Dressage day at Aspen Farms Horse Trials, June 13. Photo by Jo Arlow Photography.
Unimpressive weather didn’t stop Area VII eventers from putting their best hoof forward on June 13–dressage day at Aspen Farms Horse Trials (AFHT) in Yelm, WA. With full classes in Beginner Novice to Intermediate, over 300 horse and rider pairs braved the dreary drizzle for their chance to shine. More than $28,000 worth of sponsored cash and prizes are up for grabs this weekend.
Emily Pestl-Dimmit and Airlington are the overnight leaders in Open Intermediate on a dressage score of 32.6. Rebecca Buehler riding Brighton and Patrick Billes and Rabenschwarz are close behind, tied for second on scores of 35.6.
Patrick Billes and Rabenschwarz are tied for second in Open Intermediate after dressage. Photo by Jo Arlow Photography.
Riding in the rain presents unique challenges, and Pestl-Dimmit admits she was a little surprised by how strong their score was given the wet conditions and Airlington’s dislike of puddles. She reports, “I was happy with how obedient and attentive he was to me today.” Airlington, a Bavarian Warmblood, was imported in 2007 for Pestl-Dimmit’s mother, Michele Pestl.
Pestl-Dimmit took over the ride in 2011 and says, “ever since then he’s been mine; we’ve moved up the levels together.” For this season they have their eyes set on the three-star at Rebecca Farm in July, and she reflected that attending the USEA’s Under 25/Developing Riders training sessions in California with David O’Connor in January has been beneficial for her and her horse. “The program has been really helpful; very eye-opening. It’s been a highlight of this year.”
Karen O’Neal and Freudentag are leading Open Prelim after dressage. Photo by Jo Arlow Photography.
This June AFHT offered three separate Preliminary divisions to meet rider demand. Karen O’Neal rode Tracy Berg’s gelding, Freudentag, to an overnight lead in Open Prelim with a score of 25.9. “I thought our test was really good. He’s a new horse to me, and there’s some things I’d like to work on, but overall he’s a lovely horse, a lovely mover.”
This is their first Prelim together, but O’Neal is confident they have a chance to hold the lead, provided they can keep the pace on cross-country. O’Neal reports, “the course looks great. The footing’s pretty good right now. Hopefully it doesn’t rain anymore!”
The most popular classes at AFHT are those in the Zeit Capital Challenge, which combined award over $3,600 as well as fantastic prizes from sponsors. Overnight leaders in these divisions include Elizabeth Gold and Miles Away in Open Beginner Novice, Brooke Phillips and Absolute Chance in Open Novice, and Devin Robel and Highlight in Open Training.
Though Robel’s dressage coat may be ruined from the downpour that unleashed over their dressage test, she’s thrilled by the potential her six-year-old OTTB, Highlight, is showing in the ring. Robel has been developing Highlight, affectionately nicknamed “Beemer”, since his three-year-old year when his race career ended at Emerald Downs Racetrack.
While knocking on wood, Robel admitted that she thinks Beemer will stay true to his past performances at Training level and deliver a double clear; “He’s bold and easy on cross-country and likes to jump clean in the stadium. But my goal is to not get too competitive; my ultimate goal is to produce a nice horse.” They plan to move up to Preliminary later this season.
Margaret Heagerty and Wild Guess scored a 12 in the Junior Novice division. Photo by Chesna Klimek.
Honorable mention goes out to junior rider, Margaret Heagerty, and her horse, Wild Guess, competing in Junior Novice; they bagged the lowest dressage score of the day: 12.
The weather forecast for Saturday promises dryer skies and warmer temperatures. But no matter what the conditions, competitors will make the most out of the show experience. Robel points out, “Aspen is a beautiful event, even when it pours rain!” Both cross-country and stadium will run throughout the day on Saturday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Pacific.
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