Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2024

Bella Luna Shines At Great American/USDF Region 3 Championships

The mare finishes her first season at Grand Prix with a big win.

Given her track record, Erin Brinkman didn’t expect much when she traveled to the Great American/USDF Region 3 Championships in Hamilton, Ga., on Oct. 24-26. “I’ve gone to many regional championships, but I always seem to win in the open classes and then get second, third and fourth in the regional championship classes. It was a little frustrating,” she said.

PUBLISHED
WORDS BY

ADVERTISEMENT

The mare finishes her first season at Grand Prix with a big win.

Given her track record, Erin Brinkman didn’t expect much when she traveled to the Great American/USDF Region 3 Championships in Hamilton, Ga., on Oct. 24-26. “I’ve gone to many regional championships, but I always seem to win in the open classes and then get second, third and fourth in the regional championship classes. It was a little frustrating,” she said.

Brinkman got to put that frustration to rest when she rode Bella Luna to win the Region 3 championships at Grand Prix (62.29%) and Intermediaire II (66.34%). “I got in trouble for my victory gallop in the Grand Prix because they told me I went too fast. But Bella loved it—I didn’t know there was a speed limit!” she said.

Last year, Brinkman and Bella were second in the open Prix St. Georges and won the Intermediaire I freestyle at the Region 3 championships. “This is her first year doing the Grand Prix, so I wasn’t expecting to win at all. I went in there with no expectations and she was super. She’s been a fun horse to train and very honest in the ring,” Brinkman said.

Bella had an unusual week of preparation for the championships. “I only rode her once or twice the week before and we just played. At home, I ride her bareback. I actually taught her to do the one-tempis bareback,” said Brinkman.

“Then, the first day of the show, it was raining really hard, so we didn’t go up to the show until the rain was gone. She didn’t even get to school in the rings at all. She went into the ring cold turkey.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Brinkman is based out of Valhalla Farm in Wellborn, Fla., where her mother, Jean Brinkman, breeds Trakeheners and Swedish Warmbloods. Brinkman, 42, has a breeding program of her own, of Trakeheners and Hanoverians.

There are more than 100 horses on the farm, and Brinkman has a staff of eight riders to help her train them all. “All those riders train under me and have eight to 10 horses that they train. Two of the riders are event riders, and they take the horses jumping. All of our horses have a weekly schedule of trail riding and free-jumping. Nobody does straight dressage all the time,” she said.

Bella, a 13-year-old Hanoverian by Brentano, came to Brinkman 21⁄2 years ago when her owner, Delight Willing, was looking for a new rider. Willing, of Seattle, Wash., had bought Bella from Germany, and the mare had shown to the Prix St. Georges level.

“I flew out to try her and just loved her the first time I sat on her. It happened very quickly; she told me about her, I flew out there, and she sent her to me within a month,” Brinkman said.

“She’s coming into her own,” she added. “She’s a lovely horse. At home, she has many jobs. I use her to lead all my babies around the farm. She teaches everybody else how to behave.”

Getting to know Bella was a bit of a process for Brinkman, however. “She’s become more trusting, and that’s a big one for her,” she said. “She tries too hard and she gets herself internally stressed. I try to do really simple stuff with her, like walk-trot-canter transitions, until she’s relaxed.

ADVERTISEMENT

“A big part of getting that trust was riding her bareback and playing with her. When I first started riding her bareback, she felt like she was going to run away with me. And then once she started enjoying it, I would take her swimming and do fun things with her. That helped me settle her mind. Leading the babies off her and taking them all through the woods helped her mature a lot, too. She really relaxed because she realized nothing was expected of her.”

Brinkman said Bella gained confidence from many different angles: “I do work with her from the ground with natural horsemanship, and it’s helped a lot. It took me about 10 months—longer than with any other horse—to get her to follow me on the ground, but now I can take her outside without a halter. She’ll do all the tricks with nothing on her head.”

That trust and confidence carried over into the arena. “Sometimes you go into the show ring and you feel a bit off, but at this show I felt very centered and that makes a big difference. Staying focused and in my center has for me been a really tricky thing to do at regionals since there’s so much going on around you and it can be a little overwhelming,” Brinkman said. “She was very consistent. She didn’t make any mistakes at all in the Grand Prix.”

Brinkman plans to start showing at CDIs with Bella and hopes to qualify to compete at the CDI***** in Wellington, Fla., at the end of January. She also wants to travel to Europe with the mare to train with Hervig Hadnetter in Austria, with whom she’s been training for eight years.

“I’m really excited about her because she has a fantastic piaffe. It’s been a little bit harder for her to learn the passage because she’s learning it a little bit later in her life. It’s nice when they learn it when they’re 9 or 10, but we have to do what we have to do,” said Brinkman.

Brinkman also won the Intermediaire I in the open show aboard Trevoreau, who claimed second in the Region 3 Prix St. Georges championships. “This was his third time doing the Intermediaire I and just his fifth or sixth time at Prix St. Georges. He’s going to be an interesting horse to take to Grand Prix because I think he’s just going to get better,” she said.

Molly Sorge

Categories:

ADVERTISEMENT

EXPLORE MORE

Follow us on

Sections

Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse