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Anna Marek Wins Individual Bronze in Grand Prix Freestyle at Santiago 2023

Anna Marek and Fire Fly were the highest-placed U.S. pair and earned the individual bronze medal at the Pan Am Games with a score of 81.305%.

The U.S. Dressage Team closed out their week of competition at Santiago 2023 with all three Large Tour combinations finishing inside of the top ten of the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle to conclude dressage competition. Marek and Fire Fly earned the individual bronze medal with an 81.305%. Tubman and First Apple took fourth place overall with a 81.155%. Harrison and Katholt’s Bossco finishing in sixth with a new personal best score of 79.230%.

The team produced excellent results throughout the week, building off their team gold on Monday and bringing the same enthusiasm and energy to today’s FEI Grand Prix Freestyles. Marek (Dunnellon, Fla.) and Fire Fly wowed as the last combination of the class down the centerline. They earned a personal best score of 81.305%.

©ShannonBrinkmanPhotography

Anna Merek’s Personal Best

“This is a massive personal best for me. I came into this championship not expecting a whole lot in terms of an individual medal. I was just explaining that after that first Grand Prix ride, that’s the hardest ride to do,” explained Marek. “You spend so much time at training camp and there’s so much anticipation, and not wanting to let the team down. I worked all year to make this team, and you prepare and prepare, and the first ride, never having done a major championship before, you know you’re not just riding for yourself and your owner, but for your team and your country. With the Freestyle there was a little bit less pressure and I just went for it. Standing in the box and finding out that I was bronze, I just freaked out.”

Fire Fly

Fire Fly, also known as Fred in the barn, has only been a part of Marek’s string for two years and she’s taken her time getting the 2010 KWPN gelding owned by Janet Simile, to relax into some of the Grand Prix movements, which has been a test of her own discipline and patience, but was well rewarded today with an individual medal.

“This is a career highlight for me and for him. His owner, Janet, has owned him since he was seven. I’ve ridden him for about two years now and he’s a very going, nervous horse,” she explained. “I started riding him after my pregnancy, and I told Janet, that with a horse like him, he’s going to tell us when we can show Grand Prix. To my surprise, he came on really quickly trusting me. Anne [Gribbons] and I have always ever only ever pushed him as much as he’ll let me, and he’s taught me so much. I really respect how sensitive he is and I’m very careful that I’m never going to push him beyond his means, but wow, now, he’d do anything for me in there.”

In her first championship appearance for the U.S. Dressage Team, Marek reflected on the meaning of the moment and how grateful she is for the many people who have continued to support her throughout the years.

“Everybody at home – my kids, my dad, my mother-in-law, my husband – thank you so much for everything. For being there for me and believing in me even when sometimes I didn’t believe in myself. This is just an amazing day and I want everyone to be able to enjoy and celebrate,” she smiled.

Sarah Tubman and Codi Harrison

Tubman (Wellington, Fla.) and First Apple showcased the continuing growth of their partnership to a mix of contemporary music, earning a 81.155% for fourth place individually, capping a week of consistent and impressive riding for the pair in their second consecutive Pan American Games appearance for the United States.

Harrison (Wellington, Fla.) and Katholt’s Bossco rocked the arena with their freestyle composed to a selection of iconic rock-and-roll songs, highlighting the strength of the pair’s piaffe and passage work and nailing the one-tempis and two-tempis, a highlight in the test, which were relaxed, fluid, and mistake-free, helping the duo earn a new personal best score. With the three points added, the pair received a 79.230% from the panel.

Win for Julio Mendoza

Julio Mendoza Loor and Jewel’s Goldstrike won the first ever dressage gold for the country of Ecuador. The two scored a massive 87.230 percent in the Grand Prix Freestyle after leading the Individual field with another top score in the Grand Prix Special on Monday.

The silver medal was awarded to Brazil’s João Victor Marcari and Feel Good VO, Marcari’s reserve horse, who earned 86.160 percent for their Freestyle. It was Marcari’s second silver of the week, following a Team silver two days prior.

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