Gundersen and Marek Shine at World Equestrian Center September Dressage CDI3*

Gundersen and Marek Shine at World Equestrian Center September Dressage CDI3*

On the third day of the WEC September Dressage CDI3* sponsored by Hampton Green Farm and Discover Dressage on Saturday, September 16, 2023, Anna Marek (USA) scored her third CDI win, taking the top spot in the Grand Prix Special CDI3* with Fire Fly, owned by Janet Simile. Ellesse Gundersen (PHI) and Quintessential 4, a horse she owns with Marcia Radosevich of Unicorn Landing LLC, topped the Intermediate A CDI2*. Fédération Equestre International (FEI) and USEF/USDF-rated competition wraps up at World Equestrian Center – Ocala for the week on Sunday, September 17.

Marek won Friday’s Grand Prix for Special CDI3* with Fire Fly, and they went on to perform a Grand Prix Special test where they worked on improving certain movements from Friday, like the pirouettes and half passes. The judging panel of Alban Tissot (FRA), Sandra Hotz (USA), Knut Danzberg (GER), Jane Weatherwax (USA) and Hans Christian Matthiesen (DEN) gave a total score of 68.979% for Marek and Fire Fly. Second place went to Patricia Ferrando (VEN) and her own Honnaisseur SJ, an 11-year-old KWPN gelding by Connaisseur x Jaxx, with 64.021%.

“Today I did have a couple of mistakes,” said Marek. “At the end of the two tempis, I had a little blip which is so unfortunate, because he’s so good at his changes. In between the pirouettes I made a little mistake, but the things that my trainer Anne Gribbons wanted me to clean up from my ride yesterday, we did do. We had piaffes in one spot and the trot half passes are a work in progress, and they were better today.”

Marek has ridden Fire Fly for almost two years. While the 13-year-old KWPN gelding Fire Fly by Briar Junior x 00 Seven had already shown at the grand prix level, he needed work to keep his nerves calm.

Marek recalled, “I couldn’t pressure him into certain things. It’s not that he doesn’t want to do it, but it’s that he gets scared he’s not going to do it well. I was so proud of him today because he was able to piaffe on the spot. It doesn’t scare him anymore. It’s so fun now because it’s a partnership. He wants to go in there and wants us to do it right.”

Marek and Fire Fly will compete next at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, as part of U.S. Dressage team.

Gundersen and Her Unicorn

Ellesse Gundersen and Quinessential 4, known as “Q” in the barn, completed their Intermediate A CDI2* test to a score of 69.706%. It was a successful ride for Gundersen, who has been working to manage Q’s personality and energy in competition.

While many riders have to work to perfect a partnership, Gundersen has been lucky enough to know Q since the horse was born. The nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding is by Quaterback and out of Corlette (Cordoba), a horse that Gundersen rode at the young rider level. When Corlette was injured, they decided to breed her and she had three babies, the last being Q.

“He turned out way better than anyone I think expected,” admitted Gundersen. “I was there for his birth, and when he was breaking in. I rode him as a three-year-old and four-year-old. We had amazing help from a friend in Denmark, a jumping rider, then a dressage rider friend. So, it’s really been a family cooperative and collaborative effort to bring this horse along. We have big dreams and big goals for him, and I think we are on the right track. He has a big personality, so that might be the challenge of it, but all great horses have big personalities.

“He’s a unicorn we’ve always wanted,” she continued. “I actually own him with a longtime client of mine; she’s like a second mom to me now, and her company is actually called Unicorn Landing. We said he’s the unicorn we have all been waiting for.”

Gundersen describes Q as sensitive and understanding of when it’s show time. “He was on fire today,” she smiled. “I thought he would be tired by today, but he clearly wasn’t. But I am really glad we are learning how to manage that power. You don’t ever want to lose that power because that’s what makes a great championship horse, to have that all three days, but now its learning how to harmonize that and keep the confidence in the ring so he continues to like the job.”

This was Q’s second CDI competition, and Gundersen plans to return for CDI competition at WEC – Ocala this fall.

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