Centerline Dressage @ HITS, Saugerties: A Quiet Affair
by Nikki Alvin-Smith
The June 13th/14th Dressage Show at Centerline was one of the quietest shows that this reporter had visited in the North East region in recent years. With no show announcer, yet four rings somehow managing to operate, volunteers at the warm-up checking on those late to the ring so as not to miss their rides, it all seemed to go remarkably smoothly. While the show was quiet, there were plenty of entries.
The fine weather, low key atmosphere, and excellent facilities made for a good weekend and while scores in the FEI Intermediate 1 topped out at just 60.658%, with Beth Sproule-Hansen riding Alexandra Tomson's Ultramundano Interagro, there were some impressive scores and rides at the lower levels.
With Susan Hamilton judging at C, Kimberly Davies-Sloud riding her own Sigur Ros achieved a whopping 79.265%. This class also included the return of some familiar and well loved faces, such as Scott Durkin riding his own Durk back in the dressage ring after a brief hiatus. Durk is a talented Friesian, and Scott had this to say about his weekend experience 'back at it.'
"My horse Durk is a Friesian from the Heinse 354 line. He is 14 years old and I purchased him 8 years ago. He was a green horse who had just been imported from Holland and we purchased him through Friesians of Majesty in Vermont. Durk has completed up to 2nd Level and I am presently competing him at First Level. At Training Level, we were 4th place Regional Champions for the Adult Amateur class of Region 8 in 2012. Our scores for Training Level have reached 69.8 and in First Level 66.29. Meagan Davis has competed Durk at Second Level with scores up to 71.1.
The best thing about the tests at this event? Making it through them is one that comes to mind. I last competed Durk in 2013 and he has been with one of Meagan’s students for the past 2 years. To say that we were a little rusty is an understatement. I had ridden him just 7 times before the competition. The worst part is when you see a very low score. The first day of the show it was a 57. The second day – after watching the video of the first day and going over the test – I was given a 62.7. The worst moment for me was the overall feeling that I wasn’t quite fit enough to keep Durk off my leg. It was very warm out and I was wiped out from just the warm-up. I’m happy I entered the show. This sport cannot be rushed. It is a sport that gives you a very big wake-up call when you go to the office and pick up your test. It’s like ballet – if you don’t do your barre work every day, your dancing will suffer immensely. I’m very lucky to have a trainer that is very upfront and honest about what level I should be riding. I’m so proud of Durk. I know that Friesians aren’t the top pick for a Dressage horse. He delivered. He always does. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing," said Scott.
When asked about his background and how he came to dressage in the first place, it seems as if the devoted dancer found dance on horseback the attraction.
"I found dressage by accident. My company, The Corcoran Group - sponsored the Hampton Classic back in 2006. The jumping was too much for me to watch. The 2ndjump in, a horse fell onto his knees and almost flattened our table. Eating crudites and drinking champagne 6 feet from the jumps kept me on edge. I wandered the facility and found 5 Friesian stallions on display (in canvas stalls) at the show. They were the most majestic creatures I had ever seen. For the next 9 months, I was determined to own a Friesian. I even got to ask Martha Stewart an “Ask Martha” from her live show one day. She advised that I purchase a gelding.
I remember being at Friesians of Majesty and they asked me if I wanted to take a test ride. I looked at the horse and said, “No..he’ll do..I’ll take him”.
Fast forward a few weeks and I’m deciding what to do with him and dressage was introduced to me by a local trainer. It made the most sense to me as I had been a modern dance major in college. The horse could dance and I could be on top of him. I was hooked. Ballet and dressage are so closely aligned. It was heaven.
Meagan Davis was the dressage star in our area – the only thing was – she was still in High School! I waited for her to grow up and now she is my trainer for Durk, Royale (my Oldenburg), and our newest member Florioso (a foal that was born May 14th). Meagan’s work ethic is exemplary. She is a true competitor at heart and that is what keeps me going. I’m very competitive. Meagan’s coach is Bent Jensen and we have clinics with Bent and also with Holger Bechtloff. Holger was very encouraging and supportive early on prior to meeting Meagan. He says it like it is. Pretty is as pretty does.
Meagan has taken Royale from the life of an eventing horse to a PSG/I1 horse who is now schooling the Grand Prix movements. He didn’t have a flying change when we bought him. I am in awe of Meagan’s and Bent’s training and Royale’s accomplishments."
Scott's plans for the future include his next show which is the Centerline Dressage Show from August 13th to 16th.
"We need a 2nd score at First Level 3 for Regionals. Dressage is like a choreographed dance to me. Learning the movements, working on the transitions. and paying attention to the geometry of it is what excites me. To me, a test is really one dance. Every nuance and step happens for a reason. It cannot be rushed. There’s no fast lane in this sport. The best part about it is I can most likely continue riding until I’m 95…so there’s plenty of time," stated Scott.
The HITS dressage schedule is a very popular venue for riders from around the region. As Scott explained, "The HITS showgrounds are beautiful. The setting is amazing and breathtaking with the Catskill Mountains in the distance. It’s 35 minutes from our barn. What’s not to like?"
One of the most impressive up and coming young riders, participating in the FEI Junior Team with two judges, Marian Cunningham at C and Lisa Schmidt at B, was Claire Murphy riding her mother Lisa Apa's beautifully trained 16-year-old Rhinelander horse, Freestyle27. Lisa Apa bought him from Wintermühle in Germany last February; however, Claire has only been riding him since April of this year. They’ve been competing at FEI Junior level, which is essentially the equivalent to third level but with two judges. This past weekend Claire received a well deserved 65.1 in the Junior Team test, and a 66.4 in the freestyle test.
"I’ve ridden since I was about six years old. I ride at Ashley Holzer’s barn in Riverdale, New York and Lindsay Kellock is my trainer. My mother and my stepfather, Mike Apa, have been my biggest supporters in pursuing this sport, so I would like to thank them. I’m also very thankful for my horse Freestyle who has been such a trooper with our show schedule, and strenuous training in preparation for the show ring. And of course, my amazing trainer Lindsay Kellock; she has had no weekends off for the past two months taking me to shows!," explained Claire.
HITS has always been one her favorite shows. "The facilities there are really great and nothing is hard to find. I also enjoy HITS because it’s a show that most dressage riders living in New England go to, so I suppose that makes the atmosphere there more competitive, which I love."
It is evident from watching Claire ride that she will go far in this sport. Her enthusiastic bright nature and attention to detail and accuracy when riding and the ability to truly listen to her trainer was apparent.
"I have to say the best thing about my tests this weekend was my perseverance. Freestyle, my horse, is spooky; so when my freestyle music played on the sound system he was startled. We had a few mishaps in the ring but it did not stop us from completing the test. At the end of the day, I am always proud of my horse regardless of his nervous nature. I can’t really say I had one single happiest or worst moment. Overall, I was very please with the consistency and accuracy of my tests, since that’s what my aim is. I am still getting to know my horse and it’s really important that we can have consistent rides in the show ring before we go full-tilt for the big marks."
Claire's goals for the season seem entirely attainable, judging from her rides this weekend.
"My goal for this season was to get to the North American Junior and Young Rider championships in Lexington, Kentucky on the Region 8 team. After this past weekend at HITS I am qualified for the NAJYRC! It is very exciting! In the future I would love to go to the NAJYRC again as a young rider, and eventually ride in the Grand Prix," said a joyful Claire.
Another young rider who is making a name for themselves this season is Meghan Watt and Madrigal MC, a lovely Andalusian owned by Robert Harriman. Following their successes at Dressage at Saratoga (see the article and photos of the pair in our article on that show in this issue), Meghan was narrowly beaten out of first place in Training level T1 on Saturday by professional David Collins on his own Shengli, with his score of 70.227%. Meaghan, who scored 69.545% in the same class, demonstrates a wonderful quiet seat and hands, and she is a delight to watch.
Bobbie Kerr riding Alcazar in the FEI YR Individual and Team competition had some splendid moments and really 'went for it' in her tests scoring 61.776% individually and 60.461% for the team competition. Alcazar is a big chestnut horse with lovely gaits and he was clearly working hard with his rider to accomplish all she asked.
Unfortunately, even though many riders are still opting to have the new 2015 read to them to ensure they don't go off course, other riders experienced that most annoying of mistakes that we have all made at some time another and kick ourselves for afterward. A promising young horse, A.L.F. Freetime, and Arab/Warmblood cross, owned and ridden by Anne Zahradnik, performed a neat test that would have scored higher at Training level T3 were it not for such a mistake. This, however did not detract from their accomplishment of winning their first level class debut with a score of 62.963% and achieving a score of 65.741% for 2nd place, also at First Level T1.
At Second Level Test 3, Courtney Bolender rode Ellen Knox's Friesian Fuego, to good result with some excellent canter work to a score of 69.268%. In the same class, Amina Bursese riding Mejicano CIII also had some lovely moments in the ring on the beautiful gray owned by Diego Gonzalez scoring a respectable 61.585%.
David Donnelly, who recently moved his French Light Dressage to Hudson, NY, rode Judith Sayles Friesian, Bravo fan Dilewinnie, to first place in four classes, (3 at First Level and Second Level T 1).
Despite the quiet, laid back feel of the competition, there were some familiar A list riders at the competition including Olympian Michael Poulin riding Pineland Farm Inc.'s Thor M. The pair achieved good scores in their Test of Choice (TOC) at FEI scoring 66.6% and hitting 73.875% in the freestyle.
Pineland Farms Inc.'s horse Dirigo, ridden by Jennifer Dillon also made the trip from Maine to strut his stuff and what a beautiful horse he is - completely capturing the photo lens with his super gaze. Jennifer and Dirigo scored well at First Level T3 throughout the show earning 3rd place on Saturday with a 66.765% and 4th place on Friday with a 66.324%.
This event showcased many breeds of horses and riders of very differing levels of ability, but everyone put their best foot forward and the showground footing was excellent, of course, as you would expect from HITS. While it does not have the buzz and excitement of a big show, as you would expect to find at the NEDA FAll Festival when it is held on the same grounds and there were only a very limited number of vendors and facilities open this time around, the show was well executed.