Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024

Real-Salas Rides Back Into The Picture At Del Mar Classic

She took a 20-year hiatus, but now she’s making up for lost time.

Jackie Real-Salas took a gamble when she purchased Rüstringer sight unseen as a 3-year-old from the Oldenburg auction, but her bet paid off this year with a stack of first level blue ribbons in their first show together at the Del Mar Classic in Del Mar, Calif., Nov. 7-9.

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She took a 20-year hiatus, but now she’s making up for lost time.

Jackie Real-Salas took a gamble when she purchased Rüstringer sight unseen as a 3-year-old from the Oldenburg auction, but her bet paid off this year with a stack of first level blue ribbons in their first show together at the Del Mar Classic in Del Mar, Calif., Nov. 7-9.

Real-Salas only returned to riding last year. She was a junior jumper champion in her youth in Argentina, but when she moved to California in 1981, she found the change of scene didn’t agree with her jumpers, who were used to competing in big, open grass fields. She retired the two jumpers and briefly competed on the hunter/jumper circuit before she switched to dressage and began working her way up the levels.

But life intervened with her riding career when Real-Salas got divorced in her mid-20s and decided she needed to go back to school to earn a living.

“I was a business owner, and I needed to sell my business because of the divorce,” said Real-Salas. “When I came out of law school I had to devote my time to establishing myself. I have my own practice now.”

Now 42, Real-Salas, Glendale, Calif., decided it was time to get back to her passion and arranged to buy a young horse in Germany at the Oldenburg auction.

“When I decided I wanted to get back into the sport, I wanted a really nice prospect. I couldn’t find something nice enough around here in my price range,” she said.

A Lucky Find

So Real-Salas connected with Kathleen Raine and David Wightman, who in turn asked Katrin Burger, a renowned young horse trainer and breeding manager at the Oldenburg Verband, to pick out an appropriate and affordable young horse for Real-Salas.

“This was the first horse Kathleen was going to buy from the Oldenburg auction, so it was a good opportunity to have them impress us with a nice horse,” said Real-Salas. “It was sort of lucky timing that they were trying to market the Oldenburg auction here.”

Ravel Wraps Up Another CDI

It’s been a quiet time for Ravel as he enjoyed a well-deserved vacation after the Olympic Games, but when Steffen Peters powered him back up for the Del Mar CDI, the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Contango—Hautain) proved he’s lost none of his game.

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“The Grand Prix was quite good,” said Peters, San Diego, Calif. “I was very happy with it. All five judges told me that if I’d had that particular test in Hong Kong in the Grand Prix, it would have been enough for the team bronze medal.”

Peters’ 73.87 percent easily earned him the Grand Prix win over Leslie Morse and Kingston (67.25%). He went on to an impressive 76.20 percent in the freestyle to best Kingston again (70.45%). Jan Ebeling claimed the Prix St. Georges (67.20%) and Intermediaire I (65.70%) in the CDI with Louis Ferdinand.

“That freestyle is always fun,” said Peters. “The music is so much fun to ride to. He didn’t make any mistakes in the freestyle either. In one of the passage half-passes to the left, there was one step where I felt him lose his balance, but I don’t think it was too obvious from the ground. This particular test might have done it for the individual medal in Hong Kong because we didn’t have a fumble in the two-tempis. It was a very clean test.”

Peters said he gave Ravel three weeks of long walks after he returned from Hong Kong.

“Fortunately and unfortunately, he’s a very easy keeper, so after three weeks I noticed that his belly was getting bigger, and it was time to go back to work. Now he’s back in great shape for the first CDI.”

Peters was pleased to find that he can ride Ravel’s piaffe more in place now, and his canter pirouettes have improved. “He’s stronger, and overall he’s grown up so much this season. He felt fantastic,” he said.

The high score at Del Mar was important, as it’s one of only three CDI-Ws Peters plans to contest to earn points toward the FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas, Nev., in April. Three scores are the minimum he’ll need to qualify.

“We’re going to be very careful about not overusing him,” said Peters.

He might take Ravel to the new Exquis World Dressage Masters show in Wellington, Fla., in January. “I feel like, especially with all the things that are going on in dressage, we have to do everything we can to promote the sport,” he said. “It would be a good idea to participate. At this point Anky [van Grunsven] is coming. Edward Gal, Hans Peter Minderhoud, some of the German riders and Laura Bechtolsheimer from England all may come. If we have one of those kinds of competitions in the United States, we’ve got to support it.”

Real-Salas bid on “Rüster” over the phone and waited with bated breath for her new purchase to arrive.

“I was comfortable with a young horse, because I’ve always been a pretty decent rider for an amateur, but I was naïve to think that whatever came I could ride it,” she said. “He’s got such a wonderful temperament. I got lucky.”

Real-Salas arranged to keep the Oldenburg gelding (Rosario—Stella) at the Flintridge Riding Club and began taking lessons with Kristina Harrison-Naness.

“My horse has made a lot of progress since [Harrison-Naness] has come into our lives,” said Real-Salas. “She’s a really good trainer. She’s extremely detail-oriented, and she communicates well. She’s particularly good for women riders because she focuses on lightness of aids. That was something I was looking for with my horse to make sure he gets trained up to carry himself so it won’t be so much work to get him to go. That’s a problem I had with my old horse. She’s a good fit for me.”

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He’s An Old Soul

Real-Salas spent a year getting to know Rüster and chose the fall Del Mar show as their first outing. She didn’t know how the 4-year-old would react to the show environment, but he came out and did his job like a veteran.

“He got off the trailer on Thursday afternoon, and I didn’t even longe him,” said Real-Salas. “He was a little bit surprised by having all these horses around him. He handled it like a grown-up. He was a joy to take to the show for such a young horse.”

Real-Salas had a stressful preparation for her first class when the water truck and tractor came into the warm-up to work on the footing. “I had to warm up around them, and it interrupted my warm-up, but he was OK with all the noise and commotion,” she said.

She went on to win three of her four first level classes and placed second in the last one.

“For a young horse he’s rarely out of balance,” said Real-Salas. “He’s got excellent conformation, so he’s really built for this. He’s got great rideability. He’s not a huge-gaited horse, but he has three good gaits, and the fact that he’s so balanced makes everything so easy for him. He always could do a 10-meter circle.”

Her best score came in her first day of showing in a first level, test 4 (69.47%), even though she went off course.

“I had a good first level, test 4, on Saturday, but it probably wasn’t as fluid as the first day,” said Real-Salas. “I went off course in that one too in just about the same place. My friend asked me if I wanted her to read, but it probably wouldn’t have helped. I was in my zone. I was enjoying my ride so much, having fun with it, that I stopped thinking about what was next. I found myself in the middle of the arena wondering, ‘Where am I, and where am I going next?’ ”

Before Real-Salas quit riding, she was starting to work on Prix St. Georges movements, so she’d like to make her way back up to that level eventually.

“I think my horse has the potential to become an FEI horse, and certainly that’s our goal,” she said. “I want to train up the levels and show. Now I’m in the situation that no matter what happens in my personal life I don’t have to give it up.”

Sara Lieser

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