Devon, Pa., Oct. 1
The weather for Saturday night’s Grand Prix freestyle at Dressage at Devon (Pa.) started out clear, if a little crisp. The crowds—aided by the new and fully stocked Devon Pub—were in high spirits and eager to see their favorite horses and riders perform. It wasn’t until the three top-placed riders from the previous evening’s Grand Prix were scheduled to go that the rain really started to pour.
But the deluge didn’t deter Adrienne Lyle and Wizard, who followed up their Grand Prix win on Friday with another win in the Grand Prix freestyle (74.27%). For the second night in a row, Lyle beat out Catherine Haddad Staller and James Koford to take the top spot beneath the lights in the Dixon Oval.
“He was so amped up tonight,” Lyle said. “For him to come out of his stall at night and stay with me was great.”
Watch their winning ride:
James Koford and 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood Pharaoh were the first freestyle pair to experience a soaked shadbelly. They preceded Lyle and scored a respectable 72.67 percent from the judges.
“[Pharaoh] was a bit insecure when the rain started to hit,” Koford said. “But when he got into the ring he was locked and loaded, ready to go.”
Koford received a rousing welcome from the fans at Devon; the crowds have made him popular due to his continued success at the grounds over the years. Friday, Koford placed third to Lyle and Haddad Staller in the Grand Prix with Pharaoh (Ferro—Heureka VH Rampelhof, Carneval) and won the Grand Prix for the Special with Rhett.
“This is such a fun show for me,” Koford said. “I’ve been doing this show for 20 years, and this is by far the best success I’ve had here. It was a great night for dressage; everybody really stepped up to the plate.”
Haddad Staller is getting used to wearing the red ribbon when competing against Lyle in the Grand Prix freestyle. Two weeks ago, Haddad Staller and Winyamaro, her 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding, placed second behind Lyle and Wizard at the CDI-W Grand Prix freestyle in Saugerties, N.Y.
Winyamaro (Walt Disney—Taiga, Trapper) and Haddad Staller came to the ring with all guns blazing. Riding to their seasoned freestyle with music from Pink’s “Fun House,” Winyamaro wasn’t troubled by the crowd or the weather.
“He enjoys putting on a show,” Haddad Staller said. “The rain didn’t even touch him tonight.”
The crowd loved the pair’s performance, especially the bit of showboating during the tempi changes. Haddad Staller rode those one-handed.
Watch their performance:
In 2010, Haddad Staller won the Grand Prix freestyle at Devon with Winyamaro, riding to the same music with modified choreography.
“He’s much more made this year than last year,” Haddad Staller said. “He’s now the type of horse that you can put the reins in one hand and do 15 one-tempis to nine one-tempis on the half circle to another 15 one-tempis.”
But the flash and excitement of Winyamaro’s test (73.75%) wasn’t enough to beat out Lyle’s quiet consistency. Lyle and Wizard executed a composed, classy test that showed off the 12-year-old gelding’s power and ability.
This is only the second time that Lyle and Wizard have competed with their current freestyle, ridden to music composed by Terry Gallo and including songs like “Play that Funky Music.” The freestyle was tweaked minimally after their win at Saugerties; Lyle added zigzag half-passes ridden right before the final salute.
“It’s only the second time I’ve done that freestyle on him, so we’re kind of figuring it out,” Lyle said. “He was wound up, but he tried to stay with me as best he could, whereas in the past he might have checked out a little.”
Lyle has certainly put the miles on Wizard (Weltmeyer—Pica, Classiker) on their trip to the East Coast this fall from their home in Sun Valley, Idaho, where she’s the assistant trainer to Debbie McDonald. She rode Wizard in a Grand Prix test event at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions before continuing on to the Saugerties CDI-W, where they placed third behind Haddad Staller’s two rides, Winyamaro and Cadillac 35, in the Grand Prix Special and first in the Grand Prix freestyle.
“To be able to hit two big CDIs back-to-back is huge for us,” Lyle said. “It’s great for us to be able to learn and ride with all these different riders.”
Lyle hopes to end the year competing on the West Coast before making a possible bid for the 2012 Olympic team.
But for Haddad Staller, the Olympic Games are the last thing on her mind. Although she’s been having great success with her two Grand Prix horses, Winyamaro and Cadillac 35, keeping up with the competition is proving a financial struggle.
“I can’t afford the expenses of campaigning an Olympic horse on my own,” Haddad Staller said. “Unfortunately in our nation, riders are not supported. If you don’t have a sponsor it’s almost impossible.”
By the time the Olympics in 2012 roll around, Winyamaro or Cadillac 35 might well be the mounts of another rider and nation. Haddad Staller plans on selling either or both to cover the travel and training expenses she incurs being a professional without a sponsor.
“The decision was that if we didn’t have a sponsor by Devon, we would return to Germany and sell the horses,” Haddad Staller said.