Spotlight on Dressage at Saratoga 2015
by Nikki Alvin-Smith

Spotlight on Dressage at Saratoga 2015
by Nikki Alvin-Smith

The quality of riders participating May 23-25th at the beautiful Yaddo Horse Showgrounds at the Dressage at Saratoga, New York event this year was filled with a lot of equestrians to watch out for as up and coming serious talent. The sun shined the grounds were buzzing with activity and Madame Chair Regina Cristo and her team of wonderful volunteers provided a friendly and professional venue for riders to showcase their horses and earn scores from 2 shows over the 3 day event.

Carolyn Tulumello of Cornerstone Dressage rode Marianne Stankiewicz's eight year old German Oldenburg Lift Off (sire L'Andiamo), who shined like a bright copper penny in all his classesLift Off won 3 out of his 4 classes with scores ranging from low to high 60's at first and second level and the pair were High Point champions at second level in the open division. His achievements were especially amazing as this was his first dressage show. Lift Off was bred by Ann Kitchel of Huntington Farm in Southern Vermont and Carolyn has been riding 'Lofty' in his new discipline of dressage since December. Carolyn Tulumello

"My worst moment of the show was going off course in my first test. However, everyone makes mistakes and it was imperative that I brush it off and move forward! After that it was smooth sailing with a few spooks by the tent behind ring 2 due to the high wind which we recovered from quickly. I was so very pleased with the amount of heart Lofty showed all weekend! Even though he was nervous at the start of the show he finished with a spectacular test at Second Level staying with me the whole time trying his hardest every step of the way. On a horse with that much power and expression sometimes it is hard to direct that energy but our last test demonstrated the progress we have made in our partnership and trust!" Carolyn stated.

Carolyn has been riding dressage for over 15 years and has competing professionally for the past 10 years; her experience showed when she handled a spook after halting at X on the big moving Lift Off, when he worried over the shadows cast at the end of the ring. Unflustered, Carolyn had him quickly settled and back on track and went on to perform a lovely test. Her mentor Kathy Crosby of Rockport, MA has been instrumental in helping her manage her riding and business goals. Carolyn trains regularly with Pam Goodrich of Foster Meadow Farm in Boscawen NH on all her horses whether they are clients' horses or her personal horse. Carolyn sang warm praises for Pam, "Pam is an exceptional trainer who helped prepare Lofty for his first dressage show!"

When asked what this up and coming talented pair have planned for the future Carolyn explained, "Lift Off is for sale so we hope he finds his next life long partner before our next show. However, I have a fun show season planned with my students to include HITS in August! My long term goals as a rider are to continue to ride better than yesterday, produce better trained horses, and help my students achieve their own riding goals!"

Like many of the riders we spoke with, there were plenty of complimentary comments on the show including Carolyn's, " The show staff was bar none! What a fantastically hard working group of people with a wonderful sense of humor. The show grounds at Saratoga are always beautiful but this year being the first dressage show in Yaddo Gardens, I think the footing in the rings was perfect and the trees made for beautiful backgrounds. Definitely coming back next year! Oh and you can't beat the PRIZES!!!!!!!!!!!"

Great achievements were made at the Grand Prix level as J. Peter Anderson of West Falls, NY- claimed the necessary scores to receive his Gold Medal. A big achievement for any rider. Peter rode the eighteen year old Oldenburg (sire de Niro), owned by Billie Becker of East Aurora, NY, who Anderson has been riding for almost two years.

Peter explained, "I competed Dover starting at I-A and now Gand Prix with scores in the sixties. I have been riding, I hate to say, for more than forty years. Starting in pony club then moving into a career riding and training event horses along with field hunters. I began my serious dressage career three years ago. I really need to thank my wife, Maureen. Without her support and inspiration this would not be possible. My biggest mentor is my dear friend Walter Zettl, he is really the person who opened my eyes to classical dressage. Also I would like to thank Billie Becker who is also true dressage horse woman. I believe as well that this really is a team effort and without everybody at my farm's support this really would not be possible. The best accomplishment was achieving the U.S.D.F. Gold Medal. Though the tests may not be perfect, I am proud of my riding, the horses performance, and the support from my great team. I am looking forward to competing Dover in the Grand Prix and starting the Grand Prix freestyle. As a rider I never stop learning so there is nowhere to go but up.

Peter also sang the praises for the event, "Saratoga is a great venue with great nostaligia and history. How could you not love Saratoga?"

One of the most impressive moments of the event was watching the young rider, 7th grader Gracie Ruzzo riding Stonecreek Black Pearl, overcome a mishap in Ring 1, when the P.A. system gave out a freakish noise startling her pony in the middle of the test. Gracie showed extreme talent just keeping her 4 year old Fell pony mare in the ring. The bell rang and Gracie was allowed to repeat the movement and finish the test and she did an awesome job of it. However, on leaving the ring, Pearl was overcome and Gracie was forced to dismount and wrenched her knee on the dismount requiring medical attention. But that did not keep the young Gracie. The next day, Sunday, she was back up and at it showing much courage and determination. Here's what Gracie had to say:
"My pony's name is Stonecreek Black Pearl, but we call her Pearl. She is a 4 year old Fell Pony mare. We have owned Pearl for 3 years now and she has always been special to me. I competed in training  level with her at Dressage at Saratoga and got a 60%, 66%, 67%, 62% and a 53%- but I think that test was a great learning experience. she spooked at the PA system going of and making loud banging noises but we got through the test and that's what is most important. When riding a 4 year old you never know and I just think of everything as a learning experience or another training session. 

Gracie Ruzzo riding Stonecreek Black Pearl

I have been riding for 9 years or since I was three years old. I guess you could say I was riding as soon as I could walk on my two feet. My trainer is Diego Gonzalez from Casa Arte Equestre. We trained all last winter through the summer there and we still are currently working with him. Without Diego we wouldn't be where we are today. Last year he had faith in us when Pearl and I went to Dressage at Saratoga as a 3 year old that had just been under saddle 1 month. Diego has helped us so much and I just want to thank him for that. I would also like to thank my aunt Anita Castricone and my mother Amy Castricone for all the help and support these past 9 years I have been riding. I would also like to thank my grandfather Alan Castricone and my grandmother Barb Grasso for being there with me every step of the way.

I think the best thing about the rest was getting a qualifying score for training level test 3. We have been working so hard and I feel we really deserved it and it will just push me to strive for more. Before we went into the ring Pearl was a little spooky but as soon as we got in the ring it was like Pearl knew what she was suppose to do. I think our finest moment was in our last test, our canter transitions were the best they have ever been, the judge told me at the end of the ride that, that test was my best one of the weekend. My happiest moment was picking up my score and seeing we got a 67%, that score is higher then our highest score at the end of the season last year. My proudest moment was when we got through the test with the spooking in it even though there was some rearing she really pulled through and trusted me. Our worst moment was probably the rear inside the ring, even though it wasn't that bad, it felt like it. We had a lot of good moments and few bad moments, which I thought was great.

One thing I liked about the show grounds was you could see all the rings from anywhere you were it was very open and supersize free. Even though Pearl spooked it could have been way worse, that was just her being a 4 year old. I also like that everybody was super friendly and nice, even the other competitors. 

My showing plans for this coming season is to go to HITS on 6/13-6/14 and to do another show local in Scotia, NY called Dressage at Stockade. And to do pint cup and region 8 finals for dressage seat equitation and hopefully training level test 3.  A long term goal of mine is to get to 3rd level before I'm out of high school and eventually Grand Prix.  I think I will definitely get to 3rd level before high school because I'm in 7th grade now. So I have plenty of time."

There is little doubt that this young lady will be seen winning in the dressage ring in the years to come as she competes up the levels. With a good head on her shoulders and the excellent support from her family and trainer, she will go far.

One of the most attractive horse and rider pairs at the event scoring well at 1st level, with 70% (T2) and 75.735% (T3) was Marcia Kulak riding Wholly Smoke. Wholly Smoke is a six year old Hanoverian sired by Clinton out of a Ramiro Z mare. Their tests were accurate, well schooled and beautiful to watch and the pair have a bright future.

Marcia Kulak riding Wholly Smoke

It was great to see the PRE breed represented at the event also. Lucero G, a 15-year-old PRE stallion sired by Entendido XXIII ridden by Samantha Bock who had some errors in First Level Test 1, but improved her scores to 60.469% in First Level Test 2. Samantha showed great fortitude in handling the powerful stallion, who despite his age. had plenty of 'vim.'

Samantha Bock

Lucero G

Young Rider Meaghan Watt and the Andalusian Madrigal MC (sire Hachon MC) performed an exemplary training level test 3 on Saturday afternoon earning a very well deserved 71.136% for her efforts and winning her the Junior/Young Rider High Point Award for DAS II. This pair will go far and were a pleasure to watch go.

Meaghan Watt and the Andalusian Madrigal MC

The wonderful Donna Ponessa was happy to be back in the show ring riding her PG Ganda to a wonderful 74.5% and being a high point award winner at DAS II. As a Para rider Donna has hoped to compete again in the Olympics and represent the USA and was pleased with her score toward this goal.

There were plenty of vendors in attendance including Fit-Right Saddlery. Owner Ann Sanders was kept busy throughout the event and reported a brisk trade in the Albion Saddles and sold out of her discounted Bates line. There were some beautiful original metal sculpture pieces from Denis Ferentinos, whose business keeps him busy designing not just equine pieces, but all manner of animals.

There were plenty of vendors in attendance

The Banded HorseThe Minimal Equine

"I’ve been surrounded by and have kept company with riders of varying ilks for most of my life, and while I’ve never become a rider myself, I have definitely gained an appreciation for these marvelous animals. What inspires me is the beauty and grace and elegance that you can find in such massive creatures. And as a sculptor, I can’t imagine ever running out of that inspiration, since I’m always finding new ways of seeing things. From the dramatic curves of an Arabian’s head to the power of a Trakehner’s neck or the perfect proportions of a Morgan’s body, I am repeatedly awed. What I try to do with my work is to distill those qualities down to their most basic essences and tell a story or describe an animal in the briefest possible way, allowing the viewer’s own imagination to fill in the rest.

DAS (Dressage at Saratoga) was a wonderful experience for me from a learning point of view. I’ve always enjoyed watching eventing, but dressage was the component I understood least.  Luckily, I was set up directly across from artist Miranda Bradley, who competes as well as paints, and she was wonderfully amenable to patiently answering all my questions. I came away with a deep respect for the amazing amount of dedication to training required by both horse and rider, and the profound relationship that must be needed to achieve the quality of performances I was able to witness. From the point of view of a neophyte like myself, it all looked like telepathy!" said Denis.

His work is truly imaginative and unique and well worth visiting his website to see and learn more.

All competitors deserved the treat of the party Saturday night sponsored by Dover Saddlery, who also provided gift certificates for winning rides. There were many prizes donated for the event which capped off an all around well executed event and The High Point Awards for both DAS I and DAS II were much appreciated by the riders.