An official title like the Eastern States Dressage And Combined Training Association Memorial Weekend Dressage And Allentown CDI doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue—at least not the way “The Ashley Holzer Show” does.
And that turned out to be the most apt nickname for the May 26-29 competition in Allentown, N.J., after Canadian veteran Holzer emerged victorious in each of the four CDI classes she entered with her small tour mount Ultiems Flemming and her Olympic and World Equestrian Games partner Pop Art.
Holzer, who’s based in New York City, topped the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I with scores of 71.40 and 72.98 percent, respectively. She earned scores of 69.40 percent in the Grand Prix and 74.08 percent in the Grand Prix freestyle.
“Thrilled” was how Holzer described her feelings after the latter win, on Saturday, but she admitted their Grand Prix score was not their best. She said she and her long-time partner Pop Art, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Amsterdam—Jodyprinses, Cabochon), have grown too comfortable with one another in the ring of late, so after their Grand Prix ride, sports psychologist Dr. Jenny Sussex gave Holzer some advice.
“She said I need to get that fire in my belly and transmit it to Pop Art. In other words, I had to feel nervous and anxious,” Holzer said.
“In the big international competitions with a big grandstand and the lights, it’s different. I needed to make that happen here.”
So before her Saturday evening freestyle ride, Holzer aimed to build up her own anxiety and make herself feel nervous about her ride, as if an Olympic medal depended on her performance in the ring.
“Poppy” picked up on it and responded with the energy he’d lacked the day before.
“I’m not generally nervous, but I tried to be, and it darn well worked!” Hol-zer said.
“It wasn’t perfect—there were times when I was a bit ahead or a bit behind my music, but the intensity was higher, and Poppy was really on his game.”
Will They Or Won’t They?
Holzer’s up-and-coming talent Ultiems Flemming is owned by Patty Jean Rizvi, who will eventually take over the ride on the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Akribori—Eveline, L. Ronald). He’s on track to be an international success, but Holzer and Rizvi will aim the gelding at the Pan American Games in Mexico this fall or take him up to Grand Prix this year and off to Europe to compete.
Canada needs a strong Pan American team in order to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games in London, though Holzer is already qualified for the Olympics as an individual rider. She originally planned to take both her horses to Europe for training and exposure this summer, but that could change for the Pan Ams.
Ultiems has already shown well in Europe and spent some time with Swedish rider Patrik Kittel. But Holzer joked that the gelding seems to like female riders much better and fell in love with her and Rizvi as much as they did with him.
“I rode him and told P.J. that I loved every side of him,” Holzer said.
“She rode him and felt the same. He hasn’t let us down. He’s hot but sensible.”
Rizvi competed the horse in Florida this past year with much success, and Holzer took over the ride with the goal of moving him to Grand Prix this year.
“He’s an amazing horse and just so fun to ride. I feel blessed that he’s in my barn and I get to ride him,” said Holzer, 47. “When you get older, you learn to appreciate the really good ones that come through the door.”
Like A Youngster Again
Held at the Horse Park of New Jersey, the Allentown CDI drew many of the East Coast’s top riders and horses—those from the North who’d returned from wintering in Florida, as well as Florida-based riders roaming northward seeking additional CDI scores.
Melissa Taylor, based in Loxahatchee, Fla., is a member of the latter group, work-ing to qualify her horses Schumacker Solyst and Chicco Roslev for the Collect-ing Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Cham-pions at Gladstone, N.J., later this summer.
Taylor and Chicco Roslev finished mid-pack in the small tour classes, but Schumacker Solyst made a much bigger statement in Allentown. The Danish Warmblood gelding (Schwadroneur—Patricia Soelyst, Ragtime) was back in his first CDI since last spring, having taken significant time off for an injury followed by a bout with colic.
The pair’s rustiness showed a bit in the Grand Prix, where they went off course and finished third (64.57%).
“We would probably still have finished third [in the Grand Prix] but might have scored around 66 percent if not for [my mistake],” Taylor said.
Schumacker Solyst went on to win the Grand Prix Special with 65.79 percent. At 17, Schumacker isn’t the youngest horse in the barn, but Taylor said he feels like it right now.
“He has come back so well,” she noted. “He just feels great, like a youngster again.”