Rising US stars take on top names riding unknown horses in Palm Beach Dressage Derby

  • USA’s upcoming dressage riders Anna Buffini and Ben Ebeling will go up against each other in today’s opening knock-out round of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, just down the road from the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida.

    The leading rider will take on the winner of the match-up between veteran US rider Guenter Seidel and on-form Frederic Wandres of Germany. Ben, if he wins, is torn as to who he would rather face in the final.

    “I’ve always wanted to ride against Guenter,” Ben,22, said. “But I’ve always been riding against Freddy. But Freddy keeps beating me so at the end of the day I just want to have one more chance of beating Freddy.”

    Ben, who has watched his father, Olympian Jan Ebeling, and trainer Christoph Koschel, compete in the Derby over the years, is taking on the challenge for the first time.

    “I’ve always wanted to do it because I ride so many horses a day, I’d really like to try horses that I haven’t ridden before and see if I can make them look good.”

    With five minutes familiarisation with a horse, new to both riders, they will each ride a prix st georges test to be judged by three judges and an arena full of spectators, whose input counts for 25 percent of the overall score – a new twist added this year.

    “I think it’s very interesting that the spectator judging is taken into account this time,” said Ben. “Somebody posted on social media – ‘give them all 10s!’. It’s the first 100 percent that you could ever have. It’s fun for the crowd and it’s really cool for the sport too.”

    Ben has some planned exercises to implement during the five-minute familiarisation ahead of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, including trot-canter transitions and flying changes.

    “There’s not much you can change during that [five-minute] ride,” he said. “You kind of have to get the feeling of the horse and go with it.”

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