Category Archives: USEF

USEF Announces Dates and Locations for 2017 USEF Dressage National Championships

Lexington, Ky. – The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) is pleased to announce the dates and locations for the 2017 USEF Dressage National Championships. The U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions will be divided between two competitions. The Grand Prix, Intermediaire I, and Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ National Championships will be held at the USET Foundation headquarters in Gladstone, N.J., May 18-21. The Children, Pony Rider, Junior, and Young Rider National Championships will coincide with the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Dressage National Championships and USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals taking place at the Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Ill., August 24-27.

The following championships will be held at the USET Foundation:

USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Championship presented by Dressage Today
USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship
USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship

Qualifying for these championships will close on May 1, 2017.

The following championships and divisions will be held at the Lamplight Equestrian Center:

USEF Children Dressage National Championship
USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship
AGCO/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship
AGCO/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship
Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage National Championships (Four-, Five-, and Six-Year-Old divisions)
Markel/USEF Developing Horse Dressage National Championships (Prix St. Georges and Grand Prix divisions)
USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals (13 & Under and 14-18 divisions)

Qualifying for these championships will close on July 31, 2017.

For further qualifying information and selection procedures, visit

From the USEF Communications Department

Macey Miles and Harlem’s Wild and Wonderful Earn Triple Crown of Saddle Seat Equitation

Macey Miles and Harlem’s Wild and Wonderful (Howard Schatzberg Photography)

Kansas City, Mo. – Few have won the Triple Crown of Saddle Seat Equitation. Now, Macey Miles and Harlem’s Wild and Wonderful join the coveted list of Triple Crown winners. They earned this feat after taking the 2016 USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final presented by Elisabeth M. Goth at the United Professional Horsemen’s Association (UPHA) American Royal National Championship Horse Show on Saturday. The Triple Crown of Saddle Seat Equitation includes winning the UPHA Senior Challenge Cup, the Good Hands National Championship, and the USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final. As the winner of USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final, Miles will have her name engraved on the Adrian Van Sinderen Trophy, alongside a prestigious list of prior winners dating back to 1937. She also earned the Helen K. Crabtree Perpetual Bronze.

“I had to work really hard; you only get one shot at the Triple Crown. This has been something I wanted since I was five years old and knew what equitation was about,” said Miles after winning the last leg of the Triple Crown. “I looked up to so many riders above me, including those who won it before me. I worked as hard as I could, and Sarah Barclay, my riding instructor, helped me get through it all.”

Coming into the USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final was not easy for Miles (Rockport, Ind.). She faced immense pressure and stiff competition, joining young women who have been a part of Gold medal-winning Saddle Seat World Cup and Young Rider Teams. She also brought an inexperienced horse, her own six-year-old American Saddlebred, Harlem’s Wild and Wonderful. For this being the gelding’s first year in equitation competition, he fooled a lot of people.

“I don’t think it would have been earthly possible for this horse to come this far in such a short time. My dad has worked night and day with this horse and has brought him to his full potential,” said Miles.

A group of 23 combinations began the USEF Saddle Seat Final with preliminary ride-offs on Saturday morning. Miles and Harlem’s Wild and Wonderful stood out to the judges of Michael Craighead (Fresno, Calif.), Gary Garone (Richmond, N.H.), and Cindy Mugnier (Belchertown, Mass.) early.

“I thought it was a really great [preliminary] pattern, and it was one everybody could do. There was a lot of transitioning, and I thought riding without stirrups would set me apart from everyone else. I was praying we would get through it, and we did; he did absolutely awesome,” said an excited Miles.

The combination advanced to the afternoon session for additional rail and pattern work, along with 11 other combinations. As the nerves crept up on Miles, she settled down after the first cantering figure eight and trusted her partner to get them through.

“I have been practicing these movements ever since I can remember, and I liked all the elements. He was absolutely great, and he did not let me down,” said Miles.

Molly Codeanne (Wethersfield, Conn.) claimed back-to-back Reserve Champion honors with Cedarledge Farm’s CH EG Chanti’s Prayer. With solid performances in front of the judges, Codeanne was awarded the USEF Silver medal. The Bronze medal was awarded to Victoria Walz (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) riding her own CH Meritage Signed Sealed Delivered.

Full class results:

Champion: Macey Miles (Rockport, Ind.) with Harlem’s Wild and Wonderful
Reserve Champion: Molly Codeanne (Wethersfield, Conn.) with CH EQ Chanti’s Prayer
3. Victoria Walz (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) with CH Meritage Signed Sealed Delivered
4. Faith Robbins (Carmel, Ind.) with Heir’s Encore
5. Madison Stringer (Scottsdale, Ariz.) with My Kind of Lover
6. Hallie Ricci (Allentown, N.J.) with CH EQ Madeira’s Fame
7. Lora Becker (Sioux City, Iowa) with Royal Tryst
8. Ellie Grosspietsch (Cross Plains, Wis.) with CH EQ Final Act
9. Kaeley Arterburn (Carlsbad, Calif.) with CH EQ La Zingara
10. Gabriella Snyder (St. Louis, Mo.) with Nuttin’ Doing

The USEF is appreciative of its class donors for helping make the 2016 USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final possible: Elisabeth M. Goth (Lexington, Ky.), Mary Anne Cronan (Louisville, Ky.) Cynthia Knight (New Orleans, La.), Dr. Catherine McNeese (Austin, Texas), and Carol Reams (Frankfort, Ky.).

From the USEF Communications Department

Wilson Scores Back-to-Back USEF Pair Horse Driving National Championship Titles at Hermitage Classic CDE

Steve Wilson takes his lap of honor (

Goshen, Ky. – The Hermitage Classic CDE played host to the 2016 USEF Pair Horse Driving National Championship on October 21-23. The picturesque Hermitage Farm provided the backdrop for Steve Wilson to claim his second consecutive championship title.

Wilson (Louisville, Ky.) began the competition with a great dressage test, earning a score of 49.79 from the Ground Jury of Martha Hanks-Nicoll (USA), Danute Bright (USA), Barry Capstick (IRE), Joaquin Medina (SPA), and Jiri Kunat (CZE) to take the early lead.

“I’ve got a new young pair of Dutch Warmbloods that I found in Hungary. One of them is hotter than the other. I really had one of the best dressage tests I’ve ever had, regardless of the score; I felt really good about it,” Wilson explained. “I was able to keep the impulsion up and they have got beautiful extension. I pushed them a little too far and we broke to a canter in the last [extended trot movement], but that was my fault.”

He and his own mixed KWPN and Lippizanner pair put forth a determined effort over the tough marathon course designed by Barry Hunter (GBR), winning the phase with a total of 95.67 penalties and having the fastest times in four of the seven obstacles.

“In the marathon, I put in a different horse, a Lippizzaner I have had for quite some time and a real powerhouse, taking the youngest and most sensitive horse out. I had a really good marathon; I had one bobble in obstacle six, but I felt really good about my time and how well they responded.”

Wilson clinched the 2016 title following Sunday’s cones phase. His lead going into the final phase came in handy as he had three balls down for nine penalties and 6.13 time penalties over the challenging track. Wilson won back-to-back titles with a final score of 160.59.

“Today in cones, I put the two Dutch Warmbloods back together, and Dario was really hot and really wanted to go. If I could’ve had just a bit more control I think I could have kept from hitting a couple balls. I had a nice lead and I knew I could afford three [balls].”

U.S. Driving Coach Thorsten Zarembowicz pointed out that Wilson had three different horses from the last time he won the national title, making Wilson’s win quite impressive. “In one year he achieved the same goal with three different horses, which in my mind, is the toughest part to work out. Normally you change one horse out, get another one in, but Steve has come so far that he can drive a different pair just as well.”

As co-owner of Hermitage Farm with his wife Laura Lee Brown, Wilson felt the stress competing for the championship title on his home turf. “For me, the idea of losing the second time around here at home in front of my friends made me more intense on myself and feel the pressure. Being the host of an event and competing is really difficult, but my wife and I love hosting and it is getting better every year.”

Chet Halka (Millstone, N.J.) started off the weekend with a solid dressage test that received a score of 54.51. He and his own KWPN and Oldenburg pair had a strong marathon performance, collecting 101.66 penalties and having the fastest times in three obstacles. In the cones phase, Halka left all the balls up, but had 7.59 time penalties. His performance was good enough to win the cones phase and earn the Reserve Champion title with a final score of 163.76.

Joan Fernandez (Murrieta, Calif.) and her own Friesian pair had a respectable dressage test to receive a score of 67.55. They had a steady marathon round to tally 174.82 penalties. Fernandez and her pair finished out the competition with four balls down for 12 penalties and 20.8 time penalties in the cones phase, finishing third with a score of 275.15.

Find out more about the Hermitage Classic CDE and view complete results.

By Kathleen Landwehr

O’Donoghue and Lowe Earn USEF One-Star Eventing National Championship Titles

Meghan O’Donoghue and Rehy USA (Xpress Photo)

Lexington, Ky. – This weekend the hallowed grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park played host to the USEF One-Star Eventing National Championships as part of the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event & Team Challenge. In a very competitive field of 50 in the CCI1*, Meghan O’Donoghue and Rehy USA claimed the Richard Collins Trophy for the win. Sharlee Lowe and Jjamaica topped the field of 20 in the Junior and Young Rider division to clinch the Harry T. Peters Trophy.

The CCI1* began under cold and rainy skies on Thursday, but the weather did not seem to affect O’Donoghue (Carbondale, Ill.) and Ronald Shipka Irrevocable Trust’s Rehy USA, as they went into the lead easily on a score of 39.80.

“I was really happy with him,” said O’Donoghue of Rehy USA’s dressage performance. “He is a really lovely horse on the flat and has been really competitive this year. I thought he put in a really professional test. It’s fun to go in there and show off a little on him.”

The 2005 Irish Sport Horse gelding dominated the Derek Di Grazia-designed cross-country course, turning in a clear round in one of the fastest times of the day and maintaining the pair’s lead going into Saturday’s show jumping phase.

“The horse has been a pretty good cross-country horse and I was able to watch a little bit before our ride,” said O’Donoghue. “The course rode pretty much to plan. He went around easy and inside the time so I was thrilled with him.”

With a rail in hand heading into the show jumping arena, O’Donoghue had a slim amount of breathing room, but didn’t need it as she and the gelding put in another superb clear effort to secure the National Championship title.

“The horse had jumped really well in the warm-up and didn’t feel fatigued at all so that gave me a lot of confidence. Richard Picken has been helping me with show jumping this year and I think we had a good plan – all of that factors into how it plays out in the ring and everything was going well. It’s nice to be in this place. I’ve done a lot of FEI competitions and to take home a win is great, especially for the family [the Shipkas] who has supported me a lot over the last couple years.”

Staying hot on the winning pair’s heels all weekend was Phillip Dutton (West Grove Pa.) and The Manager, a 2010 Thoroughbred gelding owned by Ann Jones. In the gelding’s first event at the FEI level, he turned in a solid dressage test to score a 44.00. With double-clear efforts in both cross-country and show jumping, the pair clinched the Reserve National Champion title on their dressage score.

Sydney Conley Elliott (Benton, La.)and Carol Stephen’s QC Diamantaire rounded out the top three, also finishing on their dressage score of 44.80.

Sharlee Lowe and Jjamaica (Xpress Photo)
Sharlee Lowe and Jjamaica (Xpress Photo)

Earning her first CCI1* win and Nation Champion title, Lowe (Metamora, Mich.) remained poised all weekend with her own Jjamaica, a 2008 Hanoverian gelding. They sat in second after dressage on a score of 50.20, but propelled themselves to the top of the leaderboard after a solid double-clear cross-country effort.

Lowe was pleased with her horse’s efforts in the first two phases, saying, “I was a little worried [on the first day] since I have never ridden him in the rain during dressage, but he is from England so I had a little faith that he had dealt with rain before. Overall, he tried his heart out. Going into cross-country, I knew it was a big course with a lot of great brush questions so I knew I had to go out there and be aggressive and make some bold choices. Luckily he was with me every step of the way. There were some moments when he could have backed down, but he fought his way over every fence and I was really happy.”

With multiple top combinations finding trouble in the show jumping phase, Lowe was able to enter the arena as last to go with a rail in hand. The pair did tip one rail out of the cups, but secured the win on a final score of 54.20.

“There is always some pressure when you’re going last,” said Lowe. “Show jumping is one of the phases we have been working on a lot at home and the rail he had I thought was a bit of a fluke. I don’t have any words to describe how happy I am with this win. I am so grateful. A year ago I didn’t have this horse and there were a lot of people along the way that helped me find him and then once I had him, to get us to this point. We started out the year going training [level] so we have come a long way.”

Moving steadily up the leaderboard all weekend were Olivia Dutton (West Grove, Pa.) and Amy Ruth Borun’s Santa’s Playboy, a 1998 Thoroughbred gelding. The pair was sixth after dressage on 54.50 and fifth after cross-country where it incurred 2.40 time penalties. With a beautiful faultless show jumping round, Dutton finished on a score of 56.90 and secured the second Reserve National Champion title for the Dutton family, matching her father Phillip in the USEF One-Star Eventing National Championships.

Cassandra Wallskog (Mequon, Wis.) and her own and Megan and Joel Wallskog’s Quainton Cassanova also cruised up the leaderboard on the final day. Sitting in ninth after dressage, the pair placed third overall thanks to a double-clear show jumping effort to end on 59.50.

Complete Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event & Team Challenge Results

From the USEF Communications Department

Zone 2 Defends Title to Take Team Gold in USEF National Junior Jumper Championships

Katherine Strauss and All In (©Al Cook –

Harrisburg, Pa. – The team from Zone 2 took home the Team Gold for the second consecutive year with the best possible score to win the Prix des States Team Championship of the Neue Schule/USEF National Junior Jumper Championships at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, presented by The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund. Zone 4 won the Silver and the Bronze went to Zone 5.

The Zone 2 team consisted of Madison Goetzmann (Skaneateles, N.Y.) riding Wrigley, Katherine Strauss (Southampton, N.Y.) aboard All In, Lauren Fischer (Bedford Hills, N.Y.) on Tosca du Feugre, and Eliza Month (Scarsdale, N.Y.) with Calumpi. The formidable foursome captured the title with three out of the four going double-clear over the Steve Stephens-designed course to finish with a zero fault score.

Ralph Caristo served as the Zone 2 Chef d’Equipe and was especially pleased with the victory. Caristo has held the position for many years, but he was unable to make the trip in 2015.

“I had to judge last year so Krista Freundlich substituted for me and she did a fantastic job,” said Caristo. “This is what we strive for. The girls really rose to the occasion. I told them to just go in there and have fun. They had enough experience so they knew what to do, and they did it.”

In a modified Nations Cup format, the seven teams and individual riders jumped the same course twice with one drop score permitted from each round. Although the top six teams moved on to the second round, the battle for Gold was really between Zone 2 and Zone 4. At the conclusion of the first round, Zone 2 held a slight lead with a zero score and Zone 4 was second with four faults.

Brett Burlington (Coral Gables, Fla.) led the way for Zone 4 going double-clear on Bluf. Cooper Dean (Fayette, Ala.) on WEC Quidam-Quidam had a total score of four faults, Sophie Simpson (Jupiter, Fla.) ended up with a total score of 12 faults on Why Not, and Helen Graves (Franklin, Tenn.) was the drop score on Armani to give the team a final score of 16 faults.

Strauss and Fischer had already piloted double-clear rounds for Zone 2, but Month was eliminated in round two, so the team needed anchor rider Goetzmann to do well in order to use Month as the drop score. Goetzmann also rode to a double-clear, clinching the Gold for the team.

“I had so much confidence in my horse and Ralph Caristo gives all of us so much confidence, so I didn’t feel too much pressure,” said Goetzmann on riding last. “I felt like I had a great team behind me and my horse was absolutely amazing. I thought it was an excellent course. There was a tight time allowed and a few wide oxers coming out of short turns. You really had to understand how to ride the track and be able to ride efficiently and smooth in the indoor ring because we are used to riding in a big outdoor ring throughout the season.”

Goetzmann and Strauss were also members of the 2015 Gold-medal winning team, which Strauss believes may have helped them win the title.

“It’s a huge adjustment riding indoors,” said Strauss. “Things come up quicker; you have to adjust to the way the lines ride. Maddie and I have been in this class many times before on the same horses so we were expecting those turns and the way this ring rides. It felt great coming here with such a great team.”

It was the first time Fischer and her mare had competed in the Championship and she was thrilled with their inaugural run. “I am really proud of my mare. It was her first time doing anything like this. She really came out on top and gave me two nice clear rounds. I thought the course was challenging, the time allowed was definitely a factor. You really had to know your horse for this course.”

Month, who had a less successful night than her teammates, also thought the course was challenging. “The oxers were pretty wide,” said Month. “It was crucial for you to keep pace but keep a connection to your horse. I think it tested a lot of us. I feel so lucky to be part of such an awesome team.”

The team of Zone 5, with Caelinn Leahy (Maple Park, Ill.), Alexandra Pielet (Highland Park, Ill.), Giavanna Rinaldi (Wayne, Ill.), and Dana Wille (Dexter, Mich.), snagged the Bronze with a score of 37 faults.

The Championship culminated on Saturday with the top 60% from Phases I and II for the Neue Schule/USEF National Junior Jumper Individual Championship. In a nail biting fight to the finish, Strauss took top honors riding All In, owned by Katherine Strauss, LLC. The win was all the more special as she was competing in her final year as a junior rider.

“I couldn’t have been happier with the way my horse jumped this week, I am so proud of him. This is my third year competing with him here and it feels great to finally come back and have this finish,” said Strauss. “This has been a class that I have watched for many years and to represent Zone 2 and compete with riders that have worked so hard to get here all year is so special. I’m even more thrilled to have this win with my teammates and my barn mate. It’s a true testament to how strong the Zone 2 riders are.”

In the final phase of the Championship, scores are carried over from the previous two phases. The top three, Strauss, Goetzmann and Fischer, all entered the final phase of the competition without having knocked down a single rail. The margin between them was one and one half faults, meaning there was no room for error in order to capture Gold.

Riding in reverse order of merit, Fischer was the first of the three to ride. Fischer and her mare, Tosca du Feugre, were easily negotiating the Steve Stephens-designed course until the final fence, where they came in at an awkward distance and the mare made a herculean effort to leave the rails intact.

“I didn’t see anything,” said Fischer about the distance at the final fence. “I was like, it’s the last jump, I can’t have it down and I panicked, but I knew she had my back. I said, ‘Come on Tessa!’ And she cleared it. She’s a good girl. She had my back. In the beginning she really didn’t like me very much. It took me actually 12 months to figure out how to ride her so it makes this moment more special.”

Goetzmann followed Fischer riding on Wrigley. Fischer had already gone clear and Strauss was waiting in the wings, so the pressure was on. The young rider had no problem going clear and clinched silver.

“It’s such an amazing accomplishment,” said Goetzmann. “My horse, Wrigley and I continue to grow and grow. I’ve had her for about two years now and each show our partnership gets better and better. It’s an amazing feeling having both of my teammates finish well. No matter what the end result was, I was going to be happy.”

As the final rider of the 18 who competed in the final phase, Strauss had a long wait before entering the arena. Her teammates had already gone clear, so she and All In needed to be flawless to win gold.

“These two definitely put the pressure on, they are so hardworking, so talented and so accomplished,” said Strauss. “I was definitely nervous, but I had total confidence in my horse. He’s such a special horse.”

Strauss also won the William C. Steinkraus Style of Riding Award, sponsored by Karen Healey Stables. The award is presented to the Prix des States Junior Jumper Rider who best exemplifies the American style of equitation and the respectful, dignified, courteous and workmanlike manner of a true sportsman.

Classic Communications for the USEF

T. J. O’Mara Wins Pessoa/US Hunter Seat Medal Final at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show

T. J. O’Mara riding Kaskade (©Al Cook –

Harrisburg, Pa. – T. J. O’Mara was in disbelief after taking top honors in the Pessoa/US Hunter Seat Medal Final presented by Randolph College, at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, presented by The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund. Just one week earlier, the 17-year-old Rumson, N.J. resident won the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East.

“It is a little unbelievable; last weekend really hasn’t sunk in and the fact that it happened again today is unbelievable,” said O’Mara. “I am in shock right now. I never expected this to happen. My goal was just to be in the test. I would have been happy with a top four ribbon and I just can’t believe it right now.”

Annabel Revers of Weston, Mass. jumped from 13th place after the first round to the runner-up spot and McKayla Langmeier, East Granby, Conn., was third.

Following a preliminary round of 276 riders, the top 25 were called back for the second round, which was whittled down to an additional test for the top four. Revers placed fourth, Taylor St. Jacques was called back third, O’Mara was second, and McKayla Langmeier was the rider to beat.

The final test required riders to complete a course of six jumps including a roll back from the second fence, counter canters at the third and fourth fences and a hand gallop to the final fence. The counter canters proved to be the deciding factor. Riding in reverse order of merit, Revers was the pathfinder and chose to do a simple change for the counter canter.

“I was hoping to land both leads on the counter canter, but that didn’t work out for the first one so I had to do a simple change, which was fine,” said Revers. “This was a really exciting day for me because coming here I was definitely not expecting to be second. I’ve never even gotten a ribbon at a major equitation final. Today was really my day.”

O’Mara turned in two flawless flying changes on Kaskade. “My mare is just incredible at doing flying changes,” said O’Mara. “I was expecting her to land right at the first counter canter but when that didn’t happen I had to switch gears and focus on the next part of the test and completing the test.”

Langmeier ran into a bit of trouble with her second change, which, according to judges Jimmy Torano and Marylisa Leffler, cost her the championship.

“McKayla came in on top and even when she did the first simple change, she played it safe, which was a smart thing to do because she was winning the class,” said Torano. “Then for one second she maybe let up and it cost her, but she still rode great.”

O’Mara is trained by Stacia Madden and Max Amaya. He will have his name added to the Adrian Van Sinderen Memorial Perpetual Trophy, not far from his sister Meg, who won the Medal Final in 2012.

One additional award was given out on Sunday. Charisma, owned by Heritage Farms, LLC and ridden by Taylor St. Jacques, won the Doris H. Clark Memorial Perpetual Trophy as Best Equitation Horse.

Top Ten Results:
1. T. J. O’Mara, Rumson, N.J.
2. Anabel Revers, Weston, Mass.
3. McKayla Langmeier, East Granby, Conn.
4. Taylor St. Jacques, Glen Allen, Va.
5. Emma Kurtz, Hudson, Ohio
6. Sydney Hutchins, Westlake Village, Calif.
7. Lucy Deslauriers, New York, N.Y.
8. Madison Goetzmann, Skaneateles, N.Y.
9. Katherine Strauss, Southampton, N.Y.
10. Louisa Brackett, Grayslake, Ill.

Watch competition highlights on demand at

Classic Communications for the USEF

Amy Speck-Kern Places Top in Nation at Young Horse Championships

Amy Speck-Kern and Gerona at the 2016 Markel/USEF Young Horse Championships (Photo courtesy of

Wellington, Florida (October 15, 2016) – For Amy Speck-Kern, dressage is a passion that gave her the inspiration to overcome childhood cancer. This passion, combined with cutting edge treatment protocols and the support of her family, friends, and outreach groups, allowed her to defeat Acute Myleoid Leukemia (AML) and pursue her dream of a successful FEI dressage career. Speck-Kern hit a milestone this summer, after qualifying the newly imported KWPN mare Gerona for the 2016 Markel/USEF Young Horse Championships. The pair finished as one of the top 15 ranked 5-year-old combinations in the nation, and through the generous contributions of her family, friends, and colleagues, was able to pay the success forward in the form of a donation to the Kids Cancer Foundation of South Florida. The 501(c)(3) non-profit charity provides hope and support to local children and families battling childhood cancer, and is a reflection of the support and guidance that was so imperative to Speck-Kern’s conquering the disease.

Following her national championship debut, Speck-Kern attended the Kids Cancer Foundation’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Celebration at Lands End Farm in Wellington, Florida. In addition to ponies and face painting, the day of equine fun also centered around raising support and awareness for the children that battle the disease. “It’s important to remember that treatment is just one piece of the puzzle,” said Speck-Kern, “and normally the only one covered by health insurance. Education, support, and resources like psychologists and the camaraderie of other children who are experiencing the same reality are priceless. I love that we can work the horses into the support programs because I know that was a huge drive for me, and to see the kids interacting with them makes it obvious how much of an impact it has.”

Wellington’s equestrian community has a long history of supporting children’s cancer research and the Kids Cancer Foundation. This past winter, the KCF’s team at the Great Charity Challenge placed 3rd overall, earning a donation of $112,500. In September, the Southeast Medal Finals auctioned off a Kids Cancer Foundation custom Wood Craft Solutions jump with all of the proceeds to benefit the KCF. And it’s not just showjumping and dressage: international polo star Nic Roldan is also one of the Kids Cancer Foundation’s Ambassadors, channeling his success on the polo fields into awareness and support for this local charity.

Mini humans and equines at the Childhood Cancer Awareness Celebration at Lands End Farm (Photo courtesy of Moonstruck Photography)
Mini humans and equines at the Childhood Cancer Awareness Celebration at Lands End Farm (Photo courtesy of Moonstruck Photography)

“The equestrian community has always been exceptionally generous and supportive of our organization, and have made a huge difference in the lives of these children and their families,” said Michelle O’Boyle, RN, CPON, founder and executive director of the Kids Cancer Foundation, Inc. “Having survivors and high profile riders like Amy and Nick involved gives the kids hope for their own futures, as they see that there is life after leukemia or childhood cancer and that its worth fighting for.”

To learn more about the Kids Cancer Foundation, visit their website at Help us help them fight!

Amy’s Story: Riding for Childhood Cancer Research

In 2003 and at the age of 18, only barely still considered a child by medical standards, Amy Speck-Kern was diagnosed with Acute Myleoid Leukemia. Known by the acronym AML, this childhood cancer attacks multiple blood cell types, including red blood cells, platelet-forming cells, and white blood cells other than lymphocytes (when leukemia attacks lymphocytes, it is known as acute lymphoblasic leukemia, or ALL). AML represents only 20% of leukemia diagnoses, so Amy and her doctors realized it would be a challenge to successfully defeat the disease.

“They told us they couldn’t guarantee her next month, next week, or even tomorrow,” says Liz Mikutowski, Amy’s mother. With high school graduation quickly approaching, Amy went onto the course of treatment, a newly devised protocol from the Children’s Oncology Group, for which she was one of the first patients. Previous treatments had a 60% survivor rate for AML, and around the time of Amy’s diagnosis, the survival rate experienced a surge up to 90% thanks to advanced research and development into cures for childhood cancer. The new protocol for Amy featured these advancements, and coupled with diet, exercise and the support of family and childhood cancer organizations, she completed the treatment at an accelerated rate. After only 6 months, Amy was cleared of AML, thanks to the tireless work of children’s oncologists, doctors, nurses, and the generous funding, grants, and donations that made the research possible.

“I know that I’m here because of the research,” said Speck-Kern. “The disease and course of treatment inspired me to pursue my passion, and find a way to give back to the cause that has made it possible.” Her passion can be found in the saddle, astride thousand-pound dressage horses she teaches to move and dance in tandem with their riders. Now a professional FEI dressage trainer in Loxahatchee, Florida, she rides, trains, shows, and competes on Wellington’s prestigious international show circuit. After learning from and working with some of the best trainers in the industry, Amy founded Excel Dressage and, leading into the 2016 show season, has begun the process of giving back to childhood cancer research.

For more information on Amy or Excel Dressage, visit

Media Contact:
Holly Johnson
Equinium Sports Marketing, LLC
954 205 7992

T. J. O’Mara Comes from Behind to Win USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East

T. J. O’Mara and Kaskade (The Book LLC)

Gladstone, N.J. – The 2016 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East came to close on Sunday following four phases of intense competition amongst the field of 57 top young riders. Beginning Saturday with Phases I and II, the field was then narrowed down on Sunday following Phase III to the final four who performed over a shortened course on their own horse, as well as the horses of the other finalists. T. J. O’Mara was ultimately crowned the 2016 champion. Riding Kaskade, O’Mara sat in fifth place overall after day one, but impressed judges Kristen Coe and Karen Healey in Sunday’s Phases III and IV with impeccable performances over the challenging courses.

Competition commenced Saturday morning with Phase I, the flat phase, where riders entered the ring in small groups to demonstrate their aptitude for executing the questions asked by the judges. Riders worked their horses at all gaits, showing collection and extension, and movements such as haunches-in, shoulder-in, and a halt and rein back. Daisy Farish (Lexington, Ky.) made a strong impression early on aboard Nathalie De Gunzburg’s Ganjana, winning the phase with a score of 92. McKayla Langmeier (East Grandby, Conn.) was not far behind in second on a score of 90, while Taylor St. Jacques (Glenn Allen, Va.) rounded out the top three on an 89. O’Mara (Rumson, N.J.) and Walstib Stables LLC’s Kaskade earned a score of 86 and putting them in 11th on the leaderboard.

For Phase II, judges Coe and Healy opted to include three of eleven gymnastic exercises developed by Beezie Madden and Anthony D’Ambrosio, which were published and released to qualified riders and trainers over the summer. D’Ambrosio was present as Technical Delegate to set the courses to the correct specifications, a role he also fulfilled at the West Coast Final where Peyton Warren was the Champion in September.

As in the West Final, the Phase II course included a vertical-vertical combination in a line with an oxer-oxer combination, jumped in both directions. Coming off the right lead, judges asked for a forward five strides between the combinations and returning over the line off the left lead, to steady the horse for six strides. Vivian Yowan (Lexington, Ky.) riding McLain Ward’s Clearline topped Phase II with a beautifully executed round that scored 93, moving her up from eighth to second overall going into day two. Farish placed second in the phase, matching her flat score of 92, to continue to lead the field overall. Langmeier moved into third overall with a Phase II score of 90.75. On the strength of a 91.50 score, O’Mara began his ascension up the leaderboard, landing in fifth at the end of day one.

Phase III asked a number of questions of the riders throughout the 12-obstacle track again  designed by the judges and built by D’Ambrosio, that included three one-stride double-combinations. The course was demanding from the start, beginning over a triple-bar set at the end of the arena, requiring riders to approach off the turn. Fences eight, nine, and ten, a wall to an oxer to a single, were off-set on a serpentine, necessitating thoughtful and careful riding before the last line that included an oxer to a double-combination over liverpools. O’Mara took the narrow win with a fluid and smart ride over the track that was rewarded with a score of 92. With excellent performances from all the riders at the top of the leaderboard the scores were very close. Yowan finished second on 91.50, Sophie Simpson (Wellington, Fla.) moved into a coveted finalist position with a score of 91 aboard Ashland Farms’ Breckenridge, and Farish rounded out the top four with 90.50.

Daisy Farish and Ganjana (The Book LLC)
Daisy Farish and Ganjana (The Book LLC)

Featuring the top four riders on the overall leaderboard following three phases, Phase IV tested the riders’ abilities to catch ride three different horses over a nine-effort track. In round one of the ride-off, the riders presented their own horses over the winding course. Farish maintained her three-phase lead going into the final event, but all four finalists started equal in Phase IV where she ran into trouble in rounds one, two, and four. Following a costly refusal at fence four aboard her original mount Ganjana in round one, she dropped rails on Yowan and Simpson’s mounts, leaving the door open for the other three finalists who rose brilliantly to the occasion. O’Mara rode with quiet confidence aboard each horse, executing near foot-perfect courses to secure the Championship title with a score of 355. Like O’Mara, Simpson went from strength-to-strength throughout the weekend, climbing the leaderboard from an eighth place finish in Phase I to Reserve Champion. In Phase IV, Simpson earned the two highest scores, earning a 92 aboard both her own horse and O’Mara’s Kaskade. Yowan placed third and Farish finished in fourth.

Speaking to the difficulty of the final phase, O’Mara, who finished fourth in the 2015 Final, said, “It’s hard because you really have to show who you are as a rider. I hadn’t seen the [other three] horses go and didn’t really have an idea of how they would ride so I had to have confidence in myself as a rider. I knew I could focus and put in a good ride regardless of the horse.”

O’Mara was awarded the French Leave Memorial Perpetual Trophy donated by the Gerald A. Nielsen Family. He also received an engraved iPad mini from Platinum Performance. Max Amaya and Stacia Madden, who train O’Mara, took home the Leading Trainer(s) Award, donated by the late Mr. Hugh J. B. Cassidy, III. The Grappa Trophy, donated by Sarah Willeman, was awarded to McLain Ward’s Clearline, Yowan’s entry, whom the judges chose as the best horse of the competition.

Complete Results

Prior to the start of Phase IV, USEF Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals were awarded in recognition of wins in Talent Search Classes. Bronze medals are awarded to riders who win at least five classes, Silver to those who win at least 10 classes, and the coveted Gold goes to riders with 20 or more wins.

The medals were awarded as follows:

Gold: Alexandria Desiderio

Silver: Catherine Apostol, Katherine Bundy, and Madison Goetzmann

Bronze: Elizabeth Ekberg, Coco Fath, Carly Hoft, Hayley Mairano, and Taylor St. Jacques

On the West Coast, Ransome Rombauer was awarded a Gold medal.

Learn more about the Talent Search Program

From the USEF Communications Department

Berndl and Whaley Earn USEF Pony Driving National Championship Titles

Leslie Berndl and Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle (

Lexington, Ky. – A lovely weekend at the Kentucky Classic CDE played host to the 2016 USEF Pony Driving National Championships. Held October 6-9 at the Kentucky Horse Park, the championships crowned two National Champions: Leslie Berndl and Katie Whaley, along with their talented ponies.

USEF Single Pony Driving National Championship

Berndl (Newcastle, Calif.) and Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle began their quest for a national title with a lovely dressage test to win the phase with a score of 53.69 from the Ground Jury of Anne-Marie Turbe (FRA), Elimar Thunert (GER), and Kail Palmer-Miller (USA). Berndl boldly drove Teressa Kandianis’ 2004 Norwegian Fjord mare in the marathon phase, having the fastest times in four of the seven obstacles designed by Richard Nicoll (USA). They won the phase and added 86.19 penalties to their score. Despite the fact that less than three points separated first and second place, Berndl and Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle kept their cool in the cones phase to have a double-clear round and earn the USEF Single Pony Driving National Championship title with a final score of 139.88.

“The whole championship was wonderful. We drove out from California; it’s 49 hours. She is an inexperienced pony with traveling, but she handled the trip really well,” Berndl explained. “The dressage was super; I was really, really happy with her in a hard test. The marathon was very challenging, especially for a smaller pony because she is only 13.2 hands. She handled the marathon like it was nothing. In the cones, it was a long course and I really wanted to make sure to keep the speed up. We went in with 2.58 points separating us from Tracey [Morgan], who is a National Champion already, so there was a lot of pressure and I just had to guide her around and let her do it; she stayed calm and cool. She gave 100% of everything she had in every phase.”

Two-time National Champion Tracey Morgan (Beallsville, Md.) and longtime partner Fuego 88 collected Reserve Champions honors after an excellent performance throughout the weekend, beginning with a smooth dressage test that scored 54.04. Morgan and her own 2001 German Riding Pony gelding were determined on the marathon course, having a bobble in obstacle three but rallying to finish with 88.42 penalties. They ended the competition with an impressive double-clear cones round to win the phase and solidify their Reserve Champion title with a final score of 142.46.

Rebecca Gutierrez (Windsor, S.C.) and Naria BW6, Richard Olson’s 2003 Haflinger mare, finished in third place with a final score of 152.44. The duo scored 61.51 in the dressage phase and collecting 90.02 and 0.91 in the marathon and cones phases, respectively.

USEF Pair Pony Driving National Championship

Whaley (Paris, Ky.) drove her own and Barbara Sims’ Welsh geldings to win her first USEF Pair Pony Driving National Championship title, winning each of the phases along the way. She had a wonderful dressage test, scoring 49.67 to take the early lead. Whaley attacked the marathon course with her pair and had the fastest times in all of the obstacles, collecting 90.25 penalties. They delivered another quality performance in the cones phase with a single ball down at obstacle nine for 3.00 penalties, winning the championship with a final score of 142.92.

Katie Whaley (
Katie Whaley (

“They were amazing. These two [Tommy and Tanner] are full brothers and they do marathon and cones, but my newest one [Night Flyer] that I have borrowed from a friend, Barbara Sims, this was his first competition as a pair in the dressage and he was a machine,” Whaley said of her ponies. “The dressage is what I was really concentrating on and that was the best score I have gotten in a very long time, so that was really fun. The marathon I hit about three-quarters speed because I was trying stuff with them and I just wanted to keep them quiet, and they were great, and the cones phase was good.”

Jennifer Matheson (Aiken, S.C.) and Katrina Becker and Mary Anne Boyden’s mixed pair began the championship with a respectable dressage test for a score of 58.13. Matheson and the ponies had a solid marathon performance, collecting 102.42 penalties and finishing second in the phase. They closed out the competition with three balls down in the cones phase for 12.00 penalties, finishing second in the phase and obtaining Reserve Champion honors.

Find out more about the Kentucky Classic CDE and view the complete results.

From the USEF Communications Department

Peyton Warren Secures 2016 USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – West Title

Peyton Warren and Casmir Z (McCool)

San Juan Capistrano, Calif. – Always a test of mindfulness and skill, the four phases of the 2016 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – West illustrate the demands on a show jumper. Nineteen qualified riders began the finals on Friday, which after three phases were narrowed down to a final four who then demonstrated their abilities to ride a course on four different horses. Sitting on top going into the final phase, Peyton Warren (Rancho Murieta, Calif.) emerged as the 2016 champion. Riding Casmir Z, Warren’s style and experience gave her the edge to secure the win.

“It means the world to me to win a Final like this because I’m passionate about the jumpers, and that’s what I ultimately want to do for a career,” Warren stated. “I have a lot of respect for this Final because I knew the goal was to have my horse prepared to jump the final round to the best of his ability. And I could feel him accomplishing that.”

The challenges commenced on Friday morning with Phase I, when riders entered the ring in small groups showing their skill with the required flat questions asked by judges Cynthia Hankins and Schuyler Riley. Riders worked their horses at all gaits, showing collection and extension, and movements such as haunches-in, shoulder-out, half-pass, and counter canter on a circle. Warren led that phase with a score of 97, with Megan Hilton (Seattle, Wash.) and Michael Williamson (Loomis, Calif.) a very close second and third, with scores of 96.5 and 96, respectively.

With a new format this year, Riley, in the role of Finals judge, developed the Phase II course, which included three of eleven gymnastic exercises developed by Beezie Madden and Anthony D’Ambrosio, as well as some of her own exercises. D’Ambrosio was present as Technical Delegate, and helped set the courses to the correct specifications.

Riders were given an option from fences 1 to 3 that were set equidistantly in a ‘U-shape’ off the left-lead. They could ride four strides between 1 and 2, and six strides between 2 and 3, or the reverse, six strides initially and then four strides from 2-3. Notably all of the top four chose to ride the four to six option. Other questions on course included a vertical-vertical combination in a line with an oxer-oxer combination, jumped in both directions. Going away from home, judges asked for an opening five strides and coming towards home to collect the horse for six strides. Hilton topped this phase with a 91; and with a 90 for Warren, she was still quite close to the lead. This phase had a 1.5 multiplier, which meant the two riders at the top were just one point apart, with 233 and 232. And with no other scores in the nineties, next best was Serena Anand (Coto de Caza, Calif.) with 214.5, followed by Williamson with 213.

Phase III asked a number of questions of the riders over a 16-effort track, designed by Cynthia Hankins, with D’Ambrosio building the course. Featuring a multiplier of two, this phase often changes the standings. Returning first, and sitting 19th at the time, Samantha Gastelum (Trabuco Canyon, Calif.) executed an impressive round, scoring 89, which ultimately moved her up to 10th place overall. Halie Robinson (Santa Barbara, Calif.) also rode well, earning an 85, which moved her from 13th to fifth overall.

Once again, Warren commanded the track, riding Casmir Z beautifully for a 92 score, the only ninety score of the round. Anand, Williamson, and Hilton scored 84, 80, and 79, to finalize the top four going into the Final Phase.

The nine effort Phase IV for the final four tested the riders’ abilities to not only catch ride three different horses but to try to bring out the best in each mount. Warren, who has a plethora of catch riding miles, executed solid tracks on each mount, and once again earned impressive scores in the nineties. Peyton’s final score of 374 was unbeatable. Second to Warren was Anand, with an overall total of 340, followed by Hilton at 326 and Williamson in fourth with 319.

Not new to this challenge, Warren had competed at these Finals before. “This was my third year doing the Finals. Last year, I finished in the top 10 with a horse I had done Young Riders on the same year.”

All of the top four competitors agreed that the format of the final evolved from one phase to the next, and tested horsemanship as well as technique. The mission of the Final to “test a rider’s ability to ride a jumper-style course effectively while maintaining the classic American forward style of riding… and build on preparing the next generation of international jumping riders” was truly in alignment.

Warren was focused and not fearful of this multi-phase test of her skills. “Shockingly, I wasn’t nervous going into this particular Final. I was lucky enough to have my horse a month or so before the Final so I could work with him at home on the flat and create a strong bond, so when I got to the show there was no further work I needed to accomplish,” the champion explained. “I was very confident in my ability and my horse’s rideability. This was most important to me because I usually have to get used to a horse the week I show it, since I do mostly catch riding. I saw the Final as challenging, but the tracks were so much fun to ride on my horse.”

Warren was awarded the Denali Memorial Perpetual Trophy, donated by Maya Hamburger. She also received an iPad from Platinum Performance, engraved with the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals logo. Jill Humphrey of JH SportHorses, who trains Warren, took home the Leading Trainer Award, donated by the late Mr. Hugh J. B. Cassidy, III. The Gulliver Trophy, donated by Karen Healey, was awarded to Megan Hilton’s Cantoblanco, whom the judges chose as the best horse of the competition.

The Talent Search Program plays an important role in the rider pipeline as it addresses the principal that form follows function and that it is important for a rider to have equitation basics and a solid jumper seat position in order to become an effective jumper rider. The Talent Search classes test a rider’s ability to ride a jumper style course effectively while maintaining the classic American forward style of riding. The Talent Search program fosters this tradition in U.S. Show Jumping and builds on preparing the next generation of international jumping riders. Learn more at

From the USEF Communications Department
Courtesy of Blenheim EquiSports