Competing in the climate-controlled, immaculate indoor arena at World Equestrian Center – Ocala (WEC), dressage athletes returned for the WEC September Dressage CDI3* sponsored by Hampton Green Farm and Discover Dressage. Competition began on Thursday, September 14, 2023, and continues with Fédération Equestre International (FEI) and USEF/USDF-rated classes through Sunday, September 17. Opening the week with a win was Olympian Ashley Holzer (USA) riding Hansel, owned by PJ Rizvi, in the Grand Prix for Freestyle CDI3*. Newcomer Irvin Leiva Guillermo (MEX) topped the Prix St. Georges CDI1* with his own Aguila Real SDN.
Holzer and Hansel, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding by Don Olymbrio x Metall, scored 69.957% with a high score of 72.174% from Jane Weatherwax (USA), the judge at C. The judge’s panel included Alban Tissot (FRA), Knut Danzberg (GER), Weatherwax, Hans Christian Matthiesen (DEN) and Sandra Hotz (USA).
Anna Marek, newly named to the U.S. Dressage team for the 2023 Pan American Games this October with Firefly, was second in the Grand Prix with Fayvel, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding by Zizi Top x Houston owned by Cynthia Davila. They scored 68.044%. Third place with a score of 61.174% went to Patricia Ferrando (VEN) and her 14-year-old KWPN gelding Elvis (Harmony’s Rousseau x Osmium), who won gold and silver medals at the 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games this past June.
This was only the fourth show for Hansel at the CDI level, and his second competition in the Grand Prix. The talented chestnut has not competed since April, when Holzer injured her arm. Owner PJ Rizvi has been riding Hansel through the summer, and while Holzer started riding again five weeks ago, she was still undecided about coming to the show until three weeks ago.
“My arm started to feel a lot better,” explained Holzer. “PJ is so supportive. She said to go for it, you’ve got to get back in the ring and work toward your goal. It was my first time back, and I felt really confident; I wasn’t worried at all. My right shoulder is not where it should be, but I’m still going to physical therapy three times a week.”
While at home, Hansel has been working on movements of the grand prix test that were a struggle before, like being uphill in the lead changes, balanced in the zig zag, and quiet at the walk, and Holzer saw a marked improvement in this test.
“He’s such a lovely horse to ride,” said Holzer of Hansel, a horse she has been working with for three years. “The real breakthrough today were the changes. It’s a journey to get him balanced and feeling confident. Every time you go in the ring, you never know, but it was amazing to feel him knock it out of the park for the first time today.”
Hansel will perform his first-ever Grand Prix Freestyle on Friday evening, and Holzer is excited to show the test, which includes music from the band Wham! and was arranged by Tom Hunt.
She laughed, “If it works, it’ll look amazing. If it doesn’t work, everyone will know. However, I have to get information now so next year when it counts, I have it. That’s really my journey here.”
First U.S. Start for Leiva Guillermo
Irvin Leiva Guillermo made his first start in the U.S. a winning one when he and Aguila Real SDN, an 11-year-old German-bred gelding, won the Prix St. Georges CDI1* with a score of 66.618%. Second place went to Stephanie Pair-Kavitz (USA) and I Crack de la Vigne, her own 10-year-old KWPN gelding by Bon Bravour x Jazz, with 65.618%, while Raul Corchuelo (COL) and his own 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding Maverick (Millennium x Rittersport), scored 65.441% for third place.
Leiva Guillermo, his horses, and his team made the trip from their home base in Mexico City, where he rides for the Mexican Army, eight days ago. Leiva Guillermo and Aguila Real SDN have competed together at just three other CDI competitions in Mexico City but have won every class they entered.
“I wanted to come here to increase the level of competition,” he said. “I was very nervous, but it is very, very nice here. We are working to get our classification for the 2023 Pan American Games.”
Leiva Guillermo has shown at the Small Tour level since 2017 and has experience in an international championship, having participated at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, where he helped the Mexican team finish fourth.
Leiva Guillermo also placed fifth in the Prix St. Georges with Desafio, and both horses are scheduled to compete in Friday’s Intermediate 1 CDI1*.
FEI Grand Prix for Freestyle CDI3* Results
FEI Prix St. Georges CDI1* Results
Full Show Results and Ride Times
The World Equestrian Center September Dressage CDI3* continues on Friday, September 15, with the Intermediate CDI1* at 3:35 p.m. followed by the Grand Prix for Special CDI3* at 7 p.m. and the Grand Prix Freestyle CDI3* at 8:05 p.m. For more information, visit www.wec.net.