Joann Williams could have been described as her own worst enemy at the GreatAmerican/USDF Region 4 Championships held in Lake St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 8-10. Her ride on JLA Rambin Sea,
“Radar,” just edged out her other entry, Kosmic, as she took first (62.62%) and second (60.25%) places in Intermediaire I. In the Prix St. Georges, the roles reversed, with Kosmic having the better of the two rides for the win (63.87%) and Radar taking third (60.75%).
“It always seems that I’m competing head-to-head against–myself,” said the 47-year-old dressage instructor from Elkhorn, Wis. “Though my boys are always neck and neck, they couldn’t be more different. If Kosmic is my old Mercedes, then Radar is my racy Ferrari. At least it makes for fun competition!”
While Kosmic is a Hanoverian, Radar is an Arabian-Saddlebred cross. “[Kosmic] I have to gear up; [Radar] I have to reassure,” said Williams. “Whatever their differences, they’re both still my boys.”
Williams and Radar also shone in the FEI freestyle (66.68%), to a sci-fi themed program that both the judges and the audience enthusiastically received.
Williams selects her own music and arranges her own choreography for freestyles. “In St. Louis, my program opened with Star Trek’s ‘Final Frontier,’ followed with the ET theme to accentuate Radar’s smart extended trot. We closed with the John Williams’ foreboding ‘Imperial March’ to highlight Radar’s pirouette into the two tempis.”
Williams has had Kosmic, a 12-year-old, chestnut Hanoverian gelding by K?d out of Adelwunsch, for a decade. She bought him as a 2-year-old from Valhalla’s Pride Farm in Ohio. Since then, they have methodically moved up the ranks, winning at nearly every level.
“When I purchased him, he was barely halter-broke. We’ve moved up and learned to-gether, which makes his and my recent success all the more rewarding,” she said. “I can go into any ring and get the best out of him, if I can only move him forward and add some brilliance to that steady-Eddie personality. Honestly, I think he was a little under par this week. I know that he can do better.”
Her other champion chestnut gelding, Radar, also 12, is a registered National Show Horse originally bred to do English pleasure. His Milwaukee-based owner Lindie Guthrie is also a close friend of Williams.
Radar’s sire was an Arabian stallion, Rodam Islam, while his dam was the Saddlebred mare, Glenknoll’s Ramblin Gal. His eclectic background manifests itself in his buoyant personality.
“On Friday he was hopping around and nearly died after he got all geared up anticipating an attack of the chrysanthemums. That’s typical Radar. When we got him, we discovered he’d always walked around with his ears pricked, listening to even the slightest sound. We took to calling him Radar as a joke; the name stuck,” she said. “Fortunately, he usually settles down once we get going. When we can channel all of that energy, we can do something really special.”
“It was so embarrassing; I was bucked off in my victory gallop!” said Emily Wagner of La Cygne, Kansas. Wagner, 16, won first and second level junior/young rider honors aboard her 5-year-old, chestnut sport pony stallion Mushu.
“I guess Mushu thought I was having too much fun, but he’s never one to be taken for granted. I guess he wanted to grab a little more of the spotlight for himself,” she said.
The diminutive Mushu, by a Trakehner stallion out of a Mustang mare, may not embody the model ideal for a dressage champion, but that suits Wagner just fine.
“Being that he’s half Mustang sport pony stallion he naturally is such a handful! But the judges love him not only because he stands out but also because he shows that smaller horses that don’t cost a million dollars can do dressage well,” Wagner said.
Wagner believes that smaller horses like Mushu make great introductory horses for younger and intermediate riders. “It is easier to generate impulsion, and they are easier to control,” she said. “I am just so sad that I am outgrowing him.”
Wagner also placed at second level aboard her 5-year-old, chestnut, Hanoverian stallion, Deutschmark. “Deutschmark fits the bill as the flashier, old school dressage horse. This wasn’t his best show, but he’s young and learning. He’s the one I’m looking to the future with.”
Dressage is a family sport for the Wagners. “I couldn’t have done so well this weekend without my mother, [Jana],” said Wagner. “She introduced me to riding at the age of 2 and has been so instrumental in encouraging me and teaching me the sport.”
Wagner’s sister Elaine also finished 10th in first level and fifth in second level. “She’s a great dressage rider too. Whether we’re training or just taking it easy, it seems like we’re always enjoying ourselves. We push each other when we compete, and we’re both the better for it.”
Movin’ On Up
Last year Deborah Pulver captured the first and second level adult amateur titles with her two Dutch Warmblood geldings Piloot and Keoliet. This year she and the same pair returned to the Region 4 championships and strode home with second and third level adult amateur honors.
The West Des Moines, Iowa, native and Piloot scored a 68.92 percent to walk away with second level. A 60.11 percent by Keoliet in third level was just enough to nab the third level title for Pulver.
“This is never an old hat. It’s always hard work. It’s great to have help, and this year I had someone on the ground,” said Pulver of Canadian trainer Ashleigh Luca.
Although she managed to do it alone last go-round, this year Luca flew from California just in time to give Pulver some pointers. “When it gets cold in Iowa I head south to Arizona and work with Ashleigh. She also has come to my place and has done a couple of clinics for us,” said Pulver.
Working with Luca and Arizona-based Paula Paglia keeps Pulver moving forward. “My biggest hurdle is having the patience to produce that steady ride. [Piloot] is so loose and willing, but sometimes he has trouble supporting himself on his hindquarters,” she said. “Paula has helped me with my seat. Paula has shown me that a consistent seat is crucial to improve his hind end. Piloot was super and Sunday was his day. This just shows how using a consistent system works almost every time in dressage.”
Despite winning, Keoliet didn’t have his best show according to Pulver. “Frankly, we’ve had much better rides. He is high-strung and often gets distracted looking for something. I would have liked a better performance and a higher score, but we’ll take it and move on,” she said.
Pulver was extremely pleased with the new St. Louis venue and singled out show manager Geri Muldrow for special praise. “The show ran without a hitch. The championships come home to Iowa next year, but when they return to St. Louis, we’ll definitely be back,” she said.