Devon, Pa.—Oct. 1
Serenade MF may only be in her first year of Grand Prix CDIs, but she’s continued to step up and show off each time Alice Tarjan canters down centerline.
After winning Friday night’s CDI-W Grand Prix at Dressage At Devon, Tarjan and “Shrimp” took home the CDI-W Grand Prix freestyle win under the lights in front of hundreds of spectators, scoring a 76.51%.
While the crowd may not have noticed, Tarjan was a little disappointed in her ride as she made a few errors, but she was able to smooth things over and show off Shrimp’s impressive collected work.
“It’s not something I ever thought was going to happen,” she said of her win. “I’m thrilled. I think the balance was more uphill [compared to the Grand Prix test]. I rode a terrible test. I was lost the whole time, poor horse. I have to be able to ride a bit better in my head, I think. It’s a freestyle, so it’s not so obvious! I think I got a bit flustered. Once I got into the rhythm of it, it was better. She did her job as usual.”
Her trainer, Marcus Orlob, put together the challenging freestyle for the 9-year-old Hanoverian mare (Sir Donnerhall—Duet MF, Don Principe).
“She’s a really cool horse and tries her heart out for you and is really on the aids so you can ride that freestyle, especially on such a young and inexperienced horse,” said Tarjan.
The mare is rarely fazed by the environment and stayed focused on her work.
“I’m still not able to get in the test what I get in the warm-up, and I think the idea is of course that you want to ride the test at the same quality,” said Tarjan. “That’s a continuing struggle, and I think that’s probably true with any kind of horse. The horse is young, so just holding a consistent balance in the test.”
Tarjan follows a “go wherever the horse leads you” philosophy, so while she’s gained some points towards the FEI World Cup Final, which will be held in Omaha, Nebraska, next year, she knows it’s a long road ahead with several top horses vying for points on the Florida circuit this winter.
“I’m not one to set goals like that,” she said. “I think that has too much to do with the outside influences, and you have nothing to do with that. All I can do is train my horses as best as I can and try to present them well in the ring.”
Although she serves on the board of directors for Dressage At Devon, the magic of the show hasn’t been lost on Christina Morin-Graham.
With her own Mondlicht, she won the CDIAm Intermediaire I test with a 67.94%.
“It is such a gift and privilege to compete at Dressage At Devon. It’s just so special, and something even as a kid I dreamed to be able to do,” she said.
The 12-year-old Oldenburg mare (Sarkozy—Moonlight, Ravallo) was “totally nonplussed and down to business,” said Morin-Graham. “I’m working on just having a better connection and harmony with her and just riding better because she’s a little sensitive if you override her, but she can be a little bossy too. So you have to be the boss, but not too much or she gets a little feisty!”
The pair, who usually work with Silva Martin, got some help from Jim Koford in the warm-up this morning. “We worked on that a lot in the warm-up, just getting her really soft and over her back and topline, then I tried to ride a little softer in the ring, but still assertive,” she said. “Yesterday we had some bloopers because she was definitely letting me know she was not appreciating my overriding her. Today I think we hit the right note.”
Morin-Graham got into dressage about five years after a long break for her career and starting a family with her husband, Steve Graham. The couple work for Graham Partners, Inc., a private investment firm.
They have a farm in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and two sons, Grey, 16, and Gunnar, 14.
She’s had Mondlicht for about 1 ½ years after buying her from an amateur rider in Germany. “She is the most adorable curmudgeon of a horse,” she said. “She gets pretty attached to her people but also has very strong views about things.”
Balancing a job, riding and a family is a lot, but Morin-Graham “burns the midnight oil.” To fit it all in, she relies on her groom, Laura Murphy, to help at home. “She deserves so much credit. I’m just so grateful for everyone who makes it possible,” she said.
When Esperanto came to Silva Martin’s barn three years ago, he was a bit much for his owner, Christine Capano, but in Martin’s program, he’s settled into himself as a competitive small tour horse.
“He was a little bit of a wild child at first, and he wasn’t quite sure about being a dressage horse, but he’s really solid now,” said Martin of “Peanut.”
The 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Jazz—Zamora B, Negro) gelding came to Devon off three wins at the Lexington CDI* (Virginia) this summer, and he and Martin took home the CDI3* Intermediaire I win today with a 67.52%.
Although he’s a relatively solid citizen now, today’s breezy, cold and damp weather had many horses on edge. “He was so awesome in the warm-up, and unfortunately I couldn’t quite keep that quality in the ring. He was a little bit nervous going in there, so there were a few mistakes. I can’t say this was my best ride, but it was good enough today.
“I love Devon,” Martin added. “It’s our home event, so it’s an honor to be here, and for me I was lucky there weren’t huge scores today. It’s always fun to win.”
At home in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, Martin rides her dressage horses on her husband Boyd Martin’s cross-country course, as well as on the gallop track and in their conditioning pond. Peanut gets to go in the conditioning pond once a week for 30 minutes in walk to build strength and muscle.
“I believe in all that stuff. I ride them on the track and go out in the cross-country field,” she said. “I think it’s important for dressage horses to do something other than dressage.”
Peanut will be ready for Grand Prix next season, and Silva hopes he’ll go back to Capano in the future.
“He’s had a big year, so he deserves a vacation,” she said. “Doing all this stuff with him is good because he’s finally taken a breath, and he’s pretty solid. I’m pretty confident that he won’t make a ton of mistakes. It’s fun to have a little guy like that where you can trust him and know he’s not going to let you down.”
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We’re headed to Dressage At Devon this weekend to bring you news and photos from the historic and beloved competition. Check back at coth.com all weekend for coverage, and be sure to pick up the Oct. 24 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse for more from Devon.
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