October 1 (Devon, Pa) — Day four at 2021 Dressage at Devon was a beautiful fall day filled with competition from Young Horses to Grand Prix qualifiers. The highlight events of the day kicked off at 7:30 p.m. under the lights in the iconic Dixon Oval. First up, four horse and rider combinations showed their style in the CDI3* Grand Prix qualifier, followed by eight competitors in the CDI-W Short Grand Prix.
CDI3* Grand Prix Qualifier
First in the order of go in the CDI3* Grand Prix, the qualifier for Saturday's Grand Prix Special, was Koryn Doolittle (USA) aboard her 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Don Giovanni. Doolittle put in a solid round, but there was some confusion between her and Don Giovanni in a piaffe movement about half way through their test. All in all, the duo earned a score of 64.174% from the five-judge panel.
Second to go was Canada's Diane Creech and Chrevis Christo, an 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Louise Leatherdale of Leatherdale Farms. Like Doolittle and Don Giovanni, Creech and her mount had a little bit of trouble in the piaffe while going down the final center line. But overall, Creech put in an impressive round and the judges awarded her a score of 68.761%, putting her at the top of the leaderboard.
Third to enter the Dixon Oval was M. Aponte González (COL) and 17-year-old British Hanoverian gelding, Duke De Niro. The duo demonstrated a pleasant round under the lights. Going down the centerline late in their test, González had a slight fumble during a canter pirouette, but ended with a score of 64.304%, putting him in between Creech and Doolittle on the scoreboard.
Last to go was Tanya Strasser-Shostak (CAN) aboard Déjà Vu Tyme, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding. The pair had a few missteps in the same piaffe movement as Doolittle, but overall put in an admirable round for a score of 65.130%, boosting them to second place.
At the end of the night, Diane Creech and Chrevis Christo claimed the win in the CDI3* Grand Prix and all four horse and rider combinations were invited back for the Grand Prix Special the following day.
"Christo was amazing. He hadn't been in the ring for a little bit, so I was super happy with him. I'm very excited about the win," said Creech about her test with Christo. "It's always special to win in Devon because Devon is just a very special show and winning a blue ribbon just kind of has an extra notch in your [belt]."
Of her 18-year-old mount, Creech says that he's young at heart, but he's a professor when it comes to tests. "Sometimes he thinks, 'I already know what you want to do,' ... For example, I was going for my pirouette [tonight] and I was just about to collect him and he was already turning. I was like, 'Where are you going?'" Creech laughed. "He just knows so well what's going on. It's quite hilarious. You have to almost learn how to ride a little bit differently."
Creech was impressed with Christo, since the pair hadn't been in the ring since Florida this winter. "Because of COVID-19, we haven't been in a ring since Florida, because it's been very hard to find shows. So, we were excited when Devon continued to have the show and we love that the show in Devon brings the riding community together and we're so grateful that it's still happening. All the spectators and the atmosphere and the judges—everybody just comes together and celebrates the sport despite of all the challenges that are happening."
The Canadian rider had to travel across the border to attend Dressage at Devon this year, which proved difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions. But, Creech says it was all worth it. "There are a lot of challenges, but Devon is worth any challenge and we were happy that we made it here."
CDI-W Short Grand Prix
Following the CDI3* Grand Prix, seven athletes and their mounts challenged the CDI-W Short Grand Prix in the Dixon Oval under the lights—the qualifying class for Saturday's Grand Prix Freestyle.
Last to go in the order but penultimately first on the leaderboard was Michael Bragdell (USA) aboard Qredit Hilltop, a 13-year-old Oldenburg stallion. The duo performed a beautiful test that garnered cheers from the stands. Bragdell celebrated with raised arms and pats for Qredit as the judges announced their score of 67.132%, making them the winners of the class.
In second place behind Bragdell was Bridget Hay (USA) and Faolan with a score of 66.737%. Rounding out the top three was Shannon Stevens (USA) aboard Ferrari, who earned a 66.316%.
Of the seven rides, six horse and rider combinations were invited back for the Grand Prix Freestyle. The outlier, Laine Ashker (USA) and Atlas delivered a proud test, but did not make the cut off of 60% to secure a spot in the Freestyle. "Well we didn't win by any means but I am so proud of us for completing our first World Cup," Ashker wrote in an Instagram post. "I cannot tell you the amazing feeling it is to ride in the Dixon Oval under the lights and I am now doubly motivated to come back and do it again!"
Following his victory lap, Bragdell shared, "I was pretty happy with [Qredit's] piaffe today. I liked that he came out almost a little too fiery. I need to ride a little cleaner test. I haven’t ridden this test before. Everything comes up really fast, as much as you go over it. I think moving forward if I can clean up some areas and slow everything down a little bit, that would be nice."
Of the new Short Grand Prix test, Bragdell commented, "I like it, but it’s very technical. It’s two minutes shorter than the regular Grand Prix. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but as a rider you really have to be on top of it. It’s already hard in the Grand Prix and Special where things come up fast, and in the short Grand Prix it’s compressed even more.”
Bragdell has been with Qredit Hilltop since he was a yearling and has done most of his training. As a yearling, "Q" won Grand Champion of the Devon breed show, so the stallion’s journey came full circle when he topped the CDI-W short Grand Prix on Friday night. "He was the first Grand Prix horse I made from scratch," shared Bragdell. "With that comes highs and lows. You learn as you go, and I love where he’s at and where he feels like he’s going. I think we’re connecting even more and finding things that we’ve not had when we first started showing him Grand Prix. That for me is very exciting."
Originally from Sweden, Bragdell works and trains at Hilltop Farm in Colora, Maryland, a short trip away from the Devon Horse Show grounds. "It feels so much like home. I’ve been here for 20 years, and we’re only an hour and a half away. This is very much like the home arena."