Roxanne Trunnell is a 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympian and a two-time FEI World Equestrian Games U.S. Para Dressage team member. Trunnell is currently the highest-ranked para dressage athlete in the world by FEI rankings and has broken numerous records. As a competitor in able-bodied dressage, Trunnell earned a United States Dressage Federation (USDF) bronze medal and was close to obtaining her silver medal before contracting a virus in 2009 that caused swelling in her brain, changing her life forever and requiring her to use a wheelchair. However, she refused to let this stifle her dreams. After a long recovery, she rode her first CPEDI event in 2013. Here in Wellington, she dominated the FEI Para Team Test Grade I CPEDI3* class with Dolton during Week 3 of the 2020 Adequan Global Dressage Festival. She secured several more victories during para dressage competitions at this year’s festival, also riding Dolton, owned by Flintwood Farm LLC.
When amateur dressage rider PJ Rizvi first came to Wellington in 1999, she was 29 years old and competing in the amateur jumpers at the Winter Equestrian Festival. She had no children and was working on dressage with her jumper to improve her flatwork. It was her friendship with Olympic dressage rider Ashley Holzer that brought her into the fold of the dressage world and kept her a part of it throughout four pregnancies in six years. But it was Wellington and the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) that gave Rizvi the confidence to ride at the top levels of international sport and the chance to share time and horses with her whole family.
After that first winter competing at WEF, she was back in New York and taking dressage lessons with Holzer, whom she has known since she was 22 years old. But riding was put on hold when she gave birth to her first daughter Yasmin in 2001. With three more children over five years, Rizvi could only ride periodically between pregnancies.
“I showed Fourth Level after child two, Prix St. Georges after child three, and then after child four, I started doing Grand Prix,” she recalled with a laugh. “The kids were starting in ponies, so getting out to White Fences [in Loxahatchee] was difficult. It was hard for me to watch my kids and go do dressage all at the same time.”
When Equestrian Sport Productions planned and broke ground for a new horse show facility to host the AGDF, Rizvi and her husband Suhail signed up to be founding sponsors, and when the circuit started in 2012, it propelled her into the next level of the sport.
“Having the opportunity to show at Global changed things a lot for me because I went from being a very novice amateur rider, and then the very next year, I did my first CDI in Wellington with my old partner Breaking Dawn,” Rizvi said. “I was able to show the CDIs for the next three seasons with him, and I went from being just a mom with no ranking to having a world ranking, which my kids thought was very funny.”
The horse show circuit in Wellington, both jumping and dressage, brought success to the whole Rizvi family. While mom was moving up at AGDF, daughters Yasmin, Farah and Zayna were riding ponies and graduating to the equitation and junior jumper ranks. Farah also took an interest in her mother’s sport and competed in the FEI Pony dressage division at AGDF for multiple seasons.
“It’s great to pursue my passion and do something that I love,” Rizvi said. “I think it has set a good example to my girls, not just with riding but with other aspects of their life, because they realize these things take a lot of commitment and time, but at the end of the day, you just have to love it and enjoy it or it’s not worth it. I think it has been good for them to see their mother have her own passion and interests.”
Rizvi’s horse Breaking Dawn, who competed at the 2012 London Olympic Games with Holzer before Rizvi took over the ride, is 21 years old now and retired. Rizvi and “Edward” won their final class together, the Grand Prix Special CDI3*, at the 2019 AGDF.
“AGDF gave me the opportunity to develop and compete against great riders and have a really great community, and I find that the dressage community as a whole is really friendly and helpful,” she said. “I miss Friday Night Stars more than anything! To have a few thousand people watching you and cheering is just electrifying. You feel like everyone is rooting for you even if you don’t have your best test.”
Rizvi plans to compete at this year’s AGDF when time allows. While Yasmin, 20, is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and 17-year-old Farah is preparing for college, Zayna, 15, is “all about the jumpers.” Her son Arslan, 13, rode polo for years before making tennis his main sport. Suhail enjoys watching his wife and daughters ride but is also one who will help his wife stay up with a sick horse at night. “He really loves animals,” Rizvi noted. “He thinks it’s fun when they are spunky and do naughty things!”
The Rizvi family enjoy the summers in Wellington ever since they moved full-time from New York in 2015. Takeout and margaritas from Don Chepo’s is a regular occurrence, as is visiting friends in town for cookouts and enjoying the beautiful weather year-round.
Rizvi is closely involved with Polo for Life, a Wellington-based nonprofit that has raised almost $2 million to help support pediatric cancer patients and their families, and focuses on direct impact initiatives by partnering with local organizations to ensure that the needs of patients and their families are met and their financial hardships, resulting from a cancer diagnosis, are minimized.
It’s a cause that is close to Rizvi’s heart, as her sister Penny passed away from leukemia. Yasmin, Farah and Zayna help their mother by soliciting auction items, selling tables to the fundraising event, volunteering and enjoy spending time with the children and their siblings and taking them shopping at Christmas.
It’s a delicate balance of time management for her family, nonprofit work and riding. “I don’t know if there’s a secret,” she said. “I’m extremely organized. Family is the first priority for me. You have to create a balance. It can’t be so all consuming that the only world is horses and you’re not aware of anything else that is going on. My kids are very well-rounded, which is super important. I have always told them that they need to look at riding as a long-term sport.”
For Rizvi, the connection to AGDF is so important because it helped make dressage a lifelong sport for her.
“I didn’t grow up riding. It was something that was made possible for me in the second half of my life that I never thought could happen,” she said. “If it wasn’t here all in one place, in Wellington, I couldn’t have done it.”
That advice rings true when Rizvi looks back at her decades of time with horses, from when she was broke in her 20s and had to ride bareback starting out with her first horse, to her summer competing in CDIs in France and Austria, to this season where, at 50 years old, she will go back to the ring after two years off from international competition.
Those who weather the changes and the years and get the most out of their time with horses come away with a lifetime of memories.
Rizvi and her family will be the first to tell you that their time with horses is worth it, and the best may be yet to come.
Each winter, the majestic sport of dressage is on display here in Wellington, home of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, which is celebrating its 10th season this year. Often compared to “dancing with horses,” the Olympic sport of dressage showcases the grace, beauty and elegance of horse and rider pairs working together as one. While the top dressage shows will be harder to see in person this season due to COVID-19 restrictions, top riders from around the world have returned to participate in AGDF, North America’s most prestigious dressage series. AGDF opened in January and continues at Equestrian Village through April 4 featuring 10 weeks of competition, with seven of those weeks offering international, FEI-level classes. You can catch all the action streaming live at www.globaldressagefestival.com. Meanwhile, check out just a few of the amazing dressage riders competing at AGDF in our annual Faces of Dressage pictorial section.
German-born Olympian Steffen Peters, who competes for the U.S., began riding at age 7, and by age 15 was competing at the international level. After receiving his first horse, Udon, at age 16, Peters began seriously training in dressage. It was aboard Udon that Peters won a team bronze medal when he represented the U.S. at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Peters has represented the U.S. at numerous other international competitions, including the World Equestrian Games in 2006 and 2010, when he secured bronze medals, and 2018, when he took silver. He returned to the Olympics in 2016 and helped the U.S. to the bronze medal in team dressage. Peters has been named the USEF Equestrian of the Year a record three times. Last year at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, he led the U.S. dressage team to a Nations Cup victory in Week 10. He was back to his winning ways this season, earning his 16th win in a row with mount Suppenkasper to open AGDF 3 by winning the FEI Grand Prix CDI4*, presented by Havensafe Farm.
Adrienne Lyle was raised on a small cattle farm in Whidbey Island, Washington and has always spent time around horses. She originally rode western, then switched to English at age seven. She tried eventing before dressage became her calling. Lyle began competing at age 13. She was a member of the silver medal team at the 2002 Cosequin Junior Dressage Championships and the bronze medal Region 6 team at the 2004 North American Young Rider Championships. Career highlights include competing in the 2012 Olympic Games in London and contributing to a fourth-place team finish at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in France. Lyle and her mount Salvino had a string of wins at the 2018 AGDF. The pair qualified for the World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018, where they helped the U.S. team win the silver medal. After several big wins at the 2020 AGDF, she started this season off with a bang, notching back-to-back wins at AGDF 1 with Harmony’s Duval, including the FEI Grand Prix CDI3* and the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI3*.
Olivia LaGoy-Weltz grew up in San Francisco, where she began riding at age 5. In 2002, she moved to Europe and spent five years in Holland and Germany at several top barns. She then returned to the U.S. and started her own dressage training business. Currently, LaGoy-Weltz runs a selective training program dedicated to top-quality horse and rider development at Mountain Crest Farm and is based seasonally in northern Virginia and Wellington. LaGoy-Weltz began competing on the Florida circuit in 2009. In 2012 and 2013, she had strong performances with Rifallino. A USDF gold, silver and bronze medalist, LaGoy-Weltz was Traveling Small Tour Alternate for the 2015 Pan American Games. LaGoy-Weltz had a number of victories at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in 2020. This year, she got off to her winning ways early, dominating the second day of the AGDF when LaGoy-Weltz and Rassing’s Lonoir bested an impressive lineup in the day’s FEI Grand Prix CDI-W, presented by Lövsta.
Katherine Bateson-Chandler, born in Great Britain, moved to New Jersey when she was 13. Starting at age 16, she worked for American dressage star Robert Dover for 16 years until his retirement, traveling with the horses to international competitions. In 2010, Bateson-Chandler represented the U.S. at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, riding Jane Clark’s KWPN gelding Nartan. Based in Wellington, Bateson-Chandler and her current mount Alcazar, also owned by Clark, regularly compete at the Grand Prix level in Wellington and overseas. They’ve been first-place Grand Prix winners every year since their partnership began in 2015. In 2018, Bateson-Chandler and Alcazar won the Grand Prix Special during AGDF Week 5 and placed third in the Grand Prix CDI4* during Week 10. In 2020, she won the FEI Grand Prix CDI5* and the CDI5* Freestyle with Alcazar at Week 7 of the AGDF. This dynamic duo is back in action this year in Wellington with several strong showings early in the season.
Christoph Koschel comes from a leading equestrian family in Germany, as his father ran one of the top training facilities in the world. After graduating as a lawyer, Koschel joined his father at their training stables. Koschel competed at the 2010 World Equestrian Games winning team bronze, and the 2011 European Championships, winning team silver. He had great success during this time period with the gelding Donnperignon. Koschel is known as a great coach. He has coached a lengthy roster of international riders, including his niece, Felicitas Hendricks, and all of the Japanese dressage team riders, including Kiichi Harada here in Wellington. He coached Harada at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Koschel is a master of focus in the international arena, and many of the riders associated with him achieve great results. Koschel is off to a great start this season at AGDF in Wellington, winning the FEI Grand Prix CDI4* for freestyle during Week 3.
Born to Canadian parents in Nigeria, Yvonne Losos de Muñiz rides for the Dominican Republic, which has been her home since 1990. She became the first Dominican rider to participate in the Olympics when competing in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Games. Her career began early with support from her parents before formal training in Germany. Listed among the best riders in all of Latin America, Losos de Muñiz has many awards under her belt. She won a bronze medal at the 2007 Pan-American Games in Rio, repeating the feat of the 2003 Pan-American Games in Santo Domingo. Prior to that, Losos de Muñiz won individual gold and bronze as a team in the Central American Games 2002 in El Salvador, and she has won several medals since at the Central American Games. In Wellington, she has secured several big wins, most recently taking the Grand Prix CDIW and Grand Prix Freestyle CDIW with her longtime partner Aquamarijn in December at the final competition before the start of the 2021 AGDF.
One of the all-time great top coaches, trainers and riders, four-time Olympian Ashley Holzer changed her citizenship from Canadian to American in 2016 after being based out of New York since 1994. Holzer began riding as a teen, first entering the Grand Prix ring in the 1980s. She was a member of Canada’s bronze medal dressage team at the 1988 Olympics and represented Canada at the World Equestrian Games in 1990, 2002 and 2006, and the World Cup Finals in 1989 and 2009. She won team gold and silver at the Pan American Games in 1991 and 2003, respectively. Holzer has been a regular in Wellington for decades and enjoys sharing her talents while teaching and competing. Holzer had success last season with mount Mango Eastwood, owned by Diane Fellows, winning the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI3* on the last weekend of the shortened season. She is back in action this season, finding success with her own mare Valentine, taking second place in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI-W during AGDF Week 5.