Benjamin Ebeling Posts Career High Score Riding Illuster van de Kampert in Wellington CDI3* to Possible Highest Ever American Int. II Result

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Benjamin Ebeling on Illuster van de Kampert on way to career high score to win Wellington CDI3* Int. II. © 2020 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Dec. 17, 2020–Benjamin Ebeling posted a career high score on Illuster van de Kampert to win the Global Dressage Fall Festival CDI3* Intermediate II on a score that may be the highest ever at the level for an American.

The 21-year-old Ben, who gave up jumping to follow in his Olympian father’s dressage footsteps, scored 75.676% with all five judges awarding marks in the mid-70s.

A review of years of records by dressage-news.com indicates it may the highest Int. II score for an American in international competition as well as at the national championships where the Int. II is the initial competition in the Under-25 or Brentina Cup division. Sweden’s seven-time Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén was awarded 75.765% on Van Vivaldi in the Int. II at Wellington last March.

Ben’s success on the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding in the open division could be attributed in part to the coronavirus pandemic. It led Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where Ben is pursuing a business degree, to switch to online classes.

So he was able to spend more time at home in Moorpark, California developing Illuster. Prior to the pandemic he would make the 2 1/2-hour flight each way from Pittsburgh to Palm Beach to compete in winter and spend the summer at home in Moorpark just north of Los Angeles with his father, Jan Ebeling, who rode Rafalca at the 2012 London Olympics.

Jan Ebeling riding Rafalca for the United States at the Olympic Games in London in 2012. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Growing up on a farm with an internationally known dressage rider he started riding early, first with a pony, though he says he was never pushed by his parents.

“I was very into soccer growing up, but somewhere along the way I woke up and told my parents that I wanted to ride,” he told dressage-news.com.

“I started my riding career in the showjumping world, riding with other kids and having a great time. As I progressed through the levels, and became more serious about my riding career, I graduated to a much more serious training program with USA (2008) Olympic gold medalist Will Simpson. While my dad was competing his former Grand Prix horse Rafalca and other international horses, I was almost always watching him on live streams from a jumping show.”

When he was about the age of 12, he saw his father training a couple of junior riders.

“I had not been riding dressage,” he recalled, “but when the other kids were doing it, I wanted to compete and train alongside my friends.”

That’s when he began a dressage career on Descartes, an Oldenburg stallion 15 years old at the time. He competed the horse for a season, and was selected for the California regional team.

“I soon realized the amount of fun I was having with my best friends back at my family’s training center,” he said, “I wanted to find a horse to continue riding with them.”

His mom, Amy, and his father’s long time sponsors Beth Meyer and Ann Romney, wife of 2012 U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, known as the “Three Amigos” owned an eight-year old horse named Behlinger that he could ride in dressage while also jumping.

He and Behlinger were on the California regional team that won gold at the 2017 North American Youth Championships. The following year, he and Behlinger were selected for the U.S. Emerging Athlete Program and to be a member of the USA European Young Rider tour that competed at the prestigious Hagen, Germany youth Nations Cups as well as Leudelange, Luxembourg and Deuville, France.

“This was a big confidence booster,” he said, “and showing in Europe for the first time was one of the best riding experiences I have had in my career thus far.”

Benjamin Ebeling on Behlinger competing at Hagen, Germany. File photo. © Lily Forado for dressage-news.com

He and Behlinger were invited to compete at the 2018 North American Youth Championships in the New York suburbs and flew directly from Europe.

“When we arrived in New York,” he recalls, “we had a chance meeting with Sasha Cutter, who owned Illuster van de Kampert. She was interested in selling the horse, and my mom and Sasha entered into a partnership.”

The partnership worked out in the first international competitions at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington in 2019 where his family and Ann Romney had established a training center as their winter base.

Three victories for Ben and Illuster (Spielberg x Contango) in Wellington CDI Young Rider events over the winter followed by a European swing at Compiègne, France and the Hagen Young Rider Nations Cup then moving up to the Under-25 division to compete at Leudelange before returning to Florida.

“I have loved building the relationship with the horse, starting in Europe,” Ben said.

The Wellington winter circuit this year was a huge success for Ben and Illuster, with five victories in 10 starts including individual and freestyle golds in the Under-25 Nations Cup.

The results qualified the duo for the United States team that was to compete at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, the most prestigious competition in the world for Olympic disciplines.

The coronavirus pandemic caused cancellation of Aachen.

He returned to California for the summer to notch five wins in five starts at two new CDIs in Thermal in November,

Then back in Wellington at year’s end, his Int. II score on Illuster of 75.676% eclipsed their previous best of 75.130% in Global’s U-25 Nations Cup Freestyle in March before coronavirus halted horse shows for a few months.

(Not to make a comparison but only as an illustration of scoring at this level, the 2020 European Under-25 Championships Int. II was won by a score of 74.765% from five judges.)

The Under-25 individual medals podium at the Global Dressage Festival–Benjamin Ebeling (center) gold, Emma Asher (left) silver and Camille Carier Bergeron of Canada bronze, with sponsor Terri Kane of Diamante Farms. © 2020 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

For the 2021 Global circuit of seven CDIs he is coached by his father and German team rider Christoph Koschel who bases himself in Wellington for winter and the backing of the “Three Amigos” plus Sasha Cutter.