It’s been more than two years since Sanceo competed in the international ring with Sabine Schut-Kery, and the pair finally made their Grand Prix CDI debut at the Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival (California) this year.
Schut-Kery and Sanceo represented the United States at the 2015 Pan American Games (Canada) and showed in a few national Developing Horse Grand Prix classes in 2016 before the stallion took some time off for breeding duties. After spending two months in Europe last year with the aid of the $25,000 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize, the pair made a Grand Prix showing debut Jan. 3-6 at the first week of the AWCDF, winning two national classes (74.51% and 70.32%).
They went on to win the CDI-W Grand Prix (74.00%) and Grand Prix freestyle (74.10%) at the Jan. 17-20 AWCDF show. Most recently they were second in the CDI*** Grand Prix (72.41%) and Grand Prix Special (74.70%) at the final AWCDF show, held Feb. 15-17 in Del Mar, California.
Schut-Kery, 49 and based in Thousand Oaks, California, was recently awarded the Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize for the second time.
She’s hoping that Sanceo, a 12-year-old Hanoverian stallion (Sam Remo—Rivera, Ramiro’s Son II) owned by Alice Womble, will continue improving this season as she eyes a spot on the U.S. team for the FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina) this fall.
We caught up with Schut-Kery to find out what she’s been up to with Sanceo and what’s ahead.
COTH: It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Sanceo in the international ring. What has he been up to?
Schut-Kery: Last year I was awarded the $25,000 Carol Lavell training grant from the Dressage Foundation, and I was able to go in October and November to Germany to train with one of my trainers from the past, Jan Nivelle. I got back into thinking about the Grand Prix stuff.
The horse had been home the summer prior in Texas to breed at the owner’s. I showed just to get back in the show ring because I hadn’t shown in a year. I did the Intermediaire II, and he came second at a PSI show. In November I did a short Grand Prix, and he won. I got back at the end of November and did my first national Grand Prix [in January.] It went very fast! There were a lot of first times for us.
COTH: How has he handled the move up to Grand Prix?
Schut-Kery: [The Developing Horse Grand Prix and short Grand Prix] gave us the feel for what I have in the ring. I think it was a good transition looking back.
COTH: How did you like the Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival?
Schut-Kery: It’s so amazing. What an opportunity for all of us. The way Scott [Hayes] has put it on is just so wonderful and thought through. It’s not just beautiful, but it’s organized for the riders and the horses. I can only say good things about it.
For me personally, I understand if I want to represent this country I need to be away from my business. I get that, and I will do it, but it sure would be amazing if I could do it at home. This is a beautiful side of the country, and we have so many amazing riders that I think we have the use for it. It’s a shame that it hasn’t happened [before now].
COTH: What were you working on with Jan last year?
Schut-Kery: [Sanceo] was doing all the movements, and obviously the floor plan is friendly for the Developing Grand Prix and for the I-2 and the short Grand Prix in Germany. [I wanted] to get him stronger to be able to do the more difficult floor plan with everything coming up so quickly. When you look at the test it’s a little more friendly.
We worked on getting him stronger to do the real Grand Prix and having him take more weight in the hind legs but keeping the balance and keeping him supple at the same time.
I even felt a difference for us in the Grand Prix Special. There’s a lot of forward, backward, and the whole trot tour. There wasn’t any movement that he had trouble with, but it was the strength and quality to shorten and the ability to really ride one movement after another in a test format.
I’ve never done a Grand Prix Special CDI, so that was exciting for me too. In that Special he was really great.
COTH: Sanceo hasn’t done a freestyle since the Pan Ams. What’s it been like riding to music again?
Schut-Kery: I love movie music because I love when it’s emotional, when it takes you a little bit. You have to have a beat, but I also like a melody with it. It was music from “The Last Samurai” and “The Last Of The Mohicans.” My husband [Kristian Kery] put it together for me.
I loved [riding to music.] He’s so good. He was so solid, and he didn’t get spooky. It was really fun.
COTH: You won the Carol Lavell grant again this year. What will you do with the money?
Schut-Kery: That was so exciting! It’s really, really cool. I so enjoy the training part of it, and I try to put him in the show ring in a very thoughtful way and not just go from one show to another.
Being able to have that money for training, I’m so excited about that. This year I will use more with Christine Traurig [in California.] Hopefully if we make it into the top eight [selected for the World Equestrian Games short list] to go to Europe in June and July I will do some training over there again [with Jan] as well.
COTH: Are you looking towards WEG this year?
Schut-Kery: He’s been doing so well, and I’m so excited about it, so I definitely want to make it into the top eight to have an opportunity to see if we can make it on the team. Everything came relatively quickly—first national Grand Prix, first CDI, first Special, within three or four months, but I think we’re ready.
COTH: What are the rest of your spring plans?
Schut-Kery: I need one more qualifying score, so I’m planning to do that on the West Coast, then spend some time on training, especially since I have the grant.
COTH: Do you have any up-and-coming horses in the barn?
Schut-Kery: I love training the young ones, so while I was in Germany I got a 4-year-old Dutch mare, Joy. I really enjoy and look forward to bringing her along. If she does well in each step of her education, that’s fun.