Faces of Dressage 2024

Faces of Dressage 2024
Once again, the regal sport of dressage is on display at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival here in Wellington. Often compared to “horse ballet” or “dancing with horses,” this Olympic sport showcases the grace, beauty and elegance of a horse and rider pair working together as one. But what comes across as effortless in the show ring is the end result of years of hard work and dedication. Dressage is one of those rare sports where riders often get better with age, and the best in the world are here in Wellington to compete, with many of the top riders keeping a keen eye on the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. That goes for American riders, but also for elite international riders in town for the season, as well as the talented and brave souls who ride in the awe-inspiring sport of para-dressage. As is our March tradition, we celebrate the hard work and determination of dressage riders in Faces of Dressage 2024, highlighting just a few of the amazing riders you will see in the AGDF ring.

German dressage rider Frederic Wandres has an impressive résumé. He competed at the 2022 FEI World Championships in Herning, where he received a bronze medal with the German team. He was on the long list for the Olympic Games in Tokyo and won a gold medal in 2019 at the World Championships for Young Dressage Horses. At the 2023 European Championships in Riesenbeck, Wandres earned the silver medal in team dressage. Last season at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, he won the AGDF 5 World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle with Bluetooth OLD and helped the German team capture the Stillpoint Farm FEI Nations Cup. This season, he has been having great success with new mount Floricella, owned by Alessa Marie Maass.

USDF Gold Medalist Anna Marek began showing and training dressage horses in 2001. With more than 150 scores at USDF-recognized shows on 50 different horses, Marek has won multiple championships every year since 2013. Her first regional championship win was in 2008 as a Junior/Young Rider. In 2010, Marek won National Reserve Champion Intermediate Junior/Young Rider. With her horse Unico, she rose to No. 12 nationwide during 2016. Marek represented the U.S. at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, where she won team gold and individual bronze medals. Marek stays very busy, riding up to 12 horses a day while teaching lessons and showing. She has had great success at the AGDF this year, winning the Friday Night Stars FEI World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle during Week 5.

Inspired by his mother’s interest in riding, Christian Simonson discovered dressage at age six. He quickly became the protégé of USDF Gold Medalist Gail Hoff Carmona and began showing at a national level at age 13, training under Olympian Jan Ebeling. He won both the gold team medal and silver individual medal at the 2016 Adequan/FEI NAYC, and the silver individual medal at the 2017 Adequan/FEI NAYC. He was awarded the USDF bronze and silver medals that year. In 2018, Simonson was invited to join the training program of dressage Olympian Adrienne Lyle, and he now spends his summers in Greenwood Village, Colorado, and his winters in Wellington. In 2022, Simonson and his mount Son of a Lady were invited to represent the U.S. at CHIO Aachen, where they ended up on the pod

Born and raised in England with her American mother and British father, para-equestrian Fiona Howard began riding when she was three. After a friend’s reining horses piqued her interest, she shifted her focus when she had the opportunity to qualify for the FEI European Reining Championships for Juniors and Young Riders. As part of the British Junior Reining Team, Howard was 14 and the youngest rider in the competition when she earned the bronze medal. Howard, who battles the neuromuscular disease dystonia, rode in her first para-dressage tests in 2021 at schooling shows. Coached by Paralympian Kate Shoemaker, Howard returned to the FEI arena as a Grade II para-dressage athlete in 2022. In 2023, Howard and Jagger earned second-place finishes in the Grade II test at the AGDF Week 3 CPEDI3*.

Spanish rider Pablo Gómez Molina was first introduced to horses at summer camp in Valencia. With his parents’ support, he continued to ride until he landed a working student post at age 19 with sponsors Cristina Danguillecourt and Javier Bacariza, owners of Yeguada De Ymas, a dressage breeding facility with bases in Spain and Wellington. They brought him to Wellington, which has been his winter home ever since. Gómez Molina claimed his first Grand Prix win during Week 7 of last year’s Adequan Global Dressage Festival riding the P.R.E. gelding Ulises De Ymas in the Iron Spring Farm CDI3* FEI Grand Prix. They followed up with another win during Week 10 in the Wellington Equestrian Realty CDI5* Grand Prix Special. Gómez Molina and Ulises De Ymas are back in action this year, taking second in the Grand Prix Special CDI4* during Week 3.

Kevin Kohmann grew up around horses in Germany. His success started with ponies, where in 2002, he won the pony regional championships. After this early success, Kohmann was regarded as a talented young professional and recruited to the United States to work under top trainers. This gave him the opportunity to ride more difficult horses. In doing so, he discovered that he could take even the most difficult horses and turn them into successful partners. Now an American citizen, Kohmann joined the Diamante Farms training team in 2014, and he remains based in Wellington. He often rides at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, where he recently took second in the Friday Night Stars FEI World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle with Diamante Farms’ Dünensee.

American rider Kerrigan Gluch tried many disciplines as a youngster and fell in love with the beauty and challenge of dressage. At age 14, Gluch had the opportunity to attend a clinic with Robert Dover in Wellington. It would prove to be a turning point when she met Kimberly Van Kampen of Hampton Green Farm. She became a full-time working student at the farm and has been based there ever since. Gluch has achieved both Young Rider and U25 Reserve National Championship distinctions, several U25 Nations Cup team medals and has represented the U.S. in Europe twice. Gluch is also a Discover Dressage USEF/USDF Emerging Athlete Program participant. As a newcomer at the Grand Prix level with her mount Mejorano HGF, her results have been promising. Gluch and Mejorano HGF won the Fair Sky Farm CDI3* Grand Prix Special during Week 10 of last year’s AGDF

British dressage rider Susan Pape was born and raised in the Netherlands to parents from Britain. She moved to Germany in 1982 to do an apprenticeship at Eugen Wahler’s Klosterhof Medingen and went on to train with German dressage rider Herbert Rehbein and his wife Karin. Today, she is based at the Hengststation Pape stables, which she operates with her husband Ingo in Hemmoor, Germany. She also spends time in Wellington, working with John and Leslie Malone at Harmony Sporthorses and competing at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. Earlier this season, Pape and Harmony’s Oldenburg stallion V-Plus took the top spot during AGDF Week 3, claiming the Grand Prix Special CDI4*, sponsored by Donato Farms. Pape was the unanimous choice from all five judges.

Rising German dressage star Felicitas Hendricks has taken this year’s Adequan Global Dressage Festival by storm, racking up a string of impressive victories with Drombusch OLD, her 13-year-old championship mount. Coached by her uncle, Christoph Koschel, Hendricks first came to Florida as a junior rider. Before arriving for the season, Hendricks won the 2023 European Under 25 Championships in Pilisjaszfalu, Hungary. Hendricks made her international debut at AGDF in 2015 and returned this year to land big wins right off the bat, starting with the FEI World Cup Grand Prix on opening day. She followed that up with a victory in the season’s first FEI World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle. The wins kept coming when she returned to the ring during AGDF Week 3, leaving her unbeaten in her first four starts in Wellington this season.

The ever-impressive Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén represents her native Sweden and has competed at seven Olympic Games. She placed fourth in team dressage in 1992 in Barcelona and 2008 in Beijing. She also placed eighth at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Vilhelmson-Silfvén has also competed at seven editions of the Dressage World Cup finals. In 2011, she helped create the Lövsta Future Challenge with Louise Nathhorst and support from Antonia Ax:son Johnson through Lövsta Stuteri. Vilhelmson-Silfvén has been spending her winters in Wellington for years and is a regular at the AGDF. Vilhelmson-Silfvén and Lövsta Stuteri’s Hyatt were the winners of the BluCreeq Spirits CDI3* Grand Prix Special during Week 5 of this year’s festival. She took third in the Grand Prix Special CDI3* during Week 1, also with Hyatt.