Internationally rated dressage returned to World Equestrian Center – Ocala (WEC) with the WEC April Dressage CDI3* sponsored by Hampton Green Farm and Discover Dressage on Thursday, April 13, 2023. Riders and horses were welcomed to the atmospheric Stadium Arena for the first Fédération Equestre International (FEI) competition of the year, and classes will run through Sunday, April 16. Topping the highlight class of the day, the Grand Prix for Freestyle CDI3*, was Julio Mendoza Loor (ECU) on his own Jewel’s Goldstrike. Up-and-coming U.S. talent Christian Simonson took the top two spots in the FEI Prix St. Georges CDI1* with Son of a Lady and Zeaball Diawind.
Mendoza Loor and Jewel’s Goldstrike had a personal best score of 74.261% in the Grand Prix for Freestyle CDI3*, with top scores coming in the piaffe movements. The CDI judges include Michael Osinski (USA), Cara Whitham (CAN), Sandra Hotz (USA), Cesar Torrente (COL), and Kerrie Swan-Bates (AUS). Second place went to Ashley Holzer (USA) and Valentine, her own 13-year-old Hanoverian mare by Sir Donnerhall x St.-Ludwig’s Ragazzo. They scored 72.152%. Kerrigan Gluch (USA) and Mejorano HGF, a 12-year-old PRE gelding by Grandioso x Galan XVI owned by Hampton Green Farm, were third with 67.913%. Canada’s Jill Irving placed 4th riding Delacroix II, scoring 67.848%.
Mendoza Loor has ridden Jewel’s Goldstrike, a 12-year-old KWPN gelding by Bretton Woods x Watermill Scandic, for three years. He has developed the partnership and noted that previous owner Eliane Cordia-van Reesema thought Mendoza Loor would be a good partner for the gelding.
Jewel’s Goldstrike prefers to live outside in a field no matter the weather, and Mendoza Loor has found the key to keeping his horse happy. “From the moment that I sat on him the first time it’s been a dream,” he noted. “He’s a horse that wants to work and he never says no.”
Mendoza Loor expressed, “For me to win, means the world. It’s a dream for every rider to win a blue ribbon, but for me it’s the partnership with my horse that means more. We had a couple bobbles today, but I am looking forward to fixing them and see how I can better my score tomorrow. He was a little tense today; he’s been stuck in his stall for two days, and the weather hasn’t been great. He was wondering where his field was.”
This is Mendoza Loor’s first competition at WEC, and he was suitably impressed by the venue.
“It’s Disneyland for horses. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Everything is immaculate, unbelievable and beautiful. Everyone has to come compete here. The facility has plenty of room for everyone, it’s built for the horses and I think it’s the best place in America.”
Mendoza Loor will contest the Grand Prix Freestyle CDI3* next on Friday evening.
Young Talent Shines in Small Tour
Starting out the day in the Prix St. Georges CDI1*, Christian Simonson (USA) rode to the top two spots. He and Son of a Lady, a 12-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding by Soreldo x Welt Hit II owned by Christina Morgan, won with 74.608%. Simonson rode Zeaball Diawind, a 11-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding by Fürstenball OLD x Zardin Firfod also owned by Morgan, to second place with 72.255%. Amanda Perkowski (USA) and Sonata MF, an eight-year-old Hanoverian mare by Sir Donnerhall x Don Principe owned by Seasons Four Farm LLC, scored a personal best 71.961% for third place.
“I was so happy with Son of a Lady,” said Simonson, who rode both horses in the same class for the first time on Thursday. “He was such a star. We got poured on right before the test, but he just went in there like it was no big deal and delivered. I could not be more proud of him today. The trot work was lovely and well balanced. The fact that he came out there and had no problem while we were soaked from head-to-toe and head-to-hoof, makes him that much more incredible.”
Citing his veteran partner, Zeaball Diawind, as “the team captain,” Simonson noted his “incredible canter work.” Simonson said that the entire team at River Grove Equestrian, led by trainer Adrienne Lyle, was what made the day successful.
“We had seven horses between the whole barn, and all the girls were running back and forth,” he said. “My groom Monica [Stanke] isn’t only taking care of my horses but their horses as well. It was a huge team effort today to make sure all the horses were getting from the barn to here. Everyone was on deck and helping.”
At just 20 years old, Simonson is making his mark on the U.S. dressage scene. After winning three gold medals at the 2021 FEI North American Youth Championships with Zeaball Diawind, Simonson made the step up the Small Tour classes with both of his mounts. In 2022, he won 10 classes and in 2023, he has been in the top five – with four wins and a silver Nations Cup medal – in all of his classes in 2023. For his success in 2022, he was awarded the Lionel Guerrand-Hermès Trophy by the USET Foundation.
Simonson is aiming to represent the USA in his first championship at the Pan American Games this October in Santiago, Chile.
The World Equestrian Center April Dressage CDI3* continues on Friday, April 14, with the Intermediate I CDI1* at 7 a.m. The Grand Prix for Special CDI3* will start at 3:15 p.m. followed by the Grand Prix Freestyle CDI3* at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.wec.net.