Week 5 of the 2024 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) in Wellington, FL, kicked off on Thursday, February 8, with two Grands Prix classes, including the FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix, sponsored by The Dutta Corp. AGDF hosts seven weeks of CDI competition over three months and runs through March 31.

Anna Marek (USA), who is currently fourth on the North American League FEI Dressage World Cup™ dressage rankings, is looking to boost her position on the list, seeking a start at the 2024 World Cup™ Final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in April. She opened her campaign during AGDF 5 with a win in the qualifying Grand Prix, chalking up a 72.826% win on the 14-year-old KWPN gelding Fayvel. His 72.826% marked a huge new personal best for the son of Zizi Top, eviscerating his previous high score in this test of 69.456%, which Marek set in AGDF 1.

Kevin Kohmann (USA) slotted into second with another personal best score on Diamante Farms’ 15-year-old Dancer gelding, Dünensee. The pair scored 71.239%. Kohmann currently sits second on the North American League rankings. Portugal’s Maria Pais Do Amaral put down 68.435% to capture third place on HRST-Horseteam Unipessoal LDA’s 13-year-old Hot Hit OLD Campline, the former ride of Germany’s Frederic Wandres. Marek and Kohmann will both be vying for the 20 ranking points on offer to the winner of Friday night’s freestyle. (Canadian Tanya Strasser-Shostak and Fidelis Tyme placed 7th in the 11-horse field with 65.783%.)

Marek describes Cynthia Davila’s Fayvel as “a bit of a freak” and “like riding a bouncy ball”.

“He has no thoughts other than he’s very forward and he does what you ask him to do,” said Marek, of Ocala, FL. “I’ve shown him quite a bit nationally and this was my third CDI on him and we had a clean ride. There were pieces of it that I could have maybe ridden a bit better, but overall I was thrilled with him and a little bit shocked and excited that he was so well rewarded. He’s a really fun, forward, honest horse to ride.

“His owner came to me having ridden a green I-1 and he was young,” she added. “I taught him the piaffe and the passage and his [adult amateur] owner hopped back on and showed him grand prix — his first grand prix, her first grand prix. If you ask it right on him, he does it. I told her, ‘He piaffes and passages the same for you as he does for me — this is not normal!’ He just loves his job. You ask him for more and he asks how much and starts hiking his legs.”

Marek still contends with the fact that Fayvel is afraid of being alone, made tricky in the Equestrian Village International Stadium by the fact that there are no other horses in eyeshot.

“Last time he was a bit spooky in this stadium so I was anticipating that and trying to make sure he was comfortable and confident,” explained Marek, who trains with Anne Gribbons. “The one funny thing about him is he absolutely hates being alone. So every single time I walk into that stadium he throws his head up and screams. Then I get his head back down and off we go to do our test.”

Marek — who has applied for the CDI5* show in AGDF10 with both Fayvel and Fire Fly — will perform her fourth CDI Freestyle with Fayvel at ‘Friday Night Stars’ in the FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix Freestyle on Friday evening under lights.

A woman leading a chestnut horse.

Canada’s Camille Carier Bergeron and her stunning new ride, Finnländerin, placed 2nd in the CDI3* Grand Prix. (Chris Carroll photo)

In the day’s other top-level class, the CDI3* FEI Grand Prix, sponsored by BluCreeq Spirits, it was AGDF regular Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén — a seven-time Olympian for Sweden — who spearheaded the lineup. She rode Lövsta Stuteri’s 12-year-old mare Hyatt to a winning 69.348% at the mare’s third ever big tour CDI.

Canada’s Camille Carier Bergeron posted a new high score with her own and Gilles Bergeron’s Finnländerin, another mare. Carier Bergeron rode the 14-year-old Fidertanz daughter to 67.804%. Ashley Holzer (USA) clinched a podium finish, riding P.J. Rizvi’s Hansel to 67.739%. The 11-year-old Blue Hors Don Olymbrio gelding seemed none the worse for wear after getting loose during Wednesday’s horse inspection. Also for Canada, Tina Irwin and Fancy That placed 5th with 66.348%, and Ariana Chia riding Guateque IV were 6th, scoring 66.065% (read more about Guateque IV here.)

Of the Apache x Sandreo daughter Hyatt, Vilhelmson Silfvén said, “Four weeks ago when I went in with her in the stormy weather [in AGDF 1] she got a bit excited and scared, so today I just wanted to have a good round. To ride she is great, she just needs to learn about all the other stuff around. I just want to give her good experiences so she gets trusting.

“She loves to work for me. She’s so ambitious and eager to go that it’s really my responsibility to treat that in a good way so that she goes in there and says, ‘Look at me!’ She has enormous energy and can do piaffe/passage and pirouettes super easy. She’s also a horse with this lovely, electric feeling that makes you smile when you ride her.”

Vilhelmson Silfvén is using the extensive facilities at AGDF to expose Hyatt to as many arenas and show sights and sounds as possible to cement their relationship.

“This winter season here is always a perfect preparation,” she added. “Having a new horse like this that I’m trying to get into the big sport it’s perfect — you can compete a lot of weeks without traveling. You can ride on Fridays in the night and get a real experience and practice the championship feeling, or go over in the National side where it’s more quiet. There is everything — the possibility to do all that is perfect.”

Full results here.

Dressage competition in AGDF 5 resumes on Friday morning with five daytime classes — including the Intermediate II Lövsta Future Challenge, which has nine developing grand prix combinations on the start list. The showcase evening class, ‘Friday Night Stars’ plays host to the FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix Freestyle. It is free for spectators to watch, both in person and on the live stream. For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.