds of Kilkenny Crest. Some of our reigning riders, including Olympic Gold Medalists Will Simpson and Anky Van Grunsvan, donned cowboy boots and chaps atop reining horses in an exhibition match – certain also to be a first. Both of course rode well and the crowd loved it.

The room was buzzing at the final press conference on Sunday, not only with the excitement of the fabulous sport all had witnessed, but at the conclusion Robert Ridland made an announcement that put the icing on the Las Vegas FEI World Cup cake. After ten years of participation, Ridland took the time to honor some of the many names that made this phenomenal event possible year after year, including John Quirk, Bob Maxey, Shawn Davis, Tim Keener and Pat Christensen, among others. He then stated that Blenheim EquiSports, with the full support of Las Vegas Events, would be making a bid to bring the FEI World Cup Finals back to Las Vegas in 2014. “This team, this event is too good to give up,” he said. In response to this announcement Sven Holmberg, FEI Vice President, replied with a smile that the 2014 bid would be “very well received.”

World Cup Photos © Tish Quirk.

Celebrating With Robert Ridland

By Jackie McFarland

Having the opportunity to speak with the Rolex FEI World Cup Manager of Show Jumping, Robert Ridland, who also happens to be the President of Blenheim EquiSports, both before and after the event was a profound experience.

First let it be said that when Robert Ridland has a job to do, whether that job involves his family, his horse business or the business of our sport, he is completely focused on the task(s) at hand. Getting his attention pre-event was next to impossible, which is commendable for those he is working for – the horses and riders coming to the World Cup. His unwavering goal is to make this event the best it can possibly be for show jumpers worldwide. When asked what he does to help horses and riders settle in once arriving in Vegas, his answer was simply “Everything!”

We did have a celebratory conversation on a day post the final West Coast World Cup qualifier in late March and pre the World Cup Final in mid-April. “This day is unprecedented,” he exclaimed. “What just happened is the most amazing demonstration of sportsmanship I’ve ever witnessed.” The happening he referred to was when both the fourth and fifth ranked World Cup West Coast League riders stepped aside to allow the sixth-ranked rider to compete in the World Cup Finals this year. Gold Medal Olympian Will Simpson (ranked 4th) and previous World Cup competitor Jill Humphrey (ranked 5th) voluntarily stepped aside to allow Rich Fellers (ranked 6th) to be the fourth rider from the West Coast. Since the FEI World Cup is not a team competition, hats off to Will and Jill for acting as team players in an instance where it is not required or even expected. “It leaves us with a good feeling,” Ridland commented.

Ridland was also excited about the West Coast riders who earned spots to compete in Las Vegas – Mandy Porter, Ashlee Bond, Richard Spooner and as mentioned Rich Fellers. Although not the top finishers this year, “Our riders made us all proud,” said Ridland. “They were well-prepared and confident.”

Regarding the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Final, the consensus from rider, attendee, press and management was overwhelmingly positive, although bittersweet, knowing the event would not return in 2011. A bit spoiled after having the World Cup Final come to the states, namely to Las Vegas, five times in the last nine years, everyone was wondering – would the World Cup return to the US? To Las Vegas? If so, when? Ridland had the answer and shared it with the press, who in turn get to spread the good word.

Once the three top riders in the world, Champion Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER), second by only two seconds and no faults McLain Ward (USA) and third by just over 4 seconds and no faults Albert Zoer (NED), had been questioned and congratulated at the press conference on Sunday, the parting comment regarding having the event return to Vegas was “this production is on par if not above any other show in the world.” At this point Sven Holmberg, FEI Vice President, stood at the podium and expressed disappointment that Las Vegas Events withdrew their bid for the 2011 and 2013 events. He then introduced Robert Ridland. After ten years of participation, Ridland took the time to honor some of the many names that made this phenomenal event possible year after year, including John Quirk, Bob Maxey, Shawn Davis, Tim Keener and Pat Christensen, among others. He then stated that Blenheim EquiSports, with the full support of Las Vegas Events, would be making a bid to bring the FEI World Cup Finals back to Las Vegas in 2014. “This team, this event is too good to give up,” he said. In response to this announcement Holmberg replied with a smile that the 2014 bid would be “very well received.”

After the amazing competition we were lucky enough to see this year – literally history in the making and potentially never to be repeated. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum wins her third World Cup Final, the second one she’s garnered in Vegas, and as she so aptly stated “I think this was a great event – it was very, very close. This was the hardest win I’ve ever had. McLain made it difficult, he left no room for error. It was also my most perfect win – winning all three days on a once in a lifetime horse doing this at age 16.”

Think positive, go ahead and mark the dates in your calendars. In just five short years, the FEI World Cup Finals will once again return to Las Vegas. Now that is reason to celebrate.

Conversations With Course Designers: Anthony D’Ambrosio

By Jackie McFarland

I had the privilege and the honor to spend time with course designer Anthony D’Ambrosio. The art and science of course design is not only well-illustrated through his work but equally as well explained by him. Beginning with the warm-ups on Wednesday, each day of competition from the course perspective is covered below.

Warm-Up Wednesday
While fifty-five horses jumped around the warm-up course on Wednesday, including FEI World Cup and Las Vegas Grand Prix competitors and their mounts, I spoke with Anthony about the warm-up choices and the upcoming World Cup courses.

“The warm-up is about getting the horses comfortable with the ring. Allowing them into the corners,” he explained, which coincides with what most of our West Coast riders said they were planning to do [see their interviews here]. “We kept it simple, no more than nine efforts at 1.30-1.35m (4’3”- 4’5”) in height with 1.40-1.45m (4’7” – 4’9”) spread. We put in a tight corner jump and one double.”

Naturally I asked him about what’s to come. He shared that all the courses were not only ready to go but he was pleased to have had the opportunity to lay out each one using 2×4’s the Friday before the event commenced. “Due to the unique shape of this arena, the chance to see how the course fits is a luxury.” Upon seeing the courses in the arena, Anthony said he did make one change, and from this point forward it will only be fine-tuning as the competition begins.

Track & Field Thursday
Walking the Table C course with Anthony D’Ambrosio on Thursday it was clear he set a course of many colors. The jumps were vibrant and the options he offered riders created a field with numerous tracks.

Jump one was a sizeable Rolex triple bar with an option six or seven bending line to fence two. Tight turn to fence three to a bending line in six to a ‘heavy’ pole jump made up of red and white poles to look like the Swiss flag in honor of Beat Mandli, the 2007 World Cup winner. Only two riders, class winner Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Steve Guerdat, took the inside turn to fence five. This turn required adding a step in the long three strides from fence five to six, riding it in four. Worked well for Meredith. “My horse is a good adder,” she noted. Another tight rollback to the double also had an option to go inside or around an island of trees. This is where Rich Fellers and Flexible, who had to go first, almost parted company. Seemed one turned faster than the other, however they quickly worked it out, made the turn, hopped the in to the double and made it out in two strides without touching a pole. Still setting a solid time to beat at 58.50, the pair ended up fourth in a class of 44 entries.

Next efforts included a natural skinny vertical with a turn to a long four-stride line to an oxer, vertical, vertical combination. The second element was the four seconds added for many riders as that came up fast resulting in a downed rail. Finishing with a line in seven or eight to the final pin-striped liverpool oxer, the widest jump on the course.

Ultimately the class winner, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum riding her partner Shutterfly, stopped the clock in 56.48. She chose the best track for her horse, which included tight turns and adding strides. “I thought it was a brilliant course,” said. “It presented a lot of options. I was surprised only one other rider (Steve Guerdat) did it the way I did.”

On the other hand, second place winner Christina Liebherr aboard LB No Mercy took all wide turns, no inside tracks and left strides out in a time of 57.47. Next fastest time also stuck to his plan, McLain Ward riding Sapphire took his own unique track around the field, coming in third at 57.73. A very interesting class indeed.

Follow Friday

When walking with Anthony on Friday evening, he said, “It’s a demanding yet fair course.” He built it with a hope of getting eight to ten clear rounds and having a great jump off.

With 14 obstacles set, interesting questions asked included fence three the triple bar, 1.90m (6’3”) wide, 1.55m (5’1”) high at the back rail. The triple combination was the eighth obstacle, vertical-vertical-oxer, with a quick turn to 1.60m (5’3”) Las Vegas vertical in a steady five or potentially a forward four strides. Fence eleven was an airy wide oxer that caught a few horses, however the two jumps providing the most difficulty were the Las Vegas vertical at nine and the plank on flat cups at 12. As the plank was the first jump in a tough four or five stride line to a double right towards the in-gate. “Number nine came up quickly after the triple combination, and rode in a short distance toward the in-gate,” explained second place finisher McLain Ward at a press conference after the award presentation. “Planks are always tough, seemed some of the riders were riding the distance in the line after the jump before clearing it.”

Mission accomplished – seventeen riders had just one rail, mostly at the jumps mentioned above. However thirteen of forty-two riders rode fault free. In an exciting jump-off, that demanded tidy turns and a long gallop to the final oxer, six went double clear.

Friday followed Thursday for Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER). She mastered Anthony D’Ambrosio’s first round course as well as the jump-off. McLain Ward (USA) came in a very close second, losing by only a second. And capturing third was Albert Zoer (NED) on Oki Doki, who was just under a second slower than McLain. Beezie Madden (USA) and Danny Boy were just tenths of a second behind Zoer for fourth and Richard Spooner (USA) aboard Cristallo was only hundredths of a second slower than Beezie for fifth. The only other double clear was Helena Lundback (SWE) on Madick picking up the sixth award.

“I had a super turn from two to three that was very fast,” Michaels-Beerbaum said of her jump-off ride. She added, “Shutterfly is a very fast horse. He’s a racehorse type.”

Ward added, “I went as fast as I could go. There wasn’t one place I could go faster. My hat is off to Meredith.”

Super Saturday
A day of rest for the World Cup horses, the Saturday course was built for the Las Vegas Grand Prix immediately followed by some of our nation’s best riders dropping britches for jeans, chaps and cowboy boots in a reining competition.

Anthony’s course proved to be challenging in both scope and timing. The large liverpool at the end of the bending line from three to four was the first real challenge on course. It was followed by a tough roll-back to the Las Vegas vertical at fence five, in a forward bending six strides to the next test, the triple combination. The wide sunburst oxer in the middle of the vertical-oxer-vertical triple proved to be the biggest challenge, nearly a third of the riders had it down. Exceeding the 84-second time allowed ended up as the only fault for two American riders, young East Coaster Michelle Spadone and West Coaster Jill Humphrey.

Five jumped clean in the first round. Truly an international line-up, young American Laura Teodori went eleventh of 21 and was first clean, followed by HRH Prince Abdullah Al-Saud from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Norwegian Geir Gulliksen, American Rich Fellers riding Kilkenny Rindo and Dutch Gerco Schroder rounded out those returning for the jump-off.

When the course was reset, it included the already difficult roll back from the liverpool to the tall Las Vegas vertical direct to the ‘B’ and ‘C’ of the triple, now a double. Only Rich and Prince Abdullah went double clean. Rich rode the inexperienced but talented Rindo beautifully for the win. The horse just began his Grand Prix career last November.

When asked at a press conference about the course, he said, “I thought it was a great course. It had a lot of variety, which makes it interesting for the crowd and challenging for the riders. Anthony is one of my favorite course designers.” As for Sunday when Fellers will be back aboard Flexible, he said, “I think it’s going to be very, very tough. Big and technical.”

Spectacular Sunday
Sunday is run in a format unique to the World Cup. Theplacings from the first two rounds are converted into World Cup penalty points to determine the overall ranking. With two rounds, the faults accumulated in the first round are added to the penalty points to determine who returns for the second round. A jump-off follows only if there is a tie after the two rounds are complete. The 22 riders with the lowest score, along with any with clean rounds who chose to ride again, moved on to the next round—which is also scored by adding faults incurred to the rider’s penalty points.

Round I
We had the added honor of walking the course with assistant to Anthony, Leopoldo Palacios, a world-renowned course designer in his own right. The jumps were taller and wider than previous days and the questions asked a touch more technical. Both rounds had twelve obstacles, including challenging triple and a double combinations configured differently in each course. The second effort in Round One was a triple bar at a width of 2.0m (6’7”). The last jump in Round One was a 1.62m (5’4”) tall vertical plank on flat cups. Twelve of 29 went clean in this round, eleven had four faults and five dropped two rails. Unfortunately two of those five eight-faulters were Richard Spooner and Rich Fellers.

Round II
It started off immediately with a line from a vertical at one with a flowing six strides to an oxer at two. Around the corner to a skinny vertical at three that was the first jump in a bending line of five strides to a big and wide (1.60m – 5’3”) vertical-oxer double combination. The super wide triple bar from Round One was moved to a new location as fence five in a blind turn bending line to a liverpool vertical standing at 1.60m (5’3”). The seventh element, the Rolex triple combination built with two big oxers and a vertical, took its toll as a multitude rails were dropped while negotiating the challenge, however no rest after this test as the big wall at eight came up quickly in a bending six. The last large oxer seemed to come up long off the corner and even more rails came down there then in the triple. This course caused three riders to withdraw, and challenged American riders Christine McCrea, Hillary Dobbs and Rich Fellers who ended up with 19, 20 and 22 faults respectively. Mandy Porter and Beezie Madden both had twelve and Richard Spooner finished with eight faults, along with the awesome Marcus Ehning. Six of the 23 rides jumped without a fault, including Steve Guerdat (SUI), Ben Maher (GBR), Ludger Beerbaum (GER), Christina Liebherr (SUI), Albert Zoer (NED), McLain Ward (USA) and of course Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) who kept her perfect score of zero penalty points for the win.

Results Reflect Design
The tremendously close results of the top three riders, all jumping each round clean with only time separating their scores, speaks highly for the course designer. This competition is about testing the best riders abilities over multiple days asking a variety of difficult questions including timing, scope, rideability, accuracy and precision. Doug Meine, Executive Vice President of Rolex, expressed it from the sponsor perspective, which speaks for the event overall “FEI and Rolex share a passion for precision and excellence.” Anthony D’Ambrosio, our 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Final course architect, designed for just that – passionate perfection.

2009 World Cup Wrap-up With LEG Up News

EquestriSol and LEG Up News put their collective heads together and covered the World Cup events each day. A daily e-release was distributed to the LEG Up News list. Below is a recap of the coverage: scroll to read or click the following links to jump to a specific day’s event.

THURSDAY: SHOW JUMPING

The air sizzled with excitement and rock music as the first rider entered the arena, Rich Fellers of USA with Flexible, an Irish Sport Horse stallion (Harry & Mollie Chapman, owners). Knowing he had to go for broke to set a time that would be hard for the 43 other riders to beat, Fellers made tight turns, took the inside turn option between jump six and the double combination, and wasted no time. With a huge effort over the Las Vegas vertical and opting for the tight turn back to 7a and 7b, Fellers almost fell off, but he quickly re-grouped and never broke Flexible’s stride. They jumped a clean round with a time of 58.50, setting a very tough standard for the rest of the field. He showed that the Americans were there to compete.

Fellers only kept his lead for four rides, when he was unseated by Swiss rider Christina Liebherr and the Dutch Warmblood gelding L.B. No Mercy (Hans Liebherr, owner). The pair jumped a clean and fast round, choosing to take the outside turns quickly and ending with a time of 57.47. Liebherr noted that her horse normally jumps better outside in a big arena, but “he was really rideable tonight.”

Liebherr was followed by many riders who each took the course in their own way, some of which chose to take the risky inside turns with varying degrees of success. She held her number one position despite McLain Ward’s effort that included a particularly difficult inside turn before the number 11 jump. Ward and the Belgian Warmblood mare Sapphire (McLain Ward, Tom Grossman’s Blue Chip Bloodstock, owners) finished with a time of 57.73, just behind Liebherr.

With only six riders remaining, it was not until Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the number one rider in the world and a two-time World Cup Champion, trotted into the arena on Shutterfly (Octavia Farms LLC, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, owners) that Liebherr’s reign ended. Michaels-Beerbaum, a former Californian who is now a German citizen, jumped a fantastic round, taking many of the inside tracks with seeming ease and leaving the rails untouched to end with a time of 56.48 and first place. She proved untouchable.

Both Ward and Fellers are easily in striking distance of the lead as they sit third and fourth, and this is a long competition. Friday night they face a challenging test. American riders showed their depth with very strong performances by up and coming stars Hillary Dobbs, Ashlee Bond, and Michelle Spadone. Richard Spooner was on a winning pace with Ace, but a rail in the triple and another after a very tight roll back to fence 11 dropped the pair down in the standings. However, clear rounds count and Spooner is more than capable.

 

THURSDAY: DRESSAGE

Competition kicked into high gear today, with the opening ceremonies and Grand Prix Dressage competition. Fourteen horses entered the court to vie for their share of $100,000 in prize money.

Once the show got under way, it had a shaky beginning, especially for the Americans. First Jan Eberling had a rocky ride on Rafalca, who seemed concerned about something in the corner between C and H. Eberling persevered and finished the ride, earning a 53.995 despite the foibles. However, he did not qualify to participate in the Freestyle on Saturday.

Next, Leslie Morse and Kingston began their test, but something was obviously wrong when their extended trot was severely lacking. The judge at C rang the bell when Morse reached H and excused her from the arena. Morse dismounted and led Kingston out of the arena to tumultuous applause. “I could tell in the first corner, he felt unbalanced and I knew he wasn’t right,” Morse was reported to say in a press release from the event. “We respect the Ground Jury’s decision to ring the bell and we all agreed it was absolutely in the best interest of the horse, which is always the most important consideration.”

Isabell Werth, who was the winner here two years ago, put in a beautiful ride for third place and with Satchmo, earning several 9s through the test and a 10 on the half pass, with a final score of 73.745. Nine-time World Cup Champion Anky Van Grunsven and IPS Painted Black followed Werth, putting on a strong performance with several 9s throughout and a 10 on the extended trot. She ended with a respectable 74.170. This was IPS Painted Black’s first World Cup. “I’m really happy,” she said. “It was his best Grand Prix of the season.”

Werth and Van Grunsven are tough acts to follow, but when Steffen Peters and Ravel entered the arena, it was clear they were ready. After numerous 8s and 9s, including the piaffe, Peters’ score continued to rise. During his last piaffe, the crowd began to murmur, and the excitement in the air was palpable. The audience was on the edge of their seats, watching as the collective scores flashed up on the screen. Peters’ score of 77.915, unanimous first with all judges, made him the clear winner. Everyone in the crowd was on their feet as Peters waved to them, grinning from ear to ear.

At the press conference after the awards presentation Peters’ emotion was obvious. “I was beside myself. I couldn’t believe it. I had to keep looking at the score to make sure.” Peters said he would follow the advice Van Grunsven gave him in Florida, which is to keep the same routine when preparing for the Freestyle and not to change anything even though he is in the lead.

The last time the FEI World Cup Dressage was won by a rider from the USA was in 2003, when Debbie McDonald took it with Brentina.

 

FRIDAY: SHOW JUMPING

This class was run in a traditional jump-off format, and course designer Anthony D’Ambrosio posed some challenges for the riders. The jumps were bigger and required even more scope than the speed round. The time allowed was not a significant factor, but in the small arena there isn’t much option for veering off the track and slowing down too much. Of the 42 starters, 13 negotiated clear rounds.

It was not until the 11th ride, Keean White of Canada with Celena Z, that we saw the first clear round, followed immediately by another one from Helena Lundback of Sweden on Madick. Of the 13 riders who went clear and moved on to the jump-off, five were from the US: Richard Spooner on Cristallo, Beezie Madden on Danny Boy, Hillary Dobbs on Quincy B, Rich Fellers on Flexible, and McLain Ward on Sapphire. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum on Shutterfly, last night’s winner, was last to go and also went clear, as did Christina Liebherr, who was second last night.

After the final ride in the first round, the ring crew quickly prepared for what was bound to be an exciting jump-off. There were ample opportunities to cut corners and make up time, which some of them put to full advantage.

First up in the jump-off was White, who dropped a rail on the second jump and finished in 40.83. He was followed by Lundback, who jumped a clear round in 37.20. She was only at the top of the leader board for a moment before being knocked down first by Spooner with 34.87, then Madden with 34.83. Dobbs, Forsten, and Pessoa all dropped a rail apiece, so Madden was still leading until Albert Zoer of Netherlands, who was sixth last night, jumped a clear round in 34.72.

Excitement was high when last night’s fifth place finisher, Thomas Velin, entered the arena on Grim St. Clair, but he knocked down nearly the whole fence at five and put himself out of the running. The crowd went wild when favorite Fellers, last year’s second place finisher and fourth last night, entered the arena. He took the course at a breakneck pace, but he had a rail at fence three and this, combined with his fast time of 34.42, put him in eighth place.

Ward was next up, and the stadium filled with applause once again. He and Sapphire put on a brilliant performance, taking some very tight turns to save valuable time, and finished in a seemingly impossible 33.77 with no faults, sending himself to the top of the leader board and leaving Zoer in second and Madden in third. They stayed there when Liebherr had a refusal at jump two, dropped a rail at six and had two time faults, leaving her with a disappointing 13th place finish.

Finally, Michaels-Beerbaum nearly brought down the house when she rode in on Shutterfly, and the crowed eagerly waited to see if she would repeat last night’s performance and take home yet another Rolex watch. She delivered, neatly taking the tightest possible turns and finishing a full second ahead of Ward and claiming the leader’s spot.

The other two West Coast riders, Mandy Porter (San Diego) and Ashlee Bond (Cadett 7) each caught a single rail in the first round. Although they are not in contention for a top prize, they both qualified for Sunday’s final competition. There is no doubt that Ward is nipping at Michaels-Beerbaum’s heels, but Michaels-Beerbaum is an experienced international competitor having made her mark in Germany, the bastion of show jumping. Ranked first in the world, this California born and now German resident will cooly work to defend her title. Both Ward and Fellers are within grasp of the title and they will keep the pressure on. Stay tuned because in show jumping anything can happen!

 

FRIDAY: DRESSAGE

The second day of dressage competition at the FEI World Cup Finals was a bit more relaxed than the previous day, with only exhibition competitions and one very special presentation on the schedule. There was a whole lot of fun, a few tears, and a great day of dressage for all. You didn’t have to be an aficionado to enjoy today’s showcase.

The Hermes and Der Dau Pas de Deux Challenge included three Olympic riders teamed up with their students or peers for three fun and exciting routines. Eschewing the traditional black-and-whites for coordinating costumes complete with bling, each pair of riders performed a Grand Prix Musical Freestyle that added the challenge of staying in sync with each other to the already difficult movements. The exhibition was run like “Dancing with the Stars,” with scores from judges Wojtek Markowski (the show’s Foreign Technical Deligate) and Linda Zang, and audience participation combined to determine the winners.

Last to enter the arena for the Pas de Deaux exhibition was Guenter Seidel on Fandango and Elizabeth Ball on Orion. Dressed as The Phantom of the Opera and Christine Daaé, they were already a cut above the other teams before they even started their performance. However, they soon proved they were not all clothes and no substance, because every movement was not only beautifully ridden, but about as perfectly in sync as you can expect two horses to be.

“Your spirit and my voice…in one, combined,” lyrics from one of the Phantom songs used in their routine is the perfect description of a dressage horse and rider, and this pair in particular. The routine culminated in the two riders side by side in a passage up centerline, holding hands with a rose between them. The crowd was on their feet at the final bow, and it was clear who the winner would be. The judges were equally impressed, awarding an 11 (out of 10) from Markowski and a 10 from Zang.

Next on the agenda was the International Superstar Young Horse Exhibition, during which judge Zang explained the Young Horse program. Four Young horses were brought into the arena: Zidane with yesterday’s champion Steffen Peters, Wynton with Edward Gal, Valeska DG with Willy Arts and Big Tyme with Marisa Festerling.

Finally, it was time for Brentina’s retirement ceremony. Her owners, Parry and Peggy Thomas, were brought into the darkened arena under a spotlight and presented with roses and a plaque thanking them for their contributions to the sport. Emotions were high as a retrospective of Brentina’s career played on the JumboTron, and then the crowd rose to their feet as the mare of the hour entered the arena with Debbie MacDonald astride.

MacDonald covered her face several times, clearly unable to contain her emotions as she and Brentina walked around the arena while the announcer read the words she wrote, words written in Brentina’s voice, saying good-bye and thank you to all of her fans. MacDonald rode into the center and dismounted, and tears flowed freely in all corners when the saddle was removed from Brentina’s back. Several presentations were made, including a sash, roses and a cooler, then MacDonald led her faithful partner out of the arena to tumultuous applause accompanied by Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT. It was a fitting end to the career of this most celebrated of horses, one that will not be forgotten…and nor will she.

SATURDAY: SHOW JUMPING

Over 7,000 spectators were in attendance to watch the show, beginning with the Las Vegas Grand Prix, a separate competition on the off day for the horses and riders competing in the World Cup Final. Twenty-one riders faced the course, including several World Cup riders who rode a second horse or decided to opt out of tomorrow’s leg of the Final.

It wasn’t until the seventh ride, USA’s Michelle Spadone and Melisimo, that we saw the fences stay intact—but her time of 85.08 gave her a time fault and left her out of the jump-off. Two rides later, the youngest rider in the competition was the first to enter the jump-off. Nineteen-year-old Laura Teodori of Scottsdale piloted Kasoar D’Uxelles around the course clean and within time. Sacramento, California resident Jill Humphrey nearly joined her with Kaskaya, but finishing in 85.28—she joined Spadone with just a single time fault.

Four more riders managed to jump around fault-free within the time allowed: HRH Prince Abdullah Al-Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aboard Mobily Ashkur Allah Obelix (36th last night), Geir Gulliksen of Norway on Sundal Colliers Cattani (30th last night), USA’s Rich Fellers with his second horse, Kilkenny Rindo, and Gerco Schroder of Netherlands on Eurocommerce Seattle.

Teodori was first to make a jump-off attempt, but dropping two rails left room for others to go clean. Prince Abdullah Al-Saud was next, putting in a clear round at 38.61. Gulliksen had trouble in the same exact spots as Teodori, knocking down nearly the whole fence at three.

Fellers entered the arena to a roar of applause and cheers, ready to challenge Prince Abdullah Al-Saud. He rode a breathtaking round, cutting corners and taking the fences at daring angles. The energy from the audience increased with each effort. Every rail was in place when he crossed the timers in 36.83, an impressive 1.78 seconds ahead of the previous leader.

Schroder made a valiant effort to catch up. His fate was sealed, however, when he dropped a rail at the second fence, and his best shot was to go for third place. He managed it, ending in 37.53.

In a press conference following the events, Las Vegas Grand Prix winner Fellers commented that Kilkenny Rindo just started jumping at this level in November of 2008. A solid win for owners Sheryl and Doug Boyd, the Kilkenny Crest show horses, of which there are many, are in good hands with Fellers. And Kilkenny Rindo is on his way to an excellent Grand Prix career.

 

SATURDAY: REINING

After the awards were presented to the jumpers, the arena was cleared for the International Reining Celebrity Challenge, which allowed some riders to ditch their breeches and helmets for jeans and cowboy hats, and to show that a good horseman is a good horseman. Two teams were assembled: Rodrigo Pessoa, Anky Van Grunsvan, and NRHA World Champion Ann Fonck for the International team, and Will Simpson, Charlotte Bredahl-Baker and NRHA World Champion Rick Weaver for the USA team. AQHA was present to oversee the event.

Pessoa started the competition with a respectable but careful ride, scoring 118.5 from the judges. Simpson came next, delighting the audience with some good spins, transitions from the gallop to the slow circle, and then the hallmark of the reining horse, the run to sliding stop. He earned an impressive 144.5 for his effort.

Van Grunsven was next. She put on a good show, the crowd loved it, and received a score of 141.5. Bredahl-Baker’s horse got a little jittery and only earned 125—good enough to keep the US team in the lead.

When it was Fonck’s turn, she took all the riders to school. The audience was treated to some fantastic, world-class reining during her run and got a good laugh when she stopped one of her spins facing the wrong direction. It did not affect her score too much, she was given a 147, bringing the International team’s total to 407.

Weaver was the last to enter the pen, egging the audience on all the way through a stellar performance. Although his score fell just below Fonck’s—and Simpson’s—at 144, it was enough to seal the victory for the US Team.

At the press conference later in the afternoon, both Bredahl-Baker and Simpson said they enjoyed the change in costume and had a great time.

“The response these reining horses have is incredible,” said Simpson.

Bredahl-Baker added, “This was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I’m a little bit hooked.”

Weaver and Fonck both seemed to enjoy the experience as well. “The quality of horse and horsemen here is something I’ll take away. They did an outstanding job.”

 

SATURDAY: DRESSAGE FINAL DAY

Excitement was high tonight for the Musical Freestyle leg of the FEI World Cup Dressage competition. The World Cup title was on the line, and it was

a close race between the 2007 winner Isabell Werth of Germany, last year’s winner and nine-time champion Anky van Grunsven of Netherlands, and Thursday’s winner Steffen Peters of the United States. As the scores rolled in it became clear that for the first time in 23 years, an American won the World Cup on American soil.

The competition began to really heat up after the break, when first Monica Theodorescu of Germany and Whisper took the lead with 76.85, then Hans Peter Minderhoud of Netherlands and Exquis Nadine with a score of 81.05. Minderhoud was immediately bumped from the lead position by Werth and Satchmo (third place on Thursday), who scored 84.5 for her beautifully choreographed and ridden freestyle—including an artistic score of 92.

When the moment came for Peters and Ravel to perform, the air in the arena was electric. From the moment they trotted into the arena, it was clear he was there to win. His extensions were beautiful, his half passes were elastic, and his piaffe and passage were strong, as well as throughout these movements, the horse truly danced to the music. The audience loved every second of his performance.

The crowd was on their feet at the final halt, rising again and again every time he passed as he walked around the ring, waiting for his scores. His overall score of 84.950 shot him to the top of the leader board. His artistic score of 93 showed that this was exactly how a musical freestyle should be ridden.

There was great tension in the room when “The Queen of the Kur” van Grunsven rode in on IPS Painted Black. Nearly every beat of the music was perfectly timed to the stallion’s footfalls. However, they made a mistake in the two-tempis and their overall level of difficulty and execution did not meet the standard that had been set by the two previous riders. Her score of 82.25 was only good enough for third place.

Peters’ accomplishment is particularly impressive given that he has only been riding Ravel for 14 months. “He has a great mind,” Peters said at a press conference after the award ceremony. “I’m one of the really lucky guys in the world who gets to ride a horse like that.”

Of the win, Peters said, “It’s just an incredible feeling.” Showing off his second Rolex watch of the week, he said, “This is incredible support from the sponsors, Rolex. We really appreciate it.”

Van Grunsven appeared genuinely happy for Peters and with her performance on IPS Painted Black. “I was really happy. It was his first big competition like this. He did well.”

After the freestyle performances were over, Jan Brink and Bjorsells Briar were invited back into the arena to say their final good-bye to International competition, as Briar is retiring at the age of 18. And thus ended another year of fantastic FEI World Cup Dressage, with many fond memories for dressage fans to take home.

SUNDAY: SHOW JUMPING FINAL DAY

The 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals concluded with two thrilling rounds of jumping competition. Twenty-nine horses entered this third leg of the Final, which started on Thursday. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum remained at the top of the leader board after her victories on Thursday and Friday, but McLain Ward was hot on her heels.

This round of the competition is run in a format unique to the World Cup. The placings from the first two rounds were converted into World Cup penalty points to determine the overall ranking. Then, the riders rode the first round of the day, in which their faults were added to their World Cup points. The 22 riders with the lowest score, along with any with clean rounds who chose to ride again, moved on to the next round—which was scored the same way.

Course Designer Anthony D’Ambrosio continued to increase the difficulty each round. Both legs of Sunday’s competition had 12 efforts, as high as 1.62m (5’3”) and as wide as 1.85m (6’).

Despite the questions asked on course, however, there were 11 clear rounds, including three riders from the United States: Todd Minikus with Pavarotti, Beezie Madden with Danny Boy, and McLain Ward with Sapphire. Twenty-three riders moved on to the second round, led by Michaels-Beerbaum with zero points, Ward with two, and Albert Zoer close behind with four. With the top three so close together, just one time fault or rail dropped could significantly change the standings.

For the second round, D’Ambrosio increased the technical and physical aspects up a notch, including several tests of scope for these horses and riders—who had already jumped a challenging course just a short time before. The biggest problem spot was the final oxer. At 1.85m wide, nine of the twenty-three riders did not get quite high enough to clear the width.

The first to go clean was Steve Guerdat of Switzerland with Tresor. He finished with 19 World Cup points for the 2009 competition, which put him in eighth place. Last year’s second place winner and crowd favorite Rich Fellers had a difficult day with enough faults to drop him in the rankings and out of contention for the title.

The cheers were loud for Rodrigo Pessoa, who having jumped clear in the first round today improved his ranking from seventh to fifth place going into the second round. Almost clean, he had a rail on the last jump and finished fifth overall.

Christina Liebherr and L.B. No Mercy, fabulous and second on Thursday but encountering some problems on Friday and placing 13th, was in fifth place overall going into the first round today. Illustrating that her Friday performance was not to be repeated, the pair jumped two clear rounds, moving up to fourth place.

Albert Zoer and Oki Doki put in yet another clear round and stayed in third. With only four penalty points, he was still in reach of the title if Ward and Michaels-Beerbaum riding after him had any faults.

The arena filled with thunderous applause for Ward, who with only two penalty points had a chance to take the title away from Michaels-Beerbaum. To the crowd’s delight, Ward and Sapphire had a flawless round, maintaining his second place rank and continuing to nip at Meredith’s heels.

All that was left was to see was if Michaels-Beerbaum would continue her streak of clear rounds. Just one rail would push her down to a tie with Zoer, but the pressure did not seem to affect her. She rode yet another cool and perfect round, leaving every rail in place and clinching the title for herself and Shutterfly. This win makes for the third World Cup title for this dynamic duo.

“I think this was absolutely a great event,” said Michaels-Beerbaum at a press conference after the awards ceremony. “The best horses and riders were here.” She also said, “I think this was my most perfect win, winning all three rounds, but it was also the hardest win ever. McLain made it difficult for me, there was no room for error.” She added that it was a good come-back after her just missed bronze medal experience in Hong Kong.

As for Ward, he said, “We came up two seconds short. It’s a fine line in sports but that’s what it is all about. I’m very proud of what my horse did this week. I’m proud of my team.”

Michaels-Beerbaum took home a grand total for the week of over $230,000 and three Rolex watches. For second place, Ward earned a grand total of over $158,000, and Zoer a grand total of over $98,000.

In 2010, the show jumping event will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, the home of Rolex, and in ‘S Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, for dressage.

 

Conversations With Equestrians: Joie Gatlin

Joie Gatlin just returned from spending over a month in Europe competing at some of the most prestigious horse shows in the world. We were able to spend a little while talking about her travels and experiences this summer. Her excitement and passion for the time spent in Europe is definitely worth sharing.

Tammy Chipko: What made you decide to do this tour?
Joie Gatlin: I planned it at the beginning of the year, thinking the trip would be a great experience for my horses as well as for me. I knew it would raise the bar, so to speak, for me. When you are there you are warming up with and competing against the best in the world, it certainly raises your expectations of your own riding ability. The caliber of riders that I was able to watch, and listen to, also made for an incredible experience – John Whitaker, Ludger Beerbaum to name just two I rode around with.

TC: How did your tour start?
JG: We left from Calgary and flew to Luxembourg. We then stayed at a farm in Belgium for a few days where I could ride prior to driving to Italy. The first competition was a CSI 5* in San Patrignano, Italy, ranked the biggest and most difficult of all the competitions in Europe.

TC: How were you accepted there?
JG: Everyone was incredibly friendly. The camaraderie was amazing! All the riders are competing against one another and they 100% are there to win but they still will help each other out as much as possible. I felt welcomed and respected.

TC: How did you do in Italy?
JG: I was the first to go clear and the crowd was fantastic. The stands were packed and everyone was so excited. I will never forget that moment. I ended up 9th overall. It was such a thrill to be standing in the winners circle with Christian Ahlmann, Markus Ehning, Markus Beerbaum and Meredith Michaels Beerbaum. I was so proud of Suncal’s King and so happy with our results.

TC: How did the tour continue?
JG: The second horse show was in Switzerland at a place called Ascona. Like many of the European shows, Ascona had beautiful rings, VIP tents, barns, etc. The Grand Prix was really tough competition with over 50 of the best ready to win. History repeated itself – I was the first clear round, and the crowd – you wouldn’t believe it! They were incredible. It was so exciting. I ended up 9th again and was elated.

We had a week off at this point and took the opportunity to do some sightseeing which was breathtaking. We also looked at some nice sale horses in different areas.

We then went to Jon Tops Week I Horse Show called “Valkenswaard,” another great show with again some of the top riders in the world there to compete. My young horse Twindoline was 2nd and 3rd in the young horse classes, very exciting. The Europeans really put a lot of effort into the young horse classes and strongly believe in this pattern of development. It was great to finish so well. And just as exciting was my 12th place finish in the Grand Prix. This is a beautiful show that anyone who has an interest in competing in Europe should attend.

TC: Congratulations on your success! Would you recommend that others (including Juniors or Amateurs) compete in Europe?
JG: Absolutely, it is a great opportunity. When you get a chance to watch, ride and compete with the best in the world it can only make you better. Your expectations are higher, your goals are higher, and your standards are higher. If you have the opportunity to take a horse and show at a few nice shows it can only improve your riding. Europe has so many beautiful places to see and wonderful people to meet. I would absolutely recommend it to any serious show jumper.

TC: Well, you must have a lot of catching up to do at home?
JG: I am very fortunate to have my husband Morley Abey as a partner. He really took care of everything this summer so I could have this opportunity. Not only did we have great tours in both Spruce Meadows and Europe, but Morley kept everyone at home happy and showing here. Thank you, Morley!