Things didn’t go quite as planned for Denmark’s Mikala Münter Gundersen yesterday in the Kentucky Cup Grand Prix, so she enjoyed some sweet redemption today, April 21, when she and Leonberg led the honor round in the Grand Prix Special.
“Yesterday, I didn’t get to warm up. I had just come down, and I had to change bits, because the bit was rubbing him. So I didn’t get to warm up, and he was not really supple in his back when I went into the ring,” said Gundersen.
Her preparation went much more smoothly for the Special, and Gundersen headed into the arena knowing the 16-year-old Zweibrucker stallion was completely with her.
“I had so much fun riding! I had all the horse I was hoping for in the ring,” said Gundersen. She finished on top of the 16-horse field (70.79%) over Canada’s Bonny Bonnello on Pikardi (70.29%) and Pierre St. Jacques on Lucky Tiger (69.33%).
Gundersen did have a bit of trouble on her last centerline when “Leo” almost halted instead of piaffing. “I don’t really know what happened,” she said. “I thought he came in all right, and then it felt like he was going to go to the bathroom. I almost turned around to see what was going on back there, but then I was like, ‘OK, I’m in the ring. Let’s make the best out of this.’ So I took a deep breath and figured out how to get my scores back. I got a nice piaffe in the end and got my transition to passage.”
Gundersen, who lives in Wellington, Fla., hopes to compete on a Danish team at the CHIO in Aachen, Germany, July 9-18. The Danish selection trials for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are two weeks later.
Bonnello, who finished third in the Grand Prix, also ran into trouble during her test. She lost valuable points to mistakes in the one-tempis, and then she incurred an error when she headed across the diagonal for her last extended trot instead of down the long side.
“I think Robert [Dover, the Canadian team coach,] will never speak to me again if I ever do that again,” said Bonnello with a laugh. “I thought I did a pretty good job. I struggled a little bit in some of the movements. But when there’s an error I know I’ve made the mistake. He’s very willing to do whatever I ask. I need to make sure I’m a few seconds ahead of him. My preparation sometimes needs to be a little bit better. On the whole I’m very pleased, as it is his first year in the Grand Prix.”
Like Gundersen, Bonnello will also be headed to Europe this summer, although she just learned that yesterday.
“We’re flying out May 10th. We’ll be on that plane. I’ll be there for a couple months and then home. I also need to be home to Calgary at some point because my son is getting married,” she said.
The top three riders raved about the facilities and expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to ride at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games come to town in September.
“I didn’t use this score for my average for [the U.S. Dressage Selection Trials],” said St. Jacques, Anthony, Fla. “I wanted to compete here and have fun and get to know the facility. If I do make it to the WEG, then I’ll know where I’m at and it’s not a surprise.”
“It was just perfect in my whole plan of shows,” said Gundersen. “When we live in Florida, we’re used to the show grounds. It’s really good for the horses to go somewhere else. I just couldn’t wait to get to Kentucky. I said, ‘If I’m not going in the fall, I want to go now and get the t-shirt.’ We’ll take lots of photos!”
Full results from the Grand Prix Special can be found on www.foxvillage.com.
The Kentucky Cup dressage test events finish up on Thursday night with the Grand Prix freestyle. The freestyle begins at 7 p.m., and the first- and second-placed riders from the Grand Prix, Tina Konyot on Calecto V and Belinda Trussell on Anton, will ride in the second group starting at 8 p.m.