OCALA, Fla.--Jodie Kelly-Baxley of Destin, Fla, on Grayton Beach, who was competing in his first tests at the Grand Prix level, won two classes, scoring 71.739 percent on Friday, Jan. 20, and then 75.761 percent the following day at the World Equestrian Center – Ocala.
The Dressage VIII and Dressage VIIII shows on Jan.19-22, 2023, at the World Equestrian Center – Ocala ran classes from Training Level to FEI Grand Prix.
The show is an official qualifying competition for the 2023 Great American/USDF Regional Championships.
The shows were the first rated dressage shows of the year at WEC – Ocala, beginning off a full calendar of expanded dressage action planned for the world-class facility in 2023.
WEC - Ocala and WEC - Ohio also hosted a number of jumper and hunter competitions during that period.
“THIS WAS his first grand prix, and it was a really big milestone,” said Kelly-Baxley. “I was a little apprehensive about whether he was ready, but are we ever fully ready? On Friday I went in and was a little too careful as I was so worried about overfacing him. He only gets worried when he makes a mistake, so I didn’t want to ask too much. It was a little underpowered but he still got over 71 percent. I was a little nervous, and I’m not one to get nervous."
“On Saturday I was more myself and ready to rock and roll, and it paid off,” said Kelly-Baxley. “Grayton is a really big guy with very big movement, and the one-time changes have been a real struggle just because he has such a big canter. He got all 15 of them — they weren’t pretty, but they will get better. That was a really big accomplishment for him.”
Kelly-Baxley has owned the 17.3-hand gelding by Negro x UB40 since he was 3 after her Dutch trainer Toine Hoefs found him in Holland.
“He’d been looking for a horse for me and called me one day and said, ‘I’ve found your horse,’" she said. "He was 3, and I could barely steer him, but I brought him over straight away. He’s a really special guy and an amazing character, but needed help organizing his long legs. I’ve been careful and taken it really slow because of his size. It's paid off. It was a super special and really fun weekend.”
Kelly-Baxley, who trains with Anne Gribbons, will stick to national shows for now with Grayton Beach, but her loftiest goals are to represent the United States on him one day.
In Saturday’s FEI Prix St. Georges class, Nora Batchelder won two of the top three places, claiming victory on Improv 40Z with 70 percent.
Improv 40Z, another 17.3-hand horse, went on to score 72.059 percent at Intermediate I to finish second behind Tammy Feldmann on Free Tyme, who won on 73.235 percent.
Batchelder had another win at Prix St. Georges level, and her highest score of the show, on Francis S3 with a score of 73.824 percent.
Batchelder’s final win was on the 17.1-hand Divo, scoring 68.085 percent in the FEI Test of Choice class, topping the leaderboard riding the FEI Grand Prix Special.
Jennifer Marchand had an extremely full-on weekend, riding 21 tests over the four days of competition and winning 10 classes with Nota Bene at Training Level, and Florencia and Intrepid.
Dana Cooke contested 22 classes at the show, winning three of them.
Her top score, 77.297 percent, was at Third Level on Quatro, placing second to Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp on Deniro Z, who scored 77.568 percent.
HUNTER HOLLOWAY on Pepita Con Spitawon the $100,000 at WEC – Ocala.
“She’s such an incredible horse," said Holloway. "I have had her for a few years now. I got her as an 8-year-old, and she is turning 12. We have had many highs together and many firsts. Hopefully, that continues and we keep climbing the ladder.”
Nicole Loochtan on It's Me du Bosquetiau won in the $30,000 WEC – Wilmington Grand Prix.
“‘Marvin’ is the best horse in the world," said Loochtan. "This is only my second week showing him. I spent a month with him in quarantine over at Spy Coast Farm, and I got to know him a little bit. We brought him right up here, and he has been double clear in every class he has done.”
Daniel Geitner on Easy Money won the $20,000 3’6”-3’9” Hunter Derby at WEC – Ocala with scores of 82 and 90.
“‘Easy’ is enormous with a lot of scope and a huge step," said Geitner. "He placed second last week out in the Stadium. It’s pretty neat for a horse as tall and big as he is to go from the giant ring last week and come into a normal-sized ring this week and still be so rideable and handy. He’s kind of like a jumper; the more you power him up, the better he jumps.”
Kathleen Caya rode Copa du Cache to win in the $15,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby 3' Open at WEC – Wilmington with scores of 90 and 91.
“I have had him through his pre-green year," said Caya. "His owner lets me do a lot with him, and she shows him sometimes in the Adult Hunter division. We are going to keep coming back here with him this winter, and he is qualified for derby finals so that will be our goal!”
Jelmer Hoekstra of Denmark on Harold won the $15,000 Futures Prix at WEC – Ocala.
“I knew I could go fast with Harold,"saidHoekstra. "He is very experienced in jump-offs and is fast off the ground. I just tried to stay tidy in the turns and find everything forward.”
Luke Rinehart on Captain America won the $10,000 Futures Prix at WEC – Wilmington.
“My dad wanted me to leave out and do six strides up the first line," said Rinehart. "I did not jump in the way I wanted to so I steadied and did seven. It was a huge oxer off the turn so I didn’t want to run at it. I made a few tidy turns, and I kept it in the middle of going fast and just leaving all the rails up.”