Lexington, Ky. – Nov. 11, 2018 – It was déjà vu for Nora Batchelder of Williston, Florida, as she took a victory lap around the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park on the final day of competition at the US Dressage Finals. Once again, she had claimed both the champion and reserve champion placings in the competitive Prix St. Georges Open championship. There was one small difference, however: this time she rode her mare Fifi MLW to the win.
Both of Batchelder’s mounts, 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding Faro SQF and 9-year-old Hanoverian mare Fifi MLW, have often run neck and neck in the show ring, battling for the top placings. At last year’s US Dressage Finals, it was Faro SQF who came out on top, taking the division’s championship with a score of 71.974 percent. Fifi MLW finished second behind Faro SQF with a score of 70.921 percent in 2017. She was even awarded the Lloyd Landkamer Perpetual Trophy, which is presented to the highest FEI scoring mare at the US Dressage Finals.
This year, after countless hours of training with dressage figures such as Shelly Francis and Debbie McDonald as a member of the US Equestrian Dressage Development Program, Batchelder was confident that she would see both of her special mounts’ performances improve even more from the previous year. Fifi MLW not only finished with a total score of 73.137 percent, she also surpassed Faro SQF, proving she was not always destined to be the bridesmaid.
In addition to the Prix St. Georges Open Championship, Batchelder also claimed another victory earlier this week in the Intermediate I Freestyle Open Championship aboard Faro SQF with an impressive score of 77.383 percent, and Fifi MLW took the reserve tricolor with a 76.783 percent. Faro SQF continued his success by earning the reserve ribbon in the Intermediate I Open Championship, while Fifi took third in the same class with a 70.196 percent.
Batchelder believes that her consistent show ring success has come from not only having such great outside resources available to her, but also having such a strong support system at home. Training with her parents Verne Batchelder and Jeanie Hahn at their home base, River House Hanoverians, has given her a unique opportunity to develop her various mounts with the help of their diverse backgrounds and perspectives within the equine world.
Results: Prix St. Georges Open Championship
Rider / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Nora Batchelder / Fifi MLW / Nora Batchelder / 73.137
2. Nora Batchelder / Faro SQF / Nora Batchelder / 71.765
3. Heather Mason / Romantico SF / Heather Mason / 71.127
4. Heather Mason / RTF Lincoln / Heather Mason / 70.000
5. Heather McCarthy / Au Revoir / Sandi Chohany / 69.461
6. Angela Jackson / Figaro H / Angela Jackson / 68.725
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
On her two horses:
“It’s always fun to come here and do well. It’s such a great show. I’m extremely lucky to have two such nice horses to ride. My other horses are great but these two are very special —they are super quality horses. They are both bred in Florida where I live. Faro was bred by Jill Peterson and Fifi was bred by Mary Lou Winn. They both used to live right down the road from me. When I went looking for Fifi, I really wanted to buy a horse who was bred in the US. Faro was actually out of a mare we imported, then we sold that mare. I had known him peripherally, but I hadn’t really seen him. When he was a little older he got sent to me for training and I said ‘I can’t let this horse go.’ I actually called my cousin and said, ‘hey, you want to buy a horse together?’
“I’ve had Fifi for three-and-a-half years, and Faro I’ve had two years now. He was a great amateur horse and his owner loved him, but he was just a little too big for her and they were struggling a bit with getting changes so she decided to sell him. He came to me to work on the changes and I was sold. Fifi had shown Training Level when I purchased her, and schooled a bit more than that, but she didn’t have changes. I didn’t really show her until I had her almost a year, then I started her at Third Level.”
On the differences between her mounts:
“They’re very different. Fifi is very powerful and she’s actually not as tall as Faro but she’s more horse to manage than Faro. She has really big gates and really likes to push, so I have to make sure I get her sitting. Faro is a little bit more polite. He really waits for me and is really smooth. He’ll power up as much as I ask for, but he’s not as powerful as Fifi.”
On her training system:
“Our farm is River House Hanoverians, and it was started by my parents. Both of my parents are equine professionals in dressage. My mom and I mostly run the farm there, we have horses in training and we do some breeding. My dad does a ton of clinics, coaching up and down the East coast. Verne Batchelder and Jeanie Hahn. It’s a family affair. My mom is here and my dad is taking care of the farm. She is really good at being eyes on the ground and telling me what looks good and what needs work before we go in.”
On training with the U.S. Developing Program:
“We’ve been involved in the developing programs a bit, so we got to work with Debbie McDonald. We’ve done several of those down in Florida at Havensafe Farm. It’s super helpful, just getting input from that caliber of trainer is the best. She’s helped me mostly with Fifi, and we worked a lot on improving the connection. Fifi’s strongest traits are the walk and the trot, so improving her canter has been our focus. Getting her quicker and sitting, just using that to help the connection.”
On her future plans:
“We’re going to do some training and keep working on Grand Prix to see how that goes. Fifi is young enough to maybe do Developing Grand Prix next year, so I think that’s our stretch goal for next year. Faro we may do some Intermediate II and see how it goes. They’re both working well on the Grand Prix stuff, but maybe not ready to jump in the deep end yet.”