By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
TRYON, North Carolina, April 22, 2019–Naima Moreira-Laliberté, one of the most successful ever North American Championships youth riders, brought a “wow!” factor to Tryon with her performances on Statesman in the CDI3* that was only the second Big Tour show for the 22-year-old Canadian rider.
Naima found it hard to believe the success with the 12-year-old Statesman in posting a Grand Prix Special score of 72.404% that was the second highest for any Canadian combination this year, critical for her nation that will be at the Pan American Games three months from now seeking to earn one of the two spots available for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“I think it was my best ride,” Naima said in an understatement that heard professionals watching the competition expressing amazement at the performance. “Wow!” was a frequent exclamation. One judge placed her first over U.S. Olympian Adrienne Lyle on Harmony’s Duval; the other four put her second.
“I still don’t realize what is going on,” she added, “I’m super happy. I think we have a good partnership; we get along.
“This is all new for me so it’s very stressful,” but she smiled as she said it, clearly enjoying the how well it went more than the score.
Statesman came to Naima just over a year ago from Jordi Domingo Coll of Spain who had competed the Sandro Hit-sired horse through the World Young Horse Championships to the Spanish team at the 2017 European Chamepionships, so was not a novice at top sport.
Naima had been a star in youth championships–leading her Quebec team to gold medals as a junior at the North American Championships in 2012 and 2013 as well as individual silver and bronze. In 2014, she moved up to the Young Rider division in the continental championship to earn team silver and in 2015 captured individual gold at the same level.
Like several youth riders in Canada she had flowered under the coaching of Albrecht Heidemann who has since returned home to Germany.
Ashley Holzer, the four-time Olympian for Canada who two years ago switched to ride for America and is now based in Wellington, Florida, took over coaching. Under Ashley’s tutelage, Naima got her feet wet with the newly acquired Statesman in Under-25 competition at the top European shows, the World Equestrian Festival at Aachen, Germany and at Rotterdam.
Then, like she had for years riding different horses through the levels, Naima went to Florida this year to make her senior Grand Prix debut on Statesman at the 12 weeks of the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida that attracts many international competitors.
On another of her horses, I Do Kiss, her Canadian Under-25 Nations Cup team won silver though she was first individually in the team competition and also won individual silver.
The inaugural Big Tour for Statesman was at the same Nations Cup event, barely a month ago.
The partnership showed promise from the outset–67.848% for seventh place in a starting lineup of 20 combinations in the Grand Prix then 71.128% and third place in the Special behind Adrienne Lyle and Duval and fellow Canadian Jill Irving on Degas for second.
The Tryon Special results are second highest for Canadians so far this year to Jill and Degas, who are currently the top ranked Grand Prix combination to go to the Pan Ams in Lima, Peru. Brittany Fraser and All In, the top ranked Canadian on the world standings truncated their season as Brittany is on a “baby” break. A Grand Prix partnership on the team is a requirement for Olympic qualification.
Naima is not unusual in being reluctant to state definite plans.
“We’re looking to gain more experience. I don’t know where this journey is going to take us, hopefully somewhere really good.
“We are hopefully trying…,” she began when asked about plans for Statesman this year. “No, no. I don’t want to jinx anything. Whenever we make plans, plans don’t happen. So I’m just going with the flow at this point, wherever it takes us.”
But when pressed about the Pan Ams, she said, “Yeah, I’m hoping to be able to go. After that, making a decision about what’s best for my horse.
“Obviously, my heart is for next year.”
Naima and her horses are heading back to home base in Montreal, where Brittany Fraser also has her horses in the same barn, and helps her out with eyes on the ground. She’s also looking into live streaming options so she can get coaching from Ashley, similar to the online training Lars Petersen conducts regularly from his Wellington base for the Blue Hors riders in Denmark.
She describes Statesman as having a “great grandmother” personality.
“He eats outside his stall because he wants to look at everything,” she said. “If he’s not happy he makes this funny face to let you know. He’s the great grandma, the matriach.
“He’s a bit nosy, but super sweet.”
Naima is planning her equestrian career for the long term.
She recently bought Jaliska, a five-year-old KWPN mare (All at Once x Kigali) that Alice Tarjan of Frenchtown, New Jersey imported from Holland in October, 2017.
Alice, highly regarded as finding young horses and developing them toward top sport, showed Jaliska in a handful of national competitions last year.
Naima describes Jaliska as a “super character, such a sweet horse, super cuddly.”
“I’m lucky now because I had naughty horses growing up, now I know what I don’t want,” she said referring to the engaging and personable behavior of both Statesman and Jaliska.
“I’m looking forward to the journey with Jaliska. She is totally green. It’s a fresh start. Ash (Holzer) and I have the goal to teach her and compete… see where that takes us. I’m excited about her.”
Source: Dressage News