Leviste stuns dressage field
RIDING a new mount in an unfamiliar event proved no handicap for Filipino equestrienne Toni Leviste as she upstaged veteran campaigners in the recent Dressage Champions League during the Merdeka Masters held in Kwang, Malaysia. Leviste, a show jumping specialist who last week won at the Malaysian Open on board her Swedish Warmblood mare, Globe Platinum Just Jewels, rode FAB, a 16-year-old Dutch-bred dressage horse owned by Carissa Coscolluela, to victory before a stunned crowd at the 3Q Equestrian Center on Aug. 5. Adding a new chapter to her 20-year riding career, Leviste bested 2006 Asian Games dressage silver medalist and three-time team and individual SEA Games champion Qabil Ambak with a score of 66.75 percent. The Malaysian favorite scored 65.34 percent. “I am as stunned as everyone else,” said Leviste. “I never expected to do well, more so win over my friend Qabil Ambak in dressage, since he is a multi-awarded dressage rider, and undoubtedly the best in the region.” Dressage is one of three disciplines in equestrian sports held during major regional and world championships, such as the Olympics and Asian Games. The other two are eventing and jumping. Leviste was forced to ride FAB after Globe Platinum Just Jewels suffered a tendon injury after the Malaysian Open. Being 19 years old, which is equivalent to 60 years in human terms, Leviste decided to retire Globe Platinum from competitive sport on a winning note. It was a gamble that paid off when Coscolluela,a long-time Philippine Equestrian Team patron, assigned Leviste to enter the dressage event with Coscolluela’s FAB. Though she wasn’t sure how Leviste and FAB would fare in the competition against seasoned pairs, Coscolluela felt confident that Leviste and her horse would deliver a decent performance as FAB belongs to the highest level in the discipline. “A month ago, FAB had an accident during air transport from the Netherlands to Malaysia, when he lost his entire tail due to an infection,” said Coscolluela. “For a dressage horse, where beauty and poise are ultimately scored, this situation is considered extremely disadvantageous.” Coscolluela’s worry turned out to be unfounded as Leviste and FAB rode in harmony to earn the nod of FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) judges Jan Bird of New Zealand and Peter Holler of Germany, both of whom will work the dressage event at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, in November. The King of Malaysia, his Majesty Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, who is an avid equestrian himself, and the Queen Tuanku Nur Zahirah, were the guests of honor during the four-day Merdeka Masters competition.