Canada’s Chris Von Martels Debuts Divertimento In Florida National Grand Prix

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Chris Von Martels riding Divertimento in a Global Dressage Festival national Grand Prix, the first competition for the pair. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Chris Von Martels riding Divertimento in a Global Dressage Festival national Grand Prix, the first competition for the Canadian rider and his new equestrian partner. In the background is Ashley Holzer, his coach. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 17, 2016–Chris Von Martels rode Divertimento in an Adequan Global Dressage Festival national Grand Prix Sunday, the first competition for the Canadian rider and the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding.

Six-time Swedish Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén who trained and competed Divertimento for the past five years coached Chris before his debut Grand Prix that received a score of 71.200 per cent from American judge Tom Poulin at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s Stadium complex.

“Awesome!” declared Ashley Holzer, the U.S.-based Canadian with whom Chris trains, noting that he took over the ride on Divertimento just three weeks ago and this first ride was in unusually windy conditions, gusting up to 20 miles an hour (32kph) after a severe weather alert earlier in the day.

“It was unbelievable… incredible.”

Chris Von Martels on Divertimento receiving last-minute pointers from Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Chris Von Martels on Divertimento receiving last-minute pointers from Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Tinne, who coached the 33-year-old Chris on Divertimento for this competition and will work with Ashley–a four-time Olympian for Canada–to help shorten the learning time, said: “I think it was good for the first ride.”

Chris said, “I’m very lucky to have these two great people helping me. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Chris, who won team silver and individual bronze medals on Zilverstar at Small Tour at the Pan American Games last summer, also competes Belissimo, owned by a U.S.-based Canadian, a 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding, at Intermediate II that could move up to Grand Prix in the next few weeks.

Tinne logged two victories in two starts on Don Auriello in the kickoff World Cup event in Wellington. She is ranked No. 8 in the world on Don Auriello and No. 59 with Divertimento, a Westfalen gelding (Di Versace x Ferragamo).

Chris Von Martels and Divertimento in their debut Grand Prix competition. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Chris Von Martels and Divertimento in their debut Grand Prix competition. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“Divert,” as Divertimento is nicknamed, is owned by Lövsta Stuteri, the Swedish stable of
Antonia Ax:son Johnson, the multibillionaire head of a trans-Atlantic conglomerate and major financial supporter of dressage in her homeland of Sweden and the United States, her birthplace.

Tinne is the full-time trainer at Lövsta Stuteri and started Divertimento at Grand Prix in Poland in 2011 and then moved to Florida for winter which she has done for six years.

Secrecy imposed by Equine Canada on the Olympic selection criteria has made riders wary of talking to the media about their goals but the Wellington, Florida-based Chris told dressage-news.com he plans another national Grand Prix later this month and then move to CDIs taking it one show at a time.

The best four Grand Prix results from January through July are taken into account by Canadian selectors in choosing combinations to fill the one individual spot earned at the Pan American Games last summer and a likely second place in the North American Olympic group. The chances of earning a third place through world wide rankings by the Mar. 6 qualification deadline are considered slim.