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1996 Olympic Veteran Mara Dean Leads After Dressage Day One At Rolex
Lexington, KY, USA
Photos: Anthony Trollope/EWBNews.com

EWB News Service
Kristin Bachman and Gryffindor
If the opening day of dressage is any indicator, then spectators at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI**** Presented by Farnam are in for a weekend of thrilling competition as the most challenging equine competition in the United States continues.

With a score of 43.2, Nicki Henley, ridden by 1996 Olympic veteran Mara Dean of Round Hill, VA, was the best of the 28 horses competing on Thursday in the dressage phase of the competition - just 0.5 points in front of Courageous Comet and Becky Holder of Mendota Heights, Minn.

Although two Americans were leading, international riders were well represented among Thursday's best performers. Rounding out the top 10 were: From, Stephen Bradley (USA) (43.9); Call Me Clifton, Donna Smith (NZL) (45.6); Northern Spy, Heidi J. White (USA), (49.4); Coup de Coeur, William Fox-Pitt (GBR) (50.7); Woodstock, Amy Tryon (USA) (51.1); Windswept, Penny Rowland (CAN) (53.3); Yeoman's Point, Andrew Hoy (AUS) (54.6); Hyperlite, Bruce "Buck" Davidson Jr. (USA) (56.3). The rest of the field, another 29 horses, will try to best these scores when they take to the Sheila Johnson Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park at 9 a.m. Friday, April 28, to perform their dressage tests.

The Kentucky Horse Park also received a special visit Thursday from the governor of Kentucky, Ernie Fletcher, who announced an historic first: Para-equestrian events will be a part of the FEI Games World Equestrian Championships in 2010 at the Kentucky Horse Park. This international competition, being held for the first time in the United States, is expected to attract hundreds of the world's top riders in eight equestrian disciplines and 300,000 spectators.

EWB News Service
Mike Winter and King Pin
"For the first time ever in the history of the FEI Games, not only will the games be held outside of Europe, but all eight disciplines will take place in one venue," - including dressage and carriage driving for disabled athletes, said the governor at a press conference before the equestrian media gathered for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.

Following the announcement, attention returned to the dressage phase of the competition where horse and rider must perform a prescribed series of movements at the walk, trot and canter that are scored similar to the game of golf: The lower the score, the better the performance. Riders then try to avoid accumulating additional penalties during the two jumping phases on Saturday and Sunday.

Dean credited coaching from six-time U.S. Olympian veteran Robert Dover for helping her improve her performance. At the more advanced levels of eventing, the dressage phase is becoming more important, with many of the top riders going clear in the jumping rounds.

"The difficulty [of the dressage test] has stepped up a level," Dean said at press conference after the day's competition ended. "I think that is where the sport is going. It has gotten more competitive, but the best will shine through."

Holder, who also has been coached by Dover, credited him with helping her get through a "melt-down" during her dressage warm-up when she missed eight or nine lead changes at the canter. Dover told her to ignore the scoreboard and just ride her test. "He said I was trying too hard," she said. "I am sure he had his fingers crossed."

On Saturday, April 29, the excitement continues with the demanding cross-country jumping phase, which begins at 9 a.m. over a recently modified course that includes a Normandy Bank. The final test of horse and rider, show jumping, will be held from noon-3 p.m. Sunday, April 30, in the Sheila Johnson Arena at the park.

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