For many of the riders at the Washington International Horse Show in Landover, winning is what it is all about. But for dressage competitor James Armstrong, just being here is enough.
The FEI Dressage World Cup U.S. League selection trials is the last competition before the World Games. The winner of the two-part trials gets to represent the United States at the World Cup final in Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, next March 23-26. Five competitors were invited to compete in this year's final. Among them were Armstrong and the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood Gustaaf.
A dressage test is a series of movements performed in specific locations in a defined order in a rectangular ring. The grand prix test (ridden Friday night) has to be performed to the letter. The musical freestyle test, held last night, has required elements but competitors get to show their creative side with a choreographed ride.
Armstrong started his career riding with hunters-jumpers and event horses. But as he got older he found he preferred the difficult and precise discipline of dressage to jumping large obstacles at a high rate of speed.
"I am a very mathematical person," said Armstrong, 36. "Math was my favorite subject, so it was a natural progression. Also I am a bit of a chicken. I think that is because I didn't have a good event horse when I was first starting out."
Gustaaf is the youngest of the horses competing this year and is owned by Patsy Ward of Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, Md. He was imported five years ago and Armstrong has been riding him for 4 1/2 of those years. "I really enjoy the dressage because you create a real bond with your horse," Armstrong said. "He has a great personality. Sometimes he acts just like a person. He is real smart."
Armstrong finished fifth, but didn't mind. "I wasn't expecting to win," he said. "I am just honored to have been asked to ride." Cherri Reiber and G Tudor won the competition and will represent the United States.
Jimmy Torano and the flashy gray gelding Lancier 4 got a standing ovation after they completed the 7-foot 1 1/2-inch Puissance Wall in the $15,000 Cosequin International Jumper. Lancier 4 was one of two horses that made it to the third jump-off. After Canada's Dayton Gorsline and Spirit of Xerox pulled down the wall on their attempt, it was up to Torano and the 8-year-old Holsteiner, and they did not disappoint.