Sunday, May. 19, 2024

Brooks Boogies To Victory At Royal Winter Fair

She’s getting Gran Gesto ready for an Olympic bid next year.

Jacqueline Brooks and Gran Gesto got the crowd clapping in time to their final centerline. And the judges nodded in agreement, awarding Brooks the win in the Canadian Freestyle Championships, held Nov. 7-8 during the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, Ont.
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She’s getting Gran Gesto ready for an Olympic bid next year.

Jacqueline Brooks and Gran Gesto got the crowd clapping in time to their final centerline. And the judges nodded in agreement, awarding Brooks the win in the Canadian Freestyle Championships, held Nov. 7-8 during the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, Ont.

Brooks and Gran Gesto had the crowd’s support during both nights of freestyle competition. As she came down the final centerline and performed a piaffe at X, backed by powerfully moving music, she and Gran Gesto kept perfect time to the beat.

Her freestyle, performed to music from the movie Alexander, is the same one that took her to the 2007 FEI World Cup Finals (Nev.), and the same music that she hopes will help qualify her for the Olympic Games in Hong Kong next year.

“Gran Gesto was awesome. He was settled in the ring and was very rideable,” said Brooks. “He was really excited to be here. Usually we do a Grand Prix before the freestyle; dealing with the crowd and excitement here, without doing the Grand Prix first, was a challenge.”

Brooks’ composition is dramatic and flowing, and her timing is spot-on. A 20-meter canter circle on which she performs one-tempi  changes right on the beat of the music highlights the choreography. Gran Gesto, a 12-year-old, Oldenburg gelding owned by Brinc Ltd. and Anne Welch, is a big elegant bay that seems to dance with the music.

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“The timing for the circle of ones is the hardest part,” said Brooks. “It starts with a drum—if he’s a bit forward he has to stay back with me, or if he’s behind I’ve got to move him on. I never practice it
at home; I think it’s hard on them to do that kind of movement too often. In the beginning I practiced it more, but now I don’t do it. It’s far enough into the test, by the time I get to it he’s pretty warmed up and through, so it usually rides well.”

Brooks, Mount Albert, Ont., is a local rider and crowd favorite who has competed at the Royal many times, Brooks grew up in Toronto’s west end and confided that as a kid she would skip school and sneak into the coliseum to watch the horse show.

Brooks’ scores of 69.25 percent and 69.66 percent on the two nights of performance put her over her sole opposition—Cindy Ishoy riding Proton, a big powerful gelding with a lot of presence in the ring.

Ishoy is well known in dressage circles for her partnership with the legendary Dynasty, with whom she won a team bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Ishoy has had Proton for five years and competed with him at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

Unfortunately, Proton suffered an injury last year when he pulled a muscle above his knee right before
the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany.

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He had six months off and came back in February, but he still lacks some of the strength necessary for Grand Prix level, and his tests were not quite as polished as Gran Gesto’s. Even so, he also put in two crowd-pleasing performances, scoring 66.91 percent on Wednesday and 66.19 percent on Thursday.

While Brooks chose to use the same music on both nights of the competition, Ishoy used a newer freestyle on Wednesday and a tried and true one for Thursday. The general theme was Austria: Wednesday’s ride featured music from The Sound of Music while Thursday was mostly music from Strauss—with a segment from rap artist 50 Cent at the end that woke the crowd up and got them on their feet.

Brooks also considered doing two different freestyles, but since she is hoping to ride on the Olympic team next year she did not want to pass up the opportunity to practice this one in front of the judges.

This winter Brooks will spend three months in Florida training with Ashley Holzer. She will also take her horse Balmoral, 9, who will start Grand Prix, and plans to ride West Side Lady while her owner  Leah Wilson is in college.

“Gran Gesto has put himself in a good place to be considered for the team,” said Brooks. “I feel I have as good a chance as anyone.”

Brooks and Gran Gesto were on the silver medal team at the 2003 Pan American Games (Dominican Republic), but had to sit out the 2006 WEG due to an abscess. In 2007 they represented Canada at the FEI World Cup Finals, where they finished fourth in the B final.

Amber Heintzberger

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