Alice Tarjan With Four Horses Bought from Videos, One Home Bred, in Pursuit of Titles at USA Festival of Champions

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Alice Tarjan and Candescent in the Big Tour debut, at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. © 2020 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Aug. 17, 2020

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

With four horses bought from videos and a fifth home bred Alice Tarjan heads into the United States Festival of Champions starting Tuesday pursuing national titles at Grand Prix to four years old.

Alice developed the skills to pursue her path out of necessity as she had just enough money to buy a foal she desperately wanted to grow up enough to compete in a race against time in her battle with cancer fresh out of law school 14 years ago.

Though she’s never competed on an American team, Alice at the age of 41 has at least one and possibly two prospects for the Tokyo Olympics next summer, like her other horses bought as youngsters directly from videos, never having gone horse shopping in person. Alice an adult amateur of Frenchtown, New Jersey works with her husband in his trucking, rigging and real estate business.

With her five horses, she is among 174 combinations lined up to compete in the 14 annual dressage championships staged over the next six days at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, a semi-rural western suburb of Chicago. That’s five more than the 169 combinations that competed in 2019 when Covid-19 was unknown.

In preparation for the championships, the show grounds were completely sanitized by organizers after nine weeks of hunter/jumper competitions since early June when sports events resumed in the U.S. where allowed by local governments after a lock-down of almost three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The horses that Alice will compete this week are:

* Grand Prix–Candescent, 10-year-old Hanoverian mare (Christ x Frankenstern II), began Big Tour at Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida in mid-March, the last competition before the Covid-19 lock-down. The duo was developing Grand Prix champion in 2019. Alice is pursuing selection of Candescent for the Olympics in Tokyo next July.

* Developing Grand Prix–Donatella M, an nine-year-old Oldenburg mare by Fürstenball, at Global won a leg of the Lövsta Future Challenge to qualify for the developing Grand Prix final that was deferred by the pandemic to the start of the 2021 circuit.

* Developing Grand Prix–Harvest, nine-year-old KWPN stallion (Connaisseur x Ulft) that Alice has competed at young horse classes from four to six years and moved to national Grand Prix this summer.

 * Five-Year-Old–Summersby II, Oldenburg mare (Sezuan x Sandro Hit) that was reserve U.S. national champion as a four-year-old and Grand Champion as a three-year-old at the 2018 Devon, Pennsylvania Breed Show.

* Four-Year-Old–Gjenganger, Danish Warmblood mare (Grand Galaxy Win x Don Schufro) was Grand Champion of the 2019 Devon Breed Show.

Candescent ridden by Alice Tarjan at the 2015 U.S. Young Horse Championships as a five-year-old, a performance of things to come. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Alice’s string of horses that she has trained for top sport is a long way from her upbringing in rural New Jersey about an hour outside New York City, with no money to spare, not even enough to join her friends in young riders.

Then her desire to pursue dressage while dealing with the serious health scare after college and law school that led to the purchase of a foal she planned to train if she lived along enough to fulfill her dream of competing at Devon, as a three-year-old in the materiale class where she didn’t have to spend money qualifying.

As her health was restored she got more involved in a sport. But no way did she want to spend the kind of money–“even if I could afford it”–to acquire horses.

“You look at the top Europeans and they have strings of top Grand Prix horses and they bring them all up themselves,” she explained after her Florida circuit. In winter, she brought 12 horses to Florida where she works with Lars Petersen, the Denmark Olympian who is now an American and based in Palm Beach. When at home in New Jersey, she works with Marcus Orlob.

“If you want to compete Grand Prix, the cost is astronomical. Even if I could afford it, I wouldn’t spend that kind of money on a horse. I think it’s outrageous.”

So she modeled her business on that of riders like Isabell Werth–the German superstar who currently has horses ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 7–buying young horses and training them for top sport.

“I can add value by training up the horses, something I love doing, so I can sell some and fund what I do,” she said.

Since 2006, Alice has developed as many as 30 horses she has bought from videos and developed, never having gone to Europe to try any, a business model that works for her. But with so many horses she’s learned how to deal with each horse individually, developing the capability each has.

Donatella ridden by Alice Tarjan at developing Grand Prix at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. © 2020 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Candescent and Donatella she has kept even though, as she puts it, competing “I’d rather not it’s not really my favorite thing… it’s stressful.”

Alice held off competing Candescent at CDI Grand Prix until she was confident in the performance even if she did not feel she “owned it.”

As much as she love training, her goal is to be at top sport.

“That’s the goal,” she said, “eventually to train these horses to go as far as they can.”