Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023

Fashion Dresses Up For Two Region 5 Titles

Wendy Rector Riddell guided Fashion to victory in the Great American/USDF Region 5 Grand Prix Championship at the Arizona Dressage Association Fall Fiesta, Nov. 5-7 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Their score of 61.35 percent edged out Kim Yacobucci and Don Graphit (60.21%). Fashion added to his triumph with the winning score of 66.31 percent in the Region 5 Grand Prix freestyle.

In the open Grand Prix, the roles were reversed; Don Graphit won (63.96%) over Fashion (59.69%).


Wendy Rector Riddell guided Fashion to victory in the Great American/USDF Region 5 Grand Prix Championship at the Arizona Dressage Association Fall Fiesta, Nov. 5-7 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Their score of 61.35 percent edged out Kim Yacobucci and Don Graphit (60.21%). Fashion added to his triumph with the winning score of 66.31 percent in the Region 5 Grand Prix freestyle.

In the open Grand Prix, the roles were reversed; Don Graphit won (63.96%) over Fashion (59.69%).

Riddell, daughter of Phoenix trainer Shirley Rector, has had the Danish Warmblood since he was 3. Rector has helped her daughter train Fashion, and this is their second year at Grand Prix.

But it isn’t all arena work and practice for Fashion. “We do a lot of trail riding and galloping,” Riddell said. “Twice a week, we take him out and gallop.”

Riddell, a lawyer, has another young horse waiting in the wings. She won first level, test 4, on Barrister, a 5-year-old Dutch Warmblood who scored 9s on his gaits.

“I have high hopes for the horse to make a team,” said Riddell. “Fashion has good temperament and is all heart. Barrister is international quality.”

Yacobucci kept Don Graphit focused to win the open class. “He’s really good at home and has a lot of talent,” said Yacobucci, who received 9s on the one-tempi changes from Hilda Gurney. “He gets behind the leg at show. He’s a stallion and that’s not always the easiest to show. It’s hard to keep him focused on my aids.”

Yacobucci’s sister, Cindy Hitchcock, won on Don Graphit’s son, Don Diego; their score of 66.92 percent secured a win in adult amateur training level, test 4.

“She’s only been riding three years,” said Yacobucci. “I just gave her the young horse, and she trains with me. She’s been riding him since he was 4. She’s done all the work and made me proud. It’s a testament to my stallion.”

Yacobucci’s student Sue Leutwyler rode Laudatio to the second level adult amateur championship (67.75%). A 17.2-hand Rhinelander, he moves with a lot of presence.

“We work on lateral movements to make him more supple,” said Yacobucci. “He has a talent for piaffe, passage and collections. Hilda Gurney had him at 70 percent. That’s super for an amateur.”

Kelly Vinger, who also trains with Yacobucci, won the Region 5 Intermediaire I adult amateur title (60.63%) and was reserve adult amateur in the Prix St. Georges (61.62%) on the 14-year-old Hanoverian, Wennussio.

“Kim found him in Europe, and I bought him sight unseen,” said Vinger. “He’s been great. We work all the time on the basics, and a lot falls into place. I’ve learned a ton from Kim. We’ve progressed from training level to here in three years.”

Wennussio, who had competed at fourth level in Europe, makes a great pair with Vinger. “Kelly has tons of natural talent,” said Yacobucci. “This year, she’s competed with him in Intermediaire I throughout California with many wins. I knew with her natural talent she could easily become an FEI rider, so I wasn’t overfacing her. He’s a character and can be a little silly. In the Equidome, he got silly and lost the [Prix St. Georges] championship.”


Crooked Willow Wins

Heather Kennedy of Colorado, Sue Halasz’s assistant trainer at Crooked Willow Farm, rode the Region 5 Prix St. Georges winner, Kuriant (68.25%); Halasz and Lector were reserve (65.37%).

“Heather had a better ride,” said Halasz. “I was pretty impressed. She was marvelous and rode him really well. It was a very consistent test with a lot of impulsion and brilliant flying changes. She had big extensions and an extremely good half pass.”

Lector was reserve in the Region 5 Intermediaire freestyle (66.18%) while Kuriant, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood, won an open class of Intermediaire I (61.00%). Kennedy has been riding with Halasz since she was 13 and just recently stepped up to assistant trainer. They’re getting ready for the CDIs in California.

“We’re doing pirouettes and refining with more collection and engagement,” Kennedy said. “We do transitions and simple engaging exercises. And we do quarter pirouettes on the square.”

Kennedy’s student, Michelle Albertus, was Region 5’s training level, adult amateur winner on Sonoma Liberty, a 9-year-old, Oldenburg mare (65.96%). They also won the open show’s training level, test 4, adult amateur class (71.53%).

“They are very consistent, very steady, a beautiful, harmonious pair,” said Halasz. “Michelle is a beautiful rider.”

Crooked Willow Farm continued its success in the Prix St. Georges with Lauren Smith and Lamiro. The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood won the adult amateur Region 5 title (62.00%) and the open show’s adult amateur class (61.00%). They’re working on more engagement and collection, pirouettes and changes.

” ‘Leo’ has a lot of brilliance,” said Halasz. “We’re working on developing his brilliance for the show ring. He gets distracted and has to learn to focus.”

Smith compares him to the Energizer Bunny: “He never says ‘no.’ “

As the mother of six children, riding is her time for herself. She started riding with Halasz as a child and went on to eventing. When she returned Halasz for help with the dressage phase, she then decided to focus on that sport.

“As an adult, it was exciting that she would take me back,” said Smith. “I like perfection, and the sport is great for that. It suits me. There is a level of perfection you can never reach. Every day, I get a better understanding.”

Halasz’s daughter, Haley, is following in her mother’s footsteps. She steered Winchester to the Region 5 junior/young rider third level championship (65.55) and wins in the junior/young rider third level, test 3 (63.33%) and the FEI junior team class (63.97%).

“Our goal is to try for junior championships,” she said. “I need to get him to listen to me in the show arena. He gets nervous and takes over. We work on suppleness in the half-pass and flexible uphill carriage, and collection. We do a lot of shoulders in, serpentines, small circles, and leg forward and back.”

Back In The Saddle For Good


Katie Mortensen has scoliosis, and three years ago, at the age of 18, she had back surgery that fused her spine. The doctor said she would never ride again, but six months later she was back in the saddle and never looked back. She and the 4-year-old, American Warmblood, Plato, won the Region 5 junior/young rider titles at first level (65.55%) and training level (68.26%), as well as an open first level, test 4, junior/young rider class (66.66%).

She plans to concentrate on the 5-year-old championships next year, so they’re working on the canter, counter-canter, leg-yielding, medium trot and improving on first level.

“His age and greenness are handicaps,” she said. “Everything is new so it’s not like experienced horses. He’s playful, but we’ve toned it down a lot.”

Mortenson used to event, but with her back problems, she could no longer jump. “Dressage with a young horse is just as exciting,” she said. “He has wonderful gaits and his personality catches peoples’ eye. He has a lot of expression. The extensions are fun to ride.”

Shannon Dahmer from Rifle, Colo., rode two regional champions: Viva Las Vegas, the open first level winner (72.91%) and reserve at second level (64.41%) and Jen Hlavachek’s Congo, winner of the Intermediaire I freestyle (68.25%).

Jeri Yarborough, breeder of Viva Las Vegas, names every horse after an Elvis song. Dahmer bought him when he was five months old.

“There was just something about him,” she said. “The mare has only had two live foals; she’s lost five. He was special from the beginning. I’ve owned him and trained him. He’s so sweet and trusts me. I know all his little habits. I take him out once a week and work in the hay field for a mental break. He’s my horse of a lifetime.”

After this show, they’re going to work on flying changes so they can do the FEI young horse classes.

Cynthia Collins put the music together for Congo’s freestyle. “The music is a swinging freestyle, upbeat, fun, bouncy,” said Dahmer. “It suits him. It’s a big band sound. I sent her a video, and she sent me three different sets of music. I like rock ‘n roll, but when I watched him go to it, I realized the big band sound enhanced him better.”

Teri Hallman from Payson, Ariz., won the Region 5 Intermediaire I final (71.00%) riding Fontainebleau, an 18-hand, 10-year-old Hanoverian.

“He’s a horse of a lifetime, with a ton of potential,” she said of the horse she imported from Germany as a 4-year-old. “He’s so big that we struggled last year with strength and balance. After last year, we went back to the snaffle and went back to basics. He knows the movements. He needed more strength, balance, and connections.”

They’ll do Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire for one more year before moving up to Grand Prix. “He gets nervous and worried when he doesn’t have the strength,” she said. “I don’t want to do [Grand Prix] too soon.”

Paula Paglia purchased Florian in Warendorf, Germany, last year from a family that’s been breeding Westphalians for 300 years. Florian, by Floristan and out of a Paradox daughter, won the Cosequin Breeders’ championship with a score of 8.29.

Karen Rider had two Cosequin champions. Her mare, Danube, was the champion yeld mare, 4 and older. The mare’s daughter by Riverman, Trinity Lael, was the Cosequin/USDF champion filly with an 8.125. Rider, a retired school teacher, does all the training herself with assistance from Hallman.

“She’s breeding quality horses and does a good job of raising he babies,” said Hallman. “She handles the babies a lot.”




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