Shawna Harding has been making a name for herself on the Grand Prix circuit this year riding her 11-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding, Come On III. Although she only recently moved the horse up to the Grand Prix Level, the pair did well enough to qualify for the Collecting Gaits Farm USEF Festival of Champions in Gladstone, New Jersey this August. This two-weekend-long competition featured the top dressage horses and riders in the nation. It was, in fact, the final qualifying event for riders who hoped to make the U.S. dressage team at the 2010 World Equestrian Games.
Although Shawna and Come on III acquitted themselves admirably against the toughest competition in the nation, the pair did not quite make the cut this time. It is likely that with more experience at this level, they will be able to improve their performance and be contenders for future competitions.
But Shawna may also have some other opportunities. Come On III is not the only winning horse that she is riding and training. She has also been bringing along a 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding named Rigo, owned by Tonya Rowe. Shawna has been competing Rigo since he was imported from Germany in 2006, and the pair have racked up an impressive list of scores, wins and titles from First Level in 2006 up through FEI Prix St. Georges Level this year.
This July, Shawna and Rigo were invited to compete at the U.S. Developing Horse Championship at Lamplight in Wayne, Ill. There, the pair put away the competition, winning both the qualifying test and the championship by a wide margin and an overall score of 71.697 percent. The Developing Horse Championship is for horses that are from 7 to 9 years old, and is intended to recognize up-and-coming horses with the ability to compete internationally.
If Rigo continues along the same path he is on now, Shawna may soon have two horses competing at the Grand Prix Level with a serious shot at representing the U.S. in international competition. Although both horses are talented, willing animals with big hearts and a strong work ethic, physically they are quite different. Come On III is an imposing, 17.2 hand bay with an immediately striking appearance. Rigo stands about 15.2, and is most impressive for his extravagant movement. (Shawna reportedly calls him a “little sausage.”)
If you haven’t seen Shawna competing lately, you can always catch up with her career on YouTube. Shawna has her own YouTube channel where you can see many of her rides, including her two tests with Rigo at the Developing Horse Championships this summer.