Isabelle Liebler As Youngest Competitor Inspired By Young Rider World Cup

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Isabelle Liebler and Watson 108 in the Young Rider World Cup "B" Final. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

FRANKFURT, Germany, Dec. 18–Isabelle Liebler admits that she and Watson 108 did not perform up to their expectations, but is leaving the Young Rider World Cup inspired by the quality of competition and a show atmosphere unlike anything ever experienced.

But most of all she learned how to handle the stress of top competition, including how to take care of her horse who was spooked by the Festhallen International Horse Show, a Christmas tradition of top dressage and jumper competitions in the cavernous exhibition center magnificently decorated for the season.

At age 16, Isabelle of Greenwich, Connecticut, was the youngest competitor by three years in the Young Rider World Cup in which 15 riders from around the globe were invited to participate. She and the 14-year-old Westfalien gelding were selected based on the highest average in the FEI Young Rider Freestyle Test at CDI-Ys. The pair also won team bronze and individual golds for individual and freestyle at the North American Junior & Young Riders Championships and were National Young

The pair came to Frankfurt 2 1/2 weeks before the competition and were stabled at the Shafhof, the nearby estate of Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff, a top German rider before contracting Lyme’s disease, and which is also the home of Totilas, which she owns in partnership with Paul Schockemöhle and ridden by her stepson, Matthias Alexander Rath.

The pair were scored 65.158 per cent for 10th place in the opening Prix St. Georges, victims of the big, bright, electric atmosphere and combinations far more experienced at competing indoors.

The result kept them out of the “A” Final, which Isabelle said she was disappointed in because making it to the top group was one of her main goals.

Isabelle Liebler and Watson in the individual competition. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“It was one of our best rides,” she said. “I was a little bit disappointed in not placing in the top group which was a main goal. But the best thing was we had a good experience.”

The pair scored 68.700 per cent to finish second In the “B” Final Freestyle, behnd Switzerland’s Simona Aeberhard on Active Private Dancer.

“Unfortunately, in the freestyle he was a little bit spooky in the corners,” she said, “and I had to keep telling him to hang on for just 10 minutes before he can go into his routine of bucking. He held himself together so well.”

Isabelle said one of the spooky elements was to go from a dark warmup into a big, bright concert hall.

“I had to be the leader this week, be there for him” she said. “When he saw those bright lights I had to say, ‘Come on, buddy. Keep going’.”

Katrina Wüst of Germany, one of the five judges for the “B” Final told dressage-news.com that she thought Isabelle’s ride was more like a standard test than a choreographed performance to music and that hurt her score.

To put the competition into perspective, Isabelle said, “I thought these are the 14 best Young Riders in the world and we all deserve to be here.

“It is all about the competition.

“Not a lot intmidates me. Instead, it inspired me.”

She explained that in 2010 she rode in the pony competition at the International Youth Festival in Hagen, Germany,

“It was a personal failure on a certain level,” she said, “I cracked under pressure. I was nervous from the pressure and the expectations.

“This time, I was really inspired to do my best. I wanted to personally be a better rider and competitor than last year.

“I think I did that.

“The goal was to be little bit better than our best at Gladstone (the Festival of Champions).

“We put down two really clean rides with no mistakes. Our individual test was a little better than at Gladstone.

“That made me pleased.”

She has not made plans beyond returning to Florida for the winter circuit.

“Coming here at 16 I’m very young and have a lot to learn,” Isabelle said, “a lot of experiences personally, profesionally and academically.

“Although this has been a landmark in my career, the most important thing I learned was how to handle myself. My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be here for my horse. I wanted to make sure I gave 120 per cent to the horse. This summer he gave me 150 per cent.

“Just to come and not be distracted, overwhelmed or nervous, to be respectful and professional. I’m glad I’m learning this now. I hope I can be one step ahead.

“Personally I hope to come out of this a stronger person.”

Although horses are a big part of her life, Isabelle said that as a junior in high school she is passionate about college.

Her goal is to go to Georgetown University’s prestigious School of Foreign Service.

She speaks German and French and has begun studies of Arabic culture and language.

College “is really on my mind,” she said, “and I’ll see how horses fit into that.”