The Hanoverian gelding and Sue Jaccoma take three FEI-level titles.
Susan Jaccoma may have gotten drenched while winning her open Intermediaire II class at the Great American/ USDF Region 8 Championships, but that didn’t stop her from turning around and heading right back in the ring again, this time to claim the Grand Prix freestyle title.
The championships were held during the New England Dressage Association Fall Festival and Saugerties CDI at the HITS-On-The-Hudson show grounds, Saugerties, N.Y., Sept. 9-13.
Jaccoma, of Kennebunk, Maine, and Wellington, Fla., and the 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding had already won the open Grand Prix championship (66.38%) the previous day.
After Jaccoma rode her Intermediaire II test, which she won with a 68.10 percent, the judges gave her the option of going right back into the ring to ride her Grand Prix freestyle.
“The heart of that horse is amazing,” said Jaccoma, who scored 70.70 percent for first place in the freestyle. “I didn’t warm up very long for my Intermediaire II ride because it was pouring, but we went in and he did a mistake free I-2. It felt lovely, aside from the fact I was soaked.”
Jaccoma walked out of the ring after the Intermediaire II test, then cantered around the ring as announcer Brian O’Connor started her music.
“I had only a minute to organize it in my head, but I was already soaked,” she said. “I thought to bring the horse back to the barn, wait an hour and then come back up, just wasn’t right. He would be grumpy, and I wasn’t going to do it. So, we went in and did it, and he did a mistake-free freestyle. What a good horse.”
For her freestyle, Jaccoma used choral music that had been created for her Oldenburg mare, Donatella.
“Karen Robinson created it for Donatella. I had a freestyle for [Wadamur] as well, but it was made about a year and a half ago, and since then his gaits have gotten much more expressive and cadenced,” she said. “I ran through that music this summer, and it was much too quick for him. So I then ran through Donatella’s music, and it was beautiful and worked well.”
Jaccoma, who trains with Lars Petersen, opted to ride in the regional championships rather than the CDI in order to give Wadamur a low-key, stress-free competition.
“I could watch the CDI and yet not be in the CDI with all that tension,” she said. “I wanted us to have a good time and a positive experience but still show under the really good judges here for the CDI.”
Jaccoma and Wadamur took a break from showing after the winter season in Florida. They did a couple of small, warm-up shows in New England in August to prepare for the regional competition.
“During our break, I still rode him and trained him and worked on getting him stronger,” she said. “He’s only 9, and he needed time to build his body mass and strength.”
The down time and the focus on the training and strengthening paid off, Jaccoma said. “He came out, and the first time I did a Grand Prix, it felt simple,” she said. “I was thrilled. The rides here at the championships also felt easy. They were flowing, and I got really good feedback from the judges.”
Although they’ve sometimes struggled in the past with the pirouettes, that wasn’t the case this time. “He gets a little tense and short in the pirouettes, but this time, the pirouettes were really rideable and felt almost confirmed,” said Jaccoma.
“It feels great [to win],” she added. “It makes all the hard work and all the day-to-day toil worth it. I love my horse. I love to ride my horse. So this is just icing on the cake. It was just nice to be able to show people how nice my horse is, and I’m glad people agree.”
In addition to her own wins, Jaccoma enjoyed seeing her student, Cindy Snowden, win the open Intermediaire I championship with her 9-year-old Oldenburg Dolomit (De Niro—Adiama, Rohdiamont) on a score of 70.39 percent.
“I’m honored to be regional champion,” said a thrilled Snowden. “It’s just an unbelievable feeling, especially because of the level of competition with the other horses this year. Sue was so hoping that I would get a championship. And I got it today, even with my mistake. I went off course in the beginning, going to the right instead of the left, but I still had a wonderful score. Dolomit was right with me.”
Dolomit finished fifth in the 2008 USEF National Developing Horse competition and was the U.S. Dressage Federation national fourth level champion in 2007.
“I’m really thrilled with him,” said Snowden, who will begin training Dolomit for Grand Prix and hopes to earn her USDF gold medal on him. “He’s just super talented, and I want to see how far he’ll go.”
Snowden, of West Newbury, Mass., purchased Dolomit at the Elite Oldenburg Auction in Germany when he was 3. He spent two years in Europe for training, and Snowden brought him to the United States as a 5-year-old.
Conlon Tops Fourth Level
While Jaccoma was busy cheering on Snowden, Snowden was cheering on students of her own, including Hannah McCabe, who was crowned the junior/ young rider training level champion, earning the title with a score of 70.20 percent aboard Prince Bonhoeffer.
Another of Snowden’s students, Heidi Conlon, took the open fourth level championship with Donnerzauber (66.70%).
Conlon, a native of Germany, bought the 8-year-old Rhinelander gelding in Germany as a 2-year-old and has brought him up the levels. She looked at many horses on that buying trip, and, at first glance, Donnerzauber was perhaps the last sort of horse she would have considered buying.
“I didn’t really want a chestnut,” she said. But Conlon decided to look at him after rejecting several horses before him. “They brought him into the ring and he looked around, and then he started trotting off in this beautiful trot. He was so nice and calm. It was meant to be for me to buy him.”
Conlon has high hopes for Donnerzauber and for good reason. She rode him at a New England Dressage Association clinic with Robert Dover, who said he liked the horse. “He got on and rode him, and he loved everything about him,” said Conlon. “He is definitely a keeper.”
A busy professional rider and trainer, Conlon also works a full-time job as a city code enforcement officer. “I do a lot of lessons and training on weekends and into the evenings. But, financially, I need my job to support my horse and my training,” she said.
Conlon, who lives in Massachusetts and boards her horse in New Hampshire, has competed Donnerzauber up to Prix St. Georges and is aiming him for Grand Prix. In addition to Snowden, she also trains with Sharon McCusker.
Conlon came to the United States 23 years ago and obtained her U.S. citizenship in 2001. She was a professional rider and trainer in Germany and after arriving in this country, she managed a large Morgan horse farm.
Although she rode dressage in Germany, she has now expanded her equestrian experience to include driving, eventing and show jumping. But dressage is her main love, and the Region 8 championship title was her first.
“I’ve placed at the other levels, but I’ve never been the champion. It’s a dream come true,” she said. “He was just on today. Everything was there.”
Conlon has her USDF bronze and silver medals and hopes to win her gold medal with Donnerzauber. “It would be wonderful to achieve all my medals on him. He is just a wonderful, wonderful horse,” she said. “When he’s in the ring, he’ll try every single time out.”
High Hopes For Hickey
Chris Hickey captured the open Prix St. Georges championship with Greengate Farm’s 8-year-old Hanoverian stallion Donarweiss GGF (67.54%) and the open first level championship with Cece Stewarts’ Dutch gelding Zonnerhall (72.36%).
Hickey had a bit of help from his coach, Germany’s Ulla Salzgeber, who flew in to train him with his regional winners and his new partner, Douglas Hilltop, with whom he earned one first place and one second place in open Grand Prix competition at the NEDA Fall Festival.
“Ulla was here for a week and came over for Douglas and came to help me warm up. I’m very grateful for that,” Hickey said.
Douglas, by Dr. Jackson, is a 9-year-old, Baden Wurttemberg gelding formerly ridden by Salzgeber’s student, Alexandra Sessler.
Hickey, based in Maryland at Hilltop Farm, was clearly pleased with his Prix St. Georges champion, Donarweiss (De Niro—SPS Highlight, Hohenstein). “The horseis doing very well, and I’m very happy with him,” he said. “He’s really progressed a lot.”
Hickey had been at the HITS show grounds just weeks before the Region 8 championships for the Centerline Events CDI.
“We showed here in August so that a few of the horses could see this venue. And many of those horses also did well here in August. That show was a good preparation,” Hickey said.