Thursday, Apr. 18, 2024

Smith Exceeds Her Expectations At GMHA Dressage Days


Deb Smith’s goals for the weekend might have been humble, but her achievements were lofty. Smith ended up taking home the FEI-level high-score award at Green Mountain Horse Association’s Dressage Days in South Woodstock, Vt., July 27-29.
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Deb Smith’s goals for the weekend might have been humble, but her achievements were lofty. Smith ended up taking home the FEI-level high-score award at Green Mountain Horse Association’s Dressage Days in South Woodstock, Vt., July 27-29.

Smith has been keeping her 10-year-old, Oldenburg mare, SPS Lady Liberty, on a light show schedule, so she wasn’t focusing on winning. “This weekend, I mostly wanted to get her back in the ring again and feel the new strength she’s developed over the last year. I’m trying to train mostly to get her stronger for the Grand Prix,” said Smith.

SPS Lady Liberty, called “Libby,” (Lord Liberty G—Petra) stands 16 hands high but carries herself like she’s 18 hands. “Everyone thinks she’s a stallion,” said Smith.

Liberty also tends to be a touch nervous and hot. Smith said, “I have to keep my leg close to her and keep her on the aids. I sit very quiet and still.”

Despite some errors, Smith was pleased overall with the mare’s performances. They won a test of Intermediaire I (66.62%). “She likes to throw in some ones in the tempi changes, but it’s because she’s anxious to do the Grand Prix. She did settle in, and the half-passes were very expressive and rhythmic and scored really well,” she said.

Smith, of Topsham, Vt., was especially happy about earning 9s on a half-pass and the final center line. “Once Libby’s tension settles down a bit, we’ll have even higher scores,” she said. Judges Marilyn Payne, Marlene Schneider and Donald Barnes commented on the mare’s talent and potential.

Smith found Libby at the Vechta Elite Auction in Germany when she was a “barely broke 4-year-old and in foal. The foal was sold to a client, and I started riding Libby when she was 5,” Smith said.

She is aiming Libby for the U.S. Equestrian Federation Dressage Festival of Champions in Gladstone, N.J., next year.

A trainer and professional rider at Ann Kitchel’s Huntington Farm in South Strafford, Vt., Smith also rode three other horses at GMHA. Third level champion LaHabanara is an 8-year-old Oldenburg owned by Kitchel.

“We did third level once last year, and she’s moving on to fourth at this point. She’s getting the [tempi changes] very nicely now,” said Smith.

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Smith also competed a young horse, Royal Landino, at his first show this year in the FEI 4-year-old class, and a client’s horse, 8-year-old Donnervogal, who did his first Intermediaire I and placed third (65.25%), as well as taking second in the Prix St. Georges stakes (64.75%).

Showing locally is a kick for Smith. “It’s so much fun to show close to home,” she said. “I get a lot of support—so many of my friends and students came. A friend was helping me with my position, reminding me if my shoulders slouched. I was so excited when I saw I got a 9 on rider’s position.”

An Unexpected Victory

Although she won two Grand Prix classes with the Swedish Warmblood gelding Swing Time, Tanya Rennie actually earned the FEI-level reserve high-score title with DeJure, a 10-year-old Oldenburg mare.
DeJure placed second in both of her Intermediaire I classes, but earned higher percentages (61.75% and 63.75%) than Swing Time (61.45% and 62.81%). The two horses are owned by Susanna Jaeger.

After winning her two Grand Prix classes at GMHA’s June show, Rennie had a tough time at King Oak Dressage Days (Mass.). She said, “Both my horses were difficult there. This time, I wanted to do a better test than we did at King Oak, and we got that done. I was happy with my horses this weekend.”

Although she was a little disappointed with her scores, Rennie wasn’t disappointed with her rides. “The biggest issue for me personally is my changes, and I nailed all the changes, so I was happy. My strategy was to ride the horses more connected and through for the entire test and to be thinking about preparing in between each movement,” she said.

Rennie has trained DeJure (D-Day—Esperanza) to Intermediaire I from the age of 3. “She’s the first horse I’ve trained to that level from that age. She has been an absolute joy, but she can have a temper,” she said. “If I’m not clear enough or soft enough with her, she’s quick to point out my faults to me. But when I get it right she’s super.”

Now 16, Swing Time (Napoleon—Monbola) was 7 and schooling third level when Rennie started riding him. “He was the first horse I ever brought to Grand Prix,” she said. “He’s very generous and kind. I don’t think too many horses could survive a rider trying to make their first Grand Prix horse with the grace and good humor that he has exhibited to me.”

A trainer and professional rider based at her Vienna Farm in Gorham, Maine, Rennie also had eight of her students competing at the show. Andre Schehr was particularly successful, winning adult amateur high score GMHA member and the Oldenburg high point award.

Rennie’s future plans include moving DeJure up to Grand Prix and qualifying Swing Time for Dressage at Devon (Pa.) next year. “He qualified this year, but I don’t think I’m ready to take him yet. I want to become a better rider first. I want to learn what I can and make it right for him,” she said.

Progressing In Leaps And Bounds

After showing Donnertanz at third level only a couple of times last season, Keith Angstadt moved the gelding up to fourth level this year and earned the fourth level high-score title at GMHA Dressage Days.

“This is a big jump for him,” Angstadt said. “We’re hoping to show him at Prix St. Georges next year. Fourth level and Prix St. Georges use the same movements, but Prix St. Georges demands more self-carriage. So now we’re trying to produce a stronger self-carriage.”

Angstadt uses a show-day routine that keeps 10-year-old Tanz fresh. “He’s a large, athletic, but heavy horse who doesn’t have a lot of strength yet,” he said. “We give him an early morning walk and a light longe to loosen him up, then a short warm-up with a long break before the test. That seems to conserve his energy and strength.”

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Although Tanz spooked at a large tent near the show arena, he eventually settled down to the job at hand. “That sort of ruined the beginning of our test, but he won his second and third tests. One of them started off with a bang—I got a 9 for my entrance and an 8 for my collected walk, which was fun for me to get,” Angstadt said. They claimed victory in the fourth level, test 1, stakes (69.30%) and the fourth level, test 2 (67.50%).

Donnertanz (Dream Of Glory—St Pr Larissa II) was bred in Germany and is owned by Ellen Sullivan of Newbury, Mass. Angstadt, trainer and professional rider at Bradford Equestrian Center in Haverhill, Mass., has been riding him for 11⁄2 years.

A Long Road Ahead

Although she earned an impressive 72.22 percent in her first level, test 2, stakes class, Judith Pitsiokos was even more delighted to receive a 68.33 percent in her first level, test 1, class in the middle of a rainstorm. She finished the show as first-level high-score winner.

“It was one of those brief, torrential downpours and I had to ride at the peak of the heavy rain. I almost scratched, but what’s to say that the regional championships might not be in a driving rain? So I thought we’d better get used to it,” Pitsiokos said.

Her gelding, Delgardo (De Niro—SPS Macarena), broke once, but Pitsiokos said, “It was a tiny little thing that could have happened even if it wasn’t raining.”

Pitsiokos, of Wading River, N.Y., realized that the win would be in the preparation. “Because I know there’s grass at GMHA, I had the blacksmith drill his shoes for studs and I did use them. He’s got so much power, but he’s not a very balanced horse yet, so he can slip,” she said.

The 6-year-old tends toward nervousness and was particularly tense here. “He can get pretty hot and it definitely showed at times this weekend. He was trying very hard to be good. He’s beginning to take his job seriously and starting to buckle down like he’s supposed to,” said Pitsiokos.

Pitsiokos has been training with Fritz Fleischmann, a young man from Paderborn, Germany, for about two years. “He comes over about once a month and spends roughly a week at a time with us.

We’re hoping to get him here permanently,” she said.

Willing to take her time with Delgardo, Pitsiokos said, “We thought about pushing him to second level, but
there are certain things he really needs to be 100 percent reliable on that he isn’t yet. He’s sensitive and there’s no need to rush it. When he gets there, he’s going to be dynamite.”

Sarah Wynne Jackson

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