In a spectacular display of balance and precision, six-time Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven (SWE) and the famed Don Auriello captivated the crowd during their FEI Grand Prix Freestyle, presented by AMCI Group to Benefit Brooke USA, routine on Saturday evening at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). They opened the AGDF Large Tour circuit with a bang, receiving a score of 80.450% to best the class. American star Laura Graves (USA) and Verdades fell just short of Vilhelmson-Silfven to collect second place with a score of 78.250%, while Charlotte Jorst (USA) and Kastel’s Nintendo received a 74.375% for third place. Competition for the first week at AGDF, the Lloyd Landkamer Memorial, concludes tomorrow with the FEI Intermediaire I Freestyle, presented by The Axel Johnson Group.
The seasoned duo of Vilhelmson-Silfven and Don Auriello made waves at AGDF on Thursday, as the pair captured their first win of 2016 in the FEI Grand Prix, with a score of 76.900%. They bested that tonight under the lights in front of a crowd of 2,000 spectators, while impressing the judges to earn the first 80% score of the 2016 season at AGDF.
“I’m so happy to have won both events and to have done it here, in this atmosphere and at this show. It’s just so fun. I love to ride this horse, and it’s a great time,” she smiled. “I think you’re always humbled when you show a horse because you never know what is going to happen, but of course you wish for something like this and I wished for this feeling and that was all I could wish for.”
Never missing a beat, the artistic style of the choreography accompanied the brilliance and regularity of the required movements. The pair was rewarded with impressive marks and received as high as an 82.125% from the judge at M. According to Vilhelmson-Silfven, the ride aboard Don Auriello, a 2002 Hanoverian gelding (Don Davidoff x Wey o mey x White Star), is never the same, but that is what makes him so special in the ring.
“I think maybe you’re a bit more careful in the beginning when they’re hot, but he felt settled at that time we entered the ring,” she explained. “It was more at the beginning before coming in and in the warm-up with the music. It’s nice when they’re hot like that but you also have to handle it and decide how to ride. You have to decide how much power you can have and handle. That’s our problem, every time, our nice problem,” she said smiling at Graves sitting beside her in the press conference.
Laura Graves & Verdades
Graves and Verdades nearly had the crowd on their feet as the final ride in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle as the duo performed a risky but powerful test, showcasing the raw talent and ability of the 2002 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Florett AS x Liwilarda x Goya).
“Every time I ride, I’m just reminded of how sharp of a learning curve I’m on. Tonight was a big step for us. I’m learning to ride such a hot horse in a hot atmosphere,” commented Graves. “Honestly it felt like one of our very best freestyles. I think we were more on with the music than we’ve been, which has been a struggle. I just like to go fast! That doesn’t go so well when you’re ahead of your music all the time. So I’m learning that. He was just really on fire again, mostly mistake-free, just a couple of missed footfalls. I could not be more pleased with my horse.”
As one of the favorite combinations for Team USA leading into an important Olympic year, Graves opened up about the struggles of riding such a sensitive horse, but how fast it has improved her riding and understanding of technique.
“I embrace every time this horse changes, and it’s just happening so rapidly that I really have to be brave in not letting go but staying a part of what’s going on underneath of me. That can be kind of overwhelming when what’s going on underneath of you feels like a bomb. Rather than defusing that bomb, I’m learning how to keep it lit the whole way through the test and not be afraid of it,” she said poignantly.
Charlotte Jorst and Kastel’s Nintendo also concluded a banner day, as Jorst, an incredibly successful adult amateur, was thrilled to finish within the top three in such a competitive class. She noted, “I just love his joy, his enjoyment of the test, of showing off. I look forward all day to getting into the ring and showing everyone what I’ve learned. I think I did that tonight, and it was wonderful.”
A successful businesswoman herself, Jorst noted how similarly riding and expanding her knowledge with Nintendo is to the experience of motivating and empowering people in the work place.
“I’m using what I learned in business for all of those years, that you have to focus on people’s strengths. I do the same thing here with the horses,” she elaborated. “You see a horse today that is just happy and doing what he’s supposed to do because he loves it. For me, today’s test ranked great because it confirmed everything I thought I already knew.”
Fritz Kundrun, a major supporter of the sport of dressage, as well as the representative member for AMCI Group for Brooke USA, sponsors of tonight’s CDI-W FEI Grand Prix Freestyle, was pleased with the performances of the leading riders, and is proud to have brought awareness to Brooke USA and their mission.
“I have been associated with this beautiful sport of dressage for a long time. We were lucky with our horse Flim Flam. I see people like Tinne and Laura ride today and it was a wonderful performance by both of them,” stated Kundrun. “Once in a while I get discouraged with injuries and vet bills and I want to change my sport from riding to billiards or something, but tonight I’m an enthusiast again, and it’s wonderful to be the sponsor.”
Judge at C Natalie Lamping (USA) commented on the scoring of the rides throughout the evening, solidifying and supporting the notion that the three most deserving riders were awarded with correct placings. She stated, “I think that this competition in the very first week has grown a lot, especially with the grand prix horses. The quality and riding has improved tremendously. It was a lot of fun judging this freestyle this evening. The top horses and riders were like real teams, and they seemed to enjoy doing the freestyle and showing off. The horses came to life, and there was a lot of harmony tonight.”
Allyn Mann of Adequan®, who was present for his first freestyle competition of the 2016 calendar year, repeated the sentiment of honor and gratitude as he described the continued participation of title sponsor Adequan® each year.