By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
HICKSTEAD, England, Aug. 2–For Kathleen Raine, the journey of training her Breanna from a youngster to compete for the United States at top European shows is the most fulfilling aspect of a career that has seen her produce three team horses through the ranks to carry the nation’s flag on their saddle pad.
The year-old Californian and Breanna delivered their highest scoring Grand Prix at a CDI of 70.404 per cent in the Nations Cup Grand Prix at this premier British show as part of an ambitious drive by the United States to re-establish the nation as a championship contender.
Three weeks earlier at Lingen, Germany Kathleen and Breanna placed third in the CDI4* Grand Prix Special with 71.542 per cent, that beat their previous best score.
Breanna has been getting stronger and more consistent and being in Europe “has helped hugely to make the best of her talent.” Having one horse also allows her to focus more ahead of the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France in 2014 that has now become a real possibilty. She has been working with Johan Hinnemann, a top trainer who helps several American riders.
The success with the 13-year-old Hanoverian mare (Brentano II x Weltmeyer) that her husband, Daid Wightman, found in Germany nine years ago is the third horse Kathleen has taken on the long journey from a youngster to the top levels of international dressage.
That journey began with Avontuur that she developed from untrained yougsters to be reserve for the U.S. team for the 1996 Olympics and then Fidelia for the 2000 Olympics.
Although it is 13 years since she last competed at CDIs in Europe–she came two years ago but rode only in national shows–the results with Breanna show that her skills have kept up with the rscores that have been rising over the past decade.
“The level here has risen but so has the level at home,” she said after leading off for the U.S. team in the Grand Prix on Breanna that she has been competing at international level Grand Prix since March, 2011. “We have stepped up together and have been doing well at home so felt prepared for the cometitions here.”
Kathleen, 48, and David have been married for 23 years and have built a center in Murrieta that focuses on training and competing, typiclly developing young horses most of which they own for higher levels.
Buying young horse and developing them to higher levels, serves two purposes–makes horses affordable but also because “you get to know the horse so well, you know what they are from the beginning rather than having a horse that’s already been trained by someone else and something comes out of nowhere you hadn’t run into before.
“You’re starting from a clean slate. Horses all have different temperaments but as you train them you get to know them so well over the years.
“It’s more challenging to see if you can train a horse to international Grand Prix, more satisfying to see how they turn out.”
Succeeding withe three horses is a rare accomplishment inthe United States.
Although California does not have as intensive a CDI schedule as Florida in winter, she said, one advantage of the West Coast is that fewer choices means most of the top riders ride in the same shows against each other “which makes you better.”
“I enjoy the process of taking the horses through the levels. It’s fun to see how great they can turn out.
“We started with Avontuur who was unbroken. We loved him and he was what we could afford when we were just just starting out.
“After bringing him along, we realized how much we enjoyed it and how you could really come together with your horse. We bought Fidelia as a foal and we were lucky it worked with her, too.”
Among the youngsters she is starting at her stable is Fidelia’s grand daughter by Brentano–“she’s really my grand daughter,” Kathleen laughs. “It’s great to have a third generation coming along.”
Kathleen is excited to be in the American invasion of Europe this year and sees this and other developments such as the growth of the Under-25 division as “going to really help American dressage and encourage riders coming out of Young Riders to make a difference in the future.”