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Brian Hafner Earns Second Straight Grand Prix Freestyle Win as Competition Wraps Up at Capistrano Dressage International CDI-W

RELEASE: March 25, 2014
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Jennifer Keeler

Brian Hafner & Lombardo LHF earn another win in the Grand Prix Freestyle at the Capistrano Dressage International CDI-W.  (Terri Miller)
Brian Hafner & Lombardo LHF earn another win in the Grand Prix Freestyle at the Capistrano Dressage International CDI-W. (Terri Miller)
San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
- California's Brian Hafner has developed an impressive resume of dressage success in the Young Rider, Brentina Cup, and Grand Prix divisions with his long-time partner Lombardo LHF, including a win in last month's Grand Prix Freestyle at the Mid-Winter Dressage Fair CDI-W in Burbank, Cal.  On the final day of California Dreaming Productions' Capistrano Dressage International CDI-W/Y/J/U-25 (presented by Hof Kasselmann) in San Juan Capistrano, Hafner may have been mistakenly considered by some to be a long shot to triumph over veteran riders of past U.S. Olympic and World Equestrian Games Teams, but today he emerged victorious to earn his second straight Reem Acra FEI World Cup-qualifying freestyle victory on a score of 71.800%.    

Dramatic music from the movie Iron Man 3 set the stage for Hafner's "go for it" attitude in today's freestyle as he and his 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Londonderry x Waluga by Werther) demonstrated breathtaking extensions balanced with consistency and steadiness.  "I'm a little surprised by how well we did because there are big names here and stiff competition," said Hafner.  "But I feel like we fixed a lot of what we needed to after Burbank, and it proved successful today.  We had a couple small mistakes but overall it was much more solid than our last outing.  I'm really proud of my horse and how far we've come."  As a recent recipient of a $25,000 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize from The Dressage Foundation, Hafner is now looking forward to a possible trip to the USEF Festival of Champions in June, as well as taking Lombardo LHF to Europe to work with Johann Hinnemann. 

Finishing second with 70.775% in the CDI Grand Prix Freestyle was 2012 U.S. Olympic Team member Jan Ebeling aboard an exciting new mount in the impressive 10-year-old Hanoverian stallion FRH Rassolini (Rubioso N x Sweetheart by Silvano).  Purchased and imported just under a year ago by the Vintage Equestrian Group, Ebeling knew the 2010 Nürnberger Burgpokal champion had talent, and was happy to show it off today.  "This weekend was our first time away from home together, and we're still figuring everything out," Ebeling explained.  "Our warm-up was shorter today than in Saturday's Grand Prix, and that worked out much better.  This is his first season at this level and we're still figuring it all out, but I think he's an exciting horse and there's a lot of potential there.  I'm thrilled."

Rounding out the CDI freestyles in the Olympic Arena was Hannah Beaulieu (CAN) who earned her second win of the weekend with Nancy Olson's Rheinlander gelding Pharoah (by Fidermark), this time in the Junior Freestyle on a score of 66.575%.  Meanwhile, Mackinzie Pooley continues to rack up solid scores in the CDI Under 25 division, and today she added to her expanding resume with a score of 67.930% in the CDI Grand Prix 16-25 Test aboard the Dutch gelding Partous (Juventus x Ladyway by Hemingway). 

In United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) national championship qualifying classes, Leslie Webb rode Harmony Sporthorses' nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Harmony's Armani (Sydney x Ramona by Weyden) to victory in the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges division with a score of 67.892%.  In the young horse ranks, Ashleigh Luca-Tyson and River Oaks Farm's San Soucis K (Oldenburg mare, Sir Donnerhall x Florestan) impressed the judges for a score of 8.10 in the FEI Five-Year-Old Final Test, while Kristina Harrison rode her own Dutch Warmblood gelding Finley (by Don Javi) to the win in the four-year-old class (7.56). 

Jan Ebeling & FRH Rassolini (Terri Miller)
Jan Ebeling & FRH Rassolini (Terri Miller)
As dressage competition concluded, officials, trainers, and competitors were pleased with their experience and looked forward to the next event, which begins in just three days.  "It's so refreshing to come to California," noted judge Sarah Geikie (4* USA).  "I'm so impressed with everything that California Dreaming Productions has done - it's been an incredible show."  German dressage trainer Johann Hinnemann was in attendance at the Capistrano Dressage International to coach several riders, and clearly was pleased with his experience with the facility and VIP amenities.  "I've enjoyed everything, starting with coffee in the morning and wine in the afternoon," said Hinnemann.  "It's a fantastic facility, and what I really like is the footing which is so well maintained.  I can't think of better circumstances." 

CDI competitor Jan Ebeling agreed, and both he and Hinnemann noted they look forward to the added excitement and atmosphere of this weekend's Festival of the Horse, which will run in conjunction with the Blenheim Spring Classic I & II hunter/jumper show and Grand Prix jumping event.  Ebeling will not only return with FRH Rassolini in the CDI Grand Prix division, but will be aboard his 2012 London Olympic Games partner Rafalca as well, all while being able to watch his son Ben compete in adjoining arenas in the children's jumper division.  "It's been a wonderful show, but I'm even more excited about this coming weekend," he explained, noting that his horses (like many others) will remain onsite during the two rest days before the Festival of the Horse CDI resumes on Thursday.  "I like to have a cluster of shows like this to compete in, and it's so nice not to have to pack up and go somewhere else."

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