World Championships Day 2 – First day of Grand Prix: Update

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Unfortunate problems with the passage-piaffe transitions and a reaction to audience clapping ended the USA’s Ashley Holzer’s hopes of a high score aboard her Valentine

Dressage Day 1 Ends with Disappointment for Team USA

Text and photos by Jennifer O. Bryant

Last to go on day 1 of dressage today, Ashley Holzer’s hopes of notching a high score for Team USA aboard her Valentine were dashed when the 12-year-old Hanoverian mare showed signs of shutting down in the first piaffe, then stopped and reared the second time around. Skilled riding got Valentine back on track and the pair put in a good canter tour, but then their final piaffe-passage tour down center line blew apart when the audience at the Ecco FEI World Dressage Championships Herning 2022 began clapping to the beat of the passage, causing the mare to come unglued again right before the final halt and salute.

The judges cracked down hard on the disobediences—I saw an average score of 0.8 flash on the scoreboard for the second piaffe—and the result was an overall score of 61.258%, the day’s lowest.

The silver lining is the fact that the four-rider team makeup means that there will be a drop score, and it’s likely to be Holzer’s, but that’s disappointing considering that this is the four-time Canadian Olympian’s first time riding for the USA at a World Championships.

Although this was Valentine’s first time in a venue of this size, Holzer said, the mare’s vehement reactions “totally caught me off guard,” she said afterward. “I’ve never had her do such crazy antics, and I guess she was just tight and wasn’t really communicating with me properly. I thought the beginning of the test was super, really flowing, and it caught me completely off guard. But they are horses, and we have to realize that they are not machines, and they get confused. It was just something where she was tight, and I brought her back [for the piaffe] and she didn’t understand.

“Then I picked up the canter and she did this perfect canter tour,” Holzer continued, “and I thought, OK, I’ll nail this last one [piaffe/passage tour],” but then the unexpected applause quashed that plan.

The Netherlands’ Dinja van Liere on Hermes lead after day 1 of the Grand Prix

“I know Team USA sort of took a chance on me because she is a green Grand Prix horse,” said Holzer, “but as you can see, when she is brilliant, she is absolutely brilliant.” Ever the trainer, Holzer plans to take Valentine home and deconstruct what happened, turning down the mare’s “animated passage” until she gains more confidence in the transitions from that balance to that of the piaffe. She said she believes that it’s an issue of confidence and understanding, not physical in origin: “You can’t do a canter tour and a trot tour that beautifully if it’s a body issue. It has to be a bit of a brain/mental thing.”

But the day was as sunny and bright as the Dutch team members’ vibrant orange tailcoats for Dinja van Liere, who earned the best score of the day—78.214%—aboard the 10-year-old KWPN stallion Hermes (Easy Game x Flemmingh).

Tomorrow, heavy hitters including the USA’s Steffen Peters/Suppenkasper and Adrienne Lyle/Salvino, Great Britain’s Charlotte Fry/Glamourdale, and Germany’s Frederic Wandres/Duke of Britain FRH will do their best to topple Van Liere’s record. It’s sure to be a nail-biter to the end as the nations fight it out for the Grand Prix team medals.

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