Wellington, Fla. – March 24, 2017 – For Anna Buffini, competing in a Nations Cup had always been just a dream. It turned into a tangible goal when it was announced that the Nations Cup presented by Stillpoint Farm in Wellington, Florida, would include a U25 Nations Cup division during the 2017 winter season. Her own dreams and the dreams of her American U25 Nations Cup teammates came true on Friday night under the lights when she stood on the podium with her fellow riders wearing an individual gold medal after earning a 73.525 percent in the Grand Prix Freestyle with Sundayboy.
“It was so surreal,” Buffini said. “My dream has always been to compete a freestyle under the lights, and to do it in Sundayboy’s last competition ever and come out with the win was just unbelievable. I owe him so much and he just tried his heart out for me. I’m so proud of him — he’s such a star.”
Buffini decided a couple of weeks ago to retire her 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Sundayboy, after competing in the Nations Cup. He will return home to California with Buffini and spend the rest of his days trail-riding and eating all the treats he is allowed.
“He’s done everything for me,” Buffini explained. “I think he is the most decorated Young Rider horse in the history of the United States. So to end with that is pretty amazing. He’s given me his whole heart and that’s all I can ask.”
The pair certainly left their mark on American dressage, having had a successful career in the Young Riders division, winning the Brentina Cup, and now being the first gold-medal winning team in the United States U25 Nations Cup. Buffini had a blast wrapping up Sundayboy’s career in a fun freestyle test under the stadium lights.
“The most fun part for me was the piaffe/passage tour,” Buffini said. “He loves piaffing, he would do the whole test in piaffe if he could! He was unbelievable!”
Earning the silver medal with 71.675 percent was Buffini’s teammate Sean Sierra Keasler on Lux Stensvang, a 15-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding. Keasler shared the same dream as Buffini of competing under the stadium lights at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival.
“I had the same goal with Lux,” she said. “All I wanted to do was ride that horse under the lights. I had been behind the scenes, and all I wanted to do was ride under the lights myself.
“He was so good after two rocky days,” Keasler continued. “I was a little bit concerned with him and how he felt today. I went in there and he settled right into the ride, and I just remember doing as many changes as I could possibly do. That is his party trick — that’s what he’s really good at, so that’s what I did!”
“There was a moment where I was in the trot and came to the short side, and he started to swing to the music and just settled,” she said. “It was that moment where he relaxed and I could feel he actually went in the freestyle and moved with the music, and I thought, ‘Okay, this is what it’s about.’ That was the most fun part for me.”
Kaitlin Blythe and Don Principe, an 18-year-old Hanoverian stallion, claimed the individual bronze medal with a score of 68.575 percent.
“It was a magical feeling to compete here under the lights,” Blythe said. “It was only my second time doing this freestyle with Don Principe, so it was really fun to be able to do it here and earning a medal was really exciting for me.
“My horse loves to dance and he gets so excited when the music turns on,” she concluded. “It’s so fun to feel him enjoy it, it was so cute! I was really happy with my changes and just the general way he felt the whole time. He was really with me and was having as much fun as I was.”
CDIO3* U25 Grand Prix Freestyle Results
1. Anna Buffini/USA/Sundayboy/73.525
2. Sean Sierra Keasler/USA/Lux Stensvang/71.675
3. Kaitlin Blythe/USA/Don Principe/68.575
4. Molly Paris/USA/Countess/68.225
5. Mathilde Blais Tetreault/CAN/Utah/67.700
6. Kerrigan Gluch/USA/HGF Brio/66.400
7. Tanya Strasser-Shostak/CAN/Action Tyme/64.100
8. Genay Vaughn/USA/Donarweiss GGF/63.600