Belinda Trussell's Anton, winner of the FEI Grand Prix Special.

Belinda Trussell’s Anton, winner of the FEI Grand Prix Special.

Para-Dressage riders joined the other competitors this week for their own Global Dressage Festival CPEDI 3*. By the end of the week, Canadians had accumulated several wins in both the CPEDI 3* and the AGDF 10 CDI W events. Dressage played a major role this week – in the Ride and Learn clinic, Friday evening’s Freestyle and Saturday evening’s “Prancing with the Stars” competition.

The week began with a very informative clinic on dressage basics by Katherine Bateson Chandler. Katherine very patiently and with a good eye for what the horses needed, worked individually with three hunters and gave the riders excellent practical simple exercises to work on that day and for practicing at home. The first horse was a “a big rectangle-he needs to be square.” Katherine showed the rider how tightening her stomach muscles would help stop the horse from pulling her. She stated that straight line work would not be useful for this particular type of horse and had horse and rider do several circling exercises, thinking about a gallop when cantering circles to get the feel of impulsion. When the horse roots, Katherine advised the rider to “set your hands like draw reins-don’t pull back, but don’t allow them to go forward.”

The second horse was behind the bit and stiff through the back. Katherine’s advice was not to sit too hard on him – if the horse is tight, you’ve got to be relaxed and soft. “Show him where to be, so he doesn’t avoid contact. Keep a little conversation in that contact.”

Thursday’s Lunch and Learn was presented by Horseware Ireland and Ice-Vibe. The main speaker, and the inventor of the Ice-Vibe boots was Louisa Williams, a rider since the age of four, from New Zealand where she says “having a pony was like having a microwave – everyone had one.” While working as an assistant trainer for steeplechase horses, after many years of riding event and race horses, Louisa started looking more closely at leg injuries. Pin firing was and is still used in many areas to deal with leg injuries. Disturbed by this method and looking for alternatives, Louisa bought a car massage seat and took it apart, “playing” with it and eventually making a boot out of it. She plugged it in for two or three times a day and used it on an injured horse, who became fully sound and finished sixth in the Grand National. Through this experiment she determined that there must be movement for healing. The Ice-Vibe boots are now rechargeable – vibrating boots that help boost circulation in horses’ legs by creating a massage effect. They combine the effects of cooling and massage therapy to effectively treat strains, ligament and tendon damage. Daily use of the boots can help manage everyday wear and tear on joints. They are not used for infections and fractures. Clinical studies have not been done on the product, mostly because many horses would have to be identically maimed to accurately assess results, but Louisa states that “we follow our horses” and have had excellent results.

Friday’s Grade I B class was won by Canada’s Para-Dressage rider Ashley Gowanlock on Collegiate Sweet Leilani and joined by fellow Canadian Lauren Barwick on Ferdonia 2, who picked up the win in the FEI Individual test for Grade II. They helped put Canada first in the team standings with riders providing a cumulative score of 418.803. Canadians showed their stuff again at the AGDF CDI W competition when Laurence Tetrault from Quebec came second in the Young Rider class with Michelangelo.

Michael Barisone and pro partner showing their moves during Prancing with the Stars.

Michael Barisone and pro partner showing their moves during Prancing with the Stars.

Saturday night could not have been more entertaining! The VIP tent at the Stadium was decorated with gold accents and abuzz with 340 excited attendees, a few of whom were pro ballroom dancers and a few dressage riders who had bravely volunteered to participate in a ballroom dance competition, called “Prancing with the Stars!” This dance event and an auction was a benefit for the USET foundation and was hosted by Robert Dover, a highly regarded and enthusiastic dressage professional who delighted the audience with his humour and camaraderie with the dressage rider/contestants. His persuasive charm was evident during the auction. Jane Savoie, one of the dance judges was very animated, often hopping up and down in her seat, waving her arms and occasionally giving scores like 105, by adding a 5 card next to her 10 – thoroughly enjoying herself and entertaining the crowd. One brave couple, who were not partnered by pros, Anne Gribbons and Jochen Schleese ( the saddle maker) started with a subdued graceful waltz and ended with a raunchy jive to “It’s Raining Men,” with Jochen flinging off his jacket and running his hands down Anne’s body. Rider Adrienne Lyle, during her salsa number with a pro, rode him piggyback during part of the dance! Cesar Parra came out and was “arrested” and handcuffed by a sexy “police officer” – one of the lady pros, whereupon they jived up a storm to “Jailhouse Rock”. Dressage judge Janet Foy and her group performed a hilarious routine with a dancing horse ( whose legs were human) to “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”

Michael Barisone, in a Chippendale’s type unitard started the auction for “day with a rider” with a lively bidding session that ended at $15,000!At one point, Tina Konyot, a sassy, sexy participant, ran up on stage to Adrienne Lyle, who was being auctioned off and hiked up her dress a few inches to encourage the bidding. Shelly Francis, when it was her turn, promised to “give away my deepest secrets for P and P” (piaffe and passage).

Other auction items included a private yacht tour for 40 people around Manhattan, with drinks and food.(went for $10,000), a week at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas and tickets for the 2015 World Cup Jumping and Dressage Finals ($11,000) and a trip to Germany with airfare and hotel to the World Young Horse Breeding Championship.($11,000) A Dress for Success package from Robert Dover which included Robert’s Greece Olympics ring (with glass stone replaced with a sapphire), a gold pin and a complete new dressage outfit went for $25,000!

Also auctioned off was the opportunity to sit in the judges’ box during a Freestyle competition. One of the judges was Stephen Clarke, regarded by many as the top dressage judge in the world. When the evening was over, Approximately $273,000 had been raised through ticket sales and auction proceeds for USET, directly funding the 2014 World Equestrian Games Dressage athletes and High Performance Programs.

Canadians finished the week in a blaze of glory on Sunday, with Belinda Trussell’s win out of 13 entries in the FEI Grand Prix Special on her own Anton and fellow Canadian Shannon Dueck’s first place finish riding Cantaris in the FEI Intermediaire-1 Freestyle. In the Grand Prix Special we also picked up a third with Ashley Holzer on Tiva Nana, fourth for Karen Pavicic riding Don Daiquiri, and fifth awarded to Jill Irving on Degas 12.