Ripline, ridden by Heather Blitz of Medfield, Massachusetts, coasted to victory with a score of 72.895 percent in the FEI Prix St. Georges, the first test of the Developing Horse Prix St. Georges division. The 7-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion (Blue Hors Hotline-Riviera, Blue Hors Cavan) was bred in the U.S. by current owners Oak Hill Ranch LLC of Folsom, Louisiana.
Blitz explained that coming to Lamplight for the 2014 Young Horse Championships helped set Ripline up for success as he takes on a new challenge this year.
"It's beautiful, and we love it here, which helps," she said. "This is a great program if your horse can rise to the occasion and do the difficulty of the test for the level. He comes to this major championship thinking it is just another show, and that is of course what you want in the ring: a very relaxed attitude about it so he can bring his best without really stressing."
|Heather Blitz and Ripline. Photo by Mary Adelaide Brakenridge.
While Ripline is among the youngest horses in his division, Blitz said she had plenty of confidence that he could make the step up from the 6-year-old classes to the Developing Horse Prix St. Georges.
"I have noticed a very fortunate pattern with him that he makes very straight line progress," she said. "Many horses make a lot of progress and then take a couple steps back, and then they take a lot of steps forward and a couple back. Ripline is extremely gifted in that his level of progress is very consistent."
According to rider Carly Taylor-Smith, Rosalut NHF has likewise made a very smooth shift to the next level up. The Oldenburg gelding (Rosenthal-Legacy, Salut) impressed the panel of judges - Gary Rockwell, Lois Yukins and Kristi Wysocki - with an outstanding performance in Thursday's 5-year-old preliminary test. His score of 8.58 put him well ahead of his competitors and made Taylor-Smith's long trip from Malibu, California, more than worthwhile.
"He is super, super easy and super, super smart," Taylor-Smith said. "It's a first for me to have a horse that finds everything easy; it's like he's done it all his life already. He's really fun to ride, and I am very lucky. We have a really good bond."
Rosalut was bred in New York by Margaret D. Neider and is owned by Taylor-Smith's mother, Nikki Taylor-Smith, who picked him out as a foal.
|Carly Taylor-Smith and Rosalut NHF. Photo by Annan Hepner.
Also finishing in the top three in the 5-year-old preliminary test were Don Cesar, ridden by Katie Riley and owned by Cesar Parra, and Shyriana, owned and ridden by Marcus Orlob. Don Cesar scored a 7.9 while Shyriana scored a 7.88. In the Prix St. Georges, Christina Vinios rode her own Folkestone to second with 69.518 percent, while Jim Koford took third on Maryanna Haymon's homebred Doctor Wendell MF with a score of 69.035 percent.
One-Two Finish for Alice Tarjan in Four-Year-Old Test
Alice Tarjan has a full schedule at the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Championships, and she wasted no time proving she's here to win, sweeping the top two spots in the first class of the Championships. In Thursday morning's 4-year-old test, she rode Tiko to first place with a score of 7.86 and Donatella M to second place with a score of 7.84.
Tiko, a Danish Warmblood mare by Temptation and out of a mare by Akinos, has been with Tarjan since December. Tarjan said she is "super laidback" and easy to work with, while Donatella M, an Oldenburg mare (Furstenball-Dorina, Jazz Time) bred in Germany by Marne Martin-Tucker, is a bit hotter.
"They both have good basic gaits and they're rideable," she said of her 4-year-olds. "It's nice to be able to get on your horse and hack it around and not worry about getting killed."
|Alice Tarjan and Tiko. Photo by Mary Adelaide Brakenridge.
Highlights for Tiko included a mark of 8.5 for the canter and 8 for the overall impression. Gary Rockwell, speaking for the panel of judges, said that Tiko's canter had great balance and ground cover and the judges felt he was "confident in the connection and shows good basics."
The panel also had plenty of praise for Donatella M, with Rockwell noting, "It's an ideal type for international dressage and has a wonderful future."
Tarjan, an amateur rider from Frenchtown, New Jersey, is juggling four horses in three divisions at the Championships. Along with the two 4-year-olds, she's competing Candescent in the 5-year-old division and Elfenfeuer in the Developing Horse Grand Prix, and she said she was grateful to her grooms for playing an essential role at the busy event. She feels the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Program is helpful not only for the horses but also for many of the riders.
"Lamplight is gorgeous; I love coming here," she said. "It's a beautiful show grounds, and I don't think it gets any better than this. At the Championships, it is always a lot of fun to watch the other horses and riders. Christine [Traurig, USEF Dressage Young Horse Coach] is here coaching us, and I like her a lot. She's a real straight shooter. She's tough but gives it to you like it is, so I appreciate it."
Taking third in the class of 13 were Vanessa Gesierich-Voltman and Gladstone, owned by Sharon Wheatley of Macatawa, Wisconsin. Gladstone, a KWPN gelding (Uphill-La Belle, Londonderry) bred in the Netherlands by De Dalhoeve, scored a 7.6 in the 4-year-old test with particular highlights in the trot and canter.
"I enjoy being here, and it is great to see such quality horses and riders," Gesierich-Voltman said. "It is very motivating and very inspiring."
The 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds and Developing Prix St. Georges horses return Saturday afternoon for their final tests. Six-year-olds and Developing Grand Prix horses make their first trips down centerline Friday, and their divisions wrap up Sunday.
|Alice Tarjan and Donatella M. Photo by Annan Hepner.
All Festival of Champions Horses Accepted to Compete
Running alongside the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Championships are the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals as well as youth divisions from the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions presented by The Dutta Corp. The horse inspection for Festival of Champions was held Thursday evening at Lamplight Equestrian Center, and it was clear sailing for all entrants, who will go on to compete for top honors over the next several days.
Riders vying for the AGCO/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship, the AGCO/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship, and the USEF Young Adult "Brentina Cup" Dressage National Championship presented by Dressage Today will all have their first tests Friday, while the USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship begins Saturday.