Naima Moreira Laliberte (CAN) and Statesman, owned by KML Inc., won their second class in a row in the Grand Prix Special CDI3* on Saturday, May 25, 2024, during the Hampton Green Farms WEC May Dressage CDI3* presented by Lugano Diamonds. The show includes international- and national-level classes and concludes on Sunday, May 26.

Laliberte and Statesman scored 70.723% for their Special victory. “My goal was to ride the same way as the Grand Prix,” she reiterated. “I think we attempted to do the same, and it worked out. It’s nice to show some consistency and stability. This is great towards Paris Olympics for the team rankings.”

“He’s got many highlights,” she said of the 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Sandro Hit x Brentano 2. “He’s a big, elegant, black horse, and he’s got a lot of presence. I always love riding the canter pirouettes on him and the extended canter. Sometimes I take more risk than my coaches want me to take, but I have so much fun doing it. Sometimes it pays off and I get good scores too.”

Laliberte, who was the traveling alternate for Canada at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, rode on her first senior championship team at the age of 22 with Statesman as well. While many riders travel a traditional path to top international sport, Laliberte had a decidedly different equestrian education before turning to dressage.

After starting riding lessons at the age of five, Laliberte gravitated toward jumping and as she moved up in the sport, so did the jumps. “When you learn at a young age, you’re constantly falling. Being the oldest kid in my family, my parents were a little freaked out,” she explained. “My dad gave me an ultimatum and said he wasn’t sure he liked me doing it, but he had a solution.”

That solution involved working with her father’s friend who had an equine circus show. Laliberte’s father, the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, provided the outlet that would eventually help spark her love of dressage.

“At that stable, I fell in love with a Lusitano who ended up becoming my first horse,” recalled Laliberte. “He’s responsible for the switch to dressage. We did circus together with trick riding. It was fun and completely different. It was a whole new universe that I discovered.”

In addition to her Lusitano horse, a famous Canadian dressage rider was another influence on Laliberte in more than one way. While watching the 2008 Beijing OIympics on television, she saw then-Canadian dressage rider Ashley Holzer compete.

“I remember sitting on the couch, and my friend said we were going to watch Ashley Holzer, and I said, ‘Who is Ashley Holzer?’” she said with a laugh. “I thought it was really cool. I thought she was so inspiring and when I saw her do it, I thought, ‘I’m going to give it a try.’”

After an interesting first dressage clinic where her circus Lusitano cantered backwards, Laliberte climbed the ranks of junior and young rider dressage in North America. She credited the Canadian youth program as well as the FEI North American Youth Championships (NAYC) with giving her a pathway to senior championships. She also started working with Holzer, who is her trainer to this day.

“I’m stubborn and a perfectionist, so I kept going,” she said. “The NAYC was an important step in my career as well. You get the experience of doing a championship while you’re young, and you can make mistakes and get nervous. You can learn so much about those ups and downs. By the time I did my first senior team at Pan Ams, I knew what it felt to be on a team. That was really important for me to shape who I am today as a rider.”

Laliberte will be vying for a spot on the Canadian dressage team at this summer’s Paris Olympic Games after securing her final qualifying score this week.

Chris von Martels and Eclips, a 15-year-old KWPN gelding by Apache x Olympic Ferro owned by von Martels and Barbara Söderhuizen, were second with a score of 69.128%. Third place with a score of 67.957% went to Austin Webster (USA) and Indiana R, an 11-year-old KWPN gelding by Sir Gregory x Hierarch owned by Valour Performance Horses LLC.

Grand Prix Special CDI3* results HERE.