Ashley Holzer & Pop Art Win Royal Winter Fair CDI3* Freestyle by 6% Over Next Best

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Ashley Holzer and Pop Art danced their way to victory in the $20,000 CDI 3* Freestyle presented by Dominion Regalia at The Royal Horse Show. © Michelle C. Dunn 2009
Ashley Holzer and Pop Art danced their way to victory in the $20,000 CDI 3* Freestyle presented by Dominion Regalia at The Royal Horse Show. © Michelle C. Dunn 2009

TORONTO, Ontario, Nov. 12–Ashley Holzer on her Olympic mount Pop Art showed they are in a league of their own at dressage at The Royal Winter Fair CDI3* by producing a musical freestyle that scored more than six percentage points better than the closest rival Wednesday night.

Ashley, who lives in New York, received a score of 75.85 per cent with Tina Konyot of North Stonington, Connecticut on the Danish Warmblood stallion Calecto V placing second on 69.650 per cent and Canadian Denielle Gallagher-Legriffon who also lives in the New York City area rode Abrikos to third place for a score of 69.050 per cent.

Holzer’s test emphasized “Poppy’s” piaffe and passage skills, including a piaffe turn on the haunches. The Canadian duo were the last to go and followed Konyot and her expressive stallion Calecto V.

“I had him here last year and he was tense in the indoor arena,” Holzer said. “He was so much better this year. I was a little worried today because I thought the crowd would be more electric. It was very electric last year. I warmed up quite a bit and the crowd was not so electric, so I said, ‘OK, buddy, you really gotta kick now!'”

The big news in dressage in Canada is the recent addition of U.S. six-time Olympian Robert Dover as Team Advisor and Coach. Discussing the planes Dover of Wellington, Florida, has for the Canadian contingent, she said:

“I am thrilled about our new coach Robert Dover. He has vision and has made Canadians sit up and realize what great riders, horses, coaches and sponsors we have. We haven’t really taken advantage of the great people we have available to us in this country before now. He stood in front of us today and said he is 250 per cent for us and if we need him somewhere, he will go there. And that he expects the same level of commitment and focus from Canada’s riders.

“I think it’s about time that we had a coach that pushes us to the next level. We are not trying to be sixth in the world, we want a medal. So let’s behave like we are out to get a medal.”

Stephen Clarke of Great Britain and president of the Ground Jury, said that in Tuesday’s Grand Prix riders were a little nervous and unsure of the ring and the crowd. But in the freestyle, they came into the ring relaxed and ready to put on a show. Holzer impressed him most though with the harmony and comfortable relationship she has with her long-time partner, Pop Art.

“The partnership they have is the most unique and perhaps perfect,” Clarke said. “The harmony mark goes up very, very high. Technically her piaffe scores and marks for transitions are also very high. You don’t often see quality like that. Of course, there is always room for improvement but the nice thing about Ashley’s horse is he does nothing wrong. She has really big highlights and these things count for a lot of marks.”

Crowd-favorite and long-time competitor at The Royal, Jacqueline Brooks, rode her second horse Balmoral. The pair finished fourth overall. Clarke said the sport needs more riders like Brooks, commenting:

“Jacquie is one of the best ambassadors we have for the sport. She knows how to produce a Freestyle and she knows how to ride to music. The audience really appreciates what she does and they love her. That’s good for us and good for the sport.”
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