Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023

Julius Recovers To Claim Great American/USDF Region 5 Titles

Julius looked strong and able as he piaffed into first place in three FEI-level championships at the Great American/ USDF and Rocky Mountain Dressage Society Championships, Sept. 22-25 in Parker, Colo.

But for his rider Susan Halasz and his owner Janice Jaspers, the thrill was just to compete the charismatic 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood again at Grand Prix, a level that injury almost made impossible.



Julius looked strong and able as he piaffed into first place in three FEI-level championships at the Great American/ USDF and Rocky Mountain Dressage Society Championships, Sept. 22-25 in Parker, Colo.

But for his rider Susan Halasz and his owner Janice Jaspers, the thrill was just to compete the charismatic 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood again at Grand Prix, a level that injury almost made impossible.

In 2001 Julius (Zuidhorn–Unieta) was the USDF Horse of the Year at Intermediaire I, but that September he decided to explore his talent for jumping and went over the paddock fence.

“He jumped out of a turnout pen, caught his toe on the fence, flipped over, and landed on his right shoulder,” said Halasz. “He did severe nerve damage to that shoulder and was basically out of work for 2 1/2 years.”

It was a year before Julius was even sound at the walk, and nobody thought he would return to his previous form.

“There wasn’t a whole lot the veterinarians could do for him, said Halasz. “It was a matter of him relearning how to move. He lost all movement through his right shoulder and forearm. He dragged the toe terribly.”

The physical therapy was a slow, tedious process. They walked him up and down hills and over cavelletti to teach him how to use his right leg again. They even spent time on the crossties just stretching it out.

“He couldn’t extend the leg or raise it up, and he had a lot of instability, so the shoulder would sort of flop out to the side,” recalled Halasz. “When I started riding him again, he was severely crooked so he couldn’t carry himself on straight lines at all. I had to reteach him how to walk a straight line again. It was slow, and sometimes it was really discouraging.”

Despite the gloomy prognosis, Halasz and Jaspers continued to hope. “He’s a very tough horse,” explained Halasz. “He’s got a lot of personality and is very opinionated. I think that’s why he could come back. He has a lot of character and he’s not always easy, but he’s got a lot of strength in his mind and that made him able to recover.”

They came out at Grand Prix in 2004, although Halasz felt he still wasn’t 100 percent recovered. “I wasn’t getting comments on his leg being unlevel, but his good leg is white, and I was always appreciating that the leg was a little bit more extended and the knee was a little bit higher. But now he looks pretty darn good. He’s consistently scoring 8s on his extended trot, and he’s even in the passage.”

The judges placed Julius first in all his classes. He took the Rocky Mountain Dressage Society championship at Grand Prix (62.77%) and the USDF championships for Intermedi-aire II (63.65%) and Grand Prix (66.97%).

“My last day was my best day,” said Halasz. “He was really fresh, in front of my leg, and didn’t have any mistakes.”

In addition to Julius, Halasz, a professional from Parker, Colo., rode two more horses to various championships. Lector, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Pion–Hiolita) also owned by Jaspers, took home the USDF championship for Intermediaire I (67.62%) and took second in the Prix St. Georges (64.00%).
“The last day was his best ride for sure,” said Halasz. “The last day he didn’t have any mistakes and he was really super.”

Halasz also competed Paradiso B, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Kennedy–Feline) owned by Chardell Steves. Paradiso won the fourth level championship for RMDS and USDF (68.40%, 66.44%) and went on to win the open Prix St. Georges (68.50%) in his first time showing at that level.


They imported Paradiso from the Netherlands last year and in part it was his personality that attracted them. “He’s got a big, long, funny head with big expressive eyes. He just has a great character. He’s so much fun. He loves everybody,” said Halasz.

Rising From The Ashes

Personality and temperament are also strengths for the 5-year-old Top Gun, one of two young prospects bought by the Euro-West Group LLC to help bring Grant Schneidman back to the upper levels.

In 2003 Schneidman and his wife, Sharon, had numerous FEI-level horses to compete, but tragedy struck when Pyrok died of complications from Cushing’s disease and 11-year-old Postillion suffered heart failure.

So they started building their program over again by traveling to the Netherlands purchasing two talented prospects, Top Gun and Superman.

Top Gun (Rubenstein–Naomi, Donner-hall) won the first level championships for RMDS (71.80%) and USDF (71.11%). “He’s always won from the beginning,” said Schneidman. “I got him in March and went to California. He’d never shown and never been anywhere, but he just took everything in stride.”

That good attitude was important when Schneidman carefully showed him the incorrect ring before the championship test. “He had to go in and do the RMDS championship test in a ring he’d never seen,” said Schneidman. “He just went right in there and marched right around.”

Schneidman had planned to show him in the USEF/Markel Young Horse Dressage Championships, but a minor injury prevented him from going. His barnmate Superman (Mondriaan–Mikado, Cabochon) placed fifth in the 6-year-old division.

In contrast to Top Gun, Superman can be both more brilliant and more anxious. “He was a stallion, and we gelded him when we bought him, but he still has a little bit of a stallion attitude,” said Schneidman.”

Since Superman had just returned from doing the 6-year-old championship, Schneid-man decided to let him relax a bit and do the easier second level tests at the regional championships.

“He was a little bit wound up in the first test because he was expecting to do more,” said Schneidman. “Then by the second test he settled.”

He won the RMDS and the USDF second level championship classes (68.23%, 66.20%).

“He always tries, but sometimes he tries too hard and gets anxious,” explained Schneidman. “But you need that kind of temperament and energy when you finally get to the Grand Prix, that the horse really cares and tries. He’s not easy to ride in the warm-up ring because you have to canter around and unwind him. My fellow competitors were quite gracious because here I was hand-galloping in a circle for the first 10 minutes before he settled down. Then he goes on and is like a different horse when he goes in to do his test.”

Schneidman, 47, currently keeps his horses at the Colorado Horse Park, although they’ll be moving to Canon Ridge Farms in November. That familiarity actually made his remaining FEI horse, Korporaal, a little naughty.


“He likes to play games showing at home. He’s shown there for so many years, he wants to see what mischief he can get into,” laughed Schneidman.

Korporaal, a 13-year-old Dutch Warm-blood owned by Betty Coulter, was still good enough to place third in the USDF Prix St. Georges championship (63.08%).

Although it’s been difficult to start over with young horses, Schneidman sees a silver lining. “We’re very excited about these young horses. It’s a great opportunity for me because I haven’t had horses to start that are this young and of this quality.”

He Was Worth The Wait

Cassy Fitch went in the opposite direction, trading a green horse for a more experienced one. Winning the neck ribbon for the USDF junior/young rider first level championship (70.55%) was a first for Fitch, 12. She won all her classes with Kilroy, including the USEF Dressage Seat Medal semi-final.

An avid rider since age 5, Fitch struggled with a difficult horse before purchasing Kilroy, an 11-year-old Holsteiner (Ilian–Auberfee V) in May. She bought Yazzman when he was 5 and she was 7, so the two grew up together. At first the partnership was great, but severe ulcers made Yazzman uncomfortable, and as Fitch asked more of him, he began to balk. After many frustrating rides and a fractured back, Fitch and her mother Tammy decided it was time to find another mount.

Yazzman took some time off to rest with trainer Paula Paglia while Cassy went to Germany with her grandmother and came home with Kilroy. “I was hooked on a different horse when I tried him,” she admitted. “Iwasn’t really paying attention, but when I looked at the video and saw his trot lengthenings, he was fancier and cuter.”

The pair only completed one show, just enough to get qualified for the regional championships. But that didn’t stop them from being competitive. In their first outing at second level, Cassy won all three of her second level, test 1, classes.

“He’s really good at horse shows and doesn’t spook or anything,” said Cassy. “My favorite thing to do is canter and lengthen and do flying changes. It’s really easy to do flying changes on him. Collecting the canter is harder.”

Cassy, a seventh grader from Scottsdale, Ariz., flew to Colorado with her mother, while Dynamite Dressage owner Tracy Roenick drove Kilroy.

Twice she’s flown East to compete in the dressage seat medal finals, but both times ended in disappointment, making this accomplishment all the sweeter.

“It’s nice to have Kilroy,” said Tammy. “He’s very sane. It’s really nice for Cassy to be able to get on and ride without worrying. It was her first first-placed neck ribbon.”

Since Tammy volunteered to help present awards, she got to fasten the ribbon around Kilroy’s neck. “We were all crying because seven years is a lot of work for that,” she said.




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