Anna Marek Intimidated No More Makes Mark at Global Dressage Festival
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 16, 2016–Anna Marek had big dreams training in rural Florida but was intimidated when coming to Wellington to compete against the top Americans and Europeans at the the Adequan Global Dressage Festival that has become the world’s premier winter circuit.
Anna and the 15-year-old KWPN gelding performed for their best Grand Prix Special score and as good as their best Grand Prix result to place fourth in both classes in the CDI3* in which 36 combinations from 14 nations started, topped by America’s top rider, Steffen Peters on Rosamunde.
“That was the best Grand Prix ever,” said the 26-year-old Anna who is based in the tiny (population fewer than 3,000) Florida city of Williston, 265 miles (427km) or four hours north of Wellington after their performance.
“Last year coming down here was intimidating,” said Anna who works with former United States team coach Anne Gribbons.
“I don’t live down here. To ride among not only team members of the United States but the Europeans… I struggled with my own nerves.”
The results in the past were not bad with Unico, the horse she has been partnered with for eight years and owned by A.J. Stapleton. A first place finish in Wellington, but in a starting lineup that was mostly amateurs and an admission by Anna that “my nerves got to him.”
But she took the advice of Anne Gribbons and “AJ,” as she calls the owner, to get herself and the horse fitter.
“I’m concentrating a lot more on his fitness,” Anna said of Unico while joking about her being tall and the horse relatively small, “so when get into ring I have a fit horse. I was not fair to him before.”
She rides the horse twice a day now–in the morning with stretching exercises before being turned out on the 14-acre (5.6 Ha.) farm that also happens to be next door to successful jumper rider Aaron Vale who lets her ride on his 80-acre (32 Ha.) spread. Unico also goes out for a 45-minute hack in the afternoon.
“The fitter Unico gets he doesn’t want to just walk but wants to take me for a ride.”
For herself, she has taken up yoga–but doesn’t have much motivation to do it by herself so goes to class where there’s pressure to participate.
The long time partnership with Unico and the mistakes made along the way have helped in developing her younger horses, including the eight-year-old KWPN Dee Clair that she competed at national Small Tour in 2015 and moved up to Grand Prix this year, but not yet at CDI.
Dee Clair was owned by Anna as a three-year-old but sold to Diane Morrison who later her sent the horse back to train and compete.
She also competed two horses she has trained to Small Tour
Anna’s goals are modest at this stage–“I really want to break 70 per cent in a CDI Grand Prix.”
She and Unico are 15th on the U.S. Olympic rankings.
Although for a while she wasn’t sure she could continue to improve with Unico, the pair are getting better and she wants to see how much better.
And Wellington no longer intimidates her.
“This is where it is,” she said of the busy Global show grounds.
“I’d like to keep coming back. It really does get easier every time.”