Australian Rider Jemma Heran and ‘Epic’ Mare Kick Off AGDF 8 With New Personal Best And First CDI Win

Mar 1, 2024 - 9:37 AM

By Alice Collins for Wellington International 

A bumper 21 combinations lined up to contest the CDI3* Grand Prix, sponsored by Mission Control, on opening day of action during Week 8 at the 2024 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) in Wellington, FL. Flags of three nations adorned the podium, with the 27-year-old Australian rider Jemma Heran capturing the class with a new personal best on Saphira Royal 2. AGDF 2024 runs for 12 weeks, through March 31, and includes seven international shows as well as weekly national competitions.

Jemma Heran & Saphira Royale 2, winners of the CDI3* Grand Prix, sponsored by Mission Control. Photo ©

Heran scored 70.717% on her own 15-year-old San Amour daughter, and landed her first international victory with the horse in the process. Her trainer Frederic Wandres (GER) had to settle for second, riding Dressage Family LLC and Elisabeth Morell’s Joy Game to 69.913% at the horse’s debut CDI. At just 10 years old, the Davino gelding was the youngest horse in the class.

Three of the top four competitors logged new personal bests in this test on their horses. These included the Canadian riders who filled third and fourth: Danielle Gallagher posted 69.239% on her own and Ellen Lazarus’s 12-year-old Lusitano Come Back De Massa (by Galopin De La Font), with Camille Carier Bergeron slotting into fourth with the 14-year-old Fidertanz mare Finnländerin (69.087%). 

Jemma Heran & Saphira Royale 2 are presented as winners of the CDI3* Grand Prix, sponsored by Mission Control. Photo ©

Heran has owned Saphira Royal for just over a year. As a young horse, she captured the bronze medal at the 2013 Bundeschampionate under Kira Wulferding and another bronze at the 2016 World Young Horse Championships under Stefanie Wolf, who produced her to top level. The Rheinlander mare was then campaigned at grand prix level by Germany’s Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and Nicole Wego-Engelmeyer. 

“I saw her at a show in Europe and I thought she was spectacular,” explained Heran. “She was small-ish, elegant, super flashy moving, fine boned — my style of horse. Today she was amazing. She was full of energy, super fit and ready to go. We had a little mistake in the ones, but she looked up at the crowd and she’s just so epic. She tries her heart out for me like not many other horses I’ve ridden.”

Heran, who is stabled at Hof Kasselman at both their Wellington and Germany bases, has spent the past year mainly training Saphira Royal, and relishes the chance to get in the arena on multiple occasions at AGDF.  

“This season’s been really good,” added Heran, referring to strong placings in previous weeks. “Being here gives us the opportunity to show and show and show and we’re really getting to know each other in the ring. When I moved to Europe we trained for the first 12 months, so this is our first back-to-back showing stint. In the past we haven’t really had that ability, and we can now take that to Europe and continue on.

“If the Olympics happens it happens, and I don’t want to jinx anything, but that would be amazing,” added Heran, who also has the grand prix level Totilas son Total Recall — whom she lent to Wandres for the Nations Cup show in AGDF 7 — with her in Florida. 

In the World Cup™ Grand Prix, presented by Piaffe Lounge, Kevin Kohmann (USA) laid claim to the winner’s blanket, riding Dünensee to 68.891%. Fellow American Susan Dutta finished just 0.152 percentage points behind with her long-time partner Don Design DC, the Dutta Corp.’s 14-year-old gelding by Der Designer. Argentine rider Micaela Mabragaña, who was last to go in the class of nine, finished third. She and her Pan-Am Games partner, the Hanoverian stallion Bradley Cooper (by Bonifatius), scored 66.5%.  

Kevin Kohmann & Dünenseehe, winners of the World Cup™ Grand Prix, presented by Piaffe Lounge. Photo ©

Kohmann said, “Dünensee has already surpassed all the goals I had for him — even if we quit today, I’m just so grateful to the horse. Keri Kane, who is the owner — and my mother-in-law — is so generous and kind and supportive that even when things don’t work out so well, like today where I didn’t get enough points, it means it’s not stressful for me. Today in the zig-zag I gambled a bit and lost because I tried to show the judges a perfect zig-zag, and then there was a late change. But he and I have a relationship going here that is something special.”

Kohmann rode the Dancier son as a five-year-old and he then had a succession of riders as he was a little tricky. When Dünensee finally came back to Kohmann, it was a combination of his wife Devon Kane and his friend and trainer Christoph Koschel who urged him to compete the horse, even though Kohmann was unsure he could coax high quality performances from him in the ring. 

Kevin Kohmann & Dünenseehe are presented winners of the World Cup™ Grand Prix, presented by Piaffe Lounge. Photo ©

“They told me, ‘That’s your horse,’ and I said, ‘No, it’s not,’ and they were right,” admitted Kohmann. “So thanks to them for pushing me to do this. We built a relationship after that first show, and at this point we both love each other. I come in the barn and he yells for me.”

Kohmann will head into Friday night’s World Cup™ Grand Prix Freestyle in pole position, seeking a win and 20 ranking points that would see him earn a starting berth at the World Cup™ Final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in April. 

“My personal goal is to ride once in a five-star — that would make me really happy,” added Kohmann, “And, if tomorrow works out, we’re going to the World Cup™ final. That’s a goal I didn’t think even existed for me, but now it’s very close.”

Like Heran, Kohmann plans to spend the summer competing in Europe, based at Kasselmann’s. 

“I’d love to make it into the top eight to go to Europe, but either way we’ll stay in Europe because last year when we went it slingshotted us into the show ring so much better,” he concluded. “If we make it into the top eight, the U.S. will determine which shows we go to. If not, then we’re going to go for the prettiest castle I can ride in front of!”

In the opening round of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings, each of the three horses performed a Prix St. Georges test with their usual riders. Canada’s Sven Steffens-Smienk came out on top riding Monique Richter’s 13-year-old mare A Cappella (by Soprano) to 69.314%. Australian Kelly Layne rode Anne Barrett’s Fidertanz 16-year-old gelding Fidelio to 67.549% and second, with the eighteen-year-old Franki Kesner (USA) finishing third on her own Il Divo, with 61.471%. 

Sven Steffens-Smienk & A Cappella, winners of the opening round of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings. Photo ©

In the knock-out rounds, on Friday night, in which top riders team up with unknown horses and tackle a Prix St. Georges test, Denielle Gallagher (CAN) and Erin Nichols (USA) will each ride a test on Il Divo in the first round. In the other qualifying round, both Anna-Cristina Abbelen (GER) and Spain’s Pablo Gómez Molina will ride Fidelio. The rider with the highest score in each knock-out round will go head-to-head in the final, both riding a Prix St. Georges test on A Cappella to determine the 2024 champion.  

Week eight of the 12-week AGDF continues on Friday with eight classes, including the World Cup™ Grand Prix Freestyle and the final of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby during the evening session under lights, dubbed ‘Friday Night Stars’. Daytime action includes a CDI1* FEI Prix St. Georges, sponsored by Blucreeq Spirits, and the next round of the Lövsta Future Challenge FEI Intermediate II for developing grand prix horses. AGDF 2024 runs for 12 weeks, through March 31. For more information and results, visit

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