Photo Report: The Horse Power is There, the Experience and Miles Will Follow

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 23:35
2024 CDI-W Wellington - Global Dressage Festival - Week Five
Genay Vaughn and Gino in the national Grand Prix class at the 2024 CDI-W Wellington :: Photo © Astrid Appels

--- Text © Eurodressage (this article expresses Eurodressage's' eye-witness account and opinion about the competition)

It's been one week since I arrived in Wellington for a one-month stay to cover three CDI's at the Global Dressage Festival. While everyone is eagerly awaiting for America's big stars to crawl out of the woodworks, the first World Cup qualifier on 7 - 11 February 2024 had to make due with a small but albeit pleasing field of combinations. 

The really interesting and inspiring dressage was in fact happening in the national arena. 

Calm Tidings 

If one travels to the big CDI's in Europe, the majority of a Grand Prix class will score over or around 70%. Let's look at the CDI Le Mans which happened at the same time as the CDI-W Wellington and also presents a mixed bag of riders, from top professionals to sport loving amateurs. Le Mans had 39 (!!) Grand Prix pairs of which 10 scored 69% or more. In Wellington the Grand Prix for Special was won with 69.348% and the second best score was 67.804%. In the Grand Prix for Kur two of 11 riders scored over 70%.

It's the start of the season, some riders and horses are still ring rusty or inexperienced and there is plenty of time to grow. Fortunately what gives great reason for optimism in the U.S.A is the national starters' field, where little treasures were to be discovered. 

"Starr" Struck

On Friday 9 February I re-potted myself from the international arena to the national ring and probably saw one of the most promising pairs of U.S. dressage I've seen in a long time! Genay Vaughn on Gino.

Vaughn and Gino
The California native and daughter to American baseball player Greg Vaughn has her own farm Starr Vaughn Equestrian in Elk Grove, Sacramento county. She has been training and competing in Florida in winter since 2017. The 29-year old Genay began competing in 2004 at age 7 and rode her first major championship as a junior rider at the 2009 North American Youth Championships aboard Waranja (by Walt Disney x Espri). She returned in 2010 and moved to Young Riders level in 2012 with the same mare as well as with the family's newest acquisition, breeding stallion Donarweiss GGF (by De Niro x Hohenstein) which was previously shown by Chris Hickey. She trained with her mom Michele and ride clinics with Jan Ebeling at the time. After riding the 2012 North American Young Riders Championships the 17-year old Genay moved up to Under 25 Grand Prix level with Donarweiss. He took her to Europe in 2015 for the CDI-U25 in Rotterdam and Hagen.

After Donarweiss' retirement in 2018 a three-year break from international showing followed. In 2017 they had found FEI horse Gino (by Bretton Woods x Haarlem) in Europe and brought him to the USA. He was owned by Anton van Limpt as a youngster and competed by Demy Kurstjens. After two years, in 2019, Vaughn put him in training with Holga Finken's barn in Germany to produce to Grand Prix level. Holga rode him in the 2020 Louisdor Cup Finals but the horse felt overwhelmed and was withdrawn from the finals test. 

Genay herself returned to CDI competition in 2021 at small tour level with Furstin P (by Furst Piccolo x Diamantino).  In 2022 she premiered Fleur Noir WSHS (by Furstenball x Weltmeyer), which they had bought in 2020, while she made her CDI show debut in the senior Grand Prix tour on Gino in Wellington in 2023 under the supervision of Frederic Wandres. 

Debbie McDonald watching Vaughn
After Wandres returned home in spring, Vaughn switched to former U.S. team trainer Debbie McDonald and that seems to have done the trick, like with so many riders before her (Laura Graves, Kasey Perry, Adrienne Lyle). Last Friday Vaughn rode a very athletic looking Gino through the Grand Prix test and showed off fantastic piaffe-passage work and just so much scope and expression in trot and canter. The horse looked very complete and ready to shine, but he fumbled in the pirouettes, rein back and canter strike-off. Overall he could stay more up in the frame so the score was kept to a winning 71.848%. For me Gino has the team potential quality and aura the U.S.A. is desperately seeking for at this point in time with Paris round the corner. I hope Vaughn can keep her nerves in check ones she rides down the international centerline...

By the way there's a video online where Genay says that the best advice she got was from her dad: "when you are not practising, someone else is, and will come to take your spot, so practice."

More to Watch

That same Friday Grand Prix class had more interesting pairs. 

Callie O'Connell on Eaton H
Callie O'Connell and her white faced, familiar faced Eaton H (by Wynton x San Remo) performed a solid, clean test. Last year they competed in the Under 25 and this year seem to be ready for their senior CDI Grand Prix debut. Although the horse could be a bit more ridden off the curb, the overall impression was a polished one. A bobble in the rein back and zig zag gnawed at the score. They were third with 70.326%

Maybe not ending up that high on the score board, but certainly worth keeping an eye on is Eliane Cordia-van Reesema's 15-year old Rhinelander Codiak (by Cristallo x Carabas). The pair has lately been training with U.S. based Ecuadorean Julio Mendoza Loor and that really seems to be paying off as Mendoza's signature in piaffe-passage is visible. 

 Canadian Tokyo Olympian Lindsay Kellock premiered her Paris hopeful at Grand Prix, the 12-year old Hanoverian Tu Le Merite (by Totilas x Sarkozy x Royal Dance). The black seems hot to trot, is quite refined looking and has plenty of talent for the big tour, but was quite impressed by the task at hand that day.

It was great to see Danish Signe Kirk Kristiansen back in action. Now that the Kristiansen family is sweeping the big broom through their entire horse business, closing Blue Hors stud and sister-in-law Agnete Kirk Kristiansen have quit horse sport all together... She had a good ride on Blue Hors Zee Me Blue. Signe's last international show was in 2020. She returned to national showing in Denmark in November 2021 on Zee Me Blue and Suarez.

Chase Shipka on Gladstone Zee T
Oh, and in Saturday's Grand Prix Chase Shipka also showcased plenty of Grand Prix potential on the talented Dutch warmblood Gladstone Zee T (by Apache x Jazz). Her chestnut is the full brother to Helix, one of two horses acquired by Zen Elite to ensure Adrienne Lyle's Paris Olympic run with Salvino's fitness still unsure or at least undisclosed. Gladstone Zee T brimmed with talent for the collected work but was ridden too closed in the throat-latch.

In that Saturday class British Susan Pape proved her skill in training horses to Grand Prix level with yet another well produced big tour horse, Giulilanta, a 13-year old KWPN mare by Jazz. Another one to keep your eye on!

Developing GP Horse Class

Moving back to the main stadium on Friday afternoon, the national Developing Grand Prix class as part of the Lovsta Future Challenge took place in there and the starters frield was a nursery of wonderful young Grand Prix horses. There was truly a lot of talent gathered there, which made me hopeful for the future of American dressage sport. 

Caroline Roffman and Libertee
Andrea Woodard won the Intermediaire II aboard the 9-year old KWPN bred Kaliber (by Franklin x Rubin Royal). The horse is a gifted mover, scopey in trot and has a lot of energy in the piaffe and passage. He can really sit in the piaffe as well as in the pirouettes. There was another Franklin in the group, Caroline Roffman's 8-year old Libertee (by Franklin x Donnerhall). Both  were quite similar: compact and big leg movers. It made me think that breeding stallion Franklin is the next Quaterback: amazing producer  in trot, but the walk and canter can get iffy. Both horses were quite hand-held. I would have liked to see Kaliber a bit lighter in the bridle and especially Libertee in better self carriage: every step was very much supported by the rider. It would be nice to see this mare move on her own four feet. Both horses are lovely. 

The best schooled horse was without a doubt Tina Konyor's J Everdale, aka "Grover. While in Europe everyone is screaming and shouting that Everdale offspring can only be ridden with tight/short necks, Konyot proves you wrong. Of course also J Everdale could be a bit more open in the throat-latch but this horse was not get held with hands parked on the rider's thighs. J Everdale does not yet drop enough in the croup and could move those hindlegs more under the body in passage, but Konyot keeps chiselling away at this big bay and in training you truly see him close a bit more. Fascinating ride to watch as this is a horse with challenging conformation and getting better through dressage. And just like his sire, this Everdale excels in the tempi changes. Konyot went off course, otherwise she could have won the class.

Amanda Perkowski on Sonata MF
A lovely picture was painted by Amanda Perkowski and the 9-year old American Hanoverian mare Sonata MF (by Sir Donnerhall x Don Principe), the full sister to Alice Tarjan/Jessica Howington's Serenade MF. The two mares are very much alike, a face pretty as can be, and very athletic. The bay Sonata has a bit of a round, concave back, but showed a lovely passage and the rider never pushed her in the test. She worked with what the mare had to offer that day.

Local rider Ellesse Gundersen had her hands full with a very tense 10-year old Quintessential (by Quaterback x Cordoba). This chestnut "red head" was very overwhelmed by it all and while his rider stayed quiet in the saddle and made the most out of a very difficult situation, she could not get the good scores on the board. The judges were right, but it was obvious that on a good day this horse has much more to offer. 

Let's see what happens this week....

-- Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED / NO SCREEN SHOTS 

If interested in photos, please send me an email. Florida rates apply for this horse show as our colleague Sue Stickle is the official photographer

Related Links - Last Week's articles from Wellington
Scores: 2024 CDI-W Wellington
Photo Report: Doom and Gloom on Sunny Horse Inspection Day at 2024 CDI-W Wellington
Photo Report: Chestnuts Hyatt and Fayvel Grab the Blue at 2024 CDI-W Wellington
Anna Marek Secures Ticket to World Cup Final at 2024 CDI-W Wellington
Vilhelmson Draws on Experience and Name to Win GP Special at 2024 CDI-W Wellington
Wandres and Maass' Floricella Make it a Small Tour Double at 2024 CDI-W Wellington