Saugerties, N.Y.—Sept. 14.
Cesar Parra was nearly speechless after topping the Saugerties CDI-W Grand Prix.
“I have no words to describe how I feel about this guy,” said Parra.
The guy Parra was referring to, a gelding named Van The Man, topped the class on a 69.74 percent.
“I’ve always believed in him,” added Parra.
Denmark’s Lars Petersen picked up second with Mariett. Canada’s David Marcus was third and fourth on Chrevi’s Capital and Don Kontes, respectively.
Van The Man and Parra contested part of the selection trials in Gladstone, N.J., for the 2012 London Olympic Games before Parra opted to withdraw from the second half. Parra started riding Van The Man, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Obelisk—Lady, Landjonker) previously competed by Germany’s Dorthee Schneider, after he was imported in January.
“At first I was just trying to qualify, but time is irreplaceable,” he said. “You have to work hard and wait.”
In his Grand Prix test today, Van The Man showed the result of some of that additional time.
“I loved the one-tempis today,” said Parra. “The tempi changes with him are very secure; the whole canter tour is very easy. The passage is super, and the trot is good. The walk is good. He’s a great guy. He just needed a little time to trust me, and to trust himself. I’m really looking forward to him being a really great international horse. I feel very blessed to have the ride on him.”
Parra, Whitehouse Station, N.J., has spent the time since the selection trials focusing on the basics.
“I walk, trot and canter, but do it really through,” said Parra. “I’m working on maintaining, through the movements, the quality of the gaits. He can do half-pass, but I want him to do it with the best quality of trot he has. I’ve been trying to get his back stronger, and to get him to push forward and be really in front of the bit.”
Along with the riding, Parra said Van The Man has also been adapting to life in the United States.
“He had a really hard time with the transition to America,” said Parra. “He had a hard time with the feed, everything. He was not eating well, and now he’s looking like an international horse. He’s shiny; he’s stronger.”
Van The Man also has an ally in Parra’s main groom, Jennifer Mandrecia.
“I really believe she’s a big part of the positive development of this horse,” said Parra. “He was a little spooky and looky, but she puts hours on this guy every day. She’ll spend three to four hours with him—hand walking him, grazing him, petting him. Before the class today, she had him out hand grazing for almost three hours, taking him to see the jumpers and taking him everywhere.”
Parra is possibly one of the busiest riders at the Saugerties CDI-W, held in conjunction with the New England Dressage Festival and Great American Insurance Group/U.S. Dressage Federation Region 8 Championships, with 11 horses on the grounds.
“We have a great string of horses right now,” he said. “The owners are very generous and kind, and they told me to go as far as I can with the horses.”
Van The Man will contest the Grand Prix Special on Sunday.
“I love freestyles,” said Parra. “That’s my thing—I love to ride with the music—but we don’t have a freestyle for him yet. We need more time to find the right tempo, so when we get the music, it’ll be perfect for him.”
Results available online at Fox Village.