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Alberta’s Julia Vysniauskas Heats Up Florida Dressage Classic

Wellington, Florida – Equestrian athlete Julia Vysniauskas of Cochrane, AB, celebrated victory in the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle competitions at the recent Zada Florida Dressage Classic held February 19-22 in Wellington, FL.

Riding Syntax, her 12-year-old Czechoslovakian Warmblood gelding, Vysniauskas earned a score of 64.51% to win the ‘B’ division of Grand Prix on Friday, February 20. The competition was held at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club as part of the Winter Equestrian Festival.

“It was our first show of the season, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go,” admitted Vysniauskas, 22. “I thought we might be a little rusty, but I was very pleased with our performance. When I heard we had won the Grand Prix test, it was even better!”

Julia Vysniauskas and Syntax, winners of the Grand Prix ‘B’ and the Grand Prix Freestyle at, competing at the Zada Florida Dressage Classic.”
Photo credit –

The pair also topped Sunday’s Grand Prix Freestyle, earning a high score of 69.50%.

“To win the Freestyle as well was unbelievable,” said Vysniauskas who performed her choreographed required movements to ABBA-themed music compiled by Applause Dressage of Vancouver, BC. “We had not practiced or performed it since the Canadian League Final, and when it came time to ride on Sunday, we only had five minutes to warm up! I got down to the warm-up ring and a few riders who were scheduled to ride before me had pulled out, so I moved up in the order. One rider went before me and that was my warm-up time!”

Competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival, which attracts thousands of horses in the hunter/jumper divisions, offers its own unique challenges.

“The grand prix jumping is taking place right beside the dressage, just over the hill, so you can hear the rails falling and the announcer over the loud speakers,” laughed Vysniauskas. “Here we are trying to do our dressage tests at the same time! Thankfully, Syntax stayed right with me. He depends on me to support him in the ring, and he keeps his focus on the job!”

Vysniauskas also competed in Saturday’s Grand Prix Special test for the first time and placed sixth with a score of 63.93%.

“We basically just decided to do it and see how it went,” explained Vysniauskas who also holds citizenship in her family’s native Lithuania. “It was the first time either one of us had ridden it in competition, and although it flows nicely, it is harder than the Grand Prix test. There is a lot of extended trot to passage, but passage is one of Syntax’s trademarks, it is probably one of the easiest movements for him to do. I was up against some big-name riders, so I was proud to finish in the top six.”

Having only made her debut at the Olympic level of grand prix competition last winter in Florida, Vysniauskas has emerged as one of Canada’s brightest stars. A successful 2003 competition season culminated in an invitation to contest the FEI World Cup Dressage League Final, Presented by Swarovski, at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto, ON, where she placed third overall. Vysniauskas is now focused on the upcoming Olympic Selection Trials for the Canadian Dressage Team, one of ten countries who will contest the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

In addition to her outstanding results with Syntax, Vysniauskas debuted her 14-year-old German-bred gelding, Freuden Tanzer, at the Grand Prix level. In the Intermediaire II class, Freuden Tanzer placed 15th with a score of 59.43% and, in the Grand Prix ‘B’ division, earned a score of 61.11% to finish ninth.

“It was my first Grand Prix with Freuden Tanzer,” said Vysniauskas of the horse who carried her to a fourth place finish individually at the 2001 North American Young Riders’ Championship. “We missed the placings, but he was such a good boy! This was my horse for Young Riders’, so for him to advance to the grand prix level is really special. Lorraine was really happy with both my horses.”

Originally from Cochrane, AB, where her mother operates Kestrel Ridge Farm, Vysniauskas is now based in Guelph, ON, and has been training with Olympic, World Championship and Pan American Games veteran, Lorraine Stubbs, at her Rockeden Farms in Rockwood, ON, for the past four years.


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