Anna Buffini Fulfills Lifelong Dream of Competing for USA at World Championship, World Cup Final–Part 1 of 2
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
LEIPZIG, Germany, April 8, 2022–With her lifelong dream now fulfilled of competing for the United States at a world championship, Anna Buffini is determined to improve the performance on Davinia la Douce in Saturday night’s World Cup Freestyle, the favorite expression of her equestrian life.
Anna will be performing to music, her favorite activity with the extra thrill of her own voice in the music. Unlike the Grand Prix where she was in the perennially worst spot, first to go in what was the first indoor competition for both the 27-year-old rider and the horse.
Although she was “a little disheartend” with the result in the lineup of 17 rider and horse combinations including Olympic and championship stars such as Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, Isabell Werth, Cathrine Dufour and Patrik Kittel she has kept her good humor, positive outlook and a determination to fix the bobbles.
Going first was the hardest part, she told dressage-news.com.
“There were really positive things. I’m happy that the bobbles we made were minor. There was nothing major, no like gasping and big things. But there are things I want to fix. We’re going to take that into the Freestyle and work on the things we had trouble with in the warm-up.
“Not the first time I’ve been last and won’t be the last. In the end you have to put it in perspective. You have to touch some grass. We’re riding horses in a sandbox in front of thousands of people. We’re not getting bombed in Ukraine; I’m not on the street homeless. We’re doing OK. We’re going to be just fine.”
Beside her at Leipzig is her coach, Günter Seidel, a three-time Olympian for the United States earning team bronze at each Games as well as a veteran of five World Cup Finals.
Anna is not well known in Europe although she rode the 15-year-old Hanoverian mare on the American Nations Cup team at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany last September. Even so, several in the European media thought the judges were tough on her.
“The Freestyle has always been our best day,” Anna said. “It’s my favorite thing to ride; it’s her (Davinia’s) favorite thing to ride. It’s a degree of 10 difficulty so it makes her pretty competitive which is nice. She should do pretty well in the Freestyle.”
The Freestyle will be to music by BTS, the Korean group that is her favorite. When people ask her why she isn’t married, Anna jokes it’s because her husband is in Korea singing as part of BTS.
Anna said she didn’t initially realize how big a deal it was to be invited to the World Cup Final the annual championship that is being held this year after a break of two years because of the Covid pandemic and an outbreak of equine herpes virus in Europe.
“Everybody was saying you’re going to the World Cup–‘That’s amazing.’ I was kind of focused and just thinking like prepping for another show. Then I got here and I was like, ‘this is incredible’ that they took an entire convention center and filled it with horse things. It’s just huge. And there are so few dressage riders, so few jumpers. It’s so special, just a special feel than any other show in the world and that was fantastic.
“First of all, I was very surprised how many people were around the warm-up. It was so cool and so many things that were surprising. I’ve never done it before. You have Isabell in there and she’s done it 1,200 times–I’ve never seen it before or done it. That was shocking.
“When I heard I was going first it was definitely disheartening. But I have to earn my way here as well. I’m the rookie here, I’m the new kid here so I also understand that. I have to earn the points I’m going to get eventually.
“The biggest to me is the environment makes the horse more nervous, which makes the test harder. You want to have a good test so to have the horse get trickier in a big environment that’s the No. 1 challenge. But everybody’s horse gets difficult. The venues are bigger, you’re warming up with Isabell, Jessie and Catherine. You have to stay focused and not look around, and do your own thing that she’s (Davinia) been doing the whole year to get here.
“Going into the show arena itself I remember thinking as I was entering , ‘Oh there are judges at this end, too!’ There are so many judges (seven instead of the usual five). There are so many things that are at so much of a higher level, so big and so special. Then you realize why everybody holds these shows in such high regard because of how special they are and how hard it is to get here.”
Was Anna nervous?
“There’s more pressure because there’s two people from the U.S. here and you want to do well for the U.S. I was definitely nervous in the warm-up. And as soon as I got into the show arena I was like, ‘this is what I’ve done my whole life.’ I didn’t think about nerves.
“I wasn’t scared because we’ve practiced so much. It’s all we do. We don’t do anything else. I train and I go home. I don’t have a boyfriend. I don’t drink, I don’t party. I do nothing but ride. This is what I’ve trained for so I’d better go in there and it had better be like home.
“It’s the same sandbox anywhere you go in the world. It really felt like that. The biggest difference is when there are 10,000 people your horse picks up on it a little. But everybody’s dealing with that.”
Anna bought Davinia two years ago from Anabel Balkenhol, daughter of the former U.S. team coach Klaus Balkenhol, where she and the horse stayed for a week on arriving in Germany.
The mare came after success on Sundayboy in youth competitions including team gold at the North American Young Rider Championships in 2014. However, it was followed by the disappointment with Wilton when the horse was unmanageable in competition.
She credits Davinia with teaching her everything she needs to know when she goes into competition with Fiontini, the Danish Warmblood mare ridden by Spain’s Severo Jurado Lopez for Helgstrand Dressage to world champion at ages of five, six and seven.
Anna bought Fiontini last year but likely won’t compete her now 12 years old until late this year.
“Honestly, I will say anything I’m able to do on Fiontini we need to thank Davinia for, because she is teaching me everything,” Anna said. “She took me through all the shows last year. She took my to my first European show, my first World Cup.
“So now it won’t be my first time if I’m able to make it there with Fio. She’s really setting the stage. It’s such an amazing education I’m getting on her. I think it’s setting a great foundation to set us up for success on Fio.”
Anna plans to compete Davinia at the Horse & Dreams show in Hagen, Germany later this month and may seek entry to another European event, such as Compiègne, France next month.
Part 2: Fiontini, Anna Buffini’s New Equine Partner, Settled In at Rider’s New Training Center in Rancho Santo Fe, a California Paradise Near San Diego