April 14, 2023 – Ocala, Fla. – Before a large, cheering crowd at the Stadium Arena at World Equestrian Center – Ocala, Julio Mendoza Loor (ECU) secured his second win in a row with Jewel’s Goldstrike, this time topping the Grand Prix Freestyle CDI3*, the highlight class on Friday, April 14, of the World Equestrian Center (WEC) April Dressage CDI3* show sponsored by Hampton Green Farm and Discover Dressage. The show runs through Sunday, April 16, 2023. Anna Marek (USA) received the perfect birthday present as she led the victory gallop in the Grand Prix for Special CDI3* with Firefly.
As the last to go in the Grand Prix Freestyle CDI3*, Mendoza Loor and Jewel’s Goldstrike delivered and came away with a personal best score of 81.210% from the judges, including 84.875% from the judge at C. The judges in the class included Sandra Hotz (USA), Marian E. Cunningham (PER), Cara Whitham (CAN), Michael Osinski (USA) and Sandra Andrea Smith (ARG).
“It was an amazing ride today,” said Mendoza Loor. “I don’t have enough words to express to the world how happy I am and grateful I am to ride that horse. It’s a dream. He’s my unicorn. I am so grateful that he allows me to make mistakes, and he forgives me for them. We are learning together each and every day.”
Mendoza Loor’s music was put together by Leslie Berro, but his wife Jessica designed all of the choreography. It features Ecuadorian music but also has pop music, such as an instrumental of Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita.”
Mendoza Loor recalled, “The crowd was amazing, especially for the riders. The crowd gets into the music and follows the beat with the steps. When the crowd started clapping, he started to feel it. He was like, ‘Is that clapping for me?’ I was like, ‘Yes, baby. Let’s go!’ It was a lot of fun. The crowd at the end really enjoyed the performance and the judges too.”
With strong performances this winter, Mendoza Loor and Jewel’s Goldstrike are aiming for the Pan American Games this October in Santiago, Chile, and the dream is to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, but Mendoza Loor also knows that his horse comes first.
“My main focus is keeping him happy,” he said of his 12-year-old KWPN gelding by Bretton Woods x Watermill Scandic. “I am going to love him forever. He’s never going to be for sale; he’s always going to have a home at the farm. He never has to worry because he’s not going anywhere. He showed me everything and has given me everything.”
Repeating Thursday’s performance, Olympian Ashley Holzer (USA) and her own Valentine, a 13-year-old Hanoverian mare by Sir Donnerhall x St.-Ludwig’s Ragazzo, placed second with 77.790%.
Holzer has learned that Valentine needs more experience competing at different venues and with varying types of atmospheres.
“I am constantly dealing with bringing her to new venues and having her see new places,” explained Holzer. “She is really tricky, and she was still very tense in there. She kept trying; she didn’t completely throw in the towel. Some parts had a fabulous feeling.
“She’s got to learn to sink or swim, but at least I feel a tense horse that is trying her heart out so that’s better than what she has done in the past,” continued Holzer. “I was thrilled she didn’t make mistakes in the changes, and she kept herself quiet in the canter pirouettes. She did some great things she hasn’t been able to do before. She’s slowly getting better, and I am really happy about that.”
Arguably the crowd favorite of the night, Kerrigan Gluch (USA) and the spicy Mejorano HGF were third with a personal best score as well of 74.755%.
Coming straight off the salute with an extended trot to piaffe-passage tour, Gluch and Mejorano HGF wowed the audience, with multiple cheers and clapping as they continued through their test. “We did that on purpose for the Freestyle to start strong, and I think it helped us,” revealed Gluch. “In a way, [the crowd support] takes the stress away a little bit. Not that you want to be distracted, but the crowd likes this, so I get to enjoy it even more than I already am. It makes me relax a bit. I like the feedback.”
The previous best score in the Grand Prix Freestyle for the pair was 74.570% this past January. This freestyle was only their sixth together.
“I really wanted to go show him off,” said Kerrigan of the 12-year-old PRE gelding by Grandioso x Galan XVI owned by Hampton Green Farm. “I always put a little pressure on myself to do the best I can, but I try not to put that on him. I think I was able to do that tonight, which led to a good score and good test. I think I rode well, and he performed really well.”
A Special Gift for Marek
Anna Marek (USA) was hoping today would be the day for her and Firefly, and her wish came true when she won the Grand Prix for Special CDI3* over 20 other competitors. The pair also scored a personal best of 72.217%.
“I was saying all day today, I hope Firefly gives me the best present of all,” said Marek, who turned 34. “I felt like the whole test was harmonious and the tempo stayed the same. It felt easy for us and relaxed.”
“He’s a great little horse,” she continued. “He doesn’t have the biggest gaits, but he can do everything really well. He doesn’t have a weakness, which I think is the thing about him. There are things that aren’t so great right now but there are moments where they could be. What I felt today, all those little things I have been working on came together and it worked. It was the best test we’ve done together and our personal best.”
Ashley Holzer (USA) and Hansel, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding by Blue Hors Don Olymbrio x Metall owned by P.J. Rizvi, finished second with 71.544%. This is only Hansel’s third FEI competition and his first time competing at Grand Prix. Third place went to Katie Duerrhammer (USA) and Paxton, a 12-year-old Westphalian gelding by Dante Weltino OLD x Don Marco 3 owned by Kylee Lourie. They received a score of 70.522%.
Simonson Sweeps Again
Christian Simonson (USA) repeated his top-two performances from Thursday in the Intermediate I CDI1* on Friday morning. He and Son of a Lady, a 12-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding by Soreldo x Welt Hit II owned by Christina Morgan, won with a personal best score of 73.823%. With Zeaball Diawind, an 11-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding by Fürstenball OLD x Zardin Firfod also owned by Morgan, he was second on a score of 71.618%. Amanda Perkowski (USA) and Sonata MF placed third with 70.196%.
The World Equestrian Center April Dressage CDI3* continues on Saturday, April 15, with the Intermediate A CDI2* at 8 a.m., followed by FEI classes for juniors, children’s, young riders, ponies and Under 25. Young Horse classes will be held, as well as the Intermediate I and Grand Prix CDIAm. The highlight class, the Grand Prix Special CDI3*, will start at 3:10 p.m. For more information, visit www.wec.net.