Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brazilian superstar Rodrigo Pessoa and Let's Fly Win $75,000 Grand Prix de Penn National. Erynn Ballard from Canada end up second

Brazilian superstar Rodrigo Pessoa headed the winning line-up of International riders in $75,000 Grand Prix de Penn National on the final day of the 64th Pennsylvania National Horse Show.

Pessoa, Olympic Gold Medalist and three time World Cup winner, aboard Let's Fly, was the eighth rider on course and the first to navigate the course designed by Steve Stephens without a rail down.

"I have been riding him for a little over a year and a half", said Pessoa. "I started him in the bigger classes this year in Florida and he has been doing really good. This is his fourth big Grand Prix this year. He won a big Grand Prix in Charlotte in April, in Rome he won the big CSIO and in Jacksonville and he placed in big Grand Prix in Europe over the summer, he's really been fantastic for us."

"In the first round I was a little bit lucky at fence 10, he is the kind of horse, he is not a spectacular jumper, he knows his way around, but he always touches one or two like that but he is a very smart horse."

The very enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd watched six more horse and rider combinations exit the ring with faults before Leslie Burr Howard, Westport, CT, and Lennox Lewis 2 thrilled them with a fault free round and the assurance of a jump off.

Ljubov Kochetova, hailing from Russia, with her mount Aslan were the next pairing to leave all the rails up followed by Mario Deslauriers and Vicomte D. Carlos Boy and Ken Berkley added their names to the jump off list as did Erynn Ballard of Canada, and her mount Robin Van Roosendael. This gave us a truly international field for the jump off. Of the six countries represented in the class, four would be sending riders into the jump off.

By virtue of being the first clear round, Pessoa would be first in the jump off. He entered the ring with determination and a plan. When he and Let's Fly were finished he had turned in another fault free round and stopped the timers in 33.73 seconds.

"The jump off, you know, going first I thought I had to come up with something to make it difficult for the rest of them", explained Pessoa. "With all those good riders coming behind, you have to come up with something. So there was a little gap after fence 2 to go inside and I thought if I did that it would be hard enough to be beat. I had to do it, take the chance, and it worked out for me."

"He is really a simple horse to ride. He is very intelligent and he is an easy horse to ride really. He makes the rider look good because he is really not complicated. If anything he is a little bit spooky. He is out of the same mother as Sutterfly and there are a lot of similarities. He is a little tense and spooky but he is getting better every time he is coming in the ring."

"This horse is really good indoor so I thought I would take him to this show. This course was harder than it appeared when we walked it. This is the first indoor, and the fences come up very quick and the horses are still in the outdoor mode. This course was nice, the fences were not crazy big, but it had it's difficulties. The result was good."

Howard and Lennox Lewis 2 set out to catch the leader, but were not as lucky. Lennox Lewis knocked down two rails for an eight fault penalty in a time of 37.69 and would finish the day in sixth place.

Kochetova and Aslan, a giant of a horse, navigated the jump off course without penalty, but their time of 40.10 seconds left lots of room for them to be overtaken. They would finish the class in third place.

Mario Deslauriers and the 11 year old Vicomte D did not have luck on their side as the big grey took down a rail at fence five and in the combination for a total of eight faults in a time of 36.64. As the fastest pair with eight faults, they finished in fifth place.

Ken Berkley, hailing from Flemington, NJ, and Carlos Boy gave it their best shot and almost made it around fault free, but the last fence was their undoing and they crossed the timers with four faults in a time of 36.77 and ended in fourth place.

Erynn Ballard was the last to go with her huge Belgian bred gelding. The horse won over the crowd as he stood there in the middle of the ring like a statue except for the flapping of his lower lip. When he moved off, he did so with purpose and after the six fence jump off, crossed the timers with a clear round in 39.13 seconds. The round would place them in second place.

"I've had him for six years", said Ballard. "He was very difficult when I got him, and he is very big for a girl, so it took us a while to get him to go my way and that is part of his routine. He walks in and he stands and he stares and he looks and then he is ready to go. He'll tell you when he is ready. If you leg him and he gets frozen again, wait a second and then go. He is a very nervous horse."

"My plan in the jump off was to go clear. He is not a fast horse, but I knew that I couldn't beat Rodrigo, and it wasn't even worth trying, I knew that I could probably end up second if I was smart enough. Walking in last when there are two clear and one is very fast and one is very slow, I was aiming for second place. There were also three with rails and I wanted to make sure that I didn't do anything silly and risk having a rail down."

With four countries represented with the top four placings, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show proved that it is a truly international event with top riders and horses from around the world.

The 65th Pennsylvania National Horse Show will run October 14-23, 2010, at the Pennsylvania Farm and Show Complex in Harrisburg, and will again feature 10 full days of hunter and jumper competition with both amateurs and professionals vying for the coveted championships. The Pennsylvania National hosts 10 national championships. The competition highlight is the Grand Prix de Penn National on Saturday evening.

Special event highlights will include: Hunt Night Competition, Jack Russell Terrier Races, The North American Fox Hunting Horn Blowing Championship, Family Days with Free Pony Rides. There will be demonstrations, as well as special educational events.

The show is entertaining and educational. Approximately 70 vendors are accepted offering a wide variety of items: clothing, gifts and antiques, custom signs and furniture, fine and costume jewelry, toys, pet items, t-shirts and tack shops. All offer a unique variety of items sure to please horse lovers and non-horse people alike.

The Pennsylvania National Horse Show is proud of its tradition of supporting both equine and youth programs. The show benefits the Harrisburg Kiwanis Youth Foundation and the Pennsylvania National Horse Show Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation.

Further information and results are available at the horse show's website at

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