Dressage Young Guns Blaze Under Florida Sun
by K. McGregor
It's an annual ritual for a number of Canadian riders who escape
the snow and cold during the winter months for the warmer weather
in Florida. Top notch facilities, world class horses and riders,
all offered with the bonus of palm trees and warm sun. What can
The Florida show circuit this year was the start of a very busy and
what will undoubtedly be a successful show season for a number of
young Canadian dressage riders.
Husband and wife dressage duo Jaimey & Tina Irwin brought five
horses to Florida for their first winter season competing in the
Sunshine state. With her longtime partner Amicelli, Tina Irwin
enjoyed a 4th place finish in the Grand Prix at the
Wellington Dressage Classic on a score of 63.54%. They then went on
to a 2nd place finish in the Grand Prix Freestyle with
68.58%. The next month, the pair enjoyed their best Grand Prix
score to date when they were awarded a 65.8%. The following day
they won the FEI Test of Choice class.
"Amicelli is getting stronger and better in each Grand Prix,"
explains Tina, who has worked with the 11-year-old Holsteiner
gelding (owned by Wendy Beresford and Ute Busse) for the past 6
years. "It has been great being able to go to a show every weekend
if you want to."
Jaimey also enjoyed great results in the competition ring with Pat
Scherrer's Primo Sony. Highlights included a 64.75% in the Prix St
Georges and 5th place in the Intermediaire 1 at the
March 22-25 Wellington show.
"It is great to now return home to Ontario having had a head start
on competing," says Jaimey, who is quick to point out that this
year's trip to Florida was made possible thanks to their clients
and sponsors. "The winter season is such a long one in Canada and
the climate doesn't allow for competitions in the winter. By
coming to Florida, we feel a lot more prepared going into the show
season this spring."
Although wintering in Florida is an expensive excursion, both Tina
and Jaimey felt it to be an important step in order to get more
exposure competing among American riders as well as a variety of
international judges. They were also able to benefit from the
expertise of their regular trainer, Holger Muenstermann, who
traveled from Germany in order to spend a week training the young
For fellow Canadian dressage rider Chris Von Martels, 2007 was his
second consecutive winter season in Wellington. "The winter season
in Florida is a fantastic place to be for an upcoming Canadian
rider like myself", notes Von Martels, who has experienced success
at the Young Rider levels before moving on to Senior Advanced
competition. "The level of competition here is excellent, and I
take full advantage of being surrounded by such a large group of
internationally accomplished riders and world class horses."
Von Martels spent a large portion of his time in Florida training
with his coach, Canadian Olympic rider Ashley Holzer who has made
Florida her home in the winter months for the past 12 years. His
current list of show horses include Korenbloem's Charmeur and
Floris, both owned by long time sponsor Dr. Patricia Tomney.
Von Martels was pleased with the solid scores Korenbloem's
Charmeur, with whom he is currently long listed with Dressage
Canada, achieved in both the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I,
and is focusing his training for the Grand Prix ring. Meanwhile
Floris, an 8-year-old gelding by Florestan, was introduced to the
Advanced division for this first time. With a score of 70% at the
Zada WEF Dressage Classic, this pair has a promising future ahead
Denielle Gallagher is another young Canadian dressage rider
starting to make her mark in the competition ring. Gallagher is
also a student of Ashley Holzer, having trained with Ashley and
managing her barn for the past 5 years. She enjoyed great success
in Florida last year aboard Jornello, having the distinct honour of
winning the very first time she competed in a Prix St. Georges
class. Gallagher proved that this win was not a fluke when the pair
continued to put in strong performances and ending the 2006
competition season by winning the USDF year end award for the Prix
St. Georges division. Wow!
This year, Gallagher's partner is Gallaway's Abrikos, a 16-year-old
Russian warmblood stallion purchased in November. This new
partnership are testing the waters in the Grand Prix ring, and
already posting scores of over 60%.
"Coming to Florida is a wonderful experience," says the 27-year-old
Gallagher, whose equestrian pursuits started in her native province
of New Brunswick where she competed in Pony Club, moved on to
Eventing and finally settling on Dressage. "You not only have a
chance to compete in open and CDI competitions all in a close area
over a period of 4 months but you also have a chance to compete
with some of the top riders in the country."
When talking to each of these riders about their recent Florida
experience, one moment stands out for all four: the 2007
PhelpsSports.com Challenge of the Americas Presented by Collecting
Held at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, the fundraiser for
the Breast Cancer Research Foundation attracted more 3,000
The Gold Medal winning Can/Am SSG Gloves Team was comprised of show
jumpers Eric Lamaze and Ainsley Vince, and dressage riders Shannon
Dueck, Chris Von Martels, Denielle Gallagher, Tina Irwin, Jaimey
Irwin, Daphne Haagmans, Lisette Milner and Suzanne Dansby Phelps.
Canadian Olympic Bronze medalist Eva Marie Pracht was the team's
quadrille coach and choreographer while Applause Dressage's Karen
Robinson put together a high energy medley of tunes that included
songs from the movie "The Full Monty".
"It was a lot of fun riding on the Polo Field under the lights at
night," remembers Tina Irwin. "We really practiced a lot and worked
hard to make the quadrille a success. Evi put a lot effort into
making us look good!"
All six horses wore bright pink polos and sported pink and white
streamers through their tails. Browbands were also pink and
Canadian equestrian apparel company EcoGold generously donated
saddlepads which featured the breast cancer ribbon in sparkly pink.
SSG Gloves also provided all riders with a pair of their "Riding
Gloves For Hope", which support Breast Cancer research. And just
to show that Canadians are not as reserved as their reputation
would suggest, Jaimey and Chris gave the crowd (and the judges!) a
surprise at the end of the performance when they took their hats
off for the final salute, and exposed their pink hair. Now that's
"The Quadrille is definitely a highlight of the Florida scene,"
says Von Martels. "It is such a fun competition, a great
opportunity for the Canadians in the south to truly show off our
sense of spirit and enthusiasm, and all for a great cause!"
With another Florida winter show season wrapped up and in the
record books, these four young Canadian riders are now back at
their respective home bases to prepare for the regular competition
season. But their experiences and successes from the winter have
undoubtedly paved the way for even more to come this summer ......
although likely without the shocking pink hair.