“I just couldn’t be more proud,” Chef d’Equipe Robert Dover gushed of his USA Team I riders, who stand in the lead after the first day of the Wellington FEI Nations Cup CDIO***, held at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Florida, March 25-27.
“These riders came out to do a job, and they’ll go on to do the same job tomorrow and throughout this show to show us why America is not only superior to any other countries in our hemisphere, but also ready to be ranked among the best nations in the world,” said Dover.
The United States sent two teams, with a total of seven pairs to this year’s Nations Cup. The eight competing teams, representing the United States, Canada, Australia, Columbia, Germany and Guatemala, are each allowed a combination of small and large tour pairs. To make the scoring even, 1.5 percentage points are added to every Grand Prix rider’s score. Riders on the small tour rode the Prix St. Georges test today and will ride the Intermediaire I test tomorrow, while the Grand Prix riders will ride the Special.
USA Team I leads the competition with a score of 223.30. The team consists of two Grand Prix pairs (Allison Brock on Rosevelt and Laura Graves on Verdades), and two on the small tour (Kim Herslow on Rosmarin and Olivia LaGoy-Weltz on Rassing’s Lonoir). Behind them stands Canada Team I (Diane Creech on Robbie W, Chris Von Martels on Zilverstar, Megan Lane on Caravella and Belinda Trussell on Anton), with 216.66 points.
USA Team II stands third after Day 1. Kasey Perry (Goerklintgaards Dublet) and Christopher Hickey (Ronaldo) rode in the small tour, while Catherine Haddad-Staller (Mane Stream Hotmail) competed in the Grand Prix to earn a collective 209.98 points.
The biggest challenge of the day for both U.S. teams was in dealing with the heat and gauging just how much to push their mounts in the warm-up and still have enough energy to perform a strong test. But Herslow, Stockton, N.J., and Rosmarin overcame their past issues performing in extreme conditions to score 73.68 percent in their Prix St. George test.
“I’m really proud of how he felt dealing with this heat,” said Herslow. “I know that he tends to get a little ‘blah’ and so do I, because it’s hard to really push yourself to the max in that kind of heat. But I’m really happy of how he went, considering last time we competed in this kind of heat I couldn’t create more power from him.”
In her U.S. team debut, Brock was nervous about the heat affecting Rosevelt in the Grand Prix warm-up, but she was determined to put in a strong test for her team. The pair scored 72.20 percent.
“My goal was to ride clean and just produce a really solid, clean test for [my teammates],” said Brock, Keswick, Va. “And for the most part, he was really honest and he just went for it and he was with me. I was really pleased with him; he handled the heat well.”
It is LaGoy-Weltz’s first experience riding on a team as well, and she has really enjoy the camaraderie so far.
“You feel a little pressure and you make a couple mistakes and you’re kicking yourself, but that’s just a part of the process of wanting to do well for everyone else,” said LaGoy-Weltz, Reston, Va. “It’s a really great bunch of people and horsewomen on both U.S. teams. And we’ve all kind of had long-term relationships with our horses, or brought them along, or they’ve been kind of a project horse in some way, so that’s a lot of fun.”
Graves and Verdades, who have been on a hot streak since their first appearance at AGDF two weeks ago, were the last combination of the day and earned the highest Grand Prix score with a 74.42 percent. But Graves’ teammates had already topped the leaderboard before she even went in the ring.
“In a team there’s usually pressure on the anchor to put in a solid performance, but I was so fortunate to have three such awesome rides go before me that I didn’t feel any pressure,” said Graves, Plymouth, Fla. “It was a really great position to be in; whether I rode first or last, I didn’t really have to worry about carrying more than my own weight. It felt really great to have three women on my team who are such amazing competitors.
“And I think having such a strong USA Team II as well really shows what everyone has been working toward, with such depth in our sport,” added Graves.
Despite having some issues warming her horse up, USA Team II member Perry, of Orangevale, Calif., rode to the front of the Prix St. Georges class with a score of 73.81.
“Right before Kasey went in her horse was as hot as a firecracker, and she handled herself so gorgeously on this hot horse and then rode a superb test,” said Dover.
“I’m finding it to be his thing to do,” said Perry of Dublet’s antics in the warm-up. “But he has a good mind, and once you channel him he’s good. Right when I went down centerline I felt him kind of just check in and go, ‘OK, we’re here,’ and he never missed a beat; he was with me the whole time. So I was really proud of him to do that.”
The CDIO*** Intermediaire I and CDIO*** Grand Prix Special begin tomorrow, and both CDIO*** freestyle tests will be held on Friday, March 27.
For more information on the 2015 Wellington FEI CDIO*** Nations Cup, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
Make sure to follow all of The Chronicle’s Nations Cup coverage at www.coth.com to find out if the U.S. can hold its lead over Canada in the next phase of competition.