Thursday, May. 30, 2024

Vazquez Rides To Victory In CDS Junior Championships North

Months of hard work with her unlikely dressage partner propel this young rider to a training level tricolor.

Jaclyn Vazquez had no expectations going into the California Dressage Society Junior Championships North on Aug. 6-9. The 16-year-old rider had bought her Friesian-paint cross mare, Legend Woods Zia, the previous October, and in January she could barely canter under saddle.



Months of hard work with her unlikely dressage partner propel this young rider to a training level tricolor.

Jaclyn Vazquez had no expectations going into the California Dressage Society Junior Championships North on Aug. 6-9. The 16-year-old rider had bought her Friesian-paint cross mare, Legend Woods Zia, the previous October, and in January she could barely canter under saddle.

But months of intensive work since then with her bald-faced, blue-eyed, four-stockinged mare paid off in Rancho Murieta, Calif., as they took home the training level championship for riders 15-17 with an average score of 67.90 percent.

“I really could not have asked for a better weekend,” said Vazquez, whose combined score with ‘Zia’ was the highest in all three training level divisions. “I was so glad just to be there and so happy that she qualified that everything else was just kind of gravy.”

Vazquez, Danville, Calif., eventually turned her weekend into a winning one, but not before some serious stress on Wednesday afternoon. After arriving at the show grounds, she had a few moments of utter panic during a lesson with her trainer, Gina Duran, when Zia flatly refused the canter.

“[I was thinking], ‘Oh my God! This is going to be horrible!’,” Vazquez said, laughing. “I’m going to get in my test and she’s not going to canter!”

But fortunately Vazquez had entered the equitation class on Thursday, and both horse and rider were able to calm their nerves and place second. The pair then won their Pony Club class on Friday, which served as a warm-up. But because Zia is green, Vazquez chose to skip the team championship classes so the mare wouldn’t be too overwhelmed or tired in the individual championship tests on the weekend.

“We’ve gotten to a pretty good place where she’s finally starting to say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember this—I can do this,’ ” Vazquez said. “Oh man, is she fun to ride! She always tries. She never says no. She may just say, ‘Well, this is more fun—I suggest we do this,’ and you have to say, ‘No, no, we’re working on this right now.’ ”

Zia’s mischievous mind was a bit too idle when it came to stable time at the Murieta Equestrian Center, as Vazquez had put a tack trunk in front of her stall, and the mare managed to open it and dump its contents all over the aisle way. But once she entered the arena in her championship classes, the 7-year-old mare quickly got down to business.

Vazquez and Zia put in a solid test on Saturday in the training level, test 3, class, which served as the first half of the championship competition. Except for backing up at the final halt, Zia put on a mistake-free performance for a 67.80 percent.

“She has the best trot,” Vazquez noted. “People have said that it’s really bouncy, but I don’t think so. I think it’s the easiest thing to sit. And she has a great walk, but her canter is kind of iffy. She just needs to get stronger so that she can put more weight on her hind legs and travel more uphill.”

With that weakness in mind, Vazquez was beginning to worry about Zia’s mental and physical fitness by Sunday morning, but a change in venue gave her some extra confidence. Because arrangements were being made for the awards ceremony, organizers moved her final class to a different arena.


“I was so worried that Zia was going to be dead to the leg on Sunday,” said Vazquez. “I was happy that they moved the ring, because I thought she’d get a little oomph under herself in the new ring, and she did. She was super good in the test. There were a few bobbles in her canter work, but she was nicely forward. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from her.”

Kayla Hagel of Legend Woods Farm in Minnesota bred Zia, who is by the Friesian stallion Zero Gravity and out of the paint mare Legends Liberty Chance. The flashy black mare was sold to a rider in California as a 4-year-old to be a jumper before Vazquez rerouted her to dressage.

“She’s a complicated horse to ride,” Vazquez said. “She’s heavy on the left rein, and she totally doesn’t want to go to the contact on the right rein. When someone else rides her, I tell them to make sure they unlock her jaw but make sure they kick her to the right so that she fills out the right side of her body. But don’t let her go too fast, because then she’ll just run!”

Vazquez doesn’t mind the challenges, though. With a new championship under her belt, she’s all the more eager to keep drilling in the dressage arena for years to come.

Rodin Has The Winning Ride

Five years down the road, Vazquez hopes to find herself back at the CDS Championships in Alexandra du Celliee Muller’s position.

Du Celliee Muller, 21, and her 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding Rodin started out much like Vazquez and Zia—at the bottom of the ladder. But their five-year partnership paid off with the third level CDS North championship (65.85%).

“He’s had some wild moments,” du Celliee Muller admitted. “He was a naughty boy. He’s really grown up in the last year or so and is very workmanlike now. It’s a nice change!”

Rodin (Royal Diamond 5— Wittenburg) had very little training when du Celliee Muller purchased him, and she’s done all of the riding herself. Now a senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, she takes monthly clinics with Leslie Webb.

For the championships, du Celliee Muller trailered in to the show each day from Lockeford, Calif., about a 40-minute drive, and didn’t ride in any of the warm-up classes to save money for her trip.

“I tacked him up, took him into the ring and then took him home each day,” said du Celliee Muller. “He was very tolerant of that and a really good boy. He’s pretty wonderful. He warmed up well and went in well and put in two solid tests.”

Du Celliee Muller is an H-A Pony Clubber. She got her first pony at age 4 and joined Pony Club at 6. Her first trip to the CDS Junior Championships was on her pony in 1999, and she’s competed there almost every year since, so she’s developed a routine for the competition.


But this year du Celliee Muller wasn’t able to ride Rodin as much as she would have preferred before the competition, as she was moving from Santa Barbara back to her parent’s home in Lockeford.

“Rodin had several weeks off with just a few rides, and then I rode him three times the week of the championships,” said du Celliee Muller. “I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go, but he was really super.”

Du Celliee Muller owns two other horses in addition to Rodin—a Thoroughbred that is showing at second level and a 2-year-old project horse. While at college, she rides her own horses early in the mornings and often schools another one or two horses every day for people at her barn.

After the CDS championships, however, du Celliee Muller left the country to pursue another passion in Italy. Her horses will get some leisure time in the coming months while their owner works on her double majors of art history and Italian.

Thompson Ends On Top

Cassandra Thompson of Mill Valley, Calif., and her 13-year-old Hanoverian mare Dondaly (Donner-schall—Luna Lucia) took top honors in the first level championship for riders 14 and under. The pair have been together for two years and had a 68.15 percent average in their two tests at the CDS championships.

“It was kind of stressful,” Thompson, 15, said of her weekend. “I didn’t know if I was going to have that high of a percentage on Sunday or not because I made an error in my test. Danielle Bonavito, who placed second, had a really good test, so I was really surprised that I won.”

Thompson was less than .3 percent ahead of Bonavito after Saturday’s ride.

“We didn’t have any errors, but she was kind of stiff,” Thompson said of her first test. “She was really good on Sunday. She was actually really soft that day, but I had the error on that short diagonal—M to E—it gets me every time. It’s a total change of the test, and it always confuses me.”

Even with the error near the end of the trot work, Thompson scored 70.26 percent for her first level, test 4, ride.

Thompson has been riding dressage for three years and trains with Erin King at Riverside Equestrian Center in Petaluma, Calif. She competed in the hunters and jumpers for several years before moving into the dressage arena.

“I love Dondaly,” Thompson said of the 16.1-hand chestnut. “She has some moments where she can just freak out at anything, and it can be totally random. But most of the time she’s really cool about everything, and she’s fun to ride. She’s a great mare.”




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