Grippa, Uke Victorious at Pine Tree
Paul Grippa and his Uke turned in their best dressage performance to date and earned an impressive overall win at the Pine Tree Combined Driving Event held Oct. 20-21.
This year’s show, organized by Kelly Valdez and Claire Reid and held at Big Sky Farm just outside Southern Pines, was a bit lighter on entries than it had been in years past, but many local drivers who turned out put in top-notch performances.
Grippa, a regular at Moore County Driving Club events throughout the year, took the win in preliminary single horse with Uke, his usual equine accomplice in competition.
Uke, whose black color and flashy movements contribute to his impressive appearance, is an Arabo-Friesian — a combination of breeds not often seen in the United States. His unusual background gives him “the endurance of the Arab and the temperament of the Friesian,” according to Grippa.
Grippa, who drives out of Black Rock Stables in Vass, began his partnership with Uke when the horse was 6 months old. Uke was one of six Arabo-Friesians brought to the Sandhills area from Holland in 2007 by Wiebe Dragstra, who, along with his wife, Amy, operates Blue Valley Farm in Vass.
Now 6 years old, Uke has blossomed in his training, and he always comes to the ring ready to take the next step forward.
“He’s a blue-collar horse,” Grippa said. “He’s all about his job.”
It’s clear that the consistent work ethic is paying off.
Grippa and Uke posted their best dressage score ever in competition at Pine Tree — their 52.0 gave them a comfortable 17-point advantage in the preliminary single horse division.
“That was really monumental for us,” Grippa said.
The pair added a few penalties in the cones phase — one aspect of their performance that Grippa hopes to improve in the future.
But after a solid marathon phase on Sunday, they secured the first place spot, with a total of 136.88, over Gloria Ripperton of Pittsboro and her Nemo, who finished on 141.28.
Grippa credits his wife, Maureen — who navigates for him in marathon and takes many of the show-day preparations into her own hands — as an essential player in his Pine Tree success.
“We’re a team,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without her.”
Uke’s excellent dressage test — the second-best score of the day in any class at Pine Tree — was a high point for Grippa at Pine Tree, but he sees plenty of room for improvement for himself and Uke.
“I want us to progress in every aspect of the competition,” he said. “Better dressage, better fitness, more aggressive in the hazards — but a lot of that will come with time.”
Grippa emphasized how welcoming and friendly the people and the environment at Pine Tree are each year.
“It’s always such a class show. Claire Reid and Kelly Valdez put on a phenomenal event,” he said. “Hopefully in the future, more people realize what a great venue this is and will turn out in bigger numbers.”
Other local drivers in the top ribbons included Bill Long, who took the top spot in intermediate single pony; Marcie Quist, winner of intermediate single horse; Dana Diemer, second in preliminary single pony; and Leslie Griewe, who took second in preliminary pair pony.
Complete results can be found at drivingnews.us.
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