The Hampton Green Farms Grand Prix Freestyle CDI3* presented by Lugano Diamonds was the highlight event on Friday, May 24, at the World Equestrian Center (WEC) May Dressage CDI3* at WEC – Ocala. Ariana Chia (CAN) and Guateque IV, owned by Coves Darden Farm, claimed their first freestyle win together. Naima Moreira Laliberte (CAN) and Statesman, owned by KML Inc. topped the Grand Prix for Special CDI3*, while Lars Petersen (USA) and GPF’s S-Express, owned by Kastel Denmark, won the Intermediate 1 CDI1*. The Hampton Green Farms WEC May Dressage CDI3* presented by Lugano Diamonds, which includes international- and national-level classes, continues through Sunday, May 26.

Chia was excited to compete in the WEC Grand Arena with an appreciative crowd of spectators. “This is only my second time at WEC, and it’s the most incredible venue,” she expressed. “It feels like you’re at a massive games or something. You go down the ramp, and it’s just so grand.”

Guateque’s freestyle was choreographed by Karen Robinson of Applause Dressage, who has been designing freestyles for Chia since she was 11 years old showing her “Arabian pony in a Charlie Brown freestyle.”

Chia added, “We wanted something upbeat but also have the canter music more powerful for him. Karen picked out a few songs, watched him and matched it to him. It works well with him.”

While this was only the second freestyle that Chia and Guateque IV, a 14-year-old PRE stallion by Layco x Salinero XIII, have done together, it showed marked improvement of almost five points higher than their previous freestyle. Chia attributed that to taking more risks in this test.

“We really went for it,” acknowledged Chia. “On our joker line, we decided to take the risk and do more one tempis, and we wanted to be bolder in all of the movements. It was great. He was with me, he was expressive and it was really fun.

“It’s very exciting,” she added about her personal best score. “You never know what to expect. Dressage is so challenging and particular in so many ways. I’m blown away with the results and really happy. It’s the cherry on top to do a personal best.”

Chia made a game-time decision to do more one tempis as she was coming out of her double pirouettes. “It’s the moment as a rider where you’re like, ‘I don’t want to be the person who gets greedy and tries to do something really cool and blows it.’ But also, I thought I had to risk it to get the extra points,” she explained. “He was on the aids, and he felt great. We did it and got a nice clean line of changes. I’m glad that I did it.”

Second place in the Hampton Green Farms Grand Prix Freestyle CDI3* presented by Lugano Diamonds went to Chase Shipka (USA) riding Gladstone Zee T, her own 13-year-old KWPN gelding by Apache x Jazz, who scored 70.330%. Mikala Münter (USA) and Skyfall, her 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Zardin Firfod x Calzone 3), scored 68.405% for third place.

Veteran Statesman Tops Grand Prix

Canada took the top three spots in the morning’s Grand Prix for Special CDI3*, and it was 27-year-old Naima Moreira Laliberte who led the lap of honor with her veteran campaigner Statesman. Laliberte and Statesman were the only pair to break 70%, scoring 70.370% from the judging panel of Majewska, Storr, McClain, Smith and Swan-Bates.

Second place went to Jill Irving and Genesis, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding by Jazz x Olympic Silvano N owned by Irving and Windhaven. They scored 68.261%. With a score of 67.348%, Chris von Martels and Eclips, a 15-year-old KWPN gelding by Apache x Olympic Ferro owned by von Martels and Barbara Söderhuizen, placed third.

Laliberte’s mount is more of an “elder” Statesman, as the 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Sandro Hit x Brentano 2) has been competing at the grand prix level with Laliberte since 2018. The pair won team gold and team bronze at the 2019 and 2023 Pan American Games, respectively, and competed at the 2022 FEI World Championships for Canada.

“He’s been a rock for me,” affirmed Laliberte. “He was my first grand prix horse that actually kind of knew what he was doing. I had never done it before, so we both improved together. We have flown around the world together: Qatar, London, Tokyo, Lima, Santiago, among other places. He’s a true world traveler. He’s the best partner I could ask for.”

Over the years, while Laliberte has learned more about competing at the grand prix level, she has also seen Statesman change in ways she hadn’t expected.

“It’s interesting how a horse evolves through time and how their body changes with age and experience,” she explained. “I’ve had to learn to adapt to how a grand prix horse grows within their body.”

With all of their time and traveling together, Statesman has decided that he warrants the most attention in the barn. Laliberte noted, “All of my horses are spoiled, but he was the single child most competitions, so whenever we go back in the barn, he doesn’t really want to share attention with the other horses. When you get close to him, he demands lots of cuddles and treats.

“He’s got this funny thing where he grabs you and pushes you against his chest and gives you a hug,” she said with a laugh. “He locks you in so you can keep scratching his neck.”

Originally from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Laliberte now bases in Wellington, FL, and in Europe. With one more qualifying score in the Grand Prix Special needed for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, Laliberte will work on her focus for Saturday’s class.

“We have to go in there, stay present, and ride every movement one after the other,” she said. “I think that’s important when you’re riding a grand prix because it can be overwhelming. It doesn’t seem like a long test, but it’s a long test. There is a lot happening. The Grand Prix Special is even longer! I was pleased with how today went, so we will try and repeat that.”

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