She couldn’t be happier with their progress as she makes the leap to Grand Prix.
Liz Austin didn’t have the year she’d hoped for in 2008. But after a win at the Centerline HITS-On-The-Husdon CDI*** in Saugerties, N.Y., Aug. 14-16, she believes she and Olivier are back on track.
In the CDI Grand Prix Special, Austin, 21, took the blue with Olivier, and they finished fourth in the CDI Grand Prix.
Austin, of Williston, Vt., was thrilled with her win aboard the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion owned by her mother, Madeleine. During the 2008 Florida circuit, Austin competed Olivier at Grand Prix, but much went wrong for the pair, which caused Austin to wonder if they would be able to replicate the success they had in the young rider ranks.
“It was not a good year,” Austin said. But she went home, went back to work and gave it another go this year. “And I couldn’t be happier. This year is going much better.”
Austin has been getting help from Michael Barisone, whom she’s known for years. She contacted him in January and asked him if he’d “do a bit of hand holding during a show.” He did and has been coaching her through this season.
She took her win in the Grand Prix Special with a score of 66.91 percent during the sweltering heat. Since temperatures were in the 90s, Austin cut her warm-up time before the Special and skipped the canter work to save her horse.
“It was the right decision in terms of his energy, but not doing any canter in the warm-up might have cost me as I did have that mistake in the one-tempis,” she said. “The piaffe-passage tour was OK. I wish we’d had a little more expression, but it was 92 degrees. The biggest thing is that he went in there, and he tried for me.”
Sharon McCusker and the 13-year-old Danish Warmblood Juli Sherif finished second on a score of 63.58 percent. Tina Konyot rode the 11-year-old Danish Warmblood Calecto V to third (63.37%).
Gearing Up For WEG
It wasn’t much cooler on Saturday evening for the CDI Grand Prix freestyle, which Lauren Sammis won aboard the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood Sagacious HF, owned by Hyperion Farm. Sammis, who is working toward a spot on the 2010 World Equestrian Games team, scored a 72.35 percent to take the win.
Mikala Munter Gundersen and the 15-year-old Leonberg placed second (71.40%), and third went to Canada’s Cheryl Meisner riding the 12-year-old KWPN stallion Paganini (69.50%). Meisner, of Halifax, N.S., took a blue ribbon in the CDI Intermediaire I, scoring a 67.36 percent with the 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood Lucky Strike.
Sammis and Sagacious also won Friday’s CDI Grand Prix (68.25%) ahead of Konyot and Calecto V (67.74%).
Sammis, who is based in New Jersey, started competing Sagacious at Grand Prix this year, and they’ve been moving up the scoreboard throughout the season. They’ll take a break from competition after Dressage at Devon (Pa.) in September.
“It’s a WEG year, so it’s going to be a tough winter season, so he’ll need a break,” she said.
Sammis trains with Canada’s Ashley Holzer, who braved Friday New York City traffic to get to the show grounds and coach her student. Sammis said their strategy going into a WEG year is relatively simple: strengthen Sagacious, confirm the movements and most of all “not blow his confidence.”
Sammis and Sagacious’ winning freestyle was to the music of Billy Joel, but it won’t be the freestyle they’ll use in the 2010 show season.
“It’s worked, but it’s really a revamped Prix St. Georges/Intermediaire freestyle,” Sammis said.
Judges have told her that she needs to make it a bit more challenging for the international level. Hence, Sammis has begun the process of finding new music and developing a new choreography.
In the CDI Prix St. Georges, Julie Watchorn, 23, one of Canada’s leading young riders, nabbed first place with the 16-year-old Belgian mare Quintesse, took second in the CDI Intermediaire freestyle and third in the CDI Intermediaire I.
Fellow Canadian Lee Tubman and the 8-year-old Hanoverian De La Rosa took second in both the CDI Prix St. Georges and CDI Intermediare I and third in the CDI Intermediaire freestyle.
The lone American at the top was New Jersey-based Heather Mason, who took the blue in the CDI Intermediaire freestyle with the former event horse Glen Emeril. The 10-year-old Irish-bred, owned by Kevin Whitney, earned 2008 U.S. Dressage Federation Horse of the Year awards at third and fourth levels.
“This is his first year at Prix St. Georges and I-1, and he’s doing very well,” said Mason, who has had the ride for two years. “He was imported as an event horse and trained through preliminary, and then Kevin decided that he should have a career change. The horse was doing well, but he wasn’t quite brave enough.”
Mason, who trains with Lars Petersen, is quite confident that Glen Emeril will make it to Grand Prix. “He’s a nice horse and very reliable,” she said. “He’s elastic, and he’s honest. This is only his third CDI, and you can see the difference since May. This is the best he’s placed, so he’s gradually moving up.”
A Clean Sweep
New York rider Meagan Davis swept the CDI Young Rider division with the help of Bentley, a 16-year-old Danish gelding owned by Kelly Roetto and John Rocco of Bedminster, N.J. The pair won the CDI Young Rider Team test (64.03%), the Individual test (63.77%) and the freestyle (67.75%).
Alexa Rice with the 15-year-old Maarten finished right behind them in all three events.
Davis got the ride on Bentley because the gelding is “a little naughty.” Roetto and Rocco bought the horse for their niece but decided he needed some mileage in order to be safer. Davis has been told she’ll get to keep the ride for the next two years so she can compete him in young rider competition this coming year and in the Brentina Cup competition the following year.
The pair’s win at the Centerline Events CDI was particularly important to them because it comes on the heels of a mishap during the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships in Kentucky earlier this summer.
“In Kentucky Bentley hit himself with two hind legs, and he got scared,” Davis said.
During his panic, Bentley bucked and reared, and at one point, he and Davis butted heads, causing Davis to fall off and sending her to the hospital for seven stitches in her lip. “He didn’t do it on purpose, and we were both OK. We got home on Monday, and by Tuesday we were out hacking in the field,” she said.
Davis trains with Lendon Gray and Scott Hassler, and she has a 5-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding named Borba that she co-owns with Roetto. “He’s been under saddle for 14 months, and I’m very excited about him. At Saugerties, I put him in a training level, test 4, class for the first time, and he got 60.80 [percent], which I think is great for only the second time in a dressage ring,” she said.
Nadine Schlonsok placed third in all three classes on Luke, a warmblood imported from Germany by Melanie Pai of Middleburg, Va.
“He has no papers,” Pai said. “He’s 11, supposedly. We had to have the vet look at his teeth.”
Schlonsok rode horses for Pai in her native Germany, and her trainer in Germany found the horse.
“She told me that I had to look at him, and when I saw him, I said, ‘He has spots. I don’t really want him.’ And she said, ‘Yes but you need to ride him.’ So I rode him, and I fell in love with him. He is the best working horse in the whole world. He tries so hard. He makes me so happy.”
Hence, Pai bought the pinto, and this year Luke and Schlonsok moved to Pai’s farm in Virginia.