March 14, 2023 – Ocala, Fla. – World Equestrian Center – Ocala played host to back-to-back rated shows Dressage I (March 8-10) and Dressage II (March 11-12) as well as the 2023 Florida Youth Dressage Championships. Sponsored by Hampton Green Farm and Discover Dressage, the show held classes from Training Level to FEI Grand Prix and served as an official qualifying competition for the 2023 Great American/USDF Regional Championships.
Local rider Nora Batchelder brought three horses from her base 20 minutes away and went home with two wins and two second places. Her top score, 73.529%, came at the Prix St. Georges level courtesy of Improv 40Z, a 17.3-hand, 10-year-old gelding. The son of UB40 x Rousseau is owned by Sandi Lieb, who bred and raised the horse in Florida, and Batchelder has been training him for almost a year. He was also second in the Intermediate I with 69.265%.
“In January we did his first Prix St. Georges, and this was our second time out,” said Batchelder, who moved to Ocala permanently when the family sold their farm in New Hampshire in 2013. “I was really happy with our Prix St. Georges, and we had a really good connection. He’s getting more comfortable at the level and stronger in the pirouettes — he’s a very good boy.
“We’ve got him qualified for regionals at Prix St. Georges, so we’ll probably do that,” continued Batchelder. “We’ve also started to play around a bit with the grand prix stuff, so over the summer we will dabble with that a bit more to see what he can do.”
She also rode two of Carol Glover’s horses, Divo and Mulder RH. Divo was formerly ridden by Glover, but Batchelder has taken over the reins to “see what he could do.”
“We did some small tour stuff at first, then last year moved up to Intermediate II and grand prix,” continued Batchelder, who has found that a short warm-up works well for Divo, who is a 15-year-old by Washington. “Then we did a handful of shows and he won the Intermediate II and the grand prix at regionals, so this year we’re trying the harder stuff, like the special and freestyle. This was his second special.”
Batchelder noted, “We may try one of the CDIs at WEC in April or May with him, but it’s a big jump to get into the grand prix CDI ring. Even the jump from the grand prix to the special is big — it’s a hard test. We do an abbreviated warm-up because if I warm up too much he gets tired. The special is eight minutes long, and I was really proud of him. Our last centerline was our best final centerline in any of our grand prix or special tests. He had really good energy.”
Mulder was home-bred by the Batchelder family, and Glover bought him as a four-year-old. The gelding is now six, and this was his first competition. He competed at Third Level and scored 63.25%.
“This was a big environment for him for his first show,” said Batchelder, “but he handled it well, and we have lots of good stuff to build on. It’s always fun to go to WEC. The facility is amazing. It’s got everything you could hope for; the footing is great, and the stabling is fantastic. It’s also really nice in Florida to have climate-controlled arenas.”
Dutch rider Ivo Juhrend, who moved to the U.S. in 2018, claimed four wins on his two horses Dutch D-Day and Black Diamond as well as placings on Eye Catcher and Bjiray Da Braccio in a busy two-day period.
His best scores came at grand prix level, scoring over 70% in two tests on Dutch D-Day, his husband Jaron Verheij’s 15-year-old gelding by Johnson. Juhrend, who is based 20 minutes from WEC at Dutch Dressage Inc. and trains with his husband, also logged two wins on the former jumper Black Diamond at Intermediate II, with 67.941% and 69.706%.
Florida Youth Dressage Championships
After a Covid-induced pause of two years, the Florida Youth Dressage Championships (FYDC) returned in 2023 with healthy entries. This was the first time that the Championships, created in 2013, were held at WEC – Ocala. The show is more than just a competition and gave the 20 participants — all aspiring young dressage riders — a rounded, enriching experience and the chance to show in a championship atmosphere. Events were held throughout the week to boost camaraderie and sportsmanship, including a meet-and-greet with Anna Marek and former Florida Youth Dressage Championship rider Kerrigan Gluch.
Entrants in the Junior and Pony divisions competed in two straight tests (the team and individual tests), each one comprising 40% of the final mark, and then a freestyle to music (20%). For the Young Rider, Children and Under-25 divisions, it was a 50/50 weighting of two straight tests, with no freestyle.
The overall youth champion was 16-year-old Justine Boyer, who claimed the title with three solid tests at Junior level on Hampton Green Farm’s home-bred 10-year-old PRE Campanero HGF (70.455%, 69.485% and 68.013%). Boyer, who is based in Ocala, is no stranger to the Youth Championships as she won the Children’s title at the 2019 edition of the show with a different horse.
“This show is especially fun because I get to compete with other junior riders and get to know them, and maybe in the future we will get to be teammates at North American Youth Championships,” said Boyer, who came out on top of the nine combinations in the Junior division.
“Showing here at WEC is definitely amazing. We’ve worked a lot to get Campanero to not be so spooky, and this is the show where he really outdid himself and wasn’t spooky, so it was really nice. We’ve been together for four years working up toward juniors. It’s been interesting to get to ride an advanced horse at a young age,” added Boyer, who has won all six international tests she has entered with Campanero since they began competing at CDIs in September 2022.
Texas-based Alexandra Garvey’s scores in the Pony division climbed as the week went on. Her ride Unscripted is a Dressage4Kids donation, and the 13-year-old rider has had him on lease from the organization since last summer. Her top score of the week, 69.65%, was enough to seal the Pony championship title.
Bennett McWhorter, 13, finished runner-up to Garvey in the Pony division, but the blue ribbon was all his in the Children’s division, where Garvey had to settle for second place. McWhorter, who is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, rode his own 21-year-old gray mare Fortoula, by Stiletto. They posted an average score of 67.345% over the two tests.
Two plus-67% scores sealed the Young Rider title for 20-year-old Celsiana William. She rode her own 10-year-old mare Prima Ballerina (by Bon Bravour x Donnerhall) and led from start to finish. William is originally from Trinidad, California, but is now based in Ocala. She has owned Prima Ballerina since she was four and this was her first visit to the Florida Youth Dressage Championships.
Nicole Scarpino, who is also based in Ocala, was another to lead her division from the start. She pocketed the Under-25 Championship title riding her own 16-year-old Lambada 224 (by Light And Easy x Werther) to over 68% in both the Intermediate II and the Under-25 Grand Prix tests. The 24-year-old Scarpino has owned Lambada for 10 years and they have competed internationally since 2016, but this was their debut Florida Youth Dressage Championships. She plans to compete in the Under-25 CDI divisions next and hopes to step up to some national Grand Prix classes.
Dressage competition at World Equestrian Center – Ocala continues with a CDI3* international show and USEF/USDF national competition on April 13-16, 2023, presented by Hampton Green Farm and Discover Dressage. For full horse show results for all World Equestrian Center dressage shows, visit www.foxvillage.com.