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August 14, 2011

From Hickstead To Gladstone

Cadillac was second in the Grand Prix CDI*** at Hickstead in July. Catherine Haddad Staller hopes to find a sponsor for both her horses while competing in the United States over the next few months. Photo by Rui Pedro Godinho.

Dear Rita,

Life is a whirlwind! My groom, Anna Pettersson, and myself drove to Hickstead (England) at the end of July to fit in one more horse show before leaving for the United States.

We drove to Calais, parked the horse van on the ferry, crossed the English Channel to Dover, and then made the short drive to Hickstead in the south of England.

Hickstead is a fabulous show with impeccable organization. The footing is superb, the spectators are educated and appreciative, and I always have a feeling that I am in a country that exudes good horsemanship.

I took Cadillac along for the trip, thinking that I might start him in the CDI*** if he felt settled and fit enough at the show. It would be his first start in 18 months! After arriving on a Tuesday afternoon (long trip—13 hours) and having a great feeling in a training ride on Wednesday morning, I decided to present him at the FEI Vet Check and at least ride the CDI***!

Then I woke up Thursday morning and thought: “Oh crap. I need a zigzag! I need pirouettes! I need COLLECTION! Have I ridden any one-tempis yet?!?!”

It’s one thing to spend months and months conditioning your horse after an injury, getting him back into full use of his gaits, and occasionally trying a movement or two when it feels right. It is entirely another matter to ride the complete Grand Prix test in self-carriage with expression and accuracy! I had WORK to do!

But Cadillac rose to the occasion. I have rarely seen my horse so happy at a show and so willing to meet a bit of pressure with “Yes Ma’am!” He entered the arena at Hickstead with pride and enthusiasm and landed second in the Grand Prix for a comeback that pleased me more than I had hoped, especially since we certainly could not put in the polished ride I hope to show in the future.

Our second place on Thursday qualified us for a start in the CDI*****, so I rode the Grand Prix again on Saturday and the Grand Prix Special on Sunday.  Cadillac was consistent, enthusiastic, fit and sound through all three tests! Hallelujah! We are ready to start.

A few days later, back in Vechta, Anna and I were frantically unpacking, doing laundry, packing again, and then shipping both Cadillac and Winyamaro to the United States! We keep a crazy schedule in my business! I flew into New York City on Aug. 3 with my trusty companion Gizmo, and Anna arrived a few nights later with the horses.

Both W and Cadillac are now settled into the stable at USET headquarters in Gladstone, N.J. They are none the worse for wear, and I have both of them back in full work after all that travel. I’m tuning up all the rusty gears on Cadillac, and he impresses me more each day with the strength and expression he is bringing to all the movements. He has never felt better.

W is cheeky and determined. My attention to Cadillac has not gone unnoticed, and W is putting everything he has into the work. He does not want to be surpassed! Needless to say, I am thrilled with the work my horses are offering me every day, and I can’t wait to hit the show ring here in the USA. I finally feel ready to advance both horses to the level of performance I think they are capable of.

Our show schedule looks like this:

Saugerties CDI-W, Aug. 18-21
Saugerties CDI-W, Sept. 15-18
Devon CDI-W, Sept. 30-Oct. 2

I hope that some of my “Ritas” can show up to cheer us on!

In the meantime, I am determinedly looking for a sponsor, which is a large part of my reasoning in packing up and coming to America with the horses. We are here until Oct. 6, and I hope to find someone who can support our Olympic bid before we fly back to Europe and tough decisions become necessary.

A special thanks goes out to the few people who responded to my last blogs, not only with encouragement and product sponsoring, but also with the offer of help in finding the right person to support us on the road to London 2012.

I’m Catherine Haddad Staller, and I’m sayin’ it like it is from Gladstone, N.J!

Training Tip of the Day: Give your horse extra time to condition and develop ultimate fitness before asking him to perform at his pre-injury levels. It will pay off for you (and for him) in the long run!

InternationalDressage.com

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