A month before Dressage at DG Bar Ranch, Jo Moran didn’t have her best show. She rode Minna in the open invitational Grand Prix, held during the Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas, Nev.
“Vegas was a tough show for Minna,” said Moran. “The noise of the crowd didn’t bother her, just all of the people sitting up above her. She kept trying to see who was in the top rows! She was very distracted there.”
But Moran and Minna were able to put a positive spin on their Las Vegas experience, as they rebounded to win the USEF high-performance Grand Prix (67.56%) and the USEF high-performance Grand Prix freestyle (64.91%) at Dressage at DG Bar Ranch, held May 10-12 in Hanford, Calif.
“I think Vegas was a real eye opener for me,” Moran said. “I learned how to school her properly and how to warm her up and train from now on and just be a little bit more demanding of what I want. It’s paid off, that disaster in Vegas. It made me really ride her now. You always learn something from those tough rides.”
Moran has had the ride on Minna, a 13-year-old mare owned by Victoria Cotchett of Hillsborough, Calif., for five years, and this is their second year at Grand Prix.
“It was the best warm-up I’ve ever had on her,” exclaimed Moran after their Grand Prix test. “She just felt really, really supple and really good going into the ring. She was very in front of my leg in the [Grand Prix] test, with lots of impulsion. She was a pleasure to ride and that was really fun.”
Moran was very happy with Minna’s passage tour and her piaffe. They have been working on the piaffe, and it’s getting much more on the spot now. Minna’s only bobble was in her canter pirouette to the left.
Minna and Moran performed their winning Grand Prix freestyle to the music of ABBA. Since she is a Swedish Warmblood (Bernstein—Mischa), Moran thought that ABBA would be fitting for her.
“This is a brand-new freestyle this year,” said Moran. “This is the first time I’ve done it. I rode through it once four months ago at home and then just did it here for the first time in the show ring. It was a little rough around the edges. It definitely needs to be more polished. It went together much better here than it did at home!”
Moran, who trains with Kathleen Raine, has her sights on the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Grand Prix Champion-ships at Gladstone (N.J.) in mid-June. It will be the first trip to Gladstone for her.
Sandrina Steps Up
Last year, Jan Ebeling showed Sandrina in third-level classes at Dressage at DG Bar, but he had some doubts. “She received very high scores at that level, but I was still at a point last year where I sometimes thought it was premature to be showing at third level,” said Ebeling. “Her changes were sometimes not really happening.”
Fast forward one year, and Sandrina excelled even after moving up, winning the high-performance Prix St. Georges (69.75%) and the high-performance Intermediaire I (68.33%). “Coming to Intermediaire I within a year, I think, is really great,” Ebeling said. “She’s really learned a lot. Klaus [Balkenhol] seems to like Sandrina and feels that she could be a really good one. I’m really happy with her—she’s a great horse.”
Ebeling, of Moorpark, Calif., found Sandrina in Germany a year and a half ago for owner Ann Romney of Belmont, Mass. At that time Sandrina had just started flying changes.
“There was just a lot of basic work I had to do,” said Ebeling. “It was just more basic stuff like being supple and submissive and really accepting half-halts. Just making everything more solid. She’s very smart, a quick learner, and everything just went along very fast.”
Ebeling preferred their Prix St. Georges test on Thursday to their Intermediaire I, but felt the Intermediaire I had some highlights. Sandrina’s changes were more expressive in the Intermediaire I. But the heat did take some energy out of her by Saturday.
Sandrina placed second in the Intermediaire freestyle to Gwen Blake and Nimbus. Sandrina’s freestyle was very simple and straightforward. It is an old freestyle that Ebeling had designed for another horse, who was just starting out at this level.
“The lines are very straight, very easy,” explained Ebeling. “Nothing is very compli-cated because I don’t want to hit her with too many difficult things. She’s not really quite at that point yet—like doing changes in circles and stuff like that.”
At 17.3 hands high, Sandrina is a very elegant, long-legged black mare (Sandro Hit—Stutbuch mare). Ebeling likes the fact that she does not spook. No matter what happens around her she just continues on with her work.
“With her you really know what you have in the ring,” said Ebeling.
Putting It All Together
Amanda Harlan, 17, had a difficult time in her freestyle test, when the speakers, which hung above X, proved disconcerting for her horse, Liberte.
“He was really, really scared of the music,” said Harlan. “It was much louder than he was used to. That’s why he wouldn’t go into the center of the arena. I felt bad that he was shaking so bad. We just tried to get through the test.”
But they had no such problems in the Young Rider Team test, which they won with a 69.88 percent, and the Young Rider Prix St. Georges, which they won with a 68.75 percent.
Harlan, of Oakville, Calif., has been riding the Dutch Warmblood gelding (Flemmingh—Evelina) for a year and a half. “I think we’re finally coming together more as a team,” said Harlan. “He’s just such a good horse. I’m so lucky to have him, and I just love him so much.”
Harlan feels that she’s just begun to learn Liberte’s “buttons” and how he reacts and moves. “I guess I was still a little nervous riding him last year and trying to keep him up to his potential,” said Harlan, who trains with Ebeling.
“Now I feel a lot more confident and I can push him a little bit more. We’re both just clicking now. We’ve had a lot of time one-on-one together outside of dressage. We go on trail rides every weekend. I’m trying to spend as much time, not only on him, but doing other stuff with him.”
Harlan was glad to have shown at one of the last DG Bar dressage shows (see In The Country). “It’s probably one of my favorite shows of the year, because our family is very family oriented, and the whole DeGroot family is so open and very centered and they’re always so kind every year,” she said.