Florida-Based Mikala Gundersen Steering My Lady to Be Among the Top

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Mikala Gundersen riding My Lady in the Rotterdam Nations Cup. © 2013/Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Mikala Gundersen riding My Lady in the Rotterdam Nations Cup. © 2013/Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Mikala Gundersen is convinced that My Lady, the mare she rides, is on the way to being competitive in Europe and the pair could have a shot at making the Danish team for the 2014 World Equestrian Games after the Florida-based rider wrapped up showing at the CDIO5* Nations Cup in Rotterdam.

Mikala has scheduled herself to compete the 13-year-old Danish Warmblood mare at top shows in Austria and Germany in July before returning to her home for the past decade in Wellington, the world’s leading winter equestrian destination.

The partnership that was launched 18 months ago in Florida when former Dane and longtime Palm Beach resident Janne Rumbough bought My Lady for Mikala to ride is in the midst of their first European circuit. The pair first rode in the Danish Championships two weeks ago and was selected for the team for the Rotterdam Nations Cup.

Janne did not make it to the Danish championships or Rotterdam to see My Lady perform as her husband suffered a stroke and she stayed in Florida.

Denmark finished fourth in the Nations Cup, Mikala and My Lady scoring 67.426 per cent in the Grand Prix team competition and 67.104 per cent in the Grand Prix Special, scores that are in line with those attained during the last winter circuit in Florida.

“I am more pleased with her now than ever,” Mikala told dressage-news.com. “I know what she’s like, how much she’s improved in the month since being in Europe, amazing improvement.”

This is the third time Mikala has returned for the Danish championships in the decade since moving to Wellington with her show jumping husband, Henrik Gundersen, and their two children, Claudia and Casper. The other two championships were with Leonberg, a Rhinelander stallion now 19 years old.

“This was the biggest show for me to do this year, a big atmosphere for the mare that she hasn’t seen before,” she said.

Although My Lady by Michellino started off tense in both rides–the weather went from extreme heat early in the show to turn unseasonably cold, rainy and windy–she recovered well to show off My Lady’s piaffe, passage and canter tour.

The competition was stiff–Great Britain’s double Olympic gold medal pair of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, the Netherlands’ Edward Gal and Glock’s Undercover and others, but that did not intimidate her.

Mikala Gundersen riding My Lady in the Rotterdam CDIO5* Grand Prix Special. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Mikala Gundersen riding My Lady in the Rotterdam CDIO5* Grand Prix Special. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Can the mare be competitive in Europe?

“Absolutely, yes!” she said emphatically. “A few more shows and she will definitely be above 70 per cent. The judges really like her. Even with the tension and a few mistakes like the spook in the Grand Prix the judges try to give her scores wherever they can.

“I think if I can come back next year we will be a much more competitive combination.

“The one thing we know for sure is she has the quality to compete against the top horses in Europe.”

Mikala thinks the judging in Europe is the same as Florida with its intense CDI calendar and she would have gotten the same scores, but the competitions in Europe are “a lot more compeitive because of the number of really great combinations.”

Even with the depth of quality horses in Europe, she said, “I think we could be competitive for WEG.”

Denmark has considerable depth in dressage–Anna Kaszprak and Donnperignon who swept the Danish championships, Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein who has been in the top tier for years with Digby and has younger horses coming up, Andreas Helgstrand and his new partner Akeem Foudager, Lisbeth Seierskilde and Jonstrupgårdens Raneur that she rode Denmark as an individual at last year’s Olympics and fellow Florida-based Lars Petersen and Mariett as well as some talented younger riders moving into the senior ranks.

The European show so far, she said, have been “very satisfying.”

“I was smiling when I left the Danish Championships. I didn’t end up as high as I hoped but we had a great experience and learned a lot. This was the same way. I really, really learned a lot. I’m so thrilled to have the ride on a top horse like this.”

Mikala said that she loves living in Florida and could not see herself moving back to Denmark.

“I feel I should stay Danish,” she said. “I still feel Danish and related to Denmark.. my roots are there.

“Maybe my children who have grown up in America will choose to be American.

“There’s no way I’m moving back,” she half-joked as she shivered in the dreary weather. “If for some reason I have to move back to Europe I’m not going to be riding any more.”