Wednesday, May. 29, 2024

Christoff Conquers The Golden State Dressage Festival CDI

The Canadian rider earns her first CDI win in a big way with Pfalstaff.

Wendy Christoff cantered down the centerline into the big leagues at the Golden State Dressage Festival CDI in Rancho Murieta, Calif., on April 2-5.

Christoff, of Delta, B.C., Canada, earned her first CDI-level win in a big way, topping the CDI Grand Prix with a 64.55 percent on her 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding Pfalstaff.



The Canadian rider earns her first CDI win in a big way with Pfalstaff.

Wendy Christoff cantered down the centerline into the big leagues at the Golden State Dressage Festival CDI in Rancho Murieta, Calif., on April 2-5.

Christoff, of Delta, B.C., Canada, earned her first CDI-level win in a big way, topping the CDI Grand Prix with a 64.55 percent on her 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding Pfalstaff.

Christoff rode in her first CDI last year. “I was so overwhelmed that I was going down the same centerline as Steffen [Peters] and Debbie [McDonald] and all of those people. I got in the ring and I completely froze,” she recalled.

“I forgot my test and went off course, so I didn’t do very well. It’s very, very overwhelming to go down that CDI centerline. I didn’t think I’d be so starstruck but I really was.”

At Golden State, she left those nerves behind and rode to the blue in the Grand Prix and to second place in the Grand Prix freestyle (66.25%). “The Grand Prix was fantastic!” exclaimed Christoff.

“Pfalstaff has a beautiful cadenced trot. If you keep him together he can just float over the ground. I didn’t ever feel him pulling against my hand or dumping on the forehand in the test. He just stayed with me and stayed up and strong and cadenced in the trot the whole time.”

The arena was watered and dragged before the class, and there was a shallow puddle between the arena fencing and the letter at C that the harrow didn’t reach. The puddle was reflecting the setting sun, and some horses were having a problem with the reflection.

“Right at the beginning of the test he looked at that and didn’t want to go down there,” said Christoff. “I thought ‘Oh, this could be bad.’ But then he came back to me and he was fine. I made a really stupid error in the one-tempis because I started counting them the way I usually do and then I changed the way I was counting them.

“I didn’t know if I had done 13 or 15, so I did two more, and of course it was 17. So I lost marks that were my own fault. I thought the piaffe got a bit weak, but that was my mistake by not riding him into it better from the passage. But the passage was good. So I can fix that and learn to do better.”

This is the beginning of the second season that Christoff is riding a Grand Prix freestyle. Karen Robinson of Applause Dressage put together the freestyle for her last year, and they made it relatively simple. It has 11⁄2 canter pirouettes and two-tempis on a bending line. Now Christoff feels more confident at the Grand Prix level, and she and Robinson are going to change the choreography and ramp up the difficulty.

“The trot tour felt like I had never felt him before,” said Christoff. “It was really, really fun. It was spooky in that arena, especially at night. He was so on the aids in the trot, and I think I relaxed a bit too much in the walk. When he was walking he saw something behind the flower pot at the letter M and then he wouldn’t canter up there. He is a bit of a fraidy cat. You always come out of there thinking, ‘I can fix that, I can do that better’ so I felt like there’s more there. But it was a great feeling and a good start for the season.”


Christoff bought Pfalstaff (Palladium—Grenadier, Lugano I) when he was 12 from Kent Gilmore of Paso Robles, Calif. He was trained to Grand Prix at the time. Gilmore had purchased Pfalstaff as a foal from breeder Oceanview Farm in Pescadero, Calif. Christoff has been riding dressage for 20 years and has trained a few horses up to the small tour level.

Christoff showed Pfalstaff in the small tour the first year she owned him, as she didn’t have the confidence to start him out at Grand Prix.

“I bought Pfalstaff for me to learn how to ride Grand Prix and then also to learn how to train my own horses to the next level because I couldn’t quite make that leap,” said Christoff. “I needed a really good, kind generous horse like he is to help me get there. Pfalstaff is 17.3 and I think that intimidated a lot of people. He’s actually a very small horse in his mind, and you have to ride him like a little horse. I know that sounds funny, but you have to give him a lot of confidence. Then he’s so generous he’ll do everything.”

Christoff started out riding western and was a rodeo queen. Then, she saw a dressage demonstration 25 years ago and decided it was the sport for her. She trains with Leslie Reid and Jacquie Oldham in Canada.

Zipping Up The Win

Laura Cooper of Solana Beach, Calif., has only been riding dressage for six years, and Settino, 10, is her first dressage horse. But she didn’t let that get in her way as the pair won both the Prix St. Georges (67.26%) and the Intermediaire I (68.31%) in the CDI.

But they almost didn’t get into the ring in the Prix St. Georges class.

“I usually warm him up for 40 minutes or so,” explained Cooper. “I was putting my boots on, and my zipper broke halfway up! It was completely stuck and I couldn’t get the boot off. It took 10 minutes to get me out of this boot. Thank goodness I had my new boots here that I hadn’t broken in. They’re as stiff as all get out. I put those on and I rode in the test with them. I couldn’t feel if my leg was on the horse because the boots are so stiff.”

Even with the drama beforehand Cooper felt that she had a good ride in the Prix St. Georges. “His trot extensions were pretty good,” said Cooper. “I want to tighten up the canter pirouettes; he does them and does them well but we need to tighten them up to get the scores a little bit higher.

“The Intermediaire I felt better,” said Cooper. “He was just a little more engaged today, and overall it just felt easy for him. His trot work was solid; he was just super on the aids today. He was really with me—not too in front and not too behind—just there.”

Cooper, 24, was a class A vaulter at Mt. Eden Vaulters in Saratoga, Calif., from the time she was 10 until 18. She bought Set-tino (Jet Set-D—Le Val Blanc) as a 4-year-old after he competed in the Pavo Cup in Holland. Cooper competed with him in the U.S. Equestrian Federation National Developing Horse classes last year, and placed fourth in the finals in Kentucky.

Cooper has trained with Steffen Peters since moving to the San Diego two years ago and also recently started training with Sue Blinks in Encinitas, Calif.


Idocus Back On Top

Junior rider Ashlyn DeGroot of DG Bar Ranch in Hanford, Calif., won both of her Intermediaire II classes on the Dutch Warmblood stallion Idocus (70.00%, 69.73).

Idocus competed at the 2004 Olympic Games with Dutch rider Marlies von Baalen and at the 2007 and ’08 FEI World Cup Finals with U.S. rider Courtney King-Dye. He moved to California in January to stand at stud at DG Bar Ranch.

“It’s just kind of a bonus that I’m able to ride him,” said DeGroot. “I’m learning a lot from him. Even if I don’t get to show him, it’s a real honor to me to be able to ride him.”

DeGroot was distracted going into the ring on Friday and turned the wrong way off the centerline. “I can’t believe I did that!” she said to her mother, Rochelle DeGroot.

This was DeGroot’s second show on Idocus. They had competed in Burbank in February. They also did demonstrations of the Intermediaire II test at the Friesian stallion testing that was held at DG Bar Ranch earlier this year and at the KWPN-NA meeting in San Diego.

DeGroot, who just turned 15 at the end of March, hasn’t ridden at the Interme-diaire II level before, though she has ridden stallions at home. Last year she competed with the Dutch Warmblood gelding Jasper in the FEI Junior classes in California. DeGroot has ridden in exhibitions on other horses at the events at DG Bar Ranch over the years but admits that’s there’s a little more pressure on her when she’s riding Idocus.

“It’s good for me—the pressure,” she said. “It makes me do better, I think. And it makes me want to do really well. I’m having a lot fun with Idocus. He’s such a good horse; he knows everything. He’s just like a machine for passage and piaffe. He’s very sensitive and he has a great attitude. He’s always willing to work. He’s definitely not ready to retire yet.”

DeGroot has been competing in dressage since she was 8. She’s a freshman at Central Valley Christian School in Visalia, Calif. She said she loves horses too much to compete in any of the after school sports, though she enjoys playing basketball and volleyball.

“Riding is definitely my favorite thing,” said DeGroot. She was planning to compete in the FEI junior classes this year, but Jasper is out for the season. DeGroot has a 3-year-old that she is starting with the help of her trainer Willy Arts.




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