Wellington, Fla.—March 5
Lars Petersen and long-time mount Mariett proved they have hit their stride at the right point during the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) circuit, taking a commanding win in the Palm Beach Dressage Derby FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI-W, presented by Everglades Dressage, with a score of 78.02%.
Fellow Danish rider Mikala Gundersen and My Lady finished in second with a 75.70 percent, while Katherine Bateson-Chandler and Alcazar represented the United States in third place, receiving a 73.45 percent.
Petersen and Mariett have been working towards their big score all season long, as Petersen has discussed getting back into a rhythm with the 18-year-old Danish Warmblood mare (Comeback II—Zendi). After enjoying most of the 2015 season off after AGDF competition concluded, Petersen and Mariett seem to be peaking at the right point in time as Danish riders are still looking to fill their four-member squad for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The pair performed a balanced and energetic test, which judge at C, Gary Rockwell, commented may have been the best freestyle routine he’s ever seen the pair perform. Petersen was quick to praise the seemingly ageless mare on her efforts in the ring, which earned them a score near the 80 percent mark.
“It always feels good to win. This was two weeks in a row for her to show and it’s, I think on all of the horses, a lot, but she was really fresh,” said Petersen. “It was a fun night.
“For Mariett, it’s very important that she stays fresh. That is my main goal with her. She’s not the easiest horse in the world, but tonight, you know, I’ve had some good tests this season and more not so good. I was just determined,” continued Petersen.
It is always a question of how Petersen keeps Mariett in such fine shape to compete, and his plan is very simple: keep her loose and keep her happy. Detailing his preparation this week, it is clear that the more relaxed Mariett stays throughout the week, the better she performs.
“Last Saturday she had off. Sunday she hacked out. Monday and Tuesday we rode her in the field. Wednesday we jogged, and then on Thursday, Melissa, my wife, and I did a little bit of test riding on her before, and that was it since the last week. She’s just been kept loose and happy. There’s not too much more I can teach her, I don’t think,” he explained.
Gundersen and My Lady have dominated the circuit again this season, but their test tonight could not match the fellow Danish combination of Petersen and Mariett. Gundersen opened up about a moment of distraction, which led her to forget the first moments of her test.
“The pilot didn’t remember where to go tonight. I started going the wrong way, and I lost my focus a little bit. I was not riding the way I normally ride the test and I will say that,” commented Gundersen. “On the other hand, I’m so proud of this second place. I’m really happy that Lars won tonight. It was so important that he got a really good score tonight, as we’re still trying to get the fourth spot for the Olympics. I’m very happy for my second place tonight.”
Originally vying for a position in the FEI World Cup Finals competition to be hosted in Gothenburg, Sweden, in April, Gundersen announced that she and My Lady will forego the opportunity to compete in the competition, and instead turn their sights to Rio de Janeiro.
“I had a long talk with my trainer last night and we’ve decided that, while originally we were trying to qualify for the FEI World Cup Finals, we will not go. We’re going to try to focus on earning a spot on the Danish team for the Olympics,” expressed Gundersen, when asked about her upcoming plans with My Lady. “We want to save Lady for that. Now that we’ve changed our plans for that, I may come back to ride the last CDI here for the Grand Prix Special, because we have not done one yet this season.”
The only American pair to sit in the top three in the freestyle, Bateson-Chandler and Alcazar have also been steadily improving throughout the season. Typically based in England during the remainder of the year, Bateson-Chandler finds importance in basing in Wellington, FL, for the winter months.
“He was quite nervous in the warm-up, and he’s been pretty solid the past couple of times I’ve gone under the lights. It threw me a little bit in the warm-up, but he came into the ring and actually is learning that’s his safe place and he settles,” she said. “He’s still a green horse and is getting used to having more atmosphere, which is why I keep putting him into more ‘under the light’ situations. He keeps stepping up to the plate, and I’m really proud of him.”
Bateson-Chandler has been careful to not overwhelm Alcazar this season with CDI competition, but feels that the more spaced out competitions give the pair a strong opportunity to improve and gain experience.
“It’s a long season here and you can get greedy with so many international shows. I have taken a couple of CDIs off, so he’s going to do the last two that are here because they’re spread out a bit more,” she noted.