Ringside Chat: Eventer Laine Ashker Is Dancing At Dressage At Devon

Sep 28, 2018 - 3:56 PM

Devon, Pa.—Sept. 28

Laine Ashker is best known as a four-star event rider on her longtime partner Anthony Patch, who took her to the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** five times and around the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials CCI**** (England).

So what’s she doing at Dressage At Devon?

Always a strong contender in the dressage at events, Ashker started to get more into dressage after “Al” retired and while she was bringing up her next group of eventers.

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Laine Ashker and Ann Wilson with Diego. Photo courtesy of Laine Ashker.

Ashker is competing Ann Wilson’s Santiago Del Escarvido, a 16-year-old Andalusian cross gelding (Davido MC—Scarlet, Despierto) in the small tour CDI*** this weekend. This morning they scored a 62.64 percent in the Prix St. Georges, and Ashker was thrilled.

It’s Ashker’s first time at Devon, and she’s hoping to be back with her two other dressage horses, Danielle Casalett’s Atlas, who’s competing at fourth level, and her own Showtime, who’s competing at third level.

A USDF bronze and silver medalist, Ashker, Midlothian, Virginia, is enjoying competing against some of the top dressage horses in the country this weekend.

We caught up with her to learn more about “Diego” and to see if she’ll cross over permanently to the sandbox.

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Laine Ashker and Santiago Del Escarvido. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

Chronicle: Tell me about Diego.

Ashker: He came from humble beginnings. He’s a Wisconsin-bred Andalusian/¼ Appaloosa. He’s not the commonplace dressage horse.

Ten years ago I put a Craigslist ad out for teaching lessons. I was getting big into my business and teaching lessons in the Richmond, [Virginia] area. I had one response from it—Ann Wilson.

She had some horses and wanted to get some dressage lessons from me. She’s a dressage person—maybe I was just really cheap!

I started teaching her, and she mentioned she had a horse broken by a cowboy. It was right before I was going to one of Al’s first Kentucky CCI****s. I was at a jumper show practicing, and I saw what I thought was like a Paso Fino with a cowboy on his back. I was like, “What’s this chestnut thing doing racking around a jumper show?” Little did I know it was Diego.

Ann always wanted dressage horses, and she loves the Baroque horses. When he came back to her place I started riding him and doing trot sets around the field, as us eventers do.

I had no dreams of doing pure dressage. I was just working on my ringmanship. The highest level we go in eventing is about fourth, test 1. I started getting out of my element, and we started getting a little better. He never lost any national classes. He was quite good because he’s a very trainable horse.

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Laine Ashker and Santiago Del Escarvido. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

When we started getting into Prix St. Georges and FEI classes is when we were deeply humbled! We literally lost the first two classes, like dead last, in Prix St. Georges. I had to teach him to go in a double because I’d never ridden in a double until then.

Ann’s just been behind me all the way and been such an understanding, kind owner. Diego has been 10 times as kind to me. I’ve made every mistake on him because I’m used to riding blood horses or half blood horses that are easy to fit up. I could never have appreciated horses of this caliber 10 years ago because I would have thought they were fat and did tricks. Like an eventer, you just think, oh yeah that’s cool. Don’t you just sit there? No, you really don’t sit there!

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Laine Ashker and Diego with Radu Macoci. Photo courtesy of Laine Ashker.

Now watching things like the Grand Prix Special, I have so much respect for how much weight those horses put on their hocks and how much collection they have. They’re not fat; they’re really collected and strong—they’re body builders. It’s a total different nutrition and a total different fitness regime. It took me many years and many mistakes to understand that.

The horse has taught me more patience than probably any horse I’ve ever had in my life. He taught me how to ride all over again. We’re learning piaffe and passage and one [tempis], completely out of my element. I’ve always known how to ride a 20-meter circle fairly well and collection enough in the eventing world, but it’s a really cool dynamic to now take myself seriously enough to come to shows like this on a horse that was $5,000 from a dude ranch in Wisconsin.

To be able to compete against these stunning creatures is awesome. A win for me is going to be very different compared to a literal win for these guys because it’s my first FEI horse in the dressage world—one of many to come. I’d rather be on him than any of my other horses because I know exactly what I’m going to get when I get in here; I know exactly how he’s going to act. Where he may lack in the scoring because he’s not got that good movement of the warmbloods, he makes up for in his consistency.

To be at all not last place I have to have a clean test. I can put that pressure on myself against myself and not worry about going to win. He’s teaching me to be a winning rider for horses that will be winners down the road, and that for me is huge.

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Laine Ashker and Santiago Del Escarvido. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

Tell me about your trainer Radu Marcoci.

He worked for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. He was an understudy for George Theodorescu before moving out here. He’s been unbelievable. He’s been my mentor for almost 20 years now. Between Radu in the dressage and Buck Davidson in the jumping—Buck’s more like my brother because of our similar ages, and Radu is like a second father. It’s nice to have two people who I know are always in my corner.

What did you think about your test today?

It was awesome. I’m really happy with it. It was a clean test. It was honestly the best test that Diego has put out. Radu is so good. He says, “Don’t look around at the other horses; ride your horse,” and he’s exactly right. My horse put in a foot perfect test for him. The most he can get on his mediums is a 5.5 because if I go any faster then he just runs. He’s not got the amplitude and the lift. His canter tour was fantastic.

I just have to not reflect on the score so much. I know when it’s not as good as we can have it. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s test because we really shine in the [Intermediaire 1] test. My goal was to make it to the freestyle. If he does make it there, awesome; if we don’t, I’ll be bummed out, but I’m learning. This is my first time here.

My first CDI I did three years ago,. I went down centerline and halted, and he got his tongue over the bit. We did one diagonal, and we got rung out because they said my horse was lame. We came out, and Jacquie Brooks, who was coaching me at the time, said, “Uh Laine, his tongue is over the bit.”

So I was stoked! We did a foot-perfect test—probably our best Prix St. Georges test we’ve ever done. And I wasn’t last-placed! I’m happy to be here.

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Eventing is Laine Ashker’s first passion. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

Would you ever consider switching to just dressage?

Everybody asks me that, but I’m going to try to be like [Ingrid] Klimke. I’ve grown up in the event world, and I love my eventing people, and I love my eventing horses. Now the precedent is set in the dressage because I only have two one-star horses. It would be different if I had some four-star horses.

It’s different when you have a family that you travel with every weekend, and eventers are that family for me. I imagine the dressage world, the more I’m in it I’ll meet more people. I’m developing friendships.

If I have an opportunity to do both, that’s what I would like to do, and I’ll see where opportunities take me. I’m not ruling out doing this at a high level or for a team thing. I love doing this, and I think I have the capacity to be good at it. I like that I’m learning on a horse that I’m not overmounted on. I think we’re both working together; I can improve him, and he can improve me.

I’ve been successful in eventing on horses that I’ve had to improve, and I think that’s made me the rider that I am—to have the mentality that I have to really want it and fight for it, and Diego’s done the same thing for me. For me that’s the best way to learn.

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Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch were always competitive in the dressage at events. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

What’s Anthony Patch been up to?

[He’s been showing at dressage shows.] He was doing fantastic, but he was getting a little bit over it. I think he was telling me he wanted a break for the rest of the season. He’s still getting hacked, but he can have a break. I want to keep him going, but he’ll have his winter a lot earlier. I’ll pull his shoes off.

I don’t jump him [anymore]. He’s really bad to jump small fences. I tried to lease him out to some of my really good jumping kids, but he doesn’t take a joke. So if you miss at all, he stops, and everybody comes off! He has a respect for me. He’s older, and it’s like, “You can’t lie to me anymore kids. You’ve got to get a nice distance, and I will jump, but if you miss, it’s a no for me.” He’s a crotchety, old man, but I love him to death.

Looking ahead with the eventing, what are your goals for the immediate future?

I have two nice ones. My mom found Call Him Paddy for me off the track for $1,500. He did Retired Racehorse Project, and I actually think he’s one of the best horses I’ve had. He’s really slow to mature. He’s not got the big trot that Al had. He’s got a natural canter, and I think the trot will come. He’s got a phenomenal jump on him, and he’s naturally overzealous for the cross-country.

I took him two-star in the summer, and his dressage wasn’t losing, but he wasn’t winning. He’s consistently good in the prelim, so I brought him back down the a level to get him consistently winning and get his confidence, because he’s so careful over the jumps.

I did the rushing thing to go to a higher level with my other horses, but now I’m 34 years old. It’s funny how when we’re young we want to rush, rush rush, but when we get older we have the understanding of time, and it’s actually OK to go a little slower.

My other one I just got the ride on this year. It’s called Lost In Ireland. He came from the Go For Gold sale in Ireland. He’s really come into his own this year. He had done a couple of prelims with Ryan Wood. I got the ride in March and took him to two prelims and then was sixth in the CIC* at Maryland Horse Trials. Cross-country he’s like a seeing-eye dog. Woodzy did a phenomenal job on him, but he’s a big horse and extremely immature. He’s like 17.2, an Irish Sport Horse, and I’m not a very big person so putting him together is like, oh my God. His flat has really come along. The show jumping [has improved a lot]. He finished seventh at Plantation Field CIC*.

Hopefully they’ll both go up the scale. I’m not in a hurry with either horse. I want quality with them because they’re both quality horses.

We’re on site at Dressage At Devon to bring you news and tons of photos. Check back all weekend at coth.com, and check out the Oct. 22 print edition of the Chronicle for much more.

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