Wellington, Fla. – April 18, 2016 – Endel Ots had a whirlwind summer last year, qualifying and competing two horses for the U.S. in the FEI World Dressage Championships for Young Horses in Verden, Germany. At the 2015 Championships, Lucky Strike (Lord Laurie-Heidi, His Highness), a Hanoverian gelding owned by Ots and his father, Max Ots, finished 11th in the 5-Year-Old Final. Samhitas (Sir Donnerhall I-Heidebluete, Abanos), a Oldenburg gelding owned by Ots along with Jean and Gary Vander Ploeg, placed 11th in the 6-Year-Old small final.
Ots has grown from his experience in Europe and aims to return to the 2016 Championships with Lucky Strike, now 6 years old. The 2016 event will be held at the National Equestrian Center in Ermelo, Netherlands, from July 28-31. It will be the first time since 1997 that the Championships have left Verden.
We caught up with Ots after his ride on Lucky Strike at the Gold Coast Grand Finale national show in Wellington, Florida, where the pair earned an 8.52 in their FEI 6-Year-Old class.
How are you feeling about your ride on Lucky Strike in the FEI 6-Year-Old class?
I felt very good about it, and it was very solid. The horse was really with me, and we got all the changes in the test. We had super submission. I felt great about the walk and the trot.
The judges liked our canter work the best and gave us a 9.2.
What are your plans for the rest of the year with your young horses?
The World Championships for Young Horses is in Ermelo in July. Lucky Strike is qualified for Ermelo, as well as the Festival of Champions in Chicago that happens right after Worlds. As long as the placings work out, we will plan to go to both.
I have to talk to a few people to plan because last year I stayed in Europe for five weeks before the Championships. But this year, I know that Lucky Strike was good in the Verden environment. I think this year I will just go for 10 days before the show, compete, come back to Florida, then up to Chicago. Ideally, I would take Lucky Strike to Festival of Champions as well as my other young horse, Samhitas, in the Developing Prix St. Georges.
What do you think helps Lucky Strike excel in the young horse programs?
He really likes his work and loves to do his job. He is a dressage horse, and he doesn’t want to be anything else. He likes going in the ring to show, and that is a such an important thing for a young horse. If you want to do well in the young horse program, they really have to want to be dressage horses.
What do you hope to improve upon before heading to Europe?
I think I need to keep getting the walk a little bigger and then improve on the flying changes. They are solid, but I’d like to get the right lead change really straight and very consistent. The qualifying schedule is wrapping up here. In a way it helps because the Europeans are not showing to qualify yet, so when the qualifying season is done here in the United States, it is just starting over there. You can look at that in a positive way because we have already gone through the shows and now we have time to fine-tune things.
What inspires your focus on working with young dressage horses?
I love teaching young horses. When you do something right, you can be very happy with yourself, your horse and your work. When something comes up, I like that it is nobody else’s fault. I really like to look back and be self reflective to realize I should have worked on this, this or this a little bit better. Then I can tune and tweak the training.
When you start them early enough, you are not really carrying anyone else’s baggage into the ring. A long time ago I used to train horses that had already been trained, but it takes a bit longer to really develop a relationship. When you have the younger ones, then you know exactly how to do their warm-up, how they need to work and what makes it the best for them.