Saturday, May. 18, 2024

Creech Collects Double Wins In Dressage At Devon Debut

The Canadian rider and her impressive mare showcase more than just beginner’s luck with two Grand Prix wins.

Worries about the wet footing plagued many riders throughout the weekend, but the foul weather didn’t put a damper on Diane Creech’s Dressage At Devon introduction. With her longtime partner Wiona, Creech earned top honors in the Grand Prix CDI classes at the prestigious Devon, Pa., show, held Sept. 26-28.
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The Canadian rider and her impressive mare showcase more than just beginner’s luck with two Grand Prix wins.

Worries about the wet footing plagued many riders throughout the weekend, but the foul weather didn’t put a damper on Diane Creech’s Dressage At Devon introduction. With her longtime partner Wiona, Creech earned top honors in the Grand Prix CDI classes at the prestigious Devon, Pa., show, held Sept. 26-28.

“I’ve never been to Devon, and the first day we were walking around I was like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God!’ ” Creech said, laughing. “There are so many nice horses and so many wonderful people. It’s just amazing.”

Creech, Caistor Center, Ont., posted a winning score of 64.16 percent in the Grand Prix for the Special on Friday afternoon, then won the Sunday Special with 62.48 percent.

Creech broke Wiona to ride, and the now-11-year-old Hanoverian mare made solid progression up the levels. The pair helped Canada earn the team silver medal at the 2007 Pan American Games (Brazil), placing eighth individually. After a three-month stint in Germany training with Norbert van Laak this spring, they came out at the Grand Prix level at Paxton Farms (Ohio) in May.

“It’s a big step, not only physically, but mentally,” said Creech. “Your dream is coming true, and you’re finally showing Grand Prix—but everything is totally different. But I know Wiona so well now, and when you have a good partnership with your horse, you can go through fire together. With another horse I didn’t know as well it would be so much harder.

“Consistency is my goal, and she is so consistent,” Creech continued of Wiona (Weltmeyer—Feline). “There are no real weak points. Right now I’m just aiming for a clean, consistent test, then we’ll work to improve the quality of the work and build up from there. So there might not be too many 8s or 9s right now, but there also aren’t too many 3s and 4s in there.”

Wiona triumphed by impressive margins in both classes, and Creech said she felt the mare “bloom up” in the electric atmosphere. Still, their win on Sunday was particularly hard-fought due to the soupy footing, which felt like suction cups on her mare’s feet.

“You had to ride very balanced and a bit conservatively, but that was OK,” Creech said. “You don’t ride full tilt in footing like that, but this is really a mare you can go to war with. She will pony out of it.”

Doug and Louise Leatherdale, of Leatherdale Farms in Long Lake, Minn., have owned Wiona since she was 5. Creech’s only disappointment at Devon was that the couple wasn’t able to witness their mare’s performance due to Doug’s recovery from knee surgery.

“I’m so grateful because I would never be where I am without them,” said Creech, who is a breast cancer survivor. “They’ve not only been my sponsors—they’ve supported me through the cancer. They always stood beside me and supported me. They were just so happy when they heard Wiona had won. They were on pins and needles waiting for news.”

Déjà Vu At Devon

In the Grand Prix for the freestyle and the freestyle itself, this year’s results were a repeat of last year’s, but there was no less excitement in the Dixon Oval.

Lars Petersen and Succes, a 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Clinto—Cinderella), placed second in Friday’s Grand Prix behind Ashley Holzer with Pop Art, and they had to perform their freestyle immediately after she had scored a leading 75.10 percent.

Petersen originally used his bouncy, 1950s-style music when competing Blue Hors Cavan, but the soundtrack also fits Succes perfectly and usually gets the crowd clapping and laughing as they recognize “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf” and the theme from Mr. Ed.

“There was the same electricity as last year,” said Petersen, who rides for Denmark but is based in Loxahatchee, Fla. “When people clap in the middle, it does rattle him a little bit, but people are here to have fun and watch good riding, so it’s OK.”

Petersen’s performance wasn’t perfect— he and Succes got slightly behind the music during their pirouettes and never really recovered their timing—but the pair was still able to eek out a win over Holzer and Pop Art, winning by just .15 percentage points on a score of 75.25 percent.

“The footing changes the timing,” said judge Gary Rockwell. “It happened to a number of riders. But it was very obvious to me that the best horses were able to deal with the footing the best, which means they were just more balanced, stronger horses.”

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Rockwell said Petersen did lose some points on the canter pirouettes but that the judges love his test in general and like to reward the high degree of difficulty it boasts.

“I think that’s the most difficult I can make it,” Petersen said of the freestyle, which includes several piaffe-passage tours, a series of crowd-pleasing canter pirouettes up the centerline and perfectly timed tempi-changes on a circle. “I think I’ll just keep it.”

Petersen said he was content with his decision to not try for an Olympic bid for Hong Kong this summer. But he admitted to feeling a twinge of regret after seeing some of the scores his Danish team put on the board.

“When I saw that they got the bronze medal, and I saw they got a 67 [percent], maybe it crossed my mind,” he said wryly. “But really it’s not something I think about.”

Petersen’s next goals are the 2009 FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas, Nev., and possibly the European Championships.

Holzer has her sights set on next spring’s World Cup as well. She won Friday’s Grand Prix on a score of 70.70 percent and was one of only two riders at Devon who brought their Olympic Games mounts. Both Pop Art and Jacqueline Brooks’ Gran Gesto, who placed third in the Grand Prix and the freestyle at Devon, represented Canada in the Games.

Holzer’s Olympic bid, her third for Canada, didn’t go as she’d hoped with her 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Amsterdam—Jody Prinses). Considered before the Games to have an outside chance at an individual medal, she said she was disappointed with her performance in the Grand Prix, which scored 67.04 percent.

“Even though it was the Olympics, I didn’t really feel like the ring had the atmosphere,” Holzer said. “The ring was basically in the middle of a field. I think it made him feel a little small, and I don’t think it really gave him the atmosphere he likes.

“ ‘Poppy’ always finds this ring very exciting,” she continued of the Dixon Oval. “He seems so happy to be back.”

Holzer, New York, N.Y., said she didn’t initially plan on competing at Devon. But she was “shocked” at how well the horses recovered after their return from Hong Kong.

“I gave him down time when we came back for two weeks, expecting to feel fatigue, but honestly I didn’t. He feels great,” she said. “And we love Devon. You get an incredible opportunity to ride in a world-class ring with world-class judges, two hours from where you live. Why would you not do it?”

Collecting Blues For KYB

No one pulled a hat trick in the small tour CDI classes, but Endel Ots, Gilberts, Ill., went two for two, earning his first two Devon wins in the Intermediaire I and the freestyle. He chose not to enter Kelly Roetto’s Bentley, a 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Sorel—Sacajawea) in Friday’s Prix St. Georges class.

Dressage At Devon Tidbits

•    Katie Foster, Minocqua, Wis., topped the FEI Junior team test on Friday with Sacramento, scoring 66.91 percent. The 17-year-old rider and her chestnut Dutch Warmblood gelding also won Sunday’s junior freestyle with 68.72 percent and placed second in the junior individual test.

•    Friday night at Devon served as a perfect final competition for Sue McKeown and her longtime partner, Marshal. McKeown, a retired technology worker from Worcester, Mass., bought the now-19-year-old gelding when he was just 1 day old.
        The black Swedish Warmblood got a rousing round of applause for his last freestyle with McKeown, set to upbeat, brassy tunes from the movie Brassed Off, which earned 63.40 percent. This winter she’ll lease the gelding to Florida professional Ryan Yap so that he can continue competing at the cost-prohibitive Grand Prix level.
        “It didn’t even occur to me that I’d ever be able to do [Devon],” McKeown said. “I’m an adult amateur, so that I could get my horse to Grand Prix and be able to ride at Dressage At Devon–it was beyond a lifetime dream.”

•    Members of the Dressage At Devon ring crew earned an unforeseen reward for their hard work in grooming the weekend’s less-than-savory footing. Midway through the show, Dubarry of Ireland announced they would sponsor the crew, giving a free pair of their popular waterproof leather boots to each worker.

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•    Top honors in Prix St. Georges CDI competition went to Courtney King-Dye and Jubilant on a score of 68.66 percent. Devon served as King-Dye’s first outing since the Olympic Games in Hong Kong in August, after which she served a one-month Fédération Equestre Internationale suspension after her mount Mythilus tested
positive for trace amounts of a banned substance.

“I didn’t want to mess up his average,” said Ots humbly. “He’s first in the country at the Prix St. Georges.”

Bentley is also currently leading the national Intermediaire I freestyle standings with Ots, who works as an assistant trainer at Kim and Yvonne Barteau’s KYB Dressage in Gilberts.

In Saturday’s 35-horse Intermediaire I, the final scores were extremely tight, with the top eight horses finishing within 1 percentage point of each other. And in an unprecedented finish, a three-way tie for the win (66.91%) broke in Ots’ favor.

Ots, 22, described Bentley as “a small tour machine.” Over the past few years the gelding has swept young rider classes almost everywhere with the Barteaus’ daughter, Kassandra, so Ots began taking him in open classes about two years ago.

“Five years ago I was scoring in the 50s at training level and barely making it into the regional championships,” Ots said. “I told [the Barteaus] I’d do as many stalls as they wanted if they could teach me to ride like ‘Kassie’ did.

“Then two years ago I did get to come to Devon as a young rider with another horse and didn’t even make it into the ribbons,” he continued. “And now today I was saying to Kim, ‘famous people win here, like Lars Petersen and Courtney King-Dye. I’m just a nobody from Chicago!’ The whole class was so close. I thought it was great.”

On Sunday the pair put in a fantastic freestyle performance in the pouring rain to top Chris Hickey’s leading score with Bugatti Hilltop. Ignoring the downpour and floating easily over the soupy footing, Bentley earned a mark of 72.20 percent.

“You could drop him off a house, and he would be sound,” Ots said. “One of the judges pointed out that there was a hole in the arena where water was collecting, so I tried to adjust the test to stay away from that. But I tried not to worry so much and just ride. He was such a good boy. I was so happy.”

Yvonne created Bentley’s freestyle, which included music from Ocean’s 13 and Beetlejuice, with some choreography help from her husband Kim. She does the musical editing and choreography for all the horses in the family’s KYB Dressage program, including her daughter’s mount, Gabriella.

Kassie accomplished a clean sweep of the young rider classes at Devon, taking first place with Gabriella in the FEI Young Rider team test (68.88%), the individual test (68.41%) and the freestyle (70.50%). And as an added bonus, she also took second in the team and individual classes with her other mount, GP Raymeister.

Kassie has been riding Robert Oury’s Gabriella, a 16-year-old Hanoverian mare (Grosso Z—Wiebe) for six years, and the pair won the national young rider championship at the USEF Dressage Festival of Champions for the past two years running.

“I know my mare really well—upside down,” she said. “It’s like a marriage. She’s really steady, and I feel so lucky and fortunate.”

Gabriella’s freestyle included music by Celine Dion and dynamic chanting tracks. While Kassie said she used to enjoy making her own musical selections, she has long since handed the task over to her mother.

“I’ve had some of ‘my’ music, but the judges never like it,” Kassie said. “It’s never a good idea. The techno version of ‘Für Elise’ turned out to be a bit too hectic!”

When the Barteaus arrive back in Illinois after Dressage At Devon, they’ll be relocating their entire training program from their family farm to Ginna Frantz’s Grand Prix Equestrian facility. Frantz also owns GP Raymeister, a 9-year-old Holsteiner stallion who Kassie has brought up from training level and plans to compete at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships next year.

Kat Netzler

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