April 2, 2016 - On the final day of competition at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) for the 2016 season, Ashley Holzer (CAN) and Breaking Dawn returned to CDI competition and clinched victory in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 3*, presented by Harmony Sporthorses to conclude an incredibly successful circuit.
Holzer and Breaking Dawn received a 75.600%, while Shelly Francis (USA) and Danilo finished in second place, earning a 74.825%. Fellow American Katherine Bateson-Chandler and Alcazar collected third with 70.050%.
Breaking Dawn and owner P.J. Rizvi have been competing in the international arena together this season, but when an opportunity arises to compete the 2001 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Akribori x Eveline), Holzer does not turn it down. The pair, who competed together at the 2012 London Olympic Games, had a flawless effort in their freestyle routine, which will be Rizvi's new music for Breaking Dawn this season.
"It's a privilege to ride such a great horse. It was really fun. I'm a very lucky person. P.J. is a very dear friend of mine," said Holzer. "I think we have such a great community when riders trust another rider to compete their horse. I asked her if I could ride her new music just so I could see how the music works, and she said she didn't expect anything less. It's a nice feeling to go into the ring with so much support, but also that little bit of added pressure."
Holzer mentioned the performances of last night in the Stillpoint Farm FEI Nations' Cup CDIO 3* Grand Prix Freestyle competition, where two American riders, Laura Graves and Kasey Perry-Glass, earned scores above 80%.
"Last night, to watch the dressage and to see so many great rides, was just incredible, to see winners win not because other people made mistakes, but because they happened to be just that little bit better. Everybody laid down such a great performance last night, and it was amazing," continued Holzer. "It was special to see dressage come to that pinnacle in Florida, and it was just beautiful. It was a great finale for the season."
As for riding to a freestyle routine she herself has never ridden in competition, Holzer brushed it off like a veteran. As the trainer for Breaking Dawn's owner Rizvi, Holzer was a part of the entire selection process and felt that music suited the horse perfectly in the ring.
"We have practiced it at home with P.J. riding. I had the visual of P.J. riding through it and it was fun. I wasn't sure at the end though, if I was ahead of my music or behind it, which worked out great cause the music stopped right when I was at the end of the arena," she laughed.
Francis and Danilo have steadily moved up the ranks in Large Tour competition with their freestyle greatly improving throughout the duration of the season. Danilo, who is sensitive to noise, specifically the sound of bass, has become more comfortable in larger atmospheres, which Francis noted may mean a change of music choice coming soon.
"I think this was the first time that I rode with the music pretty well. I made a mistake in it myself, but nobody could actually tell because of where I was in the freestyle. I've realized that I'm changing the way I'm asking for things in the ring, like the piaffe, and I'm not doing it the same way that I do it at home," she explained. "I think I get a little panicky and tight and then I chase him, and he doesn't understand. He went better and better as the test went.
"I started off with the a cappella music because I was unsure of what his reaction would be to louder music. I think I may get in there and change it up a little bit now that he's better because it does get a little monotonous and sometimes I even forget where I'm going," smiled Francis. "We're going to see if we can jazz it up before Europe."
Katherine Bateson-Chandler and Alcazar travel to AGDF from their home base in Europe, where they train with British Olympic gold medalist Carl Hester during the year. Bateson-Chandler said she felt both the ups and downs of the sport during their time in the United States this season.
"I felt good about the routine. I was really on with my music and normally I'm a little off here and a little off there. I sort of by chance ended up doing my freestyle a lot more than I was planning on at the beginning of the season for different reasons, so now I feel like he's a good freestyle horse," she said. "It gives me a little bit of confidence with his temperament now."
"This show has been interesting for us. This was our highest Grand Prix yet, after coming off of our worst Grand Prix two weeks before that. You know, this sport is tough like that. It can really knock your confidence and you can have highs and lows, but I have to say the biggest thing this season that differentiates it is the camaraderie. Everybody really feels like they're really feeling for you whether it goes good or bad. I felt that more than ever before this season," she continued.
Holzer and Francis both chimed in as soon as Bateson-Chandler finished, agreeing that this season at AGDF has been a unifying circuit for dressage riders from around the world, nodding in unison as Bateson-Chandler continued.
"We have amazing relationships, and I think that speaks volumes to the direction of this sport," expressed Bateson-Chandler.
In an ode to the final class of the 2016 season, each rider commented on their appreciation and gratitude for the home dressage has found at AGDF and its ability to give riders and horses the experience they need to succeed at the top levels of the sport.
"This facility allows us to clock miles on incredible footing, without shipping our horses each week. It takes a lot of the stress out of competing and allows us to put the miles we need to put on them in a safe environment and ultimately be competitive in the world. I think it's a great facility, and we're very lucky," finished Holzer.
Allison Brock and Rosevelt Achieve Personal Best in FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 3* presented by Harmony Sporthorses
In an outstanding effort from U.S. riders this week at AGDF, Allison Brock (USA) and Rosevelt received a personal best for their performance in the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 3*, presented by Harmony Sporthorses, scoring a 74.333% for the win. Lars Petersen (DEN) and Mariett followed in second with a 70.529%, while Lisa Wilcox (USA) and Galant earned third with a 70.451%.
Brock and Rosevelt have received high praise over the past month for their newfound consistency and attention to accuracy in the arena, earning them scores well over 73% for the first time in their partnership together.
Noting that the previously used choreography is now being altered, Brock felt it was better for the duo to contest the Grand Prix Special today instead of trying to rush their return to the Grand Prix Freestyle.
"Because I had complications in the CDI 5* Special after we rode the freestyle choreography we created for him, we decided to change the canter tour and it's not done yet," said Brock. "The pattern is written, but I have to film it next week and get it ready for Europe.
"I just wanted to go in there, and in some ways for myself, so that I was confident that I could go in and hit it and be clean again. I didn't want last week to be a once off, and he was very good today," she continued.
"I was really careful in the warm-up today, not to over do and I really just touched a few things to make sure he was reacting well and then not burn him out. I felt like I took a lot more horse in the ring today," she explained. "Mostly, it's just that he's producing a consistent and clean test. He's just solid right now, and I think that counts for a lot."
Brock noted that sometimes "Rosie" does not do well in the heat, but today, she felt the test was precise and he was ready to go again after they exited the ring following their final salute.
"These guys will agree, it was brutally hot out there today in the full sun. There's a breeze now, but there was no breeze when I was going and I'm really happy with the consistency, taking that into consideration," noted Brock.
Lars Petersen and Mariett concluded the AGDF circuit as one of the most decorated pairs this season. Their relationship and veteran experience in the ring always make them a combination that can be counted on.
"I wanted to do the Special with Mariett today because I actually haven't ridden it since the WEG in 2014. That was my reasoning for doing it, and I thought it went well," said Petersen.
As Mariett continues to age with grace and poise, Petersen was proud of the mare's effort this week. The heat seemed to factor into the pair's energy level in the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special, but their ability to still earn top scores was not hindered.
"It's typically a very good test for her. I'm very proud and she's now gone two days, pretty much without a break, and she was very good. There was not a lot of gas left in the tank today," commented Petersen. "But, I thought that she was almost a little bit fresher today than she was on Thursday. I'm happy with her of course."
Lisa Wilcox and Galant, owned by Jacqueline Shear, are another first year Large Tour pair representing the United States and finished their circuit at AGDF with a strong showing, earning a score of 70.451%.
"I decided to do the Grand Prix Special today because I was really trying to get our average up. It would have been fun to show the Freestyle here, but I really needed to do my homework with him," commented Wilcox.
"I'd like to get more than a 70, but what we're seeing right now is that he's only ten and you can only build them so fast. I feel like I could benefit from staying home and training," she expressed. "His confidence in the actual movements has greatly improved throughout this season. Before we would have some misunderstandings, and it was a bit of a struggle trying to figure out what the other wanted.
"He's starting not to think so much about the movements and feeling more confident in the ring and understanding it. For me, (what) this horse (will be) in a year, is a very exciting thing."
Currently, Wilcox and Galant will wait to see if they make it into the top eight U.S. combinations that will travel to Europe in just a few weeks in preparation for the Olympic Games. If the pair stays in the U.S., Wilcox has a stable full of talented young horses to work with.
"If I don't make it to the top eight to go to Europe, I will stay here and train. I have a lot of very good horses in the barn right now and would stay to prepare for next season. My goal then would be to apply for grants and take a handful of them over to Europe at this time next year," she explained.
Jane Cleveland (USA) and her own Monique took top honors in the FEI Intermediaire I Freestyle CDI 1*, presented by YellowBird Farm. Cleveland and Monique scored a 71.667% for the win, while Neve Myburgh (GER) and Joanne Trout's Belissima 23 finished in second place with a 68.292%. Evi Strasser (CAN) and her own Rigaudon Tyme rounded out the top three receiving a 68.292%.
Today's competition concluded the 2016 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) circuit at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). For more information on AGDF and for information regarding the 2017 season, please visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.