The second CDI of the season is underway at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and there's plenty of Canadian action to follow.
Competition kicked off this morning with the CDI Prix St. George. Four Canadians were in the field, including Jessica Rhinelander making her CDI debut on Dimanche. Jessica purchased this talented 9-year-old KWPN gelding as a youngster, and has brought him up through the levels herself. Definitely a pair to keep your eye on! The maple leaf was flying on the judges' panel as well, with Canada's newest 4* judge Lee Tubman doing the honours at B.
Canadians finished 1-2 in this very competitive class with Jaimey Irwin and Donegal V taking home the blue ribbon on a total score of 70.746%. With 69.605%, Lindsay Kellock was close behind in second place on Royal Prinz, a 2001 Oldenburg stallion owned by Teresa Simmons.
***Update Sunday, January 29 ****
The rest of the weekend proved just as busy and successful for Canadian competitors. So much I wanted to comment on, from Jaimey Irwin and Lindsay Kellock sweeping the top spots in the PSG and I1, to 14-year-old Ava MacCoubrey winning the FEI JR Individual, to Laura Graves' 80%+ performance and Jacqueline Brooks' new freestyle choreography...but I ran out of time! Sorry!
One thing I do want to ask: Is it just me or are scores trending higher this year? And if so, is it because judges are more generous or the quality of performance has improved? I don't have the knowledge or an educated enough eye to see the difference between a 70% Grand Prix test and a 75% one. Perhaps someone who does know can weigh in in the comments section.
CDI results are all listed below; for the sake of time I haven't even touched on the many Canadians who shone at the National show. Please check out all their results here.
FEI Prix St. George January 26
1st Jaimey Irwin & Donegal 70.746%
2nd Lindsay Kellock & Royal Prinz 69.605%
5th Evi Strasser & Rigaudon Tyme 68.026%
8th Jessica Rhinelander & Dimanche 66.491%
FEI Grand Prix January 27
7th Brittany Fraser & All In 71.020%
12th Jill Irving & Degas 12 69.680%
13th Megan Lane & San D'Or 69.640%
16th Jacqueline Brooks & D Niro 68.700%
FEI Young Rider Team January 27
3rd Alexandra Meghji & Rigo 64.579%
FEI Jr Team January 27
3rd Ava MacCoubrey & Pablo 66.432%
FEI Intermediate I January 27
1st Lindsay Kellock & Royal Prinz 70.132%
2nd Jaimey Irwin & Donegal 69.649%
5th Jessica Rhinelander & Dimanche 67.588%
6th Evi Strasser & Rigaudon Tyme 66.930%
FEI Grand Prix Freestyle January 27
4th Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu & All In 73.838%
8th Jacqueline Brooks & D Niro 70.702%
10th Jill Irving & Degas 12 69.548
FEI Grand Prix Special January 28
5th Megan Lane & San D'Or 70.000%
FEI Young Rider Individual January 28
2nd Alexandra Meghji & Rigo 66.579%
FEI Jr Individual January 28
1st Ava MacCoubrey & Pablo 68.526%
FEI Intermediate I Freestyle January 29
1st Jaimey Irwin & Donegal V 75.475%
5th Evi Strasser & Rigaudon Tyme 68.950%
6th Jessica Rhinelander & Dimanche 68.300%
8th Lindsay Kellock & Royal Prinz 67.600%
FEI Young Rider Freestyle January 29
1st Alexandra Meghji & Rigo 68.708%
FEI Jr Freestyle January 29
2nd Ava MacCoubrey & Pablo 70.917%
Did Gus NEED a new winter blanket? When it comes to tack and horse equipment, "need" is a very subjective term. The only thing I like better than buying horse stuff is buying horse stuff massively on sale. So when I found out that Net Equestrian was having a huge clearance on Rambo blankets right before Christmas, I couldn't resist.
The Rambo Duo from Horseware of Ireland is advertised as a 2-in-1 system. It comes with a 300g stable liner, 100g waterproof outer shell, and a detachable hood. When fully assembled it's warm enough for even the worst of Ontario winters, and offers the flexibility of changing layers depending on the temperature. Rambo blankets are well-known for being tough and durable, and are backed by a great manufacturer's warranty. They are also known for being really, really expensive.
Major Canadian retailers have the Duo regularly priced from $550 - $570, way outside my budget, even for a horse who is pretty gentle on his blankets. But Net Equestrian was offering it on clearance for $219 U.S. A quick Google search turned up a promotional code for an additional 10% off (FACEBOOK10 in case it still works!) and with 87 being one of just three sizes they had left in stock, Gus' new snowsuit seemed meant to be.
To take advantage of free shipping within the U.S. I had it delivered to a mailbox service I use in Lewiston, NY, just across the Queenston / Lewiston bridge near Niagara Falls, about an hour's drive from my home. I picked it just in time for a nasty cold snap with bitter winds and lots of snow - perfect time to test the blanket out on my freshly clipped horse!
The outer liner looks very well constructed with a tough 1,000 denier nylon. The navy blue colour with reflective trim is simple and looks great on a handsome chestnut (if I do say so myself). The 87 fits well lengthwise and gives good rear coverage, thanks to an oversize tail flap, and good belly coverage, thanks to the leg arches and three belly straps. The liner is surprisingly lightweight for something with 300g of fill.. The blanket arrived with the liner already attached to the shell, and the hood was easy to secure to the shell with two velcro closures. The hood provides ample protection for his neck - important to me since Gus has a trace clip in the winter.
Because of the flexible layering options, durable construction and attractive design I think the Rambo Duo is a very good product. If you can find it on super sale, Gus and I recommend it - so far. We'll see how it weathers the rest of the winter and let you know if anything changes.
In the land of palm trees and sunshine, it's the para dressage riders' turn to shine with the first CPEDI of the season underway this weekend. They don't often get the same attention their able-bodied fellow riders do but make no mistake, at this level these are international calibre athletes and horses competing at the top of their game.
Canada was well represented in the Grade 1 Para Team Test today (Friday). Robyn Andrews took home top honours aboard Fancianna with a score of 69.702. Toronto's Jody Schloss was second with 65.952 on her new mount Lieutenant Lobin.
Both of these riders have represented Canada at the Paralympics and both have Canadian coaches. Jody has been with Jessica Rhinelander for a number of years, while Robyn has recently joined forces with Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu.
Jessica is a native of St. John's, Newfoundland, and is now based year-round in Wellington, where she owns and operates Rhinelander Equestrian Services. In addition to her coaching duties, she is an avid competitor herself with a lovely young KWPN gelding named Dimanche. With scores over 70% at Prix St. George in last week's GDF National, this is a pair to keep your eye on.
Brittany is best known for her success in the competition ring, particularly after last year's silver medal-winning team performance at the PanAm Games with All In. Originally hailing from New Glasgow, NS, she has been based with Ashley Holzer for many years and divides most of her time between New York and Florida. Brittany has recently begun to develop the training and coaching side of her career and travels regularly to Ottawa and Montreal for clinics. (I should mention that she's also booked to come to Equestrian Dreams for a clinic in May. Hurray!)
CPEDI action resumes tomorrow with the Individual tests. Check back here and I will update the post with results.
***** SATURDAY UPDATE *****
Robyn and Jody finished 1-2 again today in the Grade 1 Para Individual Championship. Robyn and Fancianna scored 70.393 while Jody and Lieutenant Lobin earned 66.488. On to the freestyle tomorrow!
Robyn Andrews scored a hat trick this weekend, winning the freestyle with 73.056% to sweep all three classes in the Grade 1 division. Jody Schloss continued her super weekend as well, earning 66.944% for second place. What a fantastic way to start the season!
A couple of readers have suggested I should tell you all a little bit more about me and Gus so here goes! I have loved horses for as long as I can remember. When I was a small child in Calgary the best days ever were the rare occasions we'd go visit a friend's ranch and I'd be allowed to pat, brush and even ride the horses. But since I was allergic to horses, my parents thought riding was a poor choice for a hobby. It took me until the age of 14 to wear them down into agreeing to a weekly lesson.
Well you all can appreciate that weekly lessons are just the gateway drug into full-blown horse addiction! I progressed to two weekly lessons, then part boarding, volunteering to muck, feed, sweep and clean tack, and working as a counsellor at summer riding camp. At the age of 17 a lifelong dream came true and my parents agreed to let me buy my own horse. It was no fairy tale, however and here's why:
I grew up in a part of the country where we had no certified coaches and no professional trainers. The instructors we did have were wonderful people, passionate about horses and about teaching kids to ride. But when I look back now and realize how much we didn't even know that we didn't know, I'm amazed we all survived. Case in point: As a 17-year-old, still fairly novice rider, the horse my coach helped me buy was a green-broke, rising 3-year-old QH x TB. I think even then I knew in my heart he wasn't the right horse for me, but he was gorgeous, he was sweet and I LOVED him.
Splash and I had a lot of ups and downs over the next few years but also learned a lot. Our barn started bringing in regular dressage clinicians, and hired the very talented Stephanie Gow as our in house coach. I spent a summer in Nova Scotia as a working student and finally started making real progress with my horse. Unfortunately at about that time I had also finished university, was starting my career and didn't have the time or money needed to focus on riding. I made the difficult decision to sell, and my beloved Splash went to live with a lovely family in NS.
As happens to so many of us, riding became something I used to do. I got a second degree, got married, moved to Ontario and started a family. I had a job, mortgage, children and no room in my life for horses. I didn't even go to the Royal once a year - being around horses was like running into an ex-boyfriend you still loved with all your heart.
For close to 20 years I didn't put my foot in a stirrup. Imagine my excitement when my then 8-year-old daughter asked for riding lessons! Turns out it wasn't to be her thing, but me walking in a barn on that first day was like an addict walking into a crack house. It wasn't long before I was telling my husband that weekly riding lessons would be a great way to get some exercise. Poor guy had no idea what that really meant...
Before long I found a great coach in Debbie Dobson at Equestrian Dreams, and started mucking stalls to get fit and earn extra time in the saddle. Does any of this sound familiar? When the time came to buy another horse, I knew I'd be smarter this time. Something with plenty of miles, buttons already installed. Older and needing a little maintenanc was fine, as long as it was bombproof, big enough to carry my weight but not too tall. So what did I buy? A 5-year-old, 17.1 hand Oldenburg cross.
I swear I'm not crazy. Really! I met and fell in love with Gus on my very first visit to Equestrian Dreams. Debbie had purchased him as an unbacked 2-year-old and and carefully been training him herself. Yes he lacked miles but made up for it with an exceptionally quiet nature and super brain. Knowing this time I had the help of a professional trainer to keep us from going too far off the rails, I somehow talked my poor patient husband into agreeing, and in January 2015, Gus officially joined our family.
We showed in the walk trot classes that first year at a local schooling show series. I never imagined at 43 I'd be going in the show ring again but we did it and had a blast. In the summer of 2016 we moved up to Training Level and Bronze shows. Our first show was a great success, winning both our classes on scores of 68 and 69, and taking home the home the high point award. Second show Gus decided to get abcesses in both front feet, so no show for us. Third show we had a spooky fist test but settled down in the second half of it for a score of 64. Unfortunately the day went downhill from there when Gus encountered his first bicycle, I fell off and fractured my knee. So much for the rest of my show season!
I was out of the saddle for three LONG months and just started riding again at the beginning of December. Slowly but surely things are starting to come together again and at the moment, we still plan to show First Level this summer. Knowing how poorly plans and horses go together though, I think we'll just take one ride at a time for now!
A few posts have come across my Facebook feed this week that made me realize we are witnessing a changing of the guard in Canadian dressage. Several of our top level horses are retiring from elite competition and / or moving on to new owners, making room at the top for fresh talent.
Belinda Trussell shared a lovely post this week about the difficult decision to retire her Olympic partner Anton. "When I came home from the Olympics, the questions about Anton’s next steps kept entering my mind. Along with all the emotions! My gut told me our time together in top sport competition was over. What more can I ask of a horse that has been to 2 World Championships, 1 Pan American Games, an Olympic Games and set new records for Canadian dressage? In Rio, he gave me everything he was born with in the ring. My heart told me to stop while he is at the top. He deserves to finish his International career as the top Canadian dressage horse." Belinda happily reported that Anton is being leased to her student Abbey Simbrow and his enjoying his new role as professor of dressage.
Belinda also posted a sales video recently for Chrevi's Capital, best known as David Marcus' mount at the 2012 Olympics in London. Though we haven't seen him competing much in the big ring lately, this superb athlete has a lot to offer as an upper level schoolmaster. I do hope he goes to a Canadian rider who can take advantage of everything he has to teach. (Truthfully, I hope I win the lottery so I can snatch him up for myself!).
Karen Pavicic bid an emotional farewell to her Grand Prix partner Don Daquiri as he moves on to lucky new owners and a new career. "Today I did not say goodbye to my heart horse Don Daiquiri, but instead 'see you soon my friend.' We have spent countless loving hours together over the past 9 years and it has been worth every moment. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to have this once in a lifetime horse in my life (thank you Jayne Essig). Dono has greatly impacted my life, taught me many lessons that I am grateful for, and fulfilled many of my lifetime goals. He is an extraordinary horse and he will have a place in my heart forever. Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported Dono and I over the years, it is truly appreciated!!! Congratulations to the new owners, Beth Palmgren and Sahar Daniel Hirosh and thank you for honouring and respecting everything that Don Daiquiri has to offer you on your journey together. I am looking forward to seeing what the future brings and I am happy to help and support you along the way."
In related news, Chris von Martels recently announced that Divertimento, the Grand Prix gelding he leased from Tinne Vilhelmsom for the Olympic qualifying season, has been sold to new owners as well. "We are so pleased to have found him a wonderful home and look forward to seeing him bring as much joy and success to his new rider! Here's to a great 2017!"
These horses have provided dressage fans with some marvelous memories to cherish and though it's sad to think we won't see them competing with their famous riders, I love the care and respect the riders and owners are showing for these horses by retiring them from elite competition at the top of their games. By allowing these special horses to share their talents as schoolmasters, the riders and owners are supporting future of dressage in Canada and hopefully, helping make more riders' dreams come true.
As for Belinda, Karen and Chris...well they won't be out of the spotlight for long. Chris has his PanAm mount Zilverstar waiting in the wings, among others. I'm very excited to watch the progress of Belinda's up-and-coming gelding Tattoo, and Karen Pavicic's young Totilas stallion, Totem.
Who else are we likely to see in the GP ring in the next few years? Both Jaimey and Tina Irwin are poised to make a big splash. Jacqueline Brooks has a handsome Negro youngster currently showing at Fourth Level. Though Caravella is still at the top of her game, Megan Lane has some serious talent in the barn, including the lovely San D'Or. There are many, many more...too many to mention here. The future looks pretty bright for Canadian dressage!
In my last lesson, Gus and I had a major breakthrough - at least I thought we did. For some reason (and after 40 minutes of super patient coaching from Debbie) everything just seemed to click into place.
Instead of me holding him in a frame, Gus was truly reaching into the contact and I was actually allowing him. Instead of me nagging him to go, go, go and keep going, Gus felt forward and powerful, without being strong or heavy.
A whisper from my leg sent him more forward. The slightest resistance with my core or slowing of my posting brought him back. The tiniest vibration with my fingertips was all I needed to keep him soft and responsive in my hand. I felt this amazing wave of energy from his hind end, over his back and spilling down from the poll into my hands like a waterfall. It was incredible.
It was short-lived.
I couldn't wait to get on and experience the magic again. Unfortunately, the only magic on display today was a disappearing act - the complete disappearance of any ability on my part to communicate with my horse. He grabbed and I grabbed harder. I held too long and he gnawed and chomped at the bit. He felt like a piece of stiff board. My body felt awkward, unbalanced and ungainly. It felt like I was riding some hybrid cross between a giraffe and a motorcycle while using someone else's arms and legs. I can only imagine what it felt like to him!
Debbie thinks that sometimes a great lesson or a breakthrough can actually have a negative effect. We are so anxious to repeat it that instead of allowing the lovely moments to happen, we try to make them happen. When they don't we get tense and things get worse. The worse they get the harder we try to fix it. At that point she often suggests switching to something easy where we can finish on a successful note, or doing something fun like cavalletti work or a hack, to give both horse and rider a mental break.
Golf is the only other sport I've tried where I go 10 steps backward for every two steps forward. I never seemed to pick up where I left off in terms of hitting the ball well. Looks like dressage is going to be the same for me but I know progress doesn't always occur in a straight line. When I look back at a year ago, our best efforts then weren't nearly as good as our best work now.
At least I got to snuggle my big boy at the end of the day and will try again tomorrow. And the next day...and the day after that...
It's here! The first Friday night freestyles of the season from the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington. For those of us stuck at home in the Canadian cold, watching the freestyles via live stream is the perfect way to spend an icy winter night. I put on my flannel jammies, curled up with my iPad in front of the fire and settled back for close to three hours of pure viewing pleasure.
And what a pleasure it was! The Canadian riders did us proud, as always. Although it would have been nice to hear some new music, the "Hallelujah" music that Jacqueline Brooks often performs to does suit her grey Goose to a T. Maybe it was the snazzy new helmet or the touch of sparkle on her jacket, but they looked extra polished tonight. They finished in 7th place on a solid score of 68.969. Jac and Goose are a perennial crowd favourite and always a joy to watch.
Jill Irving and Degas 12 really impressed me. I thought it was the best I've seen this horse perform; he looked fit and powerful and Jill seemed to enjoy every minute of this lovely ride. She finished just ahead of Jacqueline in 6th place with a 69.579.
Next up for Canada was the newly-married Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu. I admit I have a real soft spot for Brittany, partly because I knew her when she was a little freckle-faced kid in Nova Scotia learning to ride her first pony. But I particularly admire her for how far she's come since then. All In is simply breathtaking to watch and this big gelding has improved tremendously since their silver-medal performance at the Toronto PanAm Games. In only their second year competing in Grand Prix at the CDI level, Brittany and All In gave a spectacular performance tonight with only a slight bobble in the opening and closing halts. They were justly rewarded with a score of 72.608 and finished in third place.
I honestly thought Brittany had the ride of the night until Megan Lane entered the ring with Caravella. This little mare just keeps getting better and better. It's the first time I've seen Megan ride since the Rio Olympics and she sure didn't disappoint. Megan rocking the one-handed pirouette was without doubt the highlight of the night! This pair shows such exquisite harmony and are so technically correct, watching them is like a mini dressage clinic in itself. They earned a huge score of 75.967. Check out Megan's super ride here.
Although she's not Canadian I have to mention Lisa Wilcox and Galant. The winning ride on a score of 77.209 proves that North American dressage is continuing to improve every year. Maybe it's because I have a fondness for big chestnuts but I can't wait to see more of this pair.
Can't wait for the next Friday night freestyles on January 27!
I mentioned that one of my many freelance jobs involves writing for various horse publications. One of my favourite assignments is penning the dressage Training Tips features in Canadian Horse Sport Magazine. It's an amazing opportunity to pick the brains of the best dressage riders, trainers and teachers in Canada and share their wisdom with my fellow amateurs.
While I try to feature experts from across Canada, it's especially fun when my interview subjects are in the GTA, because I then get the opportunity to meet them in person, visit their barn and take photos to go with the article. Such an opportunity arose this week when I went to M2 Dressage near Waterdown to photograph the very talented Esther Mortimer and Harper MacKenzie.
Esther and Harper will be featured in an upcoming issue of Horse Sport, discussing ways to improve the extended trot. I'll share the link and some of their valuable advice here when the article is published; in the meantime enjoy a sneak peek from our photo shoot. Esther is riding Linosso, a 10-year-old Hanoverian owned by Ruth Roy. Harper is aboard Westeross, a 12-year-old Hanoverian owned by Patricia Douglas. So much fun to watch!
Why a blog about Canadian dressage? Why not!
Dressage gets little enough exposure in the media as it is, and our hard-working Canadian riders tend to receive even less attention than their American and European counterparts. A big part of this blog will be to report on the news, events, and accomplishments involving Canadian riders, trainers, coaches, owners and officials.
Making a career in this sport isn't easy in Canada. Either you close up your business for four months and ship your horses halfway across the continent to compete in Florida, or you battle ice, snow, power outages, and frozen water buckets, and spend hours standing in a freezing arena trying to explain the outside rein to amateurs like me. Access to top tier coaches and international competition here is limited, extremely so outside of Southern Ontario and BC's lower mainland. Those who persist and succeed in spite of these obstacles deserve a little appreciation!
My own journey (ok, struggle) beyond Training Level will likely provide much blog fodder too. I hope to start a conversation where we can all share the highs and lows that come with pursuing perfection on a 1,500 pound animal that is afraid of puddles.
Along the way I'll talk about products, tack and equipment that I love, particularly those for the plus-sized rider. I'm a tackaholic and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Even if you can't ride good, I believe you can always look good!
But before this blog gets rolling I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I am no dressage expert. No horse or riding expert of any kind. I am a middle-aged, overweight, very rusty re-rider who struggles with First Level. But I am passionate about this sport and through my freelance writing work for various horse publications, I often get to learn from those who really are experts. I will endeavour to be very clear whether I'm sharing my own uninformed opinion, or the sage advice of those who know what they're talking about.
While I may have controversial opinions from time to time about the overall state of the sport and its governing bodies, you won't find any criticism of individual riders or performances here. Few of us are in a position to judge those riding at a level we can only dream of and this community is too small to waste time tearing people down when we should be supporting one another and building our sport up.
So...welcome to Canadian Dressage Addict! Feel free to make suggestions, share news and offer feedback in the comments section any time.
About the author
I'm a middle-aged, overweight, rusty re-rider who refuses to let any of that get in the way of my passion for dressage.