Olivia LaGoy-Weltz on Lonoir Finds the “Piece” to Kick Through to Top Tier of Sport
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 18, 2021–Over the past decade, Olivia LaGoy-Weltz has developed Lonoir into a successful American team horse but so far has missed out on the Olympics and world championships. She may have found in long-time friend and Olympic medal rider Allison Brock the piece to help her “kick through” into the top tier.
Ali, as she’s known, is helping Olivia who works with U.S. team coach Debbie McDonald and is a key in selecting the three rider and horse combinations and a reserve that will go to Tokyo this summer if the Olympics are held after a year’s delay caused by coronavirus. The World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden the first week of April is also in her sights.
The mix of Debbie’s coaching and a change in Olivia’s mental approach helped along by Ali has been noticeable–Olivia and Lonoir, a Danish Warmblood gelding now 17 years old, turned in their highest Grand Prix score in almost four years and a personal best Freestyle result of 81.454% in the inaugural 2021 Global Dressage Festival World Cup event.
Janet Foy, a top ranked FEI judge, gave Olivia a mark of 10 on her first piaffe right in front of her at C, describing it as “bouncy, it was active, and on the spot, beautiful contact, absolute harmony, and no tension.
“Super top-quality ride, the music was beautiful, she rode to the music in a really wonderful way. Her degree of difficulty was incredibly high. To get that high of a score on the degree of difficulty but keep it harmonious, that’s very good riding. Super horse, super training, and I can’t say enough about it.”
Olivia, 38, is based in the tiny town of Haymarket, Virginia less than 40 miles/64km west of Washington, D.C. and spends winter in Wellington.
She acquired Lonoir a decade ago and competed in national levels in 2012 before moving to international Small Tour in 2014. A year later the pair was on a Nations Cup team at Global of mixed big and small tour combinations. As a prospect for the Pan American Games team that was also mixed levels, they went with a squad of U.S. horses to compete in Europe. The duo moved to international Grand Prix in 2016.
One of the biggest successes for the duo was the U.S. victory in the Nations Cup at Rotterdam in 2017 with the Dutch team runner-up on their home turf.
The following year, Olivia and Lonoir again competed on the U.S. Nations Cup team at Rotterdam as well as in the CDI4* at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, the most prestigious and competitive horse show in the world.
Then, a botched shoeing threatened the competition future of Lonoir. The horse was out of competition for 18 months, returning to the show ring at Wellington for six starts before coronavirus forced lockdowns and postponement of the World Cup Final in Las Vegas and the Olympics.
Mary Anne McPhail, a supporter of high performance dressage for years as well as the organizer of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, had become a partner with Olivia in Lonoir and stuck to her commitment.
Now, the pair is back as good if not better than ever.
What happened to achieve the performances at Global?
“It’s both me and the horse,” she said. “I think it’s more me mentally, getting to the spot where I feel like there’s enough foundation of trust with him. I feel like I can push for more. It’s always been in there. But I think it’s been that feeling of trust, also a feeling of understanding, of chutzpah.”
She and Debbie McDonald, Olivia disclosed, had talked about it for a while.
“But I think adding Ali into the mix has been really beneficial for me,” she said of the rider of Rosevelt on the bronze medal team at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Ali rode the horse owned by Claudine and Fritz Kundrun and for whom she still works at their farms in Virginia and Florida.
“She and I have been good friends for a while and there’s a lot of cameraderie there because she has been through it so recently herself. She also knows this horse incredibly well.
“We were doing national shows in Virginia before either of us were making it internationally with our horses. She was doing “Rosie” Grand Prix so he had done some international small tour and I was doing Lono national small tour.
“She knows all the ins and outs of bringing him along. I think there’s that piece that she and I have just been able to talk about that I feel like she has done a good job, or is helping me feel like I can kick through to that next level that Deb and I have been working on.
“I think it’s that culmination of everything–the horse, and maturity and maybe also, ‘gosh darn it, I want it to be better than this.’
“When Ali came this summer that one time that was the one piece we discussed. We did one lesson and she’s like, ‘honestly, the thing that sets it apart from Diddy (Verdades) and Salvino and Suppenkasper is just the electricity and the piaffe/passage.
“She’s like, ‘He can do it. We just have to get there’.”