Thermal, Calif. – Nov. 20, 2021 – International dressage competition returned to the Desert International Horse Park (DIHP) Saturday, Nov. 20, for the continuation of the Adequan® Desert Dressage II. Set amongst the picturesque mountains in sunny Thermal, California, the highlight events of Saturday’s sport welcomed a collection of top competitive athletes and their mounts back to the International Arena to contest for top honors in a variety of classes. In the Buffini & Company CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle, it was the United States’ Carly Taylor-Smith and Rosalut NHF that dawned the blue ribbon at the conclusion of the class, while Aaron Janicki (USA) and Heron led the lap of honor for the Elizabeth Keadle CDI3* Grand Prix Special.

Carly Taylor-Smith and Rosalut NHF

A feature event of Adequan® Desert Dressage II, the Buffini & Company CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle wrapped up the exciting day of competition in the International Arena. A personal best score of 76.920% would proclaim Taylor-Smith and Nikki Taylor-Smith’s Rosalut NHF (Rosenthal–Legacy, Salut) the victors as an attentive crowd cheered on. Her and the 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding rode an impressive test through their Game of Thrones-inspired Freestyle designed by Tom Hunt. The entertaining test played to Rosalut NHS’s natural way of building throughout the test, and included a full piaffe-pirouette that was expertly ridden by Taylor-Smith. The 31-year-old athlete was thrilled with Rosalut NHF’s relaxation and confidence in the ring compared to Friday’s performance.

Carly Taylor-Smith and Rosalut NHF

Guenter Seidel and Equirelle (Florett AS-Orchidee T, Unforgettable) were hot on her heels, riding into second place with less than .3% between the two scores. Seidel and the 12-year-old KWPN mare owned by Louise Leatherdale and Leatherdale Farms danced their way to a score of 76.615%, completing movements such as a piaffe-fan for the enthusiastic crowd. The pair’s soundtrack featured melodies from the musical Evita and the freestyle designed by Terry Ciotti Gallo made for an entertaining performance that warranted a large cheer from the stands at the conclusion.

Guenter Seidel and Equirelle

Earlier in the day, the Elizabeth Keadle CDI3* Grand Prix Special took to the International Arena, where a solid lineup of horse-and-ride combinations presented their best for judges. Competing in their first ever CDI competition, Janicki and Heron (Johnson–Ilina, Bazuin) rode a consistent test that showcased Heron’s power and presence in the ring. Judges awarded Janicki and his 9-year-old KWPN gelding with a 67.511%, which would ultimately place them atop the leaderboard for the remainder of the class. The 28-year-old athlete based in Mount Vernon, Washington came into the week with hopes of feeling comfortable during his and Heron’s first CDI show, making their win an unexpected but welcome surprise. Janicki has developed the gelding since he was a 5-year-old, and looks forward to continuing to improve upon his scores with the rising talent.

Aaron Janicki and Heron

Second place honors for the Elizabeth Keadle CDI3* Grand Prix Special were awarded to Missy Gilliland and Toledano XXXI (Ambicioso XV–Toledana XII, Osado XIV), a 14-year-old PRE gelding owned by Gilliland. The pair earned a score of 65.979% for the red ribbon. Jan Ebeling rode Status Royal OLD (Statesman–Facette Royal, Rubin Royal OLD) to round out the top three with a score of 65.106% aboard the 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding.

Missy Gilliland and Toledano XXXI

Following the Elizabeth Keadle CDI3* Grand Prix Special, Claire Darnell and Harrold S (Vivaldi–Zantana Sollenburg, Fidermark), her 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, topped the Beverly J. Gepfer & Kirk R. Martens Foundation CDI3* Intermediate A with a 70.49%. In the Perfect Products CDI-J Junior Rider Individual Test, Tiggy Gates and Shadow’s Dream (Sandro Hit–Rosalie, Rotspon) won with a 67.402%, while Miki Yang and Donavan (Vivaldi–Zilla, San Remo) won the EquiFit CDI-Y Young Rider Individual Test with a 70.588%.

Competition at Adequan® Desert Dressage II will continue Sunday, Nov. 21, at 9:00 a.m. PST with the Ebeling Dressage CDI1* Intermediate I test taking place in the DIHP International Arena. The Prestige Italia CDI3* Grand Prix Consolation will kick off at 1:25 a.m. PST, which will conclude competition in the DIHP International Arena for the Adequan® Desert Dressage II.

Claire Darnell and Harrold S


Aaron Janicki – Elizabeth Keadle CDI3* Grand Prix Special winner

Aaron Janicki and Heron

On Heron:
“He is a 9-year-old by Johnson. I have had him since he was 5 and have trained him up the levels. This is our first year doing Grand Prix and this is my first international competition and also his first international competition, so we are super excited to have finished off winning this class! It is such an honor to be among these other top riders. It was my goal to just feel like I belonged in the group at this show, so to end up winning is super exciting.”

On his training program:
“I have a training and sales business in Washington state. I have a lot of horses and Claire Darnell helps me at the shows and I have a really good team of people at home that are taking care of all of my horses right now.”

On his hopes for the future with Heron:
“I have big goals and dreams with Heron. I am super excited for our future but we will just take it one day at a time. We will try to do some more international competitions and just work our way up the ranks.”

On his test:
“I was happy that he really maintained a good balance throughout. He felt really rideable and consistent throughout the test, and relaxed where he needed to be relaxed, but he also gave me a lot of energy when we needed it. We had a few unfortunate mistakes and there is a lot of potential for higher scores if we clean things up a little. As he gets stronger, I think there is a lot in store for his future.”

Aaron Janicki and Heron

On competing at the Desert International Horse Park:
“I think it is so awesome that we have this on the West Coast! They have done an amazing job on every level. The footing is perfect, the stabling is perfect, the staff and everyone have been so nice and professional and we are really thankful that they are willing to host these shows considering they are so much smaller than the jumper shows. For them to let us use this facility for this is awesome and we really appreciate it.”

Carly Taylor-Smith – Buffini & Company CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle winner

Carly Taylor-Smith and Rosalut NHF

On her Freestyle:
“I did this Freestyle last year. It is Game of Thrones-themed and Tom Hunt produced it for me, who I love. He did a fantastic job and I wanted something that was quite dramatic and builds up and gets darker as it goes along because that is how [Rosalut NHF] is. It suits him really well and it has great beats so it is quite fun to ride to, especially at the end because it gets a little emotional. That is very [Rosalut NHF]. It went really well today. He was with me the whole time! I was sometimes maybe a hair ahead of my music, but for the most part he didn’t make any mistakes. I am very happy and very proud of him.”

On her test:
“It is hard when you are riding because obviously the judges see something completely different. I didn’t even count my one-tempis, I just kept going until I got to the end, so I have no idea how many I even did! I thought that was quite funny. My passage was better because he was more in front of my leg today and softer over his back. The piaffe-pirouette was a highlight. I kept thinking ‘Oh my god, this is happening! We are turning and the legs are going!’ So I was really happy with that.”

On her personal best:
“It feels really good to get a personal best! It’s always nice to get a personal best. Again, we are bumping those scores up every time we do a test, so it’s really getting good! Hopefully next time it is even better.”

On competing at the Desert International Horse Park:
“It is always electric to do a Freestyle here! Every time I ride between the palm trees leading you into the ring, he sets foot in the arena and lights up. He is such a showman in that way. He loves to perform, which is just his cocky nature. I have to keep up with him a little bit! He just bounces off the ground and the arena is beautiful. Everyone was cheering along, so it kind of gives you a little boost to really go for it. That is the first time I think I really felt like I could go for it a bit more, so it was really fun. As a rider, tonight was excellent.”

Carly Taylor-Smith and Rosalut NHF


Elizabeth Keadle CDI3* Grand Prix Special
Rider / Country / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Aaron Janicki / USA / Heron / Aaron Janicki / 67.511
2. Missy Gilliland / USA / Toledano XXXI / Missy Gilliland / 65.979
3. Jan Ebeling / USA / Status Royal OLD / Ann Romney / 65.106
4. Mette Rosencrantz / USA / Dzeko / Cory Walkey, Mette Rosencrantz, Robin Cathey / 64.340

Buffini & Company CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle
Rider / Country / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Carly Taylor-Smith / USA / Rosalut NHF / Nikki Taylor-Smith / 76.920
2. Guenter Seidel / USA / Equirelle / Leatherdale Farms / 76.615

Guenter Seidel and Equirelle