Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024

Koffler-Cassidy Finds Her Grand Finale At GAIG/USDF Region 2 Championships

An accident on the way to the show couldn’t hold this rider back.

Lindsay Koffler-Cassidy’s journey to the Great American/USDF Region 2 Dressage Championships didn’t begin well. A trailer accident just 20 minutes from home almost ended her show before it began. Despite the inauspicious start, she won the Grand Prix championship in her third Grand Prix ever at the Batavia, Ohio, show, held Sept. 18-21.
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An accident on the way to the show couldn’t hold this rider back.

Lindsay Koffler-Cassidy’s journey to the Great American/USDF Region 2 Dressage Championships didn’t begin well. A trailer accident just 20 minutes from home almost ended her show before it began. Despite the inauspicious start, she won the Grand Prix championship in her third Grand Prix ever at the Batavia, Ohio, show, held Sept. 18-21.

Koffler-Cassidy began riding Goubergh’s Kasper in April. The 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Facet—Annet) was the former Grand Prix mount of Suzanne Dansby-Bollman (previously Dansby-Phelps), and Koffler-Cassidy, 24, hoped to gain some Grand Prix experience with him.

“My small tour horse Alfredo had to be put to sleep a year and a half ago. I took a step back for a little while and got myself back together,” said Koffler-Cassidy. “[Showing Kasper] brought a little bit of excitement back to riding for me.”

She just missed qualifying for the Brentina Cup and earned the scores for her U.S. Dressage Federation gold medal over the summer.

“Although the season has been short and sweet, I got everything I wanted to accomplish done. The regional championships were a very awesome bonus,” said Koffler-Cassidy.

But she narrowly missed tragedy on her way there. Koffler-Cassidy left her Lexington, Ky., home for the championships with her mother, Margee Koffler, at the wheel, and her sister, Reese Koffler-Stanfield, in the truck. They’d barely hit Interstate 75 when a ladder fell off the vehicle in front of them.

“It hit in front of us on the highway. We were far enough back that we didn’t get hit, but we couldn’t avoid it and ran it over,” said Koffler-Cassidy.

Although the truck and trailer weren’t damaged, “Kasper” was jostled around and had a puncture above his eye. The Koffler clan turned back to meet their veterinarian, N. Chris Newton, DVM, from Rood & Riddle.

Besides the cut, Newton determined that Kasper was uninjured, but the wound was too deep to leave open—and Newton couldn’t use anesthesia if Koffler-Cassidy was going to show. Kasper patiently let his eye be stitched without drugs.

Koffler-Cassidy arrived at the show flustered and several hours later than she’d intended. “I thought I’d get on and see how he felt, but he felt great,” she said.

The pair put in a winning Grand Prix performance (65.27%) and earned the reserve championship in the Intermediaire II (64.71%), a test she’d never ridden before.

“It all went very well. Kaspar is so capable. He knows his job. It’s a pleasure riding him,” said Koffler-Cassidy.

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But that fairytale outcome is the end of their short partnership. Koffler-Cassidy won team gold in 2002 and individual silver in 2003 at the North American Young Riders Championships and went on to compete in the U.S. Equestrian Federation Intermediaire I Championships, but she’s allergic to horses, so a career as a horse professional is unlikely.

“I can do about four horses a day myself, but it’s a lot easier for me to teach and do clinics rather than be in a barn all day,” she said.

Koffler-Cassidy will continue teaching lessons, but she’s working on her master’s in mediation and dispute resolution and thinking about starting a family of her own.

Meanwhile, her older sister Koffler-Stanfield will take over the reins on Kasper and show him on the Florida circuit this winter.

A Lifelong Bond

While Koffler-Cassidy barely had time to get to know Kasper, Brittany McCarthy and Gabelle began their partnership the day Gabelle was born. Ten years later their strong rapport helped clinch a win in the Region 2 junior/young rider Intermediaire I championship (66.25%).

“I’m so proud of everything I’ve done with her,” said McCarthy, 20. “I’ve done all the training and work with her. There’ve only been a handful of riders other than me on her. She’s a horse of a lifetime. We’ve grown up together; we’ve had the hard times and the good times together. I want to be her rider for life.”
That kind of history makes every show special, and McCarthy said she felt extra pressure at the regional championships.

“The first day, she was tense and nervous. She spooked before we went in. She gave it her all but had a few mistakes,” said McCarthy. “This is our first year at the FEI level, so I was happy to just hold our own this weekend. I was just so pleased to have her in the championships. I felt like she was feeling my nerves. I didn’t think I’d won until I heard the score. I did have one mistake in the test, but the rest made up for it.”
McCarthy and her mother Barb bred Gabelle from their mare Weaver Of Dreams. But it wasn’t obvious that the Hanoverian mare (by Guarantor) would have a future dressage career when she was born.

“I wasn’t sure I’d be able to ride her. When she was born, she had a clubfoot,” said Brittany. “I was only 10, so I didn’t understand what was going on. She could walk, but it’s a square shape. We’ve had to keep her on accurate shoeing, and we keep an eye on it—but I’ve never had a soundness issue with her.”

Barb, who is a trainer, helped Brittany break and train Gabelle. Brittany also gained some education along the way from Jacqueline Paxton’s Cinbad, a 21-year-old Holsteiner that showed Brittany the ropes in the young rider ranks.

“I started riding Cinbad when I was 17. I got Gabelle up to third level, and then Cinbad taught me everything through Grand Prix,” said Brittany. “Now I know how to train those movements on my horse.”
Brittany qualified to ride at the NAJYRC three times with Cinbad, and she hopes that Gabelle may take her there one last time.

But Brittany, Cincinnati, Ohio, can’t focus all her energy on riding, since she attends the University of Cincinnati full time.

“I have to balance my schoolwork with riding, but when you love your sport, you find time for it,” said Brittany. “I really try and schedule my classes around my riding. I have to keep my priorities and make time for my homework.”

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A Good Pick

Like Brittany, Marlene Knopsnider’s done most of the training with her mount, Algebraic Expression, who won the Region 2 adult amateur third level championship (66.16%). She picked the black Rheinlander (Abanos—Kaletta) as a 4-year-old in Germany.

Before buying “Algebra,” Knopsnider, Rock Creek, Ohio, trained her Anglo-Arab to Grand Prix but didn’t show often. “I got him as a 2-year-old, and he was working on piaffe and passage and one-tempis when he retired—but it was very difficult for him. I learned a tremendous amount on him,” she said.

So when the opportunity arose to buy a horse bred for dressage, she decided to take the plunge.

“Things financially had worked out, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Knopsnider. “I didn’t have a tremendous amount of money, so I didn’t buy a really expensive horse. I saw him and knew that was the horse I wanted. He wasn’t extremely big. I’m only 5’1″. I wanted something my size that I could ride.”

Knopsnider works as a mobile home park manager and a wastewater operator. She began training Algebra with help from her instructor, Kathleen Cronk, and found he had the temperament for an amateur and the ability for upper-level dressage. The pair won a regional reserve championship at training level in 2006, and in 2007 they qualified for the USEF Young Horse Dressage National Championship in the 6-year-old division.

She said her ride at the regional championships was her best test ever. “I showed him the day before in the open show, and he was being a sightseer. I really thought I was going to have problems with him. They’d hung up a big banner, and he was looking at that and the photographer,” said Knopsnider. “But he came out the next day, sat down and went to work.

When I went in the ring, I had half-halts, and he was right there with me.

“I didn’t expect to win the Region 2 championships,” she continued. “He was the youngest horse in the group. I almost still don’t realize that I did that. I look at the ribbon, the cooler and the coat and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I won!’ ”

Knopsnider, 42, said that while she was thrilled with her championship, she doesn’t want to start showing more often.

“I’m just enjoying the process right now. I really want to have a correctly trained horse. It’s not about going out and winning. It’s about him being correct and doing the movements correctly,” she said. “My goal this winter is to work on the Prix St. Georges and see if he would be competitive in the [developing horse classes].”

Sara Lieser

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