By Nancy Jaffer, originally posted on

The terms “relaxed” and “horse show” would seem contradictory, but they meshed well in this week’s Summer Days dressage competition at the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation in Gladstone. Presented by the Eastern States Dressage and Combined Training Association, it had something for everyone, from Grand Prix down to Training Level.

After the weekend heatwave broke, the temperature cooperated, enabling riders (with jackets waived) to try qualifying for regionals, practice for the Festival of Champions in Illinois next month or just enjoy getting mileage at a special venue. It also offered a convenient opportunity for local riders, who didn’t have to ship far for the experience.

One of those in that group, Alice Tarjan, rode 9-year-old Candescent to victory yesterday in the FEI Freestyle class with an impressive 75.450 in the Grand Prix. Candescent means “glowing or dazzling,” and this mare lives up to her billing. It’s a better name than her first two monikers, Celina and Curly Sue (huh?), neither of which were official. She needed to have a name starting with “C” and Alice found the perfect one for a mare whose trot extensions are stunning.

Alice Tarjan and Candescent. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Alice, an amateur who lives in Oldwick, was using Summer Days as a qualifier for Regionals. Candescent already qualified for the Festival of Champions in the Developing Grand Prix; she was reserve champion last year in the USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Dressage National Championship.

The mare came from the Hanoverian auction as a 4-year-old. Alice bought her because she was looking for something she could jump.

“It didn’t go so well. She was really sour in quarantine, I was scared to death,” Alice recalled.

“By the time I finally got her to the point where I could ride her, I was like, `This horse is actually pretty decent, I should probably keep her as a dressage horse,’ ” Alice recalled.

Candescent is black with white socks, reminiscent of Alice’s first pony, the similarly marked Licorice, who was a brat but obviously meant a lot to his owner–she has had several horses with that coloring over the years.

Her other mount, Hester, was in her first show at Summer Days, earning 66.125 percent in Third Level, Test 3, as Alice was in the process of qualifying her for Regionals.

Hester debuted at Third Level with Alice Tarjan. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Second in the FEI Freestyle, riding Intermediate I (it was a test of choice) Betsy Steiner earned 73.500 percent with Swiss W. The mare is very special to Steiner, a professional based at George Morris’ former Hunterdon Inc. in Pittstown.

“She’s so good,” said Betsy. “She’s good-hearted, good from the inside out, she’s kind, she’s super-intelligent, she’s teaching me all the time. She’s made me a more intelligent and thoughtful trainer for horses and riders. She’s a very special soul.”

Betsy hopes to go to the Festival and is schooling Grand Prix with Swiss. “When she’s confident in it, then I’ll take her grand prix,” she said.

The mare, who belongs to Whitney Bailey, selected Betsy as her person. Shopping in Europe during 2015, Betsy saw Swiss staring at her intently.

Betsy Steiner and Swiss W. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

“Don’t look at me like that,” Betsy advised the Baden-Wurttemberger mare, but she already was hooked.

“I just enjoy every second being with her,” Betsy said. “She stole my heart.”

Veterinarian Wendy Furlong of Pittstown was all smiles showing home-bred Amazzing, a 19-year-old spotted former event horse, in the I-1 freestyle to earn a score of 65.850 percent.

“We’re just doing it for fun. It’s just a privilege to come and show at the USET. The fact that we can show here if we’re not trying to go to the Olympics is pretty cool,” said Wendy.

Former event horse Amazzing now specializes in dressage for Wendy Furlong (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

In 2011, she won the U.S. Eventing Association’s Preliminary Master Amateur Rider award with Amazzing and his half-sister, Jazzmine, 16, who also competed at the Gladstone show. Both are out of Wendy’s mare, Jazztime.

Wendy has done an informal pilot study with acupuncture (she’s a practitioner) on both horses. Neither has ever had a hock injection. “They’ve both been very, very sound horses,” she said.

Barbie Asplundh of West Amwell finished second in the I-1 yesterday with the aptly named Gorgeous on 69.412 percent.

Being gorgeous is only part of what her black gelding is about.

“He’s sweet, he’s a wonderful mover, he’s a very forgiving ride. I’ve had him for a year and a half and he’s done wonders for my riding. He’s fantastic. I can’t say enough about this horse,” said Barbie, who got him from Andreas Helgstrand, a Danish rider and horse dealer when he set up shop in Wellington, Fla.

The gorgeous Gorgeous and Barbie Asplundh competing at I-1. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Formerly a dressage professional who has been pursuing her discipline since 1979, Barbie took her amateur status back and is trained by Catherine Haddad-Staller. “It’s not about changing the horse; it’s about changing the rider and the horse follows,” she said of Catherine’s teaching style. Barbie generally practices without stirrups and shows in Catherine’s Stubben saddle that has neither knee rolls or leg blocks.

Gorgeous is qualified for the Festival of Champions in the Developing Prix St. Georges. Barbie has taken her time with him, since he only turned eight in June. Summer Days was his first time in the I-1. She’s also hoping to compete at Dressage at Devon this fall.

Califon-based Sara Schmitt was quite sick yesterday, but she fought through it, finishing third in the Grand Prix Freestyle to Abba music with the 15.2-hand German Riding Pony HB Dschafar on 67.250 percent. “He was good; I was not so good,” she said. “I did not ride well today. I was happy to remember everything.”

He’s qualified for regionals but after that, the professional trainer is probably going to sell him. “It’s a shame, but it’s business,” she explained.

Sara was fading later in the day but pulled out a 64.375 with another German Riding Pony, the flaxen mane and tailed First Date in Third Level Test 3. ”I take her out once a year and show her so she remembers what showing is. It was her first time at Third Level,” said Sara.

Sara Schmitt and First Date on the mare’s annual show ring outing. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

The show nicely put in a para-dressage test for Alanna Flax-Clark, who rode El Paso to a score of 68.788 percent and is shooting for next year’s Paralympics in Tokyo. She’s been struggling with some kind of bronchial infection for a month and hadn’t been able to ride until last Monday, but did a great job with her test, even though there were moments when she had trouble breathing.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to trust your horse completely,” she said.

Alanna rides with Sara, who said, “She inspires everyone in the barn. It’s amazing, her poise, and how focused she is.”

Alanna was a special education teacher from Los Angeles who got a life-threatening infection with a temperature that spiked at 106 degrees. Afterward, she couldn’t sit up unsupported, experienced trouble breathing and had no use of her hands.

Alanna Flax-Clark in the USET Foundation stables. (Photo©2019 by Nancy Jaffer)

Riding has made a huge difference in her life, and I’ll write more about her later this summer.

Alana was thrilled to be competing at the USET Foundation stables.

“I think it’s a beautiful building and just to be able to ride in such a historic place is an amazing feeling,” she said.

This is a copy of an article that originally appeared on Nancy Jaffer Equestrian Sports and is reproduced here with permission. ©2019 On The Rail LLC and Nancy Jaffer. All rights reserved.