Whenever I drive to the USET headquarters in Gladstone, N.J., I always feel as if I`m coming home to my alma mater. Since the 1970s, I`ve journeyed to Gladstone hundreds of times to train, to compete, to judge and to attend meetings. One year I was even the “ghost of Gladstone,” quarantined for a week with Leonardo II as the alternate for the 1991 Pan Am Games team that went to Cuba.
So I have a very strong bond to that majestic main stable building and the old-fashioned offices and apartments. Gladstone is the anchor place of my riding in this country, and it reeks with patina and history and an aloof and proud beauty we cannot duplicate with modern construction.
As behind the times as it is in convenience and technology for horses, I hope that “progress” doesn`t wipe it out as a place where future generations of riders can gather for special events with their horses and continue in the footsteps of American riding tradition.
At this year`s Bayer/USET Festival of Champions, a seven-year itch finally got scratched when Susan Dutta won the USET Intermediaire I Championship (see July 5, p. 8).
For seven consecutive years, Susan has qualified for this event on a number of different horses, but this year she hit the jackpot with the chestnut mare West Side Lady, a 9-year-old Hanoverian by Westbury.
The big, strapping mare has winning on her agenda wherever she goes. As a 4-year-old, she was the top horse of the German championships. She was bought and imported by Parry Thomas of Brentina fame, who sent her back and forth for training between the United States and Germany. Since the shipping company owned by Tim Dutta, Susan`s husband, arranged the lady`s travels, the Duttas repeatedly came into contact with the mare, who sometimes stayed in their barn for a layover. And in November 2000, when the horse was offered for sale, Tim saw her as the perfect present for his wife on their seventh wedding anniversary.
Susan hopes to move her up to Grand Prix after Dressage At Devon (Pa.) in Septem-ber. Since the Dut-tas have two other Prix St. Georges horses, they may not elect to “save” West Side Lady for the Pan Am Games team next August.
Right on Susan`s heels, within fractions of a percentage point, was the 2000 winner, Jan Ebeling, aboard the gray gelding Liberte. He is owned by Ann Romney, who found him in Germany as a 6-year-old with Jan`s help.
Jan said the three years he has had with the horse have shown Liberte to be intelligent and fast to observe and learn everything, good as well as bad. This requires a “thinking” ride, because repetition doesn`t work well with this pony, who will take over the ride if he believes he knows the program.
His go on day 1 in the Prix St. Georges showed some indication of that tendency. The pair had the first slot at 8 a.m., and the early morning jitters made the beginning of the test more interesting than it was intended to be. Once the trot work was over, though, Liberte settled in and things went smoother. On the final centerline in the freestyle three days later, the horse was focused enough to finish with a row of two-tempi changes while Jan held the reins in one hand.
Michelle Gibson and Chimon were the runners-up, and I was particularly impressed by the steady frame of the horse throughout the weekend and the accuracy and attention to detail in Michelle`s riding, which I remember from her efforts with Peron.
My own reason for being at Gladstone this time was to coach my former young rider Lesley Eden and her horse Picasso. To our delight, they moved right from taking the individual and team gold medals at the 2001 North American Young Riders Championships to the top 12 in the adult game this year. Lesley finished 10th and will benefit from the experience.
The USET Festival ran smoothly, in spite of the surrounding golf courses and shrinking elbow room. Added ambi-ance was supplied by the USET Reining Cham-
pionships, which are be-coming a vital part of the action, and a vaulting exhibition during the breaks in the main ring.
The event appeared to be a tad low-key, however. This was probably due to the absence of our Grand Prix dressage horses, who had their own selection trials for the World Equestrian Games two weeks prior to the festival, so we could send three of them to compete at Aachen (see July 12, p. 8). Even the jumpers were missing some exciting entries, which were competing at conflicting shows.
Among the dressage spectators was the U.S. Dressage Federation`s new executive director, Stephan Hienzsch, selected by the Board of Directors after an extensive talent hunt to steer the organization into its new “harbor” in Kentucky. With an extensive background in managing Olympic-level sports, Mr. Hienzsch brings to the organization an experienced but open mind, as well as an ability to listen to everyone`s pet peeves without yawning. I suspect he also has a pretty good idea of what to do with all the information gathered, and a plan to put his house in order.
With the move to Lexington and the unavoidable commotion in turnover of staff and settling in, the arrival of a new executive director could be perfect timing.
These days, when the USET and USA Equestrian are rocking in their foundations, it`s interesting to note that the USDF, in spite of being on the move, stands out as the most stable of the three organizations. For those of us who re-member the various internal storms of the USDF, as well as the early go-rounds with the AHSA about the National Dressage Championships, things have certainly come full circle.
During the festival, we had several sightings of a well-appointed Robert Dover floating by, followed closely by a cameraman. In passing, he explained to Linda Zang and me that he is doing a television promotion for “Horses in Sport.” Robert`s extensive knowledge of equestrian sports and all the personalities involved will come in handy here, not to mention his eloquence and dramatic personality. If he can`t infuse life into the public interest in dressage, we might as well give up!