USA’s Jennifer Williams and Joppe K moved up the leaderboard on Saturday at the Thunderbird Dressage CDI, presented by Winifred Steinkopf Hall, Gordon & Wendy Christoff, and Blue Heron Farm, to captured their third CDI3* win in the past five weeks.
In a head to head competition against Friday’s CDI3* winners Pia Fortmüller and Frieda, Williams and the nine-year-old KWPN gelding came out ahead in the CDI3* FEI Grand Prix Special, sponsored by Wendy Christoff, earning a score of 69.362% from the judges to Fortmüller’s 68.553%.
“I thought that the overall picture and harmony was better today [than on Friday]. He gave me a great feeling in the energy and yet remain very relaxed through most of the test. [He had] a lot of power in the extended canter, sat nicely in the pirouettes. I had some mistakes in the tempis that were unfortunate. Those are usually a strong piece for us.
“But what I was really focused on was good quality reactions in the piaffe and passage, and he was answering all of those questions with a great attitude and a lot of a super effort.”
The part Williams was most proud of, however, was their improvement over Friday’s Big Tour class, where they finished second on 65.913% but withered in the heat.
“I won the warm ups yesterday,” joked Williams. “I tested things just a little more than maybe necessary [in the warm up] and so then he got a little tired by the end of the test. I stayed up [last night] really thinking about how I could do a better job for him and ride him better today and kept the warm up very short and sweet and just tested a few reactions.
“He’s very obedient. He’s very correct in a lot of the things that he does. So I just had to really trust that training.
“I was very proud of how I adapted the warm up from yesterday to today. I felt like I was able to make some adjustments that kept him more fresh the second day—that was a win for me.”
Joppe K is a “future horse,” said Williams, and new to the Grand Prix level. The pair moved up to the Big Tour in February. Last month at the Touch of Class CDI at tbird, they cracked 70% for the first time at the level, winning both the CDI3* Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special.
Williams and the nine-year-old gelding have since been named to the U.S. Dressage short list for the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games. But while Williams said it would “be amazing” to ride for the senior team in Santiago, she’s focused on their long term goals.
“I want, number one, that my horse is sound and happy and healthy. And number two, I’m looking for a feeling in the ring that he’s rideable and giving me the reactions that I would like. If those two things happen and we score well and score high enough and place well, great. But when you start looking for the end result first and you try to skip the soundness or the throughness or the ride-ability, then it’s not going to work out anyway.
“He’s so young. He’s a future horse. So, I want him to always feel proud of himself and love the game. I’m just going to keep building him for the future and enjoying the ride. I have so much gratitude for everybody that’s helped me get to this point and especially him.”