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July 10, 2009

Austin Awes The Judges At GMHA June Dressage

A big Grand Prix win proves she’s on the right track.

Elisabeth Austin has experienced a few detours on her road to Grand Prix achievement, but her hard work paid off with Olivier at the Green Mountain Horse Association’s June dressage show in South Woodstock, Vt.

The pair scored 74.78 percent to win their Grand Prix class and the overall FEI high score of the show, held June 19-21.

“Fizzy” has been part of Austin’s life since he was a baby. Her mother, Madeleine Austin, bred the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion (Idocus—Rowillie). She trained him as a young horse at her Imajica farm in Williston, Vt., before handing over the reins to her daughter. “Liz” has ridden him since he was 7 and showing second level.

Liz and Fizzy consistently climbed the levels together.

“We started showing in 2004 when he’d just turned 8. We did third level in 2004, Prix St. Georges in 2005, and then we won the [Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Young Adult “Brentina Cup”] for Intermediaire II in 2006. In 2007, we won the Brentina Cup again. We’ve had exponential progress,” she said.

“But then, in 2008 he wasn’t so sure he was interested in being a Grand Prix horse. He’d always enjoyed working
in the arena every day, but he started being very grouchy. So a big part of 2008 was a lot of trail riding and fitness work outside the arena. I think that was super helpful for him,” she continued.

To maintain his freshness, Liz takes Olivier out of the ring on a regular basis. “We still go trail riding and only do the more difficult arena work two to three times a week. We’ll also go out and work in the field. We walk, trot, canter and play with the movements but in a far less serious way,” she said.

Although her mother taught her to ride, Liz, 25, has worked with a number of other top dressage riders and now primarily trains with Michael Barisone, Long Valley, N.J.

“He’s been a fantastic help for me. Michael has really helped me bring out his best,” said Liz.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Liz started her own business this year called Liz Austin Dressage. She takes in horses for training and does some sales of dressage horses. She’s based at Imajica during the summer and in Florida during the winter months.

Liz has high hopes for the future with Fizzy.

“We’ll do a few more national shows and then some CDIs. I’m hoping to qualify for the USEF Festival Of Champions next year, which is the final selection trials for the [Alltech FEI] World Equestrian Games. I have so much confidence in him. He’s proving that he’s ready to go in there and be consistent,” she said.

The Spice Of Life

Liz wasn’t the only one to find FEI-level success at GMHA. Deborah Dean-Smith couldn’t have been happier with SPS Lady Liberty’s performance in her second Grand Prix. The pair won the FEI reserve championship with 69.57 percent under judges Johanna Gwinn and Elizabeth Madlener.

Dean-Smith is a trainer at Ann Kitchel’s Huntington Farm in South Strafford, Vt. She said her goal for the show was a clean test and a good experience with piaffe and passage aboard the 12-year-old Oldenburg mare (Lord Liberty G—Petra). “We did just that,” she said.

Dean-Smith imported “Libby” as a 4-year-old from Germany.

“She loves to show off. The bigger the crowd, the better. But when I first started riding her, there were times I was tempted to pull her shoes and put her out in the field with the broodmares,” she said with a laugh.

Libby can be very strong willed. Although she’s willing to work and physically able to do so, she’s very reactive if she doesn’t think her rider is being fair with her.

“I had to build the trust and be consistent with her. Now we’re really working together, and she loves it. I feel very positive about that,” said Dean-Smith. “I love mares, and I like them to be a bit spicy. They have to have that presence to be really successful in the ring. They may not always be the easiest in the beginning, but they become the best competition horses.”

Libby did her first open Grand Prix earlier this year at the Capital Dressage Classic (N.C.), but that didn’t go as well as she’d hoped. The atmosphere in the big coliseum under the lights made things difficult.

“I couldn’t get the walk because she was too wound up, but other than that she did OK. She just needs some more miles,” said Dean-Smith.

“I was very pleased with our ride at GMHA. She walked, relaxed and did everything she didn’t do in North Carolina,” she added. “I got two 9s, for the last halt and a half-pass. I schooled more effectively this time. I was focused on keeping her more through and more on the aids. That helped my second walk come through better. I didn’t have the jigs I had before.”

Dean-Smith will focus on adding power and brilliance to her rides over the summer. She’s aiming to qualify for Dressage At Devon (Pa.).

Opportunity Knocks

When Katahvi, a 16-year-old Trakehner gelding (Hyllos—Brindisi), became available this past winter, Kim Richmond seized the opportunity to own a horse trained to fourth level. The team won the fourth level championship in their first show together at GMHA.

Richmond, Gilsum, N.H., has trained with Jane Ashley, West Windsor, Vt., for 15 years. Ashley imported Katahvi from Denmark as a 4-year-old and trained him.

“I’ve had a variety of horses all my life,” said Richmond, “but I’ve never had a horse with this level of training. I’ve had young horses that I’ve brought along and project horses, and I’ve competed very successfully with them. But I’ve never had anything above second level.”

Richmond won her fourth level, test 3, class on Friday (66.34%) under judges Marianne Ludwig and Gwinn. On Saturday, she tied in the same test with fourth level reserve champion Keith Angstadt under judges Gwinn and Madlener (67.80%).

At first Richmond found Katahvi’s rather hot temperament to be a bit challenging.

“He can be nervous and tight. But if he stays relaxed, then he’s there for me,” she said. “To help him relax, I let him draw from my relaxation. I try to ride him with confidence so he can take from that.”

She also promotes relaxation in the warm-up by keeping to a familiar routine. “It’s the same at home and at a show; hand-walking followed by longeing, then I put him right to work,” she said.

Not only was this Richmond’s first show with Katahvi, but it was also her first go at fourth level.

“Just that fact made this show pretty memorable, and fourth level, test 3, is a pretty challenging test, so we sort of jumped into the deep end of the pool,” she said.

Richmond appreciated that Ashley was on hand to offer coaching throughout the weekend. “I was pleased with my tests overall. We need to work more on our canter pirouettes and collected canter, and we need to develop more collection to prepare for the Prix St. Georges,” she said.

Keep Them Happy

Richmond had some tough competition in Angstadt, who earned the fourth level reserve championship with Donnertanz (Dream Of Glory—St. Pr. Larissa II), a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Ellen Sullivan of Newbury, Mass.

Angstadt also competed two other horses, Hidalgo G and Monarch Thor, and finished the show with blue ribbons at first, second, third and fourth levels, as well as two second-placed Prix St. George rosettes.

A trainer and professional rider at Bradford Equestrian Center in Haverhill, Mass., Angstadt has ridden “Tanz” for three years. This was the gelding’s first Prix St. Georges test, which Angstadt said was actually easier for the large horse than fourth level.

“The quick sequence of sharp turns, pirouettes and changes at fourth level are difficult for him,” he said.

Angstadt plans to continue giving Tanz more experience at Prix St. Georges this summer. “We only do about five shows a year. We keep the horses progressing up the levels, but our goal is to keep them happy, too,” he said.

 
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