Aussie Kelly Layne & Raja Take Florida’s GCDA Grand Prix Special
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida, April 17–When Kelly Layne moved to the United States four years ago and was waiting for her horses to arrive from Germany, she saw a nine-year-old gray horse at a Colorado show that she just had to have despite the owner not wanting to sell.
Kelly, who represented Australia at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, in 2006, got the gray Westphalen gelding, Raja, by Royal Diamond out of an Ehrentusch mare. The aim was to move up from third level to Grand Prix.
Now, almost four years later, Raja is 13 years old and placing in the top six at CDIs on the highly competitive Florida winter circuit.
And Kelly, who with her American husband is based in Wellington, Florida, is looking toward the London Olympics next year.
On Sunday, Kelly finished first with a score of 68.125 per cent in the Grand Prix Special at the Gold Coast Dressage Association’s Grand Finale. Susan Dutta of Wellington, on Manette DC was second with a score of 66.250 per cent and Diana Mukpo, also of Wellington, on Pascal was third with 62.813 per cent.
Kelly’s mother, Helen Anstee, an Australian “A” level judge, the highest national ranking, was here to see Kelly compete.
Raja was not easy and it took Kelly longer than expected to get him to Grand Prix, which she achieved last year, but he was sensitive.
The pair began competing at CDIs this winter, improving at each of the three events they competed in including 66.255 per cent for third place at Grand Prix in Loxahatchee, Florida, a month ago in front of a panel that included Stephen Clarke of Great Britain, Christoph Hess of Germany and Karin Krüger of Denmark.
Being stabled at Wellington’s International Dressage Academy owned by Patrick Burssens and his family did “wonders for his brain,” she said. “Sixty horses, working in the rings, lunging, lawnmowers, leaf blowers. It was great for his brain.”
There were no plans beyond simply competing at Grand Prix and getting better until the 66 per cent at the CDI3* a month ago.
“That was the first qualifier on the journey to London,” Kelly said. “My goal now is go for it and see if I can get scores that will get the attention of the selectors in Australia.”
Her plans call for competing in the U.S. through next winter’s Florida circuit.
“We own the horse and we’re self-funded,” she said. “We really can’t afford to go to Europe this year. So we’ll go with the flow and see what happens. There has been talk of the selectors going to Europe next year to review prospects so we will see what we need to do then.”
Kelly credits Juan Matute, the Spanish Olympian and trainer who moved to Florida for a “break” and ended up staying, with restoring the “focus” on training that she had in Germany.
“He has been really helpful,” she said. “Juan does not ‘own’ me as so many trainers do with riders. He has helped me get back to where I was when I left Germany; he has helped me get my focus back as well as being a very good set of eyes on the ground.”