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Peggy Riley and Jetalito Sunny Step are golden at Western Dressage World Show

peggyjoelFor APHA member Peggy Verdonck Riley of Wetumpka, Alabama, the path to victory is paved with gold and chrome—paired with her 2004 palomino overo mare Jetalito Sunny Step, Peggy recently earned a world championship in Western dressage. Western Dressage Association of America World Championship Show took place November 1-2 in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Peggy and “Jay” were part of more than 430 teams competing for world championship titles in 36 classes at the premier Western dressage competition.

Paints were out in force at the competition, and a number of them took home top prizes [see end of this story and the January 2015 Paint Horse Journal’s “Paint Portfolio”]. Peggy and Jay competed in four classes, taking home a world championship in Level 1, Test 3 Open and a reserve world championship in Level 2, Test 1 Open, along with the Open Level 1 High-Point buckle.

Peggy shared her story with the Paint Horse Journal—read on and get inspired! And remember, Paints can earn recognition in Western and traditional dressage through APHA’s Paint Alternative Competition program, and some traditional dressage events are eligible for APHA points and other awards, too! Learn more about Western dressage in the July 2013 Paint Horse Journal, available at phj.apha.com.

A Journey to the Top
“At the beginning of this year, I posted my goals for 2014, The Year of the Horse, on Facebook. One of them was to participate in the WDAA World Show. The year went on with this in the back of my mind, but I was not sure if we would be able to go. Three months before the actual show date, my husband and I decided to not hesitate anymore and start making serious preparations. My horse, Jay, was in awesome shape and had done well in this year’s local shows—now, all we had to do is to make it real. Many fundraisers and some extra clinics later, the entry fees were paid and we were ready to go. There was a moment of insecurity when Jay got injured in the pasture and had to take a break for a few weeks, but everything turned out to be fine: Oklahoma, here we come!

On October 29, we left our humble farm, StarDutch Equine, in the trusting hands of our daughter, Lea, to start our adventure and long trip from Alabama to Tulsa, Oklahoma. We arrived late at night on Thursday, October 30. Our first ride was early Saturday morning, so we had Friday to rest and get settled in and time for one last light training session.

1414-25-9823On November 1, our first test, Level 2 Test 1 Open—Level 2 is the highest level we would be showing in that weekend, and one of the highest levels offered in Western dressage—went well and got us in a reserve champion out of 16 with a 64.8% score. I was very proud of the score and placing, considering this was only our second time showing at this level. It was a good start of the show!

Our second test, Level 1 Test 1 Open, also went well, besides a few little hiccups here and there. We earned fifth place out of 22 with a 70% score. Not bad, but I knew we could do better.

We were the first to start the Level 2 Test 3 Open class in the early morning of November 2. With a few hiccups again, including a lead change during our counter canter, we ended up sixth out of 10 with a 66.731% score.

Our fourth and final ride of the show was Level 1 Test 3 Open. I had read and studied all the judges’ comments from our previous rides that weekend over and over again—it was now or never. For the first time, I felt nervous. Jay and I gave it our all for this last test—a 75.132% score resulted in first place out of 20. Jay and I can now call ourselves 2014 Level 1 Western dressage world champions. And to make it even more complete, we also received the high-point buckle for the Level 1 Open division!

The whole experience was an emotional roller coaster to say the least, but we enjoyed every minute of it. This was our first big out-of-state show, and I am excited to add this to our list of accomplishments.

10422572_10203358444618881_1271073527150376199_nThe best thing was to see such a variety of people and horses of different breeds. They all came together to have a good time, to share their passion and to support each other—even if they had just met.

My husband, Joel, did an awesome job calling out all the tests for me; I never had to worry about that for one second. Besides that, he has been my rock and supporter in pursuing my dreams since the day we met! I also want to thank all my friends and family at the show and back home for believing in us!

Jay, my 10-year-old APHA mare, has been my main all-around horse for many years now. She was bred by Leo Copinga from Nietap, The Netherlands. I bought her when she was only 6 months old and moved with me from The Netherlands to the United States in 2006 as a 2-year-old. She’s shown in several different disciplines, from stock horse events to obstacles and currently Western dressage. She is the love of my life when it comes to horses.”

Painting Western Dressage
A number of Paints competed at the 2014 WDAA World Show; those who ranked especially high include:

Snow White Knight, a 2001 chestnut solid mare, ridden and owned by Jennifer Collman

  • Third in Level 2 Test 3 Open (68.46%)
  • Third in Level 3 Freestyle (63.8%)
  • Fourth in Level 3 Text 1 Open (69.32%)

Finest Five, a 1990 sorrel overo mare, ridden by Thallia Blight

  • First in Basic Level Test 1 Amateur (70.69%)
  • Second in Basic Level Freestyle (66.7%)
  • Fourth in Basic Level Test 1 Open (69.83%)

Diamonds Peppy Sandy, a 2007 palomino overo mare, ridden by Cynthia Collins

  • Third in Basic Level Freestyle (62.94%)

SWF Treasured Prints, a 2007 black tobiano gelding, ridden and owned by Gwen Hreceniuk

  • First in Level Test 2 Amateur (73.12%)
  • Second in Introductory Level Test 1 Amateur (72.14%)

Ozzerati, a 1998 bay overo gelding registered as Float Trip, ridden and owned by Paint Horse Journal editor Jessica Hein

  • Third in Introductory Level Test 2 Open (72.08%)
  • Fourth in Introductory Level Test 1 Amateur (68.92%)

Obviously Mighty, a 2004 sorrel overo gelding, ridden by Rand Peterson and owned by Edwin Peterson

  • First in Introductory Level Test 1 Junior (76.25%)
  • Fourth in Introductory Level Test 2 Junior (67.5%)

Tru Timepiece, a 2008 bay tovero mare, ridden by Brandie Sobatka and owned by Cindy Rau-Sobotka

  • First in Introductory Level Test 2 Junior (70.41%)
  • Second in Introductory Level Test 1 Junior (75.17%)
  • Third in Basic Level Test 1 Junior (70.64%)

KBS Timepiece, a 2004 black tobiano stallion, ridden and owned by Cindy Rau-Sobotka

  • Second in Basic Level Test 1 Amateur (68.71%)
  • Second Introductory Level Test 2 Amateur (72.91%)


[Reprinting all or part of this news release is permitted, so long as credit is given to the Paint Horse Journal and a link provided back to apha.com.]

About APHA

The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest international equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded. APHA creates and maintains programs that increase the value of American Paint Horses and enriches members’ experiences with their horses.