Endel Ots and Adrienne Lyle Debut New Olympic Hopefuls and Dominate the Podium in Final CDI of AGDF 2024

Mar 28, 2024 - 9:40 PM

By Alice Collins for Wellington International

Much-anticipated appearances by new horse-and-rider combinations—spearheaded by Endel Ots and Zen Elite’s Bohemian—were the flavor of the day on Thursday, March 28. It marked the opening day of week 12—the final CDI of the 2024 season of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) in Wellington, FL. AGDF, which hosts seven weeks of CDI competition, runs through March 31. 

In the CDI3* FEI Grand Prix, sponsored by Beatrice Marienau Dressage, Zen Elite Equestrian’s team of three new top horses filled every podium step. Owner Heidi Humphries bought the high-profile horses Bohemian, Helix and Lars Van De Hoenderheide for the U.S. riders Endel Ots and Olympic team silver medalist Adrienne Lyle at the end of 2023, and this was the first CDI appearance for all three. 

Endel Ots & Bohemian, winners of the CDI3* FEI Grand Prix, sponsored by Beatrice Marienau Dressage. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

Bohemian was fourth at the Tokyo Olympics and won freestyle silver in 2021 under Denmark’s Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour, and under the saddle of Ots he once again graced the upper echelons of the scoreboard, topping the class of 24 starters with 72.761%. The pair picked up healthy helpings of eights—particularly for piaffe and passage—but the final score was suppressed by mistakes in the two-time changes, which earned twos and threes from the panel of five judges. 

Lyle, who was first to go down the centerline with Lars Van De Hoenderheide, held on to third place with the 13-year-old Negro gelding, scoring 70.652% on the horse previously campaigned by Great Britain’s Lottie Fry. Lyle went one better with her second ride, the 12-year-old Apache son Helix, whom she has taken over from Sweden’s Marina Mattsson. They slotted into second with 71.065%. Ots and Lyle led a clean sweep for the home nation, with U.S. riders filling the top six places in the class, which was a qualifier for Saturday’s Grand Prix Special. 

Remarkably, Ots was making his international grand prix debut with the 14-year-old by Bordeaux. Although a seasoned competitor nationally, this was the rider’s very first grand prix in a CDI. Bohemian is no stranger to AGDF however, as his previous owner, Dong Seon Kim (KOR), campaigned him in Wellington in 2023, but this is the horse’s first win on the circuit. He was subsequently sent to Patrik Kittel to be shown in Europe and sold, before returning stateside at the beginning of the year for new owners Zen Elite Equestrian. 

“It’s all very surreal,” admitted Ots, who has trained with Albrecht Heidemann since he was 18. “You always see all the famous people like Adrienne Lyle and Kasey Perry [who finished fourth with 70% on Heartbeat WP], and I am just thankful and happy to be in there with them and part of the group.

“Heidi from Zen has a vision on what she’s looking for and what she wants to do in the sport. She saw Bohemian’s ad on Eurodressage and that he was going to auction and said she wanted me to go and sit on him. So I did, and I called her right afterwards and said, ‘I could do a CDI grand prix on him right now — he’s such an unbelievable animal.’ He’s really a crazy cool horse,” continued Ots.  

“He has the biggest heart I’ve ever felt of any horse, with such a wonderful personality. This one is something special and a beautiful soul. This is such a fun experience.”

Endel Ots & Bohemian are presented as winners of the CDI3* FEI Grand Prix, sponsored by Beatrice Marienau Dressage, by Beatrice Marienau and Judge at C, Cesar Torrente. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

On his mistake in the two-time changes, he added, “I should have warmed up for 10 minutes less today. I’ve been trying to get comfortable with doing less warm-up with Bohemian, and Cathrine reminded me that if the rider has the right mindset with him, he can go in there and do everything great. It’s been a question of getting my own mind under control.”

Ots will continue working with Heidemann, and their weekly schedule includes a couple of schooling sessions plus bareback riding and hand walking. Next, Bohemian will be focused on two Florida CDIs to hopefully secure a place on the U.S. squad who will compete in Europe this summer to bid for a place on the Olympic team.

However, Ots is not allowing his new-found fortune to get to his head. 

“Yesterday I got into a fight with a stall fan and zip ties because I couldn’t get it to hang up, and then today we are out here doing this. It’s a very humbling sport and every day is a blessing,” added the 39-year-old.   

Flags of many colors adorned the podium in the CDI4* Grand Prix, presented by Lövsta Stuteri. A very blustery afternoon provided challenges, and Sweden’s seven-time Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén was delighted to head the class on Lövsta Stuteri’s inexperienced 12-year-old Hyatt with 70.979% in the horse’s four-star debut. 

Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén & Hyatt, winners of the CDI4* Grand Prix, sponsored by Lövsta Stuteri. Photo © Sortfot

She bought the Apache mare a year ago from Germany’s Anna-Cristina Abbelen, who finished second to Vilhelmson Silfvén in the class by just 0.1 percentage points. Abbelen rode her own 17-year-old Sam Donnerhall, the oldest horse in the class, to 70.87%. Less than a percentage point behind, Katherine Bateson Chandler (USA) and Haute Couture captured the yellow ribbon with 69.913%.   

Vilhelmson Silfvén, who is a regular at AGDF, relishes the opportunities to show all season in Wellington without long journeys. They have contested both CDIs and national shows this year to get experience under the horse’s belt.  

“I’ve been working on my relationship with Hyatt, doing some shows then training a bit,” she explained. “I needed this time in the arena to get to know her and see how hot I want to have her in the warmup, or how careful I have to be, or how I should prepare her. 

“Right now it’s getting better. She was a bit excited from the wind, but it’s good for her to train that too—she has to learn all this. She has really no experience actually, as before I got her she had done just a few shows. She will tell me how fast we can go. She has so much more power in her that I’m still saving so that she feels secure, and I don’t want to overdo it,” she concluded. 

Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén & Hyatt are presented as winners of the CDI4* Grand Prix, sponsored by Lövsta Stuteri, by Kristina Berggren and Judge at C, Maarten van der Heijden. Photo © Sortfot

Vilhelmson Silfvén and her team of horses will return to Europe after AGDF wraps up, take a break in April and then gear up to show at the CDI Compiègne in France in May. 

Action in week 12 of the 2024 AGDF resumes on Friday, March 29, with a full slate of day and evening competition. ‘Friday Night Stars’ features two classes sponsored by Lövsta, the CDI4* Grand Prix Freestyle and the final of the Lövsta Future Challenge for developing grand prix horses. For more information, results and to watch the live stream, visit the Global Dressage Festival website.

Click for full results from all classes in AGDF 12.

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