Lots of money got handed out in the form of prize-money checks on March 17 thanks to the AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix and the $100,000 Sullivan GMC Truck Grand Prix, but the lion’s share went into German pockets. Victory in the finale events of HITS Desert Circuit (Calif.) and the HITS Ocala Winter Winter series went to German riders Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Andre Thieme.
Out in Thermal, Calif., Michaels-Beerbaum and the massive and powerful mare Belladonna put on quite a show for the crowds, besting Canadian rider John Pearce on Chianto in a thrilling two-horse jump-off for the $350,000 top prize of the AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prix. Read all about the demanding course and Michaels-Beerbaum’s win in the Chronicle’s online coverage. 
|Andre Thieme rode Contanga 3 to the|
top of the $100,000 Sullivan GMC
Truck Grand Prix at Ocala.
Photo by Mollie Bailey
Meanwhile, in Ocala, Fla., Thieme didn’t even think he’d put in a winning round in the $100,000 Sullivan GMC Truck Grand Prix, but his round on Contanga 3 prevailed. Read Mollie Bailey’s coverage of the class for the Chronicle here. 
The day before, riders from Thermal and Ocala had gone head-to-head in the $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge, with judges evaluating rounds from both coasts via simulcast. East Coast rider Kate Conover dominated that class, taking first and second. Read all about what it was like to see the class from each coast in the Chronicle’s online coverage. 
Check the April 1 issue of the Chronicle  for in-depth stories about all these events.
The top check in the feature event of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla., also went to a rider from abroad. Eiken Sato of Japan claimed the win aboard a hot chestnut mare, Espyrante. Sato rides out of Stephex Stables in Belgium alongside his good friend, German rider Daniel Deusser. Deusser won the $300,000 CSI-W at the FTI WEF last week . Conor Swail of Ireland topped the $33,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 10, while Richie Moloney of Ireland won the $33,000 Suncast 1.50-meter Jumper Classic at WEF. (see results )
Another German rider made waves in Europe, when relative unknown David Will jumper to the top of the final Western European World Cup qualifier at s’Hertogenbosch (the Netherlands). Read all about Will’s eye-opening victory against the world’s best here .
In eventing, Canadian rider Hawley Bennett-Awad claimed the blue in the only advanced-level offering of the weekend, the Copper Meadows Horse Trials in Ramona, Calif. (see results ) In Norman, Okla., Mike Huber won the open preliminary division at the Feather Creek Horse Trials on Sea Accounts, a Thoroughbred stallion. (see results ) The Connemara pony stallion Ardceltic Art topped the open preliminary division at Pine Top Spring Horse Trials (Ga.) with owner Donna Miller in the irons. (see results )
The dressage world bid a fond adieu to one of its brightest stars when the great Salinero completed his last Grand Prix freestyle at s’Hertogenbosch with rider Anky van Grunsven. Adelinde Cornelissen topped the CDI-W Grand Prix freestyle in competition, but van Grunsven and Salinero’s final performance stole the show. Salinero, 19, is a veteran of three Olympic Games, with two individual gold medals to his credit. He also has individual World Equestrian Games gold from 2006 and three FEI World Cup Finals titles. Watch a video of their last performance together… 
On U.S. soil, Tina Konyot topped the Grand Prix freestyle (see results ) at the Wellington CDI (see results ) after winning the Grand Prix (see results ). Susan Dutta and Currency DC took over the winning duties in the Grand Prix Special (see results ). Interestingly, Ashley Holzer’s former Olympic, World Equestrian Games and World Cup Final mount Pop Art placed well with a new rider. Amateur rider and Holzer’s friend, Jill Irving, who is leasing “Poppy,” rode him to fourth in the Grand Prix and fifth in the Grand Prix freestyle.