Saturday, May. 18, 2024

Hoffman Gains Early Momentum At Dressage Getaway I

After a winter spent returning to basics, Jennifer Hoffman is back and stronger than ever.

Jennifer Hoffman wanted to meet certain goals as she marched into her Grand Prix test with Petit Danseur at Dressage Getaway I.

In her first show of the season, held Jan. 18-20 in Indio, Calif., Hoffman hoped she could show “Dobby” in a whole new way, a more relaxed way.
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After a winter spent returning to basics, Jennifer Hoffman is back and stronger than ever.

Jennifer Hoffman wanted to meet certain goals as she marched into her Grand Prix test with Petit Danseur at Dressage Getaway I.

In her first show of the season, held Jan. 18-20 in Indio, Calif., Hoffman hoped she could show “Dobby” in a whole new way, a more relaxed way.

“I tried to make sure we had no tension in his work,” said Hoffman. “I’d been having some problems with him, so we tried to make him a lot more quiet, more supple and more relaxed. I wanted to show the judges he can go very lightly and in self-carriage.”

She must have hit her mark, because the judges rewarded her with first place (68.95%) in the Grand Prix.   

Hoffman, 34, has a long history with Georgia Griffiths’ 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood. She’s qualified him for the USET Foundation Festival of Champions (N.J.) at Intermediaire and Grand Prix and described him as a spooky and playful horse.

“He doesn’t want to be naughty, but he can’t help himself. He can be really hot,” she said.

So she spent the winter in San Diego, Calif., working on basics with her husband Jürgen Hoffman. “I did a lot of suppling and calming work. I tried to ride him more off my seat and legs and less off my hand,” explained Jennifer.

Jennifer spent 11 years in Germany training in dressage, earned her Bereiter title and worked with Jean Bemelanns and Klaus Balkenhol before returning to the United States in 2001 to start German Dressage with Jürgen.

Since Dobby has competed Grand Prix for almost three years with Jennifer, the movements weren’t tricky for him, but she hoped that by taking a step back in their training she could increase his fitness and enable him to do the movements with more lightness.

“I was a little tentative going into the test,” she said. “Everything was different than how I’d ridden him for the last two years. It was a whole different feel. I warmed him up exactly like at home. It was a beautiful test. He had no mistakes.”

Jennifer was especially pleased with Dobby’s smooth piaffe-passage transitions and the 8s he received on the tempi changes, left canter pirouette and trot half-pass.

“He was so good in that first test. I didn’t ride him in any other test,” she said. “I’m going to try to save him for the qualifiers I need to ride him in and focus on doing the same thing I was doing at home.”

Jennifer is looking toward the Olympic selection trials with Dobby. The trials will be held as part of this year’s Festival of Champions and will take place in June in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. She also has three upcoming athletes in her stable, and each horse had an opportunity to show off at Dressage Getaway I.

Jennifer rode Pik’s Pride to a Prix St. Georges win (66.75%). She’s owned the 12-year-old, Oldenburg stallion (Pik Noir—Bavaria) since he was 2, and she would like to qualify him for the Intermediaire championship.

Susan Walker’s Farinelli won another Prix St. Georges class (70.50%) with Hoffman. Farinelli, a 9-year-old Westphalian (Florestan I—Whitney), will return to Walker next year to compete in Young Rider classes, but for now Jennifer hopes to qualify for the USEF Developing Horse Championships.

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And despite all of the upper level talent in her barn, it was the young Delacroix who stole the show, scoring 78.00 percent and 80.40 percent in his young horse classes.

Jennifer bought the 6-year-old Westphalian (Defacto—Rapsodie) six months ago after a lot of urging from Jürgen.

“My husband made me buy him because he loved the way I looked on him,” said Jennifer. “He’s a ladies horse. He’s super leggy and has catlike movement. He moves over a lot of ground. He carries himself uphill.”

But poor muscling and fitness made it difficult to see all that was good about him initially.

“I really had to build strength because he was super weak,” said Jennifer. “He’s starting to muscle up more and look more the part.”

Building Confidence With Exposure

Kathleen Raine also used the early show to give her young horse some experience. She won fourth level, test 1, (66.97%) and a Prix St. Georges class (68.00%) with Breanna, an 8-year-old Hanoverian by Brentano II.

“This was a real confidence builder for her,” said Raine. “She was a lot more focused on me. I was very happy with her concentration level. She’s learned everything really easily. The biggest thing is keeping the focus in the ring, so she doesn’t get distracted by outside noise.”

Raine bought Breanna in partnership with Jennifer Mason and her husband, David Wightman, at the 2004 Elite Winter Auction in Verden, Germany. Since then she’s been training the talented young mare, but she’s also bred her through embryo transfer to stallions such as Festrausch, Rousseau and Quaterback.

“Good horses are so expensive,” said Raine. “That’s the advantage of getting a mare. We have a 2-year-old, a yearling and three on the way this year. It’s exciting to get them from the beginning like that.”

Raine, 42, and Wightman, Murrieta, Calif., are known for their ability to bring horses along from the young horse classes through Grand Prix. Raine earned team bronze at the 1994 World Equestrian Games (the Netherlands) and placed sixth in the FEI World Cup Dressage Final (Sweden) that same year. She was an alternate for the U.S. Olympic team in 1996 and 2000, but she likes to stay focused on the big picture, not just international competition.

“I’ve always enjoyed starting the horses from youngsters,” she said. “You get to know them, and it’s a real partnership.”

As a 6-year-old, Breanna qualified to go to the World Championships for Young Horses in Verden, Germany, but Raine chose not to attend.

“I wanted to keep her home and work on the training,” she explained. “I really enjoy the process. That’s the most important thing to me. I take it as it comes.”

Raine also showed Debi Brum’s Milano to a fourth level win (67.90%). Like Breanna, the 11-year-old Danish Warmblood (Michellino—World Art) needs some mileage under his belt.

“They have to keep getting in the ring,” said Raine. “Both have great concentration at home.”

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A Good Attitude Goes A Long Way

While Raine wanted show exposure for her horses, amateur rider Charlotte Jorst was just looking for a snowless place to ride.

The Reno, Nev., resident revealed that she hasn’t been able to do much riding for the past few months because of snow. She spent Christmas in her native Denmark with her family, while her horse Livingston stayed out in his pasture.

But the 7-year-old Danish Warmblood (Solos Landitinus—Lindau) has a reputation for taking things in stride.

“He just gets out there and does it. That’s why I like riding him so much,” said Jorst.

Jorst got her first horse eight years ago as a gift from her husband and never looked back. Now at 43, she and her two daughters ride and own a 12-horse stable.

Livingston was initially bought 11⁄2 years ago as a resale project, but Jorst wasn’t eager to move him along. “I get very attached to the horses,” she said. “I’ve brought three over and sold everyone except for him. I don’t like it, and I’m not going to do it again.”

Initially Jorst’s daughter was jumping Livingston, but then Jorst decided she’d like to try him in dressage. The pair started at first level and came away with the reserve Great American/USDF Region 7 Championship.

When she has the opportunity, Jorst works with Volker Bromman. She rides in all weather and in any conditions.

“I’ll ride in the ice and snow and just walk and trot,” she said. “I’ll ride in deep mud. They stand in the mud anyway. It does impact the work, because you can’t do that much. Some days I just hand walk. I try to get them out as much as I can, because otherwise you miss three months in the winter.”

So it was a real treat for her to hit the ample, groomed arenas at the former Horse Shows In The Sun show grounds.

“I basically hadn’t ridden for a month,” said Jorst. “Friday I went into the [fourth level, test 2], and he was like a deer in the headlights. Then the rest of it was a piece of cake.”

Although that first test didn’t go quite the way Jorst would have liked, she went on to win third level, test 3, (61.39%) and two different fourth level, test 1, classes (60.23%, 62.32%). 

“I thought we would totally screw up the flying changes, but by the last day he was totally relaxed and got 7s for some of them,” said Jorst. “I loved the fact that he was so happy in the test and so eager to please and work. That’s all you can really ask for.”

Next, Livingston is off to the new HITS show grounds in Thermal, Calif. Jorst plans to show him in the adult equitation.

“I’ve jumped a little bit,” said Jorst. “It’s not so different from the dressage. As long as they’re in front of your leg they can do anything.”

Sara Lieser

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