Can’t Miss Quotes from Dressage Day Two at Kentucky

Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The riders were chatty today after their tests! Thanks to Samantha Clark, interviewer extraordinaire, we’ve got an absolute boatload of thoughts and reactions to share with you from the competitors who rode their tests today.

Read on and scroll down to find out what they thought about their dressage tests, the crazy weather today, tomorrow’s cross country, what they’ve been working on in the off-season, and which horse recovered from a broken leg just a year ago!

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On their dressage tests…

Will Coleman (USA) 35.7/ 20th place:It was good. [Tight Lines] is never going to be mistaken for a dressage horse. He’s a Thoroughbred and he was really born to gallop so all things considered I’m glad this phase is over and now we can just look forward to what he’s good at which is the cross country and jumping phases. He’s tries his guts out and I can’t be anything but pleased with him today.”

Marcelo Tosi (BRA) 40.8/ 35th place: “It was good, it was good. A lot of wind. I think he was a little bit excited than I expect today, a little more tense, I think, with the wind and everything. So he did quite everything correct but a little bit tense so that don’t make sometimes a nice picture, nice relaxation, so make the score go a little bit higher. I expect to be around 32, so I think we get around 38, but it’s fine! It’s a big atmosphere, the weather change today from yesterday so the plan was one and then perhaps another.”

Piggy French (GBR) 27.1/ 2nd place: I know in his work bits could be better – he’s not a great trotter – his working trot is not a great trot so he needs to be as relaxed and as up as he possibly can to get the 7s or 7.5s, but his canter work is usually pretty good and I think it felt OK. Maybe I was holding my breath all the way through, I don’t know, but I was delighted with him from how he felt in the warmup to go in there and be professional and do his job.”

To be honest I didn’t think I had him quite right outside so in my mind I was thinking, I knew I wasn’t in the perfect place you want to be, but I really was impressed with him the fact that he’s become more professional over the years and tried very hard and knuckled down, so I was just delighted and could start breathing when I did the final halt and he had been a good boy.”

Erin Sylvester (USA) 32.2/ 9th place: “[Paddy The Caddy] was awesome. It felt really good. We’ve been working very hard on our dressage all year. I wasn’t sure if he was going to get a little nervous in there, which maybe he felt like a fraction nervous, but he really stayed with me. I could really tell that he was trying to do the right thing all the time so I was really happy with him.”

Leslie Law (GBR) 36.9/ 25th place: I mean was pleased with that really. I think the horse has had to come a long way in twelve months and, you know, the dressage would be his hardest phase I would say. He’s a big horse and he is only 10 years old and we’ve got to wait for him to get stronger and be able to carry himself better, but I was very pleased with the way he coped with it and with all the atmosphere because sometimes that’s been difficult for him so I think overall I have to be very, very happy with him.”

Phillip Dutton (USA) 31.7, 7th place: “It was OK, I mean it could have been worse, but I was hoping for a bit better. There’s a lot of atmosphere and then the wind and all that, it sort of got to him a little bit. So I wasn’t in full gear, I was just trying to keep him together the whole way around and then he didn’t change that well either. He’s got plenty of energy so it’s just a case of controlling it. I thought he trotted well and he walked pretty well considering he was on edge.”

Oliver Townend (GBR) 24.1, 1st place:He made me work in there. There’s a lot more than what he gave, but at the same time he’s very experienced, not at this level, but I have had him since he was four years old so he knows me and I know him. It’s nice to come in and not have to worry about boiling over, it’s more about worrying keeping him going and getting him to the end without me sweating too much, but he’s done a good job. He’s very laid back and ridiculously lazy at time. Sometimes it helps to be in a fresher environment to perk him up a little bit, but look, we are where we are and we’re very happy with where we are.”

Tim Price (NZL) 30.9/ 5th place:I made a couple of mistake which are a bit annoying: in the right to left change times two. So other than that he did some of the best work that he’s ever done in the ring. He stayed relaxed which is the main thing. He’s a bit of a random spooky horse and he can see a dragon from nowhere and none of those appeared today so that was really good so I’m really pleased. I think we’re here with more of a jumping competition in mind. You want a good start point, I think that’s one of those, and now it’s all full focus on tomorrow. He’s getting more professional in his ripe old age of 12. He was good fun.”

Hawley Bennett-Awad (CAN) 35.4/ 16th place:I actually thought she was pretty good and then in the walk she started shaking her head which she never does and I looked down on her neck and there was this big yellow bug and there was nothing I could do about it, so that was unfortunate, but she was good. It’s not a dressage show. It’s not my worst score at this level — I really wanted to obviously get low thirties on her, but there’s a lot to do tomorrow so we’re good.”

Boyd Martin (USA) 27.9/ 3rd place: “Not too bad — you never know quite how it looks when you ride it. He was a little bit spooky and distracted but he’s a good boy, lucky. He presents a lovely picture and he’s pretty seasoned now so it’s good fun to ride him dressage.”

Lauren Kieffer (USA) 33.0/ 12th place on Vermiculus, 33.6/ 13th place on Paramount Importance: “[Vermiculus] was super. There was a lot of wind and cold and he was really letting his Arab flag fly, but I was really happy with him. he didn’t make any mistakes and he was really accurate and it’s hard when you can see the percentages up there and you’re kind of like, ‘Come on, go up! Like, this is good!’ But he was great and it’s a long weekend still and I’m excited to get out of there on both of them.

On the stormy weather today…

Piggy French (GBR): “It’s windy in there — you go down the tunnel and actually the breeze gets you, so it just felt quite stormy. And he just felt a bit fresh when I got on him so I’m relieved there was no big mistakes.”

Erin Sylvester (USA): I’ll be completely honest I think [the weather] is in his favor. When it’s warm and a bit humid he can’t half-pass, he get’s very tired, so the cooler weather – he’s Irish – this feels like his type of day so I think it was working in our favor actually.”

Oliver Townend (GBR): I could have done with more of a gust [of wind] up his backside at times, but no, [the weather] doesn’t seem to affect him. He’s obviously used to being in the peeing down rain and freezing cold conditions from January to March so it makes no odds to him, but put it this way, I’m glad it wasn’t any warmer for him, that wouldn’t have helped.”

On the cross country course…

Will Coleman (USA): “I think it’s a good test. I think it’s a little different from last year. Maybe last year it was a bit bigger, a bit bolder, but this I think requires a bit more tact. Some of the combinations … everything is going to come up quite fast and there’s a lot of technical riding out there so I think it’ll be difficult. It’s hard to be bold and technical at the same time sometimes, so that’s clearly what he want to see from us so we’ll see if we’re up for the task.”

I certainly wont be thinking about WEG. That was an uncharacteristic competition for him and me. There are probably a lot of reasons for that, but at the end of the day tomorrows course is a totally different set of questions. With him he’s such an aggressive horse that some of the technical things I think will be quite challenging for us because he’s almost trying too hard by sometimes being a little bit too bold, too gung-ho. Sometimes I feel like we’re not always on the same page and my biggest thing will just be trying to get him to relax out there and let me ride him because if he lets me ride him well be fine, but if he’s anxious or nervous or tense it’s much more difficult to execute some of these turns especially on the terrain, so that’s the big goal. He’s run very well for me this year and I’m pleased with where he’s at so I just gotta go and try to keep that going tomorrow.”

Piggy French (GBR): Oh, it’s big! It’s a long way and it’s big and it’s serious. It’s a great course, I think the course designer is a brilliant one. Everything there is definitely jumpable and clear to the horses if the lines and the approaches are good. So it’s just a great rider course. I think it’s also a tough course. I think the terrain is twisty enough — you’re always a little bit up and down on a turn. We’ve got to be very clear in our minds what fence comes up next and where to be at the string and everything. I think the time will be tight as well as there are enough serious questions. and it stays big and quite tough all the way to the end, which is another thing. You don’t get three quarters of the way around and think you can give them a pat and say, ‘Right, cmon we’re a few second behind now we can make it up now to get home’. It stays quite serious to the end.”

“You know it will be [Quarrycrest Echo’s] biggest test so far, but over the last twelve months everything that he’s done has been a bigger test, a bigger test, so it’s time for him to be trying this. You know on his day he’s probably one of the best horses I’ve ever had. He’s a lovely galloper and he’s a great jumper and there’s nothing there that I don’t think he can’t do, but tomorrow’s another day. Horses, they’re not machines, we’re not machines — it’s getting everything to go right at the right time and hope that he’s traveled a long way and that he’s as fit as he can be. That’s the important thing to me with the trip: I just hope he does as well as he can do and he comes out well and gets home having enjoyed himself and having gone as well as he can.”

Erin Sylvester (USA): “It looks good, it’s a fair bit different from last year it feels a little bit more technical to me walking than last year did. It’s a five-star, so like, it’s definitely a tough track, but I have plans for the different fences and I’m hoping we’ll have a good go tomorrow.”

Leslie Law (GBR): It’s obviously a five-star track and I think it’s a very good track. It’s very fair. There are obviously some really, really good technical lines that we’re gonna have to really be good on and be able to jump. I think for my horse coming in to his first five-star I think it’s a very fair track. Maybe experience might catch us out, but we hope not. But I think he’ll go away from here, from the cross country, being a better horse for the future.”

Phillip Dutton (USA): It’s not as big as we’ve had before, but there’s a little bit more technical and rideability exercises so I think it’s gonna be a good test for everyone.”

Oliver Townend (GBR): It’s proper, proper five-star. I’m a huge fan of Derek di Grazia’s courses. I think he’s an exceptional, exceptional course designer — one of the very, very best in the world and I always enjoy coming here to see what challenges he sets. For sure it’s a five-star, it’s one of the toughest in the world. It’s huge, it’s technical, it’s narrow.”

Tim Price (NZL): I think it’s intense. He’s got things to slow you down, Derek has, all the way home so the time is going to be difficult, it usually is, and I think that never more so than this year. And yeah, technicality is right up as well. There’s skinnies everywhere, you’ve got to stay on your job as does your horse all the way home. So yeah, looking forward to it.”

Hawley Bennett-Awad (CAN):I think it’s awesome. I think the first half is really big and gallopy and then it’s a little tricky at the end and you’re gonna have to have a fit horse. Derek used a lot of the hills and I think it it’s actually a bit longer — it feels longer than in other years. And with all the training questions you’ve got to have a horse that listens. You can’t just go flat out early and hope it works out. I feel good, I’m excited about it. So good luck to everyone.”

Boyd Martin (USA): To be honest it doesn’t walk as savage as last year, but I actually think it’s equally as difficult. He’s set a lot of the difficult jumps in the second half of the course where the horses will get a bit tired and also the riders to get starting to thinking about the time a lot.  So you’ve got to be quick early and then also read your horse. A few of those complicated combinations at the end you’ve sort of have to figure out how much to balance them up and still go fast.”

Lauren Kieffer (USA): I think it’s a beautiful course. Derek, I think we trust him as riders, I think he’s the best course designer in the world. I think it’s definitely got a way different feel than it usually has, he’s usually big, bold and straight and he’s definitely got us turning here and there and everything else so it’s a different feel than it usually has so it’ll be interesting out there.” 

“I obviously know Bug (Vermiculus) better, but both of them I really kind of trust a lot cross country. I mean it’s a five-star, anything can happen — you toe pick into the water or whatever else. I quite trust them both. They both hunt the flags and so if I give them a good ride I’ll have good rounds.”

On what they’ve been working on over the winter…

Will Coleman (USA): Everything! With this horse after last year we just felt like we needed to take a lot of pressure off him and let him feel good about what he’s doing even if it’s not the greatest in the world. I think that we’re comfortable with that now and were really pleased with the effort he’s giving and I’m pleased with how it may not be a winning test, but it’s happy and it’s pleasant and we’re both enjoying the work much much more so for me thats probably that’s what we’ve been working on: just getting back to that place. And then hopefully we can build on it and turn 6.5s into 7s and maybe 7.5s on day, but that’s going to be some time.”

Marcelo Tosi (BRA): I think the cross country quite tough, it will be not a dressage competition and maybe for the three of four in the lead, the good combinations, they can keep their dressage score but we try tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.”

“I think the designer use very well the ground. He’s very clever, and we have plenty to gallop. I think it’s a lot of combinations he use are uphill or downhill. I think we just have one combination on the flat. It’s very unusual to have that, but it’s his style I think or the place’s style and I think in the third part of the cross country it’s quite big and too much combinations. I think he use more combinations that I thought and another thing I see here that I don’t see in Europe is too much drop down. And you have four drop down for the waters, I think this can make it very tough for the horse, and have one big [drop] at the end of the course as well. So we need to look out for the horse since the beginning so we can have petrol. A conditioned horse at the end of the course – that is important. To make a good plan to take the horse to the end of the course in good condition, because we have plenty to do in the end.”

Erin Sylvester (USA): “I’ve worked with Silva [Martin] a bunch and she’s great, and just for the last few months I’ve been working closely with James Koford and I joined up with him for a few weeks in Wellington and he’s been helping my team and my riders as well. He really loves Paddy and loves working with a hard working Thoroughbred I think we’ve made some big improvements with him and our presentation in the arena. I always feel like I want to ride him a little too round because he’s a Thoroughbred and he can get tight in the back and I have PTSD from being on [No Boundaries] in this arena and him just freaking out in there. So I like to kind of ride everything a little bit too low and he really needs to come up in his wither to have the expression in his step and it’s hard for him to do. Paddy has been working really, really hard so I think we’ve really made a difference in his balance and it’s made a difference in his overall presentation.”

Phillip Dutton (USA): “[Z] has had a light spring in terms of competing at horses trials, but he’s actually done a lot of competing, like he’s been showing and all that kind of stuff. He’s been to plenty of atmosphere. I think it’s just a  work in progress. Some days you can get it really good and then some days it slips back a little bit. And he competed last weekend in a combined test.”

Tim Price (NZL): “[Xavier Faer] had some time off with an injury, he actually broke his leg just over a year ago, a fracture, so he was crosstied for his own health and benefit for about two or three months at the start of last year. [It happened while] he was back home with his owner – I hope she doesn’t mind me saying that! – and it was with a pony he’s been going out with since he was a foal, so his old friend, obviously he got a little bit close and gave him a little kick to the forelimb. So that was a bad start to last year and then he had another little soft tissue injury on top of that so he basically had last year off. The year before he did have that really good result at Badminton and that’s kind of what I’ve got on my mind going forward. He’s a fantastic cross country horse, probably one of the best I’ve ridden. He’s got great gas in the tank usually coming home and that’s something I think you’re gonna need around here.”

On coming to Kentucky…

Marcelo Tosi (BRA): “I live in Brazil and down there they don’t have five-star. I need to compete in the USA or in North America or in Europe … It’s amazing show I always see videos and photos so I’d like to come once, so why not to ride? I have a horse for that so I decide to come. It’s amazing like I thought, so it’s a dream to be here, a dream come true. It’s very nice.”

Piggy French (GBR): It was the owner’s, Jayne McGivern’s, decision really which I was extremely happy to go along with to be honest because I haven’t been back since the Worlds and it’s just great to have an experience. And to come here is always a fantastic venue and everyone is so friendly when we get here and everything so it’s cool.  And [Quarrycrest Echo] did the trip to Tryon last year very well and came out of it very well, so you know it’s always a risk, but he’s a laid back horse that copes with the travel  pretty well usually so hopefully he does again this year. It’s just great if an owner wants to come  — it’s wonderful because it’s not funded to come over here so I’m extremely grateful to Jayne wanting to. She does a lot of work over here in the States so she’s always wanted a horse here so it’s as great for her as it is for me.”

Leslie Law (GBR): It’s very nerve wracking! Of course it is, it doesn’t get any better! No, it’s great to be back. I’m very grateful to Tre’ Book who owns the horse to let me have the ride on him and it’s wonderful to be back and hopefully him being a young horse I’ll get to come back several more times now in the future. I’ve got to look after him and do the best by him and I think he’s a horse with a real future so I’m excited by him.”

Oliver Townend (GBR): I’m lucky to have a handful of five-star horses and hopefully we’ve got two nice ones for Badminton. We knew that he loved it here last year. He just thrived on it last year, he finished with ears pricked every step of the way and why not keep bringing them back to where they love?”

On their partnerships with their horses…

Hawley Bennett-Awad (CAN): “Justine did an amazing job with her and I think why it works so well with Jolly and I is because  I have an open relationship with Justine and the first hear I had her I probably talked to her quite often, honestly, you know, find out what she ran her in, find out what she ate. I think that was really important in establishing the base I have with Jollybo now. But now she’s definitely my horse. She nickers for me and I know her and she knows me and I’m very very lucky to have her. We’ve gelled, 100%.”

“I declared for the Pan Am games. I don’t know if I’d want to take her there for a two-star but at the same time we need to win a medal to go to the Olympics and I wanted to be a part of getting that done. I don’t want to leave that int he hands of somebody else  I want to do everything I can and at a two-star I think she would be seriously competitive. Obviously the long-term goal is the Olympics next year. We’ll see, if I don’t do the Pan Ams I’d love to go to Pau this the fall with her.”

Boyd Martin (USA): “It’s just at this level it’s so much easier on a seasoned horse. When they’re green they’re just new to everything – the degree of difficulty in all three phases and the crowds and the spookiness and whatnot and this guy has been doing this for a year now, so I feel good. [Tsetserleg] is not the easiest horse to jump to be honest but he’s very, very fit and a great galloper and a good little cross country horse so I’ll go out and give him a spin tomorrow.”

“He’s not a sort of classical jumpers that sort of pounces off the ground, you’ve sort of got to put him in the right balance and deliver him to a good stride and give him a bit of room. But we’ve got a partnership now, we’ve been together for a couple of years and we’re in good shape.”

“It takes a couple of years to get them really hardened up and I’ve probably changed his training around a little bit, but I don’t know, it just take years of conditioning and fitness and topline and whatnot. It’s a long, long career, not just for the riders but for the horses too. You can’t get too emotional about blips here and there, but the biggest thing is to look back on it and try and not let it happen again and address the small issues and shave a couple of points off the weaknesses here and there. I think definitely me and ‘Thomas’ are happy and healthy and going strong.”