Kerrigan Gluch on Experience Selected as First American on PRE Horse for USA Dressage Team at European Nations Cup
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
ROTTERDAM, Netherlands, June 25, 2023–Kerrigan Gluch became the first American to be selected on a pure Spanish horse, Mejorano, for an official United States team for Europe that paid off with a personal best score in the CDIO4* Nations Cup of the Netherlands Grand Prix Freestyle in the rider’s Big Tour team debut.
The musical performance was a strong response for the rider, aged 26, and the 12-year-old Pura Raza Española (P.R.E.) gelding to place seventh on a score of 75.350% and marks as high as 9.4 for the degree of difficulty/calculated risk.
For her debut Big Tour Dutta Corp. team competition, Kerrigan had to deal with some issues that were unexpected for a rookie–first to go of the 28 riders and horses in the Grand Prix and sharing a coat with team mate Lina Uzunhasan on Furst Fabelhaft UZN, whose own coat didn’t fit.
Kerrigan had competed at Young Riders in the Future Champions tournament at Hagen, Germany in 2016 and also in Under-25 in Europe in 2018. But not the same as going against multi Olympians at Big Tour.
She took over the ride on Mejorano from Spain’s Jose Daniel Martin Dockx about two years ago. The Spanish rider had competed Hampton Green Farm’s Grandioso, the sire of Mejorano, at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics as well as the 2014 World Equestrian Games and the 2013 and 2015 European Championships.
The start of the Grand Prix in Rotterdam was “one of the best if not the best trot,” Kerrigan explained to DRESSAGE-NEWS.com. The combination was well above 70% before uncharacteristic difficulties in both the one- and two-tempi changes that Kerrigan admits she hasn’t yet worked out why dragged down the score.
“I had a few little mistakes in the changes that had never really happened before. The pressure and all those factors, and always wanting to do the best you can. I kept telling myself, start positive, it’s OK. Let’s move on, let’s make every movement the best I can make it. That was my mentality going into the Freestyle.”
Kerrigan who lives in Ocala, Florida where Hampton Green Farm is located, has only positive feelings about the experience.
“This has been a really, really exciting experience,” she said. “This was always a very high-up goal, a Nations Cup in Europe; learning how the sport works-—the luck, timing, what horses are going well right now, what riders are available to travel.
“Maybe in two weeks or a month when we’re back home it will sink in, but right now I‘m still trying to live in the moment, still on a high. It hasn’t quite set in yet but it definitely will.
“Being on a senior team was really special. I grew up playing team sports so being able to be on a team and representing the U.S. is different because you’re representing your country.”
The young team that included Lina, based in Holland; and Wellington, Florida-based combinations Kevin Kohmann on Duenensee and Benjamin Ebeling pumped up each other to give everyone as much confidence as possible while keeping it fun and light.
It was reassuring, though, to have veteran George Williams as chef d’equipe and Shelly Francis, who has competed on championship teams for the U.S. and is Kerrigan’s personal coach as part of the Nations Cup squad.
Plus, she said, the international competitions at Wellington where she lived for nine years before moving with Hampton Green to Ocala with major CDIs in big and impressive stadiums was good preparation to not being intimidated for the international circuit in Europe.
“I think it has worked,” she said. “The horse and I are very connected now. We trust each other. I try to set him up for success.”
The presence of P.R.E.s and other Iberian breeds is increasing.
“The quality of P.R.E.s is improving so much,” Kerrigan said, “the athleticism for top dressage sport over the last 10 years. People are now taking PREs more seriously for the sport and being that there are various horses on teams around the world that are very much competitive and are getting rewarded for their efforts. So that’s been really nice. It’s nice to ride a P.R.E. that can hold his own in a big class.”
While her focus is “staying as close to the top as I can get” Kerrigan’s life is likely to be getting busier.
Hampton Green Farm is closing its Michigan farm and moving young and developing horses to Ocala where Kerrigan will be a key part of the program.