Katherine Bateson Chandler Credits Groundwork and Building Trust for AGDF 10 CDI3* Grand Prix Win With Haute Couture

Mar 14, 2024 - 10:13 PM

By Alice Collins for Wellington International

Week 10 of the 2024 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) in Wellington, FL, continued on Thursday under picturesque skies. The CDI3* FEI Grand Prix, presented by Fair Sky Farm, lasted for more than four hours and featured a whopping 33 horses on the start list. Katherine Bateson Chandler (USA) had to wait three nail-biting hours atop the leaderboard before her poignant win was confirmed. 

Bateson Chandler’s 71.913% test aboard Jennifer Huber’s 12-year-old KWPN mare Haute Couture (Connoisseur x Krack C) represented a new high score for the pair in this test after a rocky start to their competitive career. Their scoresheet on Thursday contained a good smattering of eights, and a high score of 74.891% from the judge at B, Janet Lee Foy (USA). 

Katherine Bateson Chandler & Haute Couture, winners of the CDI3* FEI Grand Prix, presented by Fair Sky Farm. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

It was a U.S. one-two, as runner-up Geñay Vaughn rode her mother Michele’s 13-year-old gelding Gino to a new personal best of 69.522%. She has owned the black KWPN by Bretton Woods since he was six, and this was the horse’s fourth CDI in his career. Rounding out the all-female podium (in fact, the top 13 in this class were all female athletes) was Canada’s Ariana Chia. She rode Coves Darden Farm’s 14-year-old PRE gelding Guateque IV to 69.022%. Chia broke up the American party, as all the other riders in the top seven were representing the USA. 

Bateson Chandler acquired the ride on Haute Couture, who was reserve for the Netherlands Olympic team for Tokyo with Dinja van Liere, in December 2021, and the pair have had some bumps in the road, with their scores ranging from 61% to 71% over the past two years. 

“We’ve had our ups and downs, it’s been a really challenging season for me and I really needed this,” said the 49-year-old, referring to the fact that she and ‘Merrie’ were eliminated in their only two other CDI starts in 2024. “We really put in the time and work — me, my trainer Ashley [Holzer] and Jen her owner and Alex [Garrett, her groom] — it’s been a true group effort. We put in a lot of work to get Merrie to where she was today, and she felt amazing.”

Katherine Bateson Chandler & Haute Couture are presented as winners of the CDI3* FEI Grand Prix, presented by Fair Sky Farm by Rowan O’Reilly. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

Bateson Chandler trains with Holzer as well as Carl Hester, with whom she spends summers in the UK. She admits that taking on a made horse has come with its own challenges — some unexpected.

“This is a tough sport and it’s been emotionally a very difficult ride,” she admitted. “Haute Couture is a well known horse and I’m still getting to know her. We had a bit of a scare in Europe where she got spooked and we’ve been getting her confidence — and mine — back again. It’s been a journey, big time! 

“I hate to say it, but social media really played a bad role in this for me when I was having a hard time. I take things very personally and horsemanship has always been top of my priorities, and so I’ve had to stay away from some of that [negativity online]. It’s been a big learning curve not to take things too personally. I’m so lucky to have the support system that I have, because that really kept me grounded.”

Florida-based Bateson Chandler has calmed the mare’s busy brain by exposing her to many different environments and through working with her on the ground to build a bond. 

“I love the on-the-ground stuff,” she added. “I spent two hours with Merrie on Monday just playing, and that helps build trust in your relationship, so that’s been a big part of it. Mentally she’s a very sharp horse and the groundwork has taught her to bring her brain to center and relax. When she gets a little worked up now I’ve got some tools to get her to come down, think and get her brain in the right place. 

“I also take her to lots of different places and we warm up in one ring and we act like it’s a show. Here we’re really lucky that on Tuesdays we can school in the ring. We’ve put in the hours, but she’s really learning to trust me and I’m learning to trust her; that’s the biggest thing in this sport, trust.”  

Bateson Chandler’s performance was boosted by the surprise appearance of her husband Carl Chandler, who had told her that he would not be able to make it, but when she was riding she spotted him ringside.   

“Tomorrow is another day and who knows,” she concluded. “But I’ll take this [result]. When you do this sport you take it day by day, and when you have a good ride you celebrate. When you don’t, you regroup and pull yourself back up by the boot straps.” 

Kevin Kohmann & Five Star, winners of the CDI1* FEI Prix St. Georges, sponsored by Donato Farms. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

Of the 15 combinations forward in the CDI1* FEI Prix St. Georges, sponsored by Donato Farms, it was the on-form Kevin Kohmann (USA) who finished up top of the pile. He was second to go on Equitas LLC’s 14-year-old KWPN stallion Five Star (by Amazing Star x Jazz) and their score of 70.098% could not be beaten. Kohmann added the blue ribbon to his third place finish the previous evening in the CDI5* Grand Prix on Dünensee at the rider’s first ever five-star show. He has been riding Five Star internationally at small tour since 2020 and they have logged 17 CDI wins together, many of those at AGDF.

Flags from three different nations were represented on the podium in the PSG, with The Netherlands’ Luuk Mourits slotting into second with a 69.608% performance on another 14-year-old, Harmony’s Sarotti OLD (by Sarkozy). Spain’s Natalia Bacariza Danguillecourt rode her own and Yeguada de Ymas S.L.’s 17-year-old Don Crusador gelding Dhannie Ymas into third with 68.775%. 

Action in week 10 continues on Friday with daytime classes at Equestrian Village and the gala evening at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) venue, Wellington International. 

The evening’s two marquee classes, the CDI5* FEI Grand Prix Freestyle, sponsored by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, and the CDI5* FEI Grand Prix Special, presented by Havensafe Farm, get underway at 6:30pm. For more information, results and to watch the live stream, visit the Global Dressage Festival website.

Click for full results from the CDI3* FEI Grand Prix, sponsored by Fair Sky Farm.

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