$10,000 Pas De Deux Challenge Cup
by Libby Anderson



      By Libby Anderson

A world record 18 teams competed for the $10,000 Pas de Deux Challenge Cup held at the elegant international equestrian facility of Morven Park, Leesburg, VA, on July 31, 2005.This prestigious event was superbly run by their show management team in conjunction with a scheduled five ring recognized Dressage Competition. Thanks and congratulations to the Virginia Horse Industry Board who sponsored the advertising and promotion of this new and prestigious event. Morven Park was able to attract with strategic advertising over 600 spectators to watch the first ever Pas de Deux Challenge.  A little background: Over the past several years The Dressage Foundation’s Dancing Horse Fund and Michael Matson have been busy seeking sponsors and participants to promote all aspects of the Musical Kur. From a web site musical library open to all, to sponsoring Freestyles and Quadrilles in various recognized shows, Michael and the Dancing Horse Fund have been pro-active in developing the musical riding aspect of the sport.Michael teamed up with the VADA/NOVA Board member Patricia Patton to formulate the concept of this new promotion.Their idea was to create a Pas de Deux Challenge Cup and Patton Equine Legal Services offered a prize of $10,000 to kick start the event. The rest is history.

The competitors took up the challenge and by the closing date the Pas de Deux Challenge Cup had 18 entries - 36 horses and riders. The Challenge Cup drew in teams from 5 States, VA, MD, PA, NJ, and GA.It was open to all dressage levels, from Training to FEI. There were three FEI teams, and fifteen teams filling all USDF levels from Training to Fourth Level. The Junior connection: not to be outdone by the senior dressage competitors the juniors were well represented with three teams competing for the $500 bonus for the winning Junior team. Wonderful to see this response from our young riders who will one day be the backbone of USA dressage. The judges were Angela Littlefield, "S" from OR and Dede Bierbrauer, "R" from MD.

Let the show begin:  Approximately 600 spectators packed the indoor arena and surrounding viewing spots at Morven Park; all seating was filled including the restricted VIP seating and many had to stand several deep to watch this event. Over 100 people had to be turned away from this free event as there was simply no room left. This large and enthusiastic crowd created a terrific atmosphere for the afternoon’s competition. The aperitif to the Pas de Deux Challenge Cup were three short individual exhibitions to set the scene for the afternoon’s entertainment. Jules Anderson started the show with a classical FEI freestyle, riding Monica Frechette’s white Lusitano stallion Quitop VO, to music with a strong Latin beat, titled "Quitop’s Dance". This was followed by a unique and entertaining Pas de Deux with a black Friesian, Marije S ridden by Sofia Rudefalk and a miniature black pony and rising dressage star Diamond Girl shown in hand by Kimberly Beldam. Finally, Matt McLaughlin riding his own white Andalusian, Corral. They entertained with both "airs above the ground" and western moves, finishing off with a rousing ride to the country music hit song, ’Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy’. All of the exhibition rides received enthusiastic applause and cheers from the large crowd.

The scene was set and the Pas de Deux Challenge began on time at 1 p.m. in hushed silence.Bob Masek, the announcer and master of the sound system, introduced each team, the title of each ride, the theme of the ride, the musical source, musical coordinator and the choreographer.Some examples were:

Title: Collection in Contrast
Theme: Nothing in dressage is black or white
Music: New Age Irish Music featuring the Chieftains.
Choreography: Stephanie Alvord and Candy Allen

Title: Quarter horses can do it too!
Music: Andrew Lloyd Weber "Pianos"
Choreography: Danielle Toscano


Title: "Rocky"
Theme: USA versus Russia
Music: Rocky
Musical Coordinator Evelyn Susol
Choreography: Libby Anderson

As each team entered at ’A’, it looked like the proverbial parting of the Red Sea as the huge number of spectators gathered in that area moved aside and then moved forward again as the riders moved into the arena. The riders said they were amazed to see so many people at this event and none had ever experienced such an electric atmosphere. Every team had a quality ride and received loud applause and cheers from the audience. The scores were calculated quickly and the unofficial score for each ride was nearly instantaneous and given just after each ride. Each team appeared to "up the scale" of marks. The bar was set with the first team which received a score of 74% and as each ride was completed the scores seemed to just keep getting better! All teams except one scored over 70%! The music and the musical themes proved to be excellent and as the music unfolded the pairs danced to their musical story.The overall effect was spell-binding as the judges continued to award higher and higher marks. Tension continued to mount and as the last team entered the arena to await the judge’s bell you "could hear a pin drop". How exciting that the "fight" for the top placings was topped off by this team riding to theme music from the "Rocky" movies!

The entire audience waited in eager anticipation for the 15 minutes before the final winners were announced and the award ceremony began. The last few team’s scores were not announced which built up the suspense as the crowd and the competitors waited to hear the final results. Once the winning team was announced (it was the "Rocky" duo!) and the score of 84+% was confirmed the audience rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to the winners. The winning pair executed tempi changes, extended trot and gallop in the victory lap. The winning Junior team also placed sixth in the overall competition of 18 teams, splitting $1,500 in prize money! What a good job! First, Second and Third Level teams also made the top six and were in the prize money! When the overflow crowd was asked if they wanted to see a repeat of the event next year, there was a resounding "YES!" and cheers. Viva the Pas de Deux Challenge Cup!!