Tuesday, May. 28, 2024

Maarten Rocks At King Oak Dressage Days

Alexa Rice proves she and her mount are ready for the FEI North American Junior And Young Rider Championships.

For Alexa Rice, King Oak Dressage Days on July 10-12 was a final preparation for the FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships in Kentucky this July, and it couldn’t have gone any better for the 20-year-old from Medfield, Mass., and her partner, Maarten.

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Alexa Rice proves she and her mount are ready for the FEI North American Junior And Young Rider Championships.

For Alexa Rice, King Oak Dressage Days on July 10-12 was a final preparation for the FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships in Kentucky this July, and it couldn’t have gone any better for the 20-year-old from Medfield, Mass., and her partner, Maarten.

“I was looking to keep him tuned up, and he was great,” said Rice. “He performed well in the heat, and he really showed up to the plate. I’d been having a lot of trouble after my pirouettes to get a nice big change at C, and we nailed it. We’ve been working on getting that perfected; it’s a good place to pick up points.”

Rice and Maarten won a section of Prix St. Georges (65.13%), were third in the Prix St. Georges Stakes (62.89%) and also won the Young Rider freestyle (64.87%).

“I’ve been working on the freestyle a lot,” said Rice, who rides to a rock and roll medley featuring Queen, Van Halen and Bon Jovi. “It’s a lot different than riding a real test because you have to keep everything in focus—the music, the tempo, the horse. It’s a lot to juggle. But when you get it, it’s awesome. There’s nothing better than being in the arena performing to the coolest music you can think of.”

Rice will be representing Region 8 at the NAJYRC and hopes to showcase her freestyle there. Only the top 15 riders from the individual test are allowed to compete in the freestyle.

Rice and Maarten have the definite advantage of a longtime partnership—the Rices imported Maarten from the Netherlands 11 years ago as a 4-year-old with three months of training.

“My mom rode [Maarten] until he was at second level, but then I stole him from her for the past seven years,” Rice said with a laugh. “She put a great start on him, and I put all the changes and the lateral work.”

While Rice tried to do most of the training herself, she had trouble teaching the 18-hand gelding tempi changes and looked to Bill Warren and Bill McMullin for help. After becoming a working student for the pair, she took a year off from school to concentrate on riding. She’s now attending Suffolk College (Mass.) and studying chemistry.

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“When I started working with them, I could hardly get one tempi change, let alone five,” said Rice. “We did a lot of exercises with circles and changes and using my back and seat to keep him up and through instead of manufacturing the changes. It made me a lot better rider as well—it improved my seat and position and ability to affect my horse.”

In addition to competing at King Oak, Rice also took the time to coach her mom, Beth, who was riding third level on Nightwind.

“It was a little weird at first [coaching my mom], but we’ve gotten through,” said Alexa. “We have a ring at home and a little barn, and I help her as much as I can when I’m home. She tries really hard, and sometimes we butt heads, but she’s happy to get help because she works full time and doesn’t really get a chance to seek out a real trainer.”

Beth, competing for the first time in several years, won third level, tests 1 and 2 (61.53% and 62.82%) and was second in the third level stakes class (61.79%).

From Cowboy Boots To Top Hats

Galloping across the open plains of Wyoming in a western saddle is a far cry from cantering down centerline in tall boots and tails, but for Amanda Coulson-Drasner there are more similarities than meet the eye.

“The sitting trot is easy for me because I was really foreign to posting when I started riding English,” said Coulson-Drasner with a laugh. “That’s one thing everyone complains about that I don’t really mind. The seat is really similar, and it’s very comfortable.”

At King Oak Dressage Days, Coulson-Drasner, 18, Pawling, N.Y., proved dressage is her best seat by winning a section of Prix St. Georges (64.60%), the Young Rider individual and team tests (60.26% and 64.73%) and placing second in the Young Rider freestyle (62.62%) with Lanciano.

“I couldn’t figure out what the judges wanted during the first two days,” said Coulson-Drasner, “My horse is a little explosive at times, so I was trying to keep him quiet. But they said that it was too quiet, and he just didn’t have quite enough energy. He went really well on the third day.”

Coulson-Drasner has been riding Lanciano, a 17-year-old Bavarian Warmblood gelding, for two years. They made their debut together in May of 2007 in the Junior tests and at fourth level and found much success before moving up to Prix St. Georges last summer. Because Lanciano is small and sensitive, Coulson-Drasner had to focus on keeping her movements quiet in order to achieve a good ride.

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“He’s very annoyed by extra movements, especially if I have bigger spurs on,” she said. “He’s a complete schoolmaster and knows everything, but he’s very particular about how you ride him. If you bother him too much he gets really upset. But he’s really smart, so he knows what we’re doing. The first time I did Prix St. Georges I think I was on autopilot because he knew the test so well.”

While her passion lies in dressage, Coulson-Drasner began riding at the age of 4 on her family friend’s HF Bar Ranch in Buffalo, Wyo.

“We mostly trail rode and galloped around,” said Coulson-Drasner. “I started jumping when I was 12, but after riding western it was so weird being all crouched up there. It was just uncomfortable.”

When her family moved into a house across the street from Cogi Farm in Pawling, N.Y., Coulson-Drasner headed next door to see if she could ride.

“I’ve been fascinated by dressage ever since,” she said, introduced to the discipline by resident trainers Michelle Dinneen and Trish Helmer.

Coulson-Drasner will be a senior in high school this year and plans to study engineering or neuroscience in college.

“I’m not quite sure how it’ll be possible to ride in college, but I’d love to continue,” she said. “I’d like to keep doing Young Riders and go to nationals. I’d also love to be a judge. I think that’s awesome, but that’s really far in the future.”

As for her western riding, Coulson-Drasner hasn’t been able to visit the ranch in the past few years, but she hopes to do so soon.

“I do try to trail ride my horse, but he doesn’t like it so much,” she said with a laugh. “We’ve galloped through the fields once or twice, but it got a little out of hand.”

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