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Olivia LaGoy-Weltz and Ashley Holzer shine in Grand Prix and Freestyle

WELLINGTON, Fla--Olivia LaGoy-Weltz of Reston, Va., riding Lonoir, won the Grand Prix CDI3* on Feb, 22 and followed it up with a win in the Grand Prix Special CDI3* on Feb. 24, during in week seven of the Global Dressage Festival Wellington, while Ashley Holzer, who switched nationalities a year ago to ride for the USA instead of Canada, won the FEI Grand Prix CDIW on Havanna 145 on Feb. 22 and then the Grand Prix Freestyle CDIW on Feb. 23.

LaGoy Weltz on Lonoir in the SpecialLaGoy Weltz on Lonoir in the SpecialIn the Grand Prix CDI3*, LaGoy-Weltz had been trending on over 74 percent mid-way through the test, but mistakes in the canter zig-zag produced a smattering of twos from the judges, bringing the score down.

The fact they finished with 71.652 percent was testament to LaGoy-Weltz’s sensitive, quick-thinking riding that rapidly refocused her horse’s attention.

Second-placed Arlene ‘Tuny’ Page was only 0.2 percent behind riding Woodstock

Then two days later, in the Special, LaGoy-Weltz and the 14-year-old Lonoir scored 73.319 percent, with Page second on Woodstock with a score of 70.298 percent, despite the discomfort of a fractured heel.

“I was happy, though it still wasn’t perfectly clean,” said Lagoy-Weltz, referring to a mistake at the beginning of the two-tempis, which resulted in fours and fives from the seven judges. “It’s awesome that we’re still climbing up the scores despite that. It’s all in there; it’s a question of me learning how to put it together and us finding the right recipe of power and containment. We’re at a point where I need to show. I can get the changes at home, but I need to keep riding it better in tests, and he needs to understand the difference between the two tests and find his relaxation and stay on the aids.”


LAGOY-WELTZ FOUND Lonoir when he was a 7-year-old at Danish Olympian Andreas Helgstrand’s barn in Denmark when looking for sales horses with her former boss, Kathy Priest.

“We were also looking for something for me to bring on, and I didn’t have a big budget,” said LaGoy-Weltz, who now trains with Debbie McDonald and is based in Wellington for the season. “Kathy helped me buy him as he was more than I could afford. He’s always been a kind horse, but he’s very sensitive to pressure and can get claustrophobic. He need to chill, and Andreas and I have exchanged emails laughing about how far ‘Lono’ has come when nobody really expected that. It’s wonderful.”

“It’s fabulous," said LaGoy-Weltz of the Festival. "In Europe, they have the indoor circuit, and things keep going year-round. For us, this is our circuit and gives us the opportunity to keep going in week after week. And it can be a challenging arena, like Aachen or Rotterdam. It’s not just a quiet arena that we go to week after week and think we’re really going great and then go to these huge venues and get a shock. There are so many shows here, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for us.”

LaGoy-Weltz hopes to make it onto the list of eight American riders who will be invited to Europe for the summer to campaign for a place on the team for the World Equestrian Games team in Tryon, N. C., in September


HOLZER, riding Havanna 145, recorded back-to-back wins on Feb. 23, winning the Grand Prix Freestyle CDIW under the lights with an impressive 78.2 percent, with two judges, the British judge Stephen Clarke and the judge from Luxembourg, Christoph Umbach, awarding the pair over 79 percent.

Ashley Holzer on Havanna 145 in the FreestyleAshley Holzer on Havanna 145 in the FreestyleThe day before, Holzer had won the FEI Grand Prix CDIW.

Holzer’s student, Canada’s Brittany Fraser, finished second on All In in the Freestyle, with Shelly Francis and Doktor placing third.

The class was dogged by increasingly heavy rain, with last-drawn Holzer bearing the brunt of the weather.

Although Havanna  is only 11, Holzer kept some elements of her freestyle fairly simple, but still produced 19 one-time changes on a straight line, a half pirouette into extended canter and finished with a flourishing passage zig-zag.

“We’re so lucky to have horses who work so hard for us even when the weather conditions are bad,” said Holzer, 54. “Luckily the footing here is so good, you can still give it gas, no matter how wet it is.”

Holzer found her music by googling “emotional uplifting music.”

“The best thing about tonight was that Havanna came out after a strong performance last night, and she again tried her hardest," said Holzer. "Thomas [Baur, AGDF director of sport] saw her a year ago and told me she’d do it, and he was right. She’s a good egg and she tries her hardest; every time I ask her to try harder, she says, ‘OK’. It’s a testament to her incredible upbringing and character."

“I’ve been in this game long enough to be so grateful every time I win,” she said. “We all know you can win one day and then maybe not the next day. I’m just so excited to be on this mare in such great company.”

Fraser rode All In to second with a score of 75.85 percent, their highest ever score at the level.

Shelly Francis on Doktor in FreestyleShelly Francis on Doktor in Freestyle“Doktor felt like he warmed up well and started off good, but he doesn’t like the rain, he’s wimpy about that," said third placed Francis. "He’s a fireball ,and we had a little accident of miscommunication in the twos, but he was really trying. He’s a good little horse, and we’ve had a long road together.”

Both Holzer and Francis, like LaGoy-Weltz, are hoping to be on the eight-strong squad making the trip to Europe.


HOLZER'S WIN in the Grand Prix CDIW also was under the lights the night before. and their winning 72.826 percent represented a new personal best for the pairing who have only been at international grand prix since April of 2017.

“She’s an incredible mare; she always fights for you,” said Holzer. “People always told me that when you get a mare that’s amazing, they’re really amazing. I’ve had a few mares who weren’t so amazing, so I didn’t really believe them, but she has changed my mind. She’s a huge trier; every day I get on and have a great ride.”

“She’s so green, but she just keeps trying for you," said Holzer. "I came into the piaffe, and she got a bit stuck, but she’s so smart that I asked her to move a little forward and stay in piaffe, and she said, ‘OK’. At the end I thought, ‘My horse rocks!’”

However, Holzer has a few more aces up her sleeve, as she will shortly debut three brand new grand prix horses, all of whom she plans to campaign in Europe this summer.

“It’s amazing to me that at my age [54] I can still get on and go round this ring and have the best, most fun time," she said. "I watched [American winter Olympics skier] Lindsey Vonn’s speech when she had finished her last downhill race and she said she can’t keep going because her body can’t take it, and she was crying. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, how lucky am I that I get to keep going?’ I feel very fortunate and everything felt pretty nice tonight.”

Loxahatchee-based Francis finished 1.1 percent behindwith Doktor, while Canada’s Fraser posted her third plus-70 percent grand prix test score at this year’s AGDF on the 13-year-old All In to finish third.


IT'S BECOMING an extremely familiar sight: Heather Blitz and Praestemarkens Quatero leading the small tour prize-giving,and Blitz did it again in winning the Prix St Georges CDI3* on a scoreof 72.255 percent.

Blitz  added to Praestemarkens Quatero’s thus-far stunning record, having won nine of his 10 FEI small tour starts.

Imported three years ago, the 9-year-old stallion is proving remarkably consistent at the 2018 Festival under Blitz, 49.

Then Blitz did it yet again in the Intermediate I CDI3*,  in a class of 16 starters, scoring 70.784 percent.

A mistake and an unscheduled flying change coming out of the first pirouette couldn’t knock them off the top spot, so accurate, powerful and consistent was the rest of the test.

This victory takes their tally to 10 wins from 11 FEI starts for the 9-year-old,.

As in the Prix St Georges the day before, Canada’s Diane Creech gave Blitz the closest run, finishing second just 0.19 percent back.


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