Ocala, Florida – World Equestrian Center – Ocala hosted the latest in its popular series of rated dressage shows on October 21-22, 2023. Sponsored by Hampton Green Farm and Discover Dressage, there were USEF/USDF-rated classes from Training Level to FEI Grand Prix. In addition to national-level competition, the Iberian Spectacular showed the popular Spanish breed horses with demonstrations on Friday, October 20, and various horses were recognized throughout the weekend.
Local rider Kerrigan Gluch dubbed the show “a huge success” when winning five out of the six classes she contested with her three horses.
“Each horse went into the arena and did exactly what I wanted,” explained Gluch, who works for the show sponsor, Hampton Green Farm, and is based 15 minutes from the showgrounds in Ocala, FL. “Their training at home was very similar to what was produced in the arena and, as a rider, it’s that consistency that I look for.”
Her best two scores came at Grand Prix level riding Hampton Green Farm’s 12-year-old PRE gelding Mejorano HGF by Grandioso III. Their crowning score of 76.196% was achieved on Saturday in a competitive field of 10 starters across the divisions. Gluch finished almost 10% clear of the second-placed combination in the class.
“Mejorano is a spectacular horse,” enthused the 27-year-old. “He was bred at Hampton Green, and I’ve known him since he was three, but I’ve been training him since the fall of 2019. I’ve been lucky enough to develop him into a secure Grand Prix horse and gain that relationship — that’s really special.
“I was very pleased with the feeling he gave me in the ring, and that it was reflected in the score. It’s always good when the judge is aligned with what you feel; that was a huge confidence boost,” added Gluch, who has been training with Shelly Francis since February.
Gluch spent the summer of 2023 in Europe, gaining valuable experience, and is now gearing up for the winter circuit.
Another horse bred by Hampton Green, Soldado HGF, was the conduit for two more victories for Gluch. The PRE gelding is now owned by Corie Bannon, and Gluch has been training him since he was three. At WEC – Ocala he led two FEI five-year-old classes, with 71% and 72.2%.
“He’s really rideable and a spectacular character who tries hard,” enthused Gluch. “That’s something special that you don’t see every day.”
At small tour, Cartujano SFR produced a blue and a red ribbon in the Prix St. Georges classes. Hampton Green Farm bought the horse in Spain and imported him.
“I’ve been working with him about a year, and he’s green in the small tour,” she said. “I really enjoy his character and natural ability — he’s a super sweet stallion with a lot of potential.”
Gluch is a convert to Iberians since starting work for Kim Van Kampen at Hampton Green Farm 12 years ago.
“I didn’t know much about PREs before that, but through Kim and Hampton Green I was introduced to the whole culture of Spanish horses and that kick-started my love for them,” she explained. “They’re generally simple, easy horses who are very intelligent and quick to learn so you can teach them everything pretty early on and develop their gaits after the fact.”
Living and working just a close drive from WEC – Ocala, Gluch and her team brought eight horses to the October dressage show.
“From a rider perspective, WEC is incredible,” she added. “The facility has everything that you might need in terms of horse care — you don’t find that anywhere else. When you show there you don’t just get one venue; you could be inside or outside and in multiple different places. It really sets the horses up for success.”
A Rising Star for Graves
U.S. Olympian Laura Graves — famous for her medal-winning partnership with Verdades — has finally found a horse she believes could well be his successor. She took on the ride on Sensation FOD three years ago after the horse had finished as double young horse champion under Michael Bragdell.
At WEC – Ocala, Graves rode Carol McPhee’s 10-year-old by the Sandro Hit son Sunday NRW topped two Intermediate II classes, scoring 71.471% and 72.353%. This was despite Graves “riding with the hand brake on.”
“We’re honestly still forging our relationship,” said Graves, who piloted Sensation to the 2022 US Dressage Small Tour Championship title. “He has a lot of talent for a lot of the difficult stuff. He’s still not showing what he’s capable of; the piaffe/passage carries tension now, but when we work through that and turn it into confidence he will be quite impressive.”
“I’m only showing him about at about 50% — I’m still riding him conservatively as he forgets to wait, which makes the idea of Grand Prix difficult still, but the enthusiasm is what we want at the end of the day,” added Graves, who credits much of her success to her coaching team of Allison Brock, Debbie McDonald and Robert Dover.
“I’m trying to bring the winning crew from the glory days back together,” she continued. “The bigger team you have around you — the more people in your corner — the more success you have, and I’m trying to rebuild that.”
Graves is quietly optimistic about making the step up to Grand Prix later this year, with an eye on the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
“If we have a chance for next year, Sensation would be very green, but Paris is what everyone’s looking forward to,” she said. “The competition will be fierce, but it would be really exciting. It could be another breath of fresh air for American dressage, and this horse has the talent and the heart to do that.”
A testament to Sensation’s good temperament is the fact that Graves rode him the day she went into labor with her daughter, in December 2021.
“He’s a total cool guy, really sweet, safe and generous,” she added. “He’s always been so sweet and gentle with the children. It’s really a special thing. It’s exciting to be doing this again with a very different horse who is young.”
Graves lives just outside Orlando, FL, and is grateful that, even during Florida’s relentless summer heat, she can compete and train in a climate-controlled facility, which allows her to plan her horses’ shows around their needs and not based on the weather.
Sean Cunningham, who trains with British coach David Hunt, moved to Ocala in July 2023 after a decade in California running his own facility, AA Ranch. At the WEC – Ocala October show, he was unbeaten on event rider Ronald Zabala-Goetschel’s seven-year-old Hanoverian gelding Wise Santos Du Pele by Donatus. Their high score came in Training Level test three, where they scored 73.8% to top the leaderboard of eight starters across the divisions.
Ibericon 2023: A Big Success
The Iberian Showcase recognized champions at the WEC October Dressage show with the highest placed Iberian horses in young horse, Small Tour and Large Tour classes. The winners include:
Five Years Old – Soldado HGF and Kerrigan Gluch, 71.600%
Six Years Old – Norte and Dee Loveless, 72.100%
Small Tour – Cubero GS and Kassandra Bateau, 68.846%
Large Tour – Fiti AL and Amina Bursese, 69.874%
In addition to competition on the weekend, the Ibericon 2023 was held on Friday, October 20, featuring more than 30 Iberian breed horses in a theatrical production showing off the many ways that the Lusitano and P.R.E. breeds are used.
Photos by Q2 Photography.
Dressage competition at World Equestrian Center – Ocala returns in November with an international CDI3* on November 16-19, 2023, and USEF/USDF national show, presented by Hampton Green Farm and Discover Dressage. For complete horse show results for all World Equestrian Center dressage shows, visit www.foxvillage.com. See full information, schedule and prize lists for dressage in 2023 at World Equestrian Center – Ocala here.
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