Ashley Holzer’s Emotional Win with Valentine in Palm Beach Dressage Derby Int. I Freestyle, Discloses Nomination for Pan American Games for 1st USA Championship Team

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Ashley Holzer on Valentine celebrating Palm Beach Dressage Derby Intermediate I Freestyle victory. © 2019 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 3, 2019–Ashley Holzer and her Valentine won the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI3* Intermediate 1 Freestyle Sunday to maintain an unboken string of 10 victories this year and a possible Pan American Games start that would be the Olympic rider’s first championship for the United States.

Ashley, based in Wellington, and the nine-year-old Hanoverian mare scored 77.933 per cent in only the second musical performance for the duo that began international competition two months ago.

Christer Egerstrom of Costa Rica on Bello Oriente was second on 70.425 per cent with Colombia’s Marco Bernal on Germany third on 69.967 per cent.

The winner was awarded the Marty Simenson Trophy in honor of the late veterinarian, a ceremony that brought Ashley to tears.

Dr. Simenson was her veterinarian when she was 17 years old and competing at Dressage at Devon on Main Line Philadelphia on a horse she did not own that was sold at the show.

“It was so upsetting and I was in the barn sitting on a hay bale bawling my eyes out and Marty came up to me and said, ‘My dear, I know this hurts like hell right now but you’ve got a huge future and just stick with it’. I’ll never forget it. He was an amazing vet, an amazing person and a huge part of my life when I was much younger.”

Her name is also on the trophy with Pop Art and has a photo in her house receiving the award along with her mother and father and a family golden retriever.

Ashley was aiming for the European summer circuit but may not have competed her three Grand Prix horses enough to earn a place on the squad.

She has nominated Valentine as a prospect for the Pan Ams.

The pair have been named to the U.S. team for the CDIO3* Nations Cup at the Global Dressage Festival Mar. 13-14 along with Jennifer Baumert of Wellington on Handsome also at Small Tour and Big Tour combinations Shelly Francis of Loxahatchee, Florida on Danilo and Charlotte Jorst of Reno. Nevada on Kastel’s Nintendo.

Jennifer and Handsome have had four wins in five starts so far this year, their second place coming five weeks ago when beaten by Canada’s Tina Irwin on Laurencio who is campaigning to ride for her nation at the Pan Ams in Lima, Peru in July. Two team berths at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are up for grabs at Lima. The United States has already qualified with its silver medal performance at last September’s World Equestrian Games in Tryon.

Debbie McDonald, the American team coach, has asked her to consider being a candidate for the Pan Ams, said Ashley whose accomplishments include four Olympics for Canada, including Seoul in 1988 where the nation won team bronze, as well as three World Equestrian Games, the 2009 World Cup Final and the 2003 open European Championships. She switched to ride for the U.S.–her husband and two grown children are Americans–two years ago.

“I’ve always believed in being a team player, I’ve always believed that when you have a great team behind you, you do the right thing for yourself and the team. And it’s the right thing. I did nominate her. We’ll just see.

“I’ve been in this business long enough to know that sometimes plans don’t work out so you go to plan B, we recalculate.

“I would love to go to Europe but I would also love to represent the States at the Pan Am Games. It’s a huge honor. I’d be honored to be on a team that comes up to me and wants me to be on the team. That’s pretty honorable thing to have happen to you. I’m thrilled about that. I feel very blessed to have Debbie as a team coach.” Though she admits to missing her long-time friend Robert Dover being beside the arena.

“Debbie’s been so positive. It’s been a great situation. I’m really thrilled to be an American and thrilled to be a part of this major team… watching those girls ride on Friday night I was just blown away,” referring to the World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle with Laura Graves on Verdades, Kasey Perry-Glass on Dublet and Adrienne Lyle on Salvino placing one, two, three.

“It is incredible how the sport has evolved in this country, what great riders they are, and being a part with these great riders…”