Voerde, Germany – July 27, 2016 – David Wightman, based out of Adventure Farms with his wife Kathleen Raine in Murrieta, California, is getting ready for the next big step with Silberpfeil, a 6-year-old Hanoverian gelding. Wightman on Silberpfeil (Silberschmied-Barcelona, Boss), as well as Endel Ots on Lucky Strike, will represent the United States at the Longines FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Dressage Championships for Young Horses held at the National Equestrian Center in Ermelo, Netherlands, July 28-31.
The pair placed fourth in last year’s 5-year-old division at the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Dressage Horse Championships hosted at Lamplight Equestrian Center, in Wayne, Illinois. After taking a hiatus from showing until early this year, Wightman qualified Silberpfeil for the world championships in Ermelo with CDI scores up to 85 percent in the FEI 6-year-old test.
We caught up with Wightman during his final days of preparation in Germany with Johann Hinnemann before he heads to Ermelo for the championships.
What do you think allows Silberpfeil to excel in the Young Horse Program?
The quality of his gaits. This horse has three gaits that are a very high quality, and it makes him stand out. We bought him as a 3-year-old from Johann Hinnemann, and I could see even at such a young age that he had three quality gaits.
What inspires you to focus on working with young horses?
We can’t afford the trained ones, and if we want to compete at an international level, then we have to train the young horses. We’ve always trained our own young horses and have had success. For example, horses like Partous, Breanna, Avontuur, and Garein all competed as young horses and then matured to compete in top CDIs, world championships and the Olympics.
So you enjoy working with young horses because they are a blank slate and you can mold them into a top Grand Prix competitor?
Absolutely. To be honest, I prefer working with young horses. I’d rather have a horse you can really develop a rapport with so you can become a team.
What have you been working on with Silberpfeil leading up to the championships in Ermelo?
I have been working on trying to get him a bit more active and quick in his hind legs.
What are a few of his highlights that the judges often reward?
Usually, they reward his walk because it’s very high quality. Whenever everything goes well, he gets solid scores throughout his test.
What is his personality like around the barn?
He is such an unbelievably sweet horse. He always wants to be around people, and he is very friendly and outgoing. When I am riding, he loves to work, but he can be a little bit hot. At the beginning of the year I had not had him out since Chicago [the 2015 Markel/USEF Young and Developing Dressage National Championships] so he was a little fresh at the first show of the year. The second show he was much better and by Del Mar he was really good.
It’s a process throughout the year when you are training a young horse, especially with a 6-year-old when they are learning the flying change. Our qualifications are pretty early in the year, and most countries qualify much later. So our horses have to be really prepared very early on, and you have to focus through the winter on starting the flying changes. The changes have to be ready and immediately the young horse has to do really well in the show. It’s not so easy for a young horse! It’s a lot of pressure very fast.
What kind of ride does he typically need?
If his rideability is taken care of and if I can do a good job as a rider and preparing him well, he is usually really quite good. He is not spooky or distracted, so as long as I do my job he does a good job too.
What is your schedule like in Europe?
We arrived a few days ago and have had three to four days of training already. On Wednesday [July 27] we will head to Ermelo. Endel [Ots] and I are currently with Johann Hinnemann in Germany. Silberpfeil had a bit of a rough trip coming over, but he is settled and working really well. He was imported from Europe, but it’s his first time coming back to compete.
I am very thankful for the opportunities with this horse and for [U.S. Dressage Young Horse Coach] Christine Traurig’s help preparing me for Ermelo. I was not able to travel to Europe as early as I had wanted to, so we did a lot of work at home, and Christine was a big part of that.