World Equestrian Center – Ocala played host to back-to-back USEF/USDF-rated shows with Dressage XIV on August 25-26, 2023, and Dressage XV on August 27. Sponsored by Hampton Green Farm and Discover Dressage, there were classes from Training Level to FEI Grand Prix, and both events served as official qualifying competitions for the 2023 Great American/USDF Regional Championships.
Adult amateur rider Amy Swerdlin brought five horses up from her Wellington, FL, base and logged wins with the four she competed. Her top score of the week, 73.125%, came in Saturday’s Grand Prix aboard her own 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Tokayer.
“He’s like a battle horse with how much he fights for you,” enthused Swerdlin of the 17-hand son of Tokyo x Sir Donnerhall. “I was hoping to get my qualifying score on Friday, and we didn’t [he scored 64.625%] as he was a little spooky, but on Saturday he felt amazing. He was grunting he was trying so hard.”
The pair went on to top Sunday’s Grand Prix Freestyle with another solid score of 72.6%. “He’s a really good boy,” added Swerdlin, who works as a manager of the dressage and polo stalls at Palm Beach Equine Sports Complex, while her husband, Scott, is president of Palm Beach Equine Clinic. “I almost felt guilty riding again on the Sunday, but I was so excited because it was the first time we had done a freestyle, and I literally only got the music — which is The Cars — completed a week ago. He will have a whole week off now.”
Swerdlin bought Tokayer as a four-year-old in Vechta, Germany, after he charmed her by sticking his head out of the back window of his stall at the auction as she walked past. She also purchased I Spy, a seven-year-old by Asgard’s Ibiza x Foundation, from Vechta, but this time directly from a local breeder, when she saw a video of him as a three-week-old foal.
"I Spy is super green,” added Swerdlin, who picked up a win, a second and a third place at Third Level with the 17-hand Oldenburg gelding. “The flying changes are a bit hit or miss and he doesn’t really have a left half-pass, but this was his first show after doing the materiale [young horse] classes and I wasn’t sure how he’d react. It was a mileage trip for him.”
Her other two rides, Quileute CCW and Fellowship CCW, are both homebreds that she has brought along herself. Swerdlin credits help from her long-time coach Jan Brons, who has accompanied her on the training journey with all four horses.
Aboard Quileute CCW, Swerdlin pulled off two plus-70% scores at Grand Prix level, chalking up 72.725% in Friday’s freestyle, where they finished second overall to Shelley Van Den Neste and Eyecatcher (74.05%). Swerdlin described every day as a blessing with Quileute — a 13-year-old gelding by Quaterback — after a major veterinary scare in 2020.
“‘Quil’ foundered really badly after Regionals,” she explained. “His hocks started fusing, and he ended up foundering and was in clogs for six months. I had to give him a year off. He came back last season, so with him you tread very carefully. You don’t want to do too much, and he gets a lot of down time. It’s a fine line as to how much you can do and how fit he can be.”
Fellowship is an eight-year-old embryo transfer gelding by Follow Me out of Swerdlin’s grand prix level mare, Scholastica (by Sir Donnerhall) — which she also bought from the Vechta auction as a four-year-old. Fellowship picked up a tied win at Prix St. Georges level (with Bonnie Canter and Vitali) on Saturday with 69.412%.
“All in all, it was a really good trip,” concluded Swerdlin who is taking her “Large R” judge's test in a week’s time. “I’m taking them all back in September to confirm everything before Regionals in October. I was so happy to get out of South Florida and train in climate-controlled arenas. I hope they add more shows at WEC – Ocala in the summer months; it’s so important for the horses to get out of the heat, and it’s an amazing venue.”
Dutch rider Ivo Juhrend, who has lived in the U.S. for five years and is based 20 minutes from World Equestrian Center – Ocala at Dutch Dressage Inc., brought three grand prix horses to the show. His best result of the weekend was a 72.5% win courtesy of Jaron Verheij’s 15-year-old Glock’s Johnson gelding, Dutch D-Day. They finished comfortably atop the leaderboard in the 10-strong class, with almost 6% in-hand over the second-placed combination.
Also laying down convincing wins at Grand Prix was Jodie Kelly-Baxley and Grayton Beach, whom she only debuted at grand prix at WEC in January 2023. They topped Friday’s class with over 70%, then went on to a 66.383% in the following day’s Grand Prix Special. Kelly-Baxley, who trains with Anne Gribbons, has owned the striking 17.3-hand gelding by Negro x UB40 since he was three.
Anna Merritt contested five classes on Friday — from young horse all the way up to Grand Prix — on five different horses, logging two wins. Her most notable result was a 78% on East Of Eden in the USEF Four-Year-Old Test. The 17-hand high Westphalian gelding by Escamillo is also ridden by his owner, Saylor Weidauer. Merritt’s other win came at Training Level, in which she rode Kerstin Guenther’s 15.3-hand gelding Eduardo — another by Escamillo — to 74.231%, 11% clear of the rest of the field.
Representing those starting out in the sport, Havens Ann Patterson and Lassies Fling, a 12.3-hand Clydesdale Light mare by Lassies Jasper x Lassies Bombay Blue owned by Meagan Vieren, finished third in the USEF Training Level Test 3 during August Dressage XV.
Dressage competition at World Equestrian Center – Ocala resumes next month with a CDI3* international show and USEF/USDF national competition on September 14-17, 2023, presented by Hampton Green Farm and Discover Dressage. For full 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.