Saturday night at Fieracavalli, Verona, the air was full of excitement as the crowds prepared for the $50,000 freestyle competition in the Elementa Masters Premiere show pen. In fact, the area had to be closed off to limit the crowd pressing to enter the pavillion.
Undoubtedly, Freestyle has a special appeal for both reining fans and the non-specialist public with its exciting and entertaining mix of technique and spectacle, music and maneuvers. While the technical prowess may have varied between the runs, one element that all contained was an imaginative choreography and an attention to detail in the choice of music and costumes that ensured that every pair was fun to watch.
At the end of the day it was Cira Baeck, a sparkling and powerful Wonder Woman on the glittering stallion Phantom Face, 6-year-old son of Pale Face Dunnit out of Gorgeous Like A Star (by Smart Like Juice) now owned by Cecilia Fiorucci, that convinced both judges and public alike with a run awarded a whopping 231 that further underlined the fact that Freestyle is a true reining competition — while the artistic element does count, on the judges’ scoring card technique remains paramount.
The crowd responded with a roar as Baeck circled and spun, shield in hand, crowned with a tiara and donning the instantly recognisable red bodice and blue pants of the superhero.
“The idea was conceived by my boss, Cecilia,” said Baeck, “and we chose Wonder Woman as this sport is undoubtedly male-dominated, so we wanted to make a powerful statement for women. It was not actually my first Freestyle, I competed in one a couple of years ago in Poland, dressed as a Ketchup bottle! Both times it has been fun, but I especially enjoyed the run last night because this is the first event in which I have showed this horse at the Open earlier and later in the Freestyle, and he was really there for me.”
Pipped to the post was Giovanni “Dido” Masi who entered the show pen, or perhaps ‘show ring’, perfectly turned out as a classical English rider, complete with jodhpurs, English saddle and spurs before choosing to swap his original hard hat with the cowboy hat of Filippo Masi, his dad, whose turnarounds apparently offered greater appeal.
Against the music of Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s my life’, Giovanni then performed a series of brilliantly executed reining maneuvers on Majestic Okie (Okie Dun It Too X Majestic Ice x ARC Blueyed Redskin), the 11-year-old stallion owned by Katherine Dejori to finish on 230.5 and claim reserve honours.
Gennaro Lendi placed third on the World Champion Yankee Gun (Rowdy Yankee Dam x Snow Gun x Colonels Smoking Gun [Gunner]) belonging to his friend Marco Mele. The 10-year-old stallion recently co-starred alongside – or rather under – Sylvester Stallone in the Hollywood star’s latest film to hit the box office Last Blood. Last night it was Gennaro Lendi, Stallone’s horse master for the film, to take the part of Rambo.
Lendi galloped and spun like a rocket around the arena, eliminating enemies with his machine gun and sliding to dramatic stops, his muscles – not exactly the real ones – rippling. The pair was awarded 228.5 at the conclusion of their run.
Following her Freestyle win and reserve honours in the Elementa Masters Premiere Open, Cira Baeck drew her experience here at Verona to a rewarding conclusion as team-mate to Evald Rifeser (Non Pro) and Vittoria Marzorati (Para Reining) in the team that triumphed in the Global Team Cup with a score of 644.