She hopes her scores will help her qualify for a grant to compete in Europe.
Jane Hannigan is riding toward one of her ultimate goals with her longtime partner Maksymilian: competing at the Aachen CHIO.
She got one step closer at the Winter Equestrian Festival Dressage Classic CDI-W, March 11-14 in Wellington, Fla., after she and “Mak” won the Grand Prix Special. Her score helped her into sixth place on the list of riders hoping to receive a grant for travel to Europe to compete in a CDI and then on to Aachen, Germany, for one of the biggest dressage competitions in the world.
In Wellington, Hannigan and Mak, her partner of nine years, received a 67.23 percent to win the Grand Prix for the Special qualifier over Karen Lipp and Latino. Hannigan went on to win the Grand Prix Special (68.08%), again over Lipp.
Although Hannigan, of Harvard, Mass., was originally entered in the Grand Prix freestyle, she changed to the Special when she was told she still needed a score to qualify for the grant.
“Jamie Irwin had to pull out,” Hannigan explained, “which is the only reason I got into the Special. I owe Jamie Irwin a big thank you. Otherwise, I couldn’t have gone to Aachen.”
Hannigan, who comes from a family of riders, started riding in Pony Club and did eventing and jumpers before focusing on dressage full time when she was 15. She rode with trainers from the Spanish Riding School for six years and said that she still reverts to their basics.
Mak came into Hannigan’s life nine years ago when he was doing third level classes and “couldn’t even do a single flying change very well,” Hannigan said with a laugh. “He kind of bolted. He’s come a long way, and he and I are like an old married couple at this point.”
Hannigan, a teaching professional, said dressage is her life 24/7. “I’m obsessed with trying to figure out and break down the system to the point where it actually makes sense,” she said.
She noted that changes in the new Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special tests have made things confusing.
Mak’s nickname is Zoolander, named after a male model in a movie who can only turn one way. Hannigan said with a smile, “He knows one test, one direction, one way. It’s really hard to switch tests. You get the new test and everything is reversed, like a mirror image. It’s really confusing for the horses. In the new Grand Prix, they put in a halt reinback at C, and in the Special, you have to passage at C. He kept trying to halt reinback for the whole passage. Mak doesn’t know what he’s doing anymore!”
Despite the confusion, Hannigan was proud of her old partner, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood by Elcaro. The pair competed at last year’s FEI World Cup Final in the Netherlands.
“What we have to work on is him being fit enough to make it through the whole test and have that same brilliance at the end. I think that my last piaffe in the Special was very low and small,” she admitted. “It wasn’t as exciting because he just didn’t have enough gas at the end of the test. I have to balance it out still. You get them too fit and you can’t handle them. They’re not fit enough and they can’t handle it. We’re still going for that balance.”
Caroline Roffman has been without her venerable partner Bulgari 5 for two years. But she and the 16-year-old Hanoverian by Baryshnikov were second in the FEI Young Rider Team test (68.00%), just behind Meagan Davis and Bentley (68.52%). She then overtook Davis for the wins in their two remaining classes, winning the FEI Young Rider Individual (68.78%) over Davis (64.68%.) Roffman had her best score yet in the FEI Young Rider freestyle with a 73.10 percent.
The 20-year-old Roffman, who lives in Wellington, Fla., trains with Lars Petersen. She and Bulgari 5 competed twice at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships and earned bronze medals, but an injury two years ago there left Roffman without a top horse.
“We were told that he was done,” she said. “He’s had two years off. I’ve had a lot of young horses to show, but he’s my old partner. Being my last young rider year, we brought him out of retirement and thought we’d give him one last chance.”
They won the Young Rider freestyle at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby (Fla.), Feb. 26-March 1, and Roffman said, “Starting from the first day here, he felt like his old self again. It felt like we hadn’t missed anything. We just picked up where we left off.”
Roffman was also happy to be back working with her old trainer, Silke Rembacz. “She and Lars are working
with me together on him,” Roffman noted. “Silke has known Bulgari for so long. I’m so lucky that I can have two trainers who get along and have such good teamwork.”
But more than anything, Roffman was happy to be back on Bulgari. “I have so many horses that I’ve been able to show that are green, and you have to guide them around,” she said. “He’s taught me to have confidence as a show rider. He just comes in like, ‘Look at me. I’m here. Move out of the way. I’m the best.’ That gives you a really nice feeling to have as a rider, to know that he’s going to go in there and try his hardest every time.”
Roffman hopes to qualify for the FEI World Cup Dressage Final for Young Riders, and her scores at this show put her into first place so far. “My dream, if everything was perfect, [is that] I’d be able to take him in December,” she said with a smile.
Davis’ New Bentley
Davis of Stoneridge, N.Y., also wants to qualify for the World Cup Dressage Final for Young Riders. The 19-year-old and her new mount Bentley, a 1993 Danish Warmblood gelding, won the FEI Young Rider Team test and finished second in the FEI Young Rider Individual class and the freestyle.
This was Davis’ fourth show with Bentley, who had worked with trainers Yvonne and Kim Barteau. He came to Davis through owner Kristen Allen after he turned out not to be a good match for Allen’s niece. When Davis was asked if she wanted the ride, she replied, “Without a doubt, yes!”
Davis trains with Lendon Gray, and her horse Cachet, with whom she has won bronze and silver medals at the NAJYRC, is in training with Scott Hassler. In Wellington, Davis worked with Jane Hannigan.
“We went in the fashion to just ride him forward,” said Davis. “He knows everything; you don’t have to school the movements and get him soft. He just has to know who the boss is and move off of my leg.”
Davis is excited about what she is learning with Bentley. “He’s such an amazing horse. He knows everything and doesn’t let you get away with doing things wrong. It’s really great for learning,” she said.
She wants to help the Region 8 team win the gold medal at the NAJYRC, and she would like to take Bentley and Cachet to the USEF National Young Rider Dressage Championship in Gladstone, N.J., in June.
On To Vegas
On Saturday night, Canadian Ashley Holzer and her 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Pop Art gave the crowd a treat as they scored 77.35 percent to easily win the Grand Prix freestyle.
“I’m thrilled with my score. I’ve worked so long to be here getting these kinds of scores,” Holzer said. “To keep a horse at this level and performing under stressful situations is hard to do. When it goes well, you’re very grateful.”
Although she has had difficulties with pirouettes, they came easily this time. “For me, that was a big step up,” she said. “He just nailed it.”
Holzer and Pop Art also won the Grand Prix for the freestyle qualifier (72.51%).
Holzer’s win secured her trip to the Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage Final this April in Las Vegas. Holzer believes she and Pop Art are well prepared for the indoor arena and atmosphere of Vegas.
“I really wanted to do this competition right before the World Cup because if I take too long of a holiday in between competitions, I find that I’m not at my best,” she said. “Every time you go in the ring, you learn something new, especially when there is atmosphere like this. I was enthusiastic to do this at night.”