Tuesday, Jun. 4, 2024

Rocher Returns For Paxton Farms CDI Victories

Rocher marked her return to competition with near perfection as she glided across the arena to capture the Grand Prix (70.50%) and Grand Prix Special (70.96%) at the Paxton Farms CDI*** in Batavia, Ohio, May 13-15.
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Rocher marked her return to competition with near perfection as she glided across the arena to capture the Grand Prix (70.50%) and Grand Prix Special (70.96%) at the Paxton Farms CDI*** in Batavia, Ohio, May 13-15.

The black, 13-year-old, Westphalian mare, piloted by George Williams, made her debut at Paxton Farms after being sidelined during 2004 with tendonitis. Rocher, who is owned by Chuck and Joann Smith, was the 2003 U.S. Dressage Federation Grand Prix Horse of the Year after achieving an average score of 73.40 percent that year. Rocher, sired by Rolls Royce out of the Fruhlingstern mare Fraenzi, was purchased in Germany during 2000.

“We were so thrilled that George [Williams] and the Smiths chose Paxton for Rocher’s return to competition,” said Janet Paxton, the owner of Paxton Farms. “She is an amazing mare, and George is a wonderful person. It was an absolute treasure to have them at the show for the weekend and a big surprise to many who attended.”

Jane Cleveland and the stunning, dapple gray gelding Kavalier turned in a duo of breathtaking rides with a winning score of 67.25 percent in the CDI*** Intermediare I and a 69.83 percent in the CDI*** Intermediaire I freestyle.

Cleveland was the highest-scoring American (10th place) aboard the talented son of Amatcho at the 2002 FEI World Breeding Championships in Verden, Germany.

“He is the combination of the best of both worlds,” said Cleveland. “We have a very special partnership. When you ask him to work he gives everything that he has, and I cannot say enough about his work ethic. He is dramatic and professional in the show ring, but when you drop the reins he is relaxed. He is everything that you want in a dressage horse.”

Cleveland, of Nashville, Tenn., was pleased to remain close to home for a CDI. “We don’t have enough CDI competitions in the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio,” Cleveland said emphatically. “Normally, we have to travel long distances to compete, so hats off to Paxton Farms for hosting an incredible show. It is important that more qualifying competitions come to the area.”

Kavalier, out of the Erzsand mare Kandice, has forged a special relationship with Cleveland. “Kavalier has a great mind for dressage,” Cleveland said. “He works hard, but he isn’t a pushover. He and I connect, both in and out of the show ring, but it isn’t without a lot of hard work. He has given me many thrills and is a consistent and exciting horse to ride.”

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A Lucky Match

Erika Mahlen, 21, and her chestnut, Rhinelander gelding Angelo won the CDI*** Young Riders Prix St. Georges (63.58%).

A born clown, Angelo loves to be the center of attention and enjoys his treats, but he also came with somewhat of a reputation.

“Angelo had several owners that he just didn’t click with,” said Mahlen, of Eden Prairie, Minn. “However, when I went to ride him, we did click. Nobody could believe this kid could ride the horse and all these adults had issues with him. Due to problems in his training we have literally had to start from the ground up. It has required a lot of hard work and dedication but has been more than worth it. Winning the Prix St. Georges at Paxton has been a dream come true.”

Mahlen credits her instructor, Kelly Underhill, for providing her with the skill and patience required to tap into Angelo’s vast cache of talent.

“Kelly has been the rock throughout our training,” Mahlen said. “She has helped Angelo and I work through all the issues and problems that we faced. Angelo hasn’t always been the easiest horse. Without Kelly I don’t know if it would have been possible.”

Being a full-time student majoring in pre-veterinary medicine at the University of Minnesota and maintaining a rigorous training schedule has taught Mahlen valuable lessons in discipline and time management.

“At times it has been tough,” said Mahlen. “School and riding are both so demanding and require so much time. Somehow I’ve learned how to balance it, but it isn’t always easy. Dressage isn’t just a sport where you can hop on the horse and say, ‘Let’s go;’ it’s much more time consuming than that. Sometimes I’m not sure how I’ve done it all.”

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Mahlen offers important advice to young riders who aspire to reach the upper levels of dressage: “Work hard, but enjoy what you do. Keep your dreams alive and you can achieve anything. I am a perfect example of that, and if I can do it, so can anyone. My parents aren’t rich, and I’ve ridden a lot of horses, learned lessons from all of them, and just got lucky to find Angelo.”

Learning Together

The Canadian-bred Hanoverian mare Sirocco and 21-year-old Michela Saunders, a native of Wallaceburg, Ont., Canada, partnered to land the Young Riders Prix St. Georges freestyle (57.54%).

Saunders purchased Sirocco, now 11, as a youngster for $4,000 and trained the mare on her own with the aid of videos, clinics and occasional instruction.

“I actually bought her from a former young rider,” said Saunders. “In fact, I was there when Sirocco was born and purchased her as a 3-year-old. I was a working student breaking horses, and Sirocco was on the back burner at the time. When I quit working and went home, I was able to break her and just chip away at it as time went on. This is her first season at Prix St. Georges.”

The road to success has not been without incident for Saunders and Sirocco, who was injured in a trailer accident last year.

“We weren’t in the right type of rig for going long distances,” Saunders said. “She stepped on the side of the trailer and pulled the tendons in her left front leg. We were out all year but did manage to go to a few shows last summer after she recovered. Last year was supposed to be our trial year at Prix St. Georges, but it just didn’t work out that way.”

Plans for Sirocco include an eventual career as a broodmare. “I can’t imagine selling Sirocco,” Saunders said. “I’ve had her for eight years and she is a pet first, and a show horse second. She has been a big part of my life, and I would like to raise her foals and train them through the levels. I can’t imagine life without Sirocco.”

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