The World Equestrian Center Dressage XIV show, held on Friday, August 27, 2021, at World Equestrian Center – Ocala, featured competition from USEF Training Level through Grand Prix and offered Great American Insurance Group/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) qualifying.
Riding in the USEF Test of Choice class with the Prix St. Georges test, Jean Brinkman, who is 81 years old and from Wellborn, FL, and Faithkeeper, her 21-year-old Trakehner mare by Martini out of Feodammee von Krotenbach, received a score of 62.059% from the judge for second place.
But more than just their score, the ride earned Brinkman and Faithkeeper entry into The Dressage Foundation’s Century Club, in which membership comes from a combined age of at least 100 years old for horse and rider. The Century Club was established at The Dressage Foundation in 1996, at the suggestion of the late Dr. Max Gahwyler, noted dressage judge and clinician. The purpose of The Century Club is to honor senior dressage riders and horses that are still actively riding and competing. The Century Club has had 513 members since 1996; Brinkman and Faithkeeper will make it 514 members.
Brinkman owns and runs Valhalla Farm in Wellborn, FL, with her husband Roy. Her daughter Erin is a trainer at the farm, and daughter Shannon is an award-winning equestrian photographer. Founded in 1972, Valhalla is a working farm of 450 acres where the Brinkmans have been breeding and training warmbloods for more than four decades and also raise cattle and produce their own hay.
Faithkeeper is a third-generation horse for Jean Brinkman. The Brinkmans imported Faithkeeper’s sire’s dam, and her sire Martini was born at their farm. She competed Martini to the Grand Prix level, earning her USDF Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. Brinkman calls Martini her ‘heart horse,’ and though he passed away in 2001, he gave her Faithkeeper, who was born in 2000.
“She was a real hot thing!” described Brinkman. “She settled though, and I’ve trained her for her whole life. She’s just a fun horse. We work together every day and often go on trail rides. She has just a little bit of spiciness now. She really tries hard, like her father. Her extensions, she loves to do them. You just release and off she goes. That was her father too. She’s got a lot of his traits.”
Brinkman and Faithkeeper competed up to Third Level, but they hadn’t stepped foot into a show ring together in 15 years. The pair have overcome many obstacles, including colic surgery and Brinkman’s hip replacement five years ago.
“I just love riding and training, more than showing,” said Brinkman. “I like goals, [and] when The Century Club idea came up, I thought, ‘That’s another goal.’”
She continued, “I heard about [the Century ride] and thought it was so interesting. At the time, we were a year away from the century. Now we’re 102! We’re well over! I thought about doing it last year, but then COVID hit so hard. So then on my birthday this year, Erin said, ‘You’re going to do the ride.’ I did the Prix St. Georges at home in the ring. I could have sent [a video] in, but it didn’t seem fair to do it at home. I thought I should come out somewhere. Life is supposed to be fun, and I thought it sounded like fun.”
Brinkman was cheered on by family, friends and past students who came to World Equestrian Center to see her historic ride.
This was Brinkman’s first time at World Equestrian Center – Ocala, and she noted, “It’s the best facility I’ve ever seen anywhere. The attention to detail as a horseperson is just beyond anything I’ve ever seen. My horse’s stall is so lovely. You don’t see many barns that are so correct for horses; they thought of everything. It’s just masterfully done. I’m very thrilled to be here and have my Century ride here.”
Dressage continues on August 28-29, 2021, with the World Equestrian Center Dressage XV. For full show results, visit www.horseshowoffice.com/events.asp.