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January 26, 2012

World Dressage Masters Downgraded To Four-Star

Canada's Ashley Holzer and Pop Art won the Grand Prix CDI*** at the Sunshine Challenge, but she won't advance to the World Dressage Masters because she's already got another mount, Breaking Dawn, entered.

The original plan at the Palm Beach edition of the World Dressage Masters (Fla.) was for the top two riders in the Grand Prix on Jan. 26 to go forward from the Wellington Classic Sunshine Challenge CDI*** to the five-star competition the following day.

However, things got tricky after the results of the Grand Prix were announced. The riders in first and third place, Canada’s Ashley Holzer on Pop Art (69.91%) and Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven on Divertimento (67.08%), already had horses entered in the World Dressage Masters and weren’t eligible to ride a second mount.

But Heather Blitz and Paragon, who placed second in their first Grand Prix CDI ever (69.17%), weren’t qualified to ride in the five-star, which requires two scores above 64 percent in CDI competition.

Then it turned out that England’s Carl Hester with Wie Atlantico and Yvonne Losos de Muñiz of the Dominican Republic with Liebling II, while nominated by their federations, hadn’t met the qualification requirements either, because the combinations are brand new.

After extensive discussion among the organizers, riders, ground jury and representatives of the Fédération Equestre Internationale, it was decided that in the interest of the sport the only equitable solution would be to amend the schedule to reflect a four-star FEI designation, while keeping the five-star conditions intact. 

Blitz and Jim Koford, who placed fourth in the CDI*** with Pharaoh (64.97%) will compete in the WDM Palm Beach Grand Prix, as will Hester and Losos de Muñiz, along with the remaining field of international riders previously announced.

Watch Blitz's ride.

"I really couldn’t be more pleased, most of all because the piaffe and passage tour went so well," said Blitz. "He did the small tour as well as he did in the past couple of years, and this is a new section of the test for him, and he’s so young, and he still needs a lot more strength, but he still pulled it off for me in there. Even though I didn’t really prepare him very well for the piaffe at X—he listened to me very well and halted a little bit—but he just resumed his job right away when I told him it was my mistake."

Although the Danish Warmblood gelding (Blue Hors Don Schufro—Pari Lord, Loran) is only 9 years old, he's already earned team gold and individual silver at the 2011 Pan American Games.

"He’s just such an honest horse. I pinch myself every day because I don’t know how a horse could be that enthusiastic and obedient and expressive, and also calm and relaxed," said Blitz. "My goal for tomorrow is to have another test that I can ride better and I can prepare better for some of the things that I overrode a little bit in this test, and that we just have another good experience where he’s a happy athlete again. It’s an opportunity to learn more about each other, because there’s a lot ahead of us, and we’re going to build on from this into the future."