Leah Wilson Wilkins and Fabian JS haven’t had long to solidify their partnership, but they proved that they have what it takes to compete in the big ring when they won Wilkins’ first CDI Grand Prix at Dressage At Devon.
They qualified for today’s FEI Grand Prix Special CDI-W in the pouring rain yesterday and came back to the Dixon Oval today to score a 69.60 percent and top the class.
“I think overall he was just a lot more with me today,” said Wilkins, 28. “He certainly felt better, as to be expected because the footing was so much more improved. He tried a little bit more today; he was a little bit conservative yesterday for good reason.”
The piaffe and passage were highlights of their test, as were the one-tempis, a movement Wilson was thrilled to have nailed in the ring since they’ve posed a problem for “Mouse” in the past. “Just the fact that I got them this weekend, every line – anything else could have gone wrong, but I got my one’s, so I was really happy about that!” she said. “I’ve been working really hard on it.”
That hard work has helped Wilkins develop a relationship with Mouse that shows when their ability to perform in adverse conditions was put to the test this weekend. She’s been riding the 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Feiner Graf – Daloa, Denberg) consistently for the last year after his owner, Maria Simpson, started having back issues and turned over the reins.
“He can be very stubborn, which works I think to my advantage in situations like what when we had to factor in the weather today and yesterday,” said Wilkins of Canada. “He kind of was just a trooper and he’s a bit stubborn in the sense that he’s like, ‘Nope, I’m going to do it my way and that’s how I’m going to do it. I’m just going to trudge through and get through it.’”
Wilkins is looking forward to a focused fall spent training at home and plans to contest some CDI’s in Wellington, Fla. this winter.
Mikala Munter Gundersen rode My Lady into the FEI Grand Prix CDI-W Qualifier for the Freestyle with the goal of replicating her winning ride at the New England Dressage Association Fall Festival of Dressage (N.Y.) two weeks ago. She might not have topped that test, but her score of 72.24 percent earned her the win at Dressage At Devon.
“I think I had really good half-passes; I had good pirouettes; I had really nice extended trots and tempi changes, and then I had stupid little mistakes,” said Gundersen, who cited a hiccup in the canter zig-zag and an extra step in the reinback. “If I compare it to Saugerties two weeks ago, that was like the highlight of my career with Lady. I was hoping I could ride the same and maybe I put a little more pressure on myself to do as well again, and then you make mistakes.”
Both the cold weather and change in scheduling that moved the freestyle qualifier back one day played a role as well. “I couldn’t ride her yesterday because of the weather and I didn’t want to take any chance with the footing, so I just tack-walked her,” explained Gundersen, 47. “It’s not the best preparation for a grand prix like this one, and in the cold weather, she’s frisky and a little more tense than normal.”
In spite of the chilly temperatures, the audience that packed the stands was thrilled to cheer on Gundersen and My Lady (Michellino – Marion, Ritterstern), who are looking forward to riding their crowd-pleasing Burlesque-themed freestyle on Sunday.
“I will just do what I always do: I will have fun and take the pressure off myself a little bit again and try to relax a little more,” said Gundersen. “The freestyle – Lady loves it and I love it, and I’m sure I can do really well.”