Gladstone, NJ – Day two of the 2012 USEF Dressage Festival of Champions produced the first three National Champions of 2012 in the Young Rider, Junior, and Pony Rider Divisions. It also featured the Grand Prix National Dressage Championship which also serves as the USEF Selection Trial for the 2012 Olympic Games – which finishes next Saturday.
Steffen Peters refused to loosen his grip on the Grand Prix title with Legolas 92 – repeating yesterday’s winning effort to close out the first half of that championship. Peters’ student, Brandi Roenick, who won the 2008 National Junior Dressage Championship with Pretty Lady, returned four years later to take the Young Rider National Dressage Championship with her beloved mare.
Ayden Uhlir won the USEF National Junior Dressage Championships with Sjapoer – holding on to her lead from yesterday. Barbara Davis won the final championship of weekend one, claiming victory in the National Pony Rider Dressage Championship.
All of the rides are available as on demand videos at www.usefnetwork.com, which is also live streaming all weekend and a full report is available below.
National Young Rider Dressage Championship
Roenick was the first National Champion of the day to be crowned, as she never looked in doubt of the win, finishing more than three points ahead of second place finisher, Mackinzie Pooley. Roenick (San Diego, CA) was the winner of Saturday’s FEI Young Rider Team Test and again topped the field in the FEI Young Rider Individual Test. She rode her own Pretty Lady to a 73.421% Sunday and finished on an overall average of 72.579% in the National Young Rider Dressage Championship.
For a second day the 14-year-old Royal Dutch Warmblood mare presented an accurate, forward test making them the undisputed winner. Despite having been pleased with her performance in the Team Test yesterday, Roenick believed her effort was even better Sunday.
“Today I felt that I had a lot more power in my trot work and she was more engaged and wanting to do more than yesterday. Yesterday I was just blown away with my ride but today she was giving so much more than she did yesterday, so I have no complaints or would change anything about it.”
Seventeen-year-old Roenick has been riding Pretty Lady for four years and done nearly all of the training on the mare herself. She believes their longtime connection enabled them to produce such good performances over the two days.
“It’s really a great feeling because when I got her as a baby, I trained her myself with my mom. Just getting to this point and being able to know that I achieved this from taking her [from the beginning] to learning single flying changes is truly a great feeling,” said Roenick. “She’s just amazing, so it’s a really great feeling that I trained my own horse to this and got her to where she is today with the help of my trainers.”
Pooley rode Deena Smith’s Brigadier to third place Saturday but went one better today to earn Reserve Championship honors. She and the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding, produced a fluid test to score 71.447% Sunday, finishing on a championship average of 69.105%.
Pooley (Coto De Caza, CA) began riding Brigadier this year after her longtime partner Jonkara was retired last year. She credits her improvement from the Team Test to the Individual Test to a shorter warm-up Sunday.
“I warmed him up a little less today and he was just very, very good. He had the go that he didn’t have yesterday.” Pooley continued, “It’s a big jump and I’ve only had him for seven months and I’m a full time college student, so it’s a little different this year than other years. It’s amazing for me to even be sitting here.”
Genay Vaughn (Elk Grove, CA) finished in third place with Starr Vaughn Equestrian Inc’s Donarweiss GGF on a two-day average of 67.869. She was very happy with the 11-year-old Hanoverian stallion that was produced by Chris Hickey and Hilltop Farm.
“He’s a really good boy. He was a lot more uphill and really going. We had a good test. Chris Hickey trained him since he was a baby. Someone recommended him for me since I’m really small. Chris let me try him and we fit perfectly.”
Vaughn also finished sixth with Michele Vaughn’s Waranja.
National Junior Dressage Championship
Ayden Uhlir maintained her lead in the National Junior Dressage Championship on Sjaepor with some improvements to her strategy from yesterday. It paid off and the 17-year-old Texan continued to impress the judges. With the Individual Test completing the Championship, Uhlir and her 12-year-old Dutch gelding added a little bit more to the test today and the strategy paid off with a score of 71.237%. They were the only pair to go above 70% and scored their first National Championship in the process.
“I felt like the judges wanted more impulsion and cadence in the ride and I really tried to go for it in the extensions and the overall cadence of the canter work and the trot,” said Uhlir.
The test proved challenging for many of the competitors but Uhlir and Sjaepor handled the difficult transitions and showed their strengths. Despite the increasing temperatures in Gladstone, Sjaepor thrived in the big atmosphere.
“He is very much used to the heat since we’re from Texas,” said Uhlir. “This is nothing compared to Texas weather. He handles it a lot better than the cold weather.”
Uhlir has the Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) on the calendar next so this pair will head to Lexington, KY in July. But until then, she will enjoy this victory.
“I feel like the dream I was having yesterday is a reality today,” she said.
Uhlir got her start in the Arabian world; she competed in breed competitions in dressage and in-hand.
Rebecca Cohen, also 17, held on to her Reserve title after her good start yesterday. She rode Downtown to a score of 69.5%. Downtown had a serious leg infection recently and got sick when he arrived from their Wellington, FL base, so their preparation for the National Championships was a bit disrupted. Cohen took it all in stride and was impressed with how well her 16-year-old Westphalian gelding handled the Championship.
“I am amazed; he has such a big heart,” said Cohen. “It is just incredible. I’m still kind of in shock right now; maybe it will sink in later but I’m not sure.”
Cohen also heads to NAJYRC with Downtown.
Finishing third was Ariel Thomas and Grace Goodby’s Montfleury after producing a 67.658% in the Individual Test. Thomas (Briones, CA) has only competed in a handful of dressage competitions after having spent much of her young career in the reining pen. However when the opportunity to ride the 19-year-old Westphalen gelding, Montfleury, in the dressage ring, Thomas couldn’t decline the ride.
“I was riding reining and the opportunity to ride this horse came up and we decided to give it a shot. He was really good today and I felt that I could ride him more up despite the heat. He’s been a really good boy and he’s really reliable.”
National Pony Rider Dressage Championship
Davis (Whitehouse Station, NJ) headed into Sunday’s Individual Test in the first and second spots and would not relinquish those places this afternoon. She won her first National Championship title with her father Michael Davis’ Poldy 10, riding to a score of 70.342% in the Team Test. They finished on an average score of 68.658%.
Davis has only been riding the 16-year-old German Riding Pony for a short time after purchasing him in Germany last year. She has built a rapport with the gelding quickly by competing him this past winter and getting to know him.
“It was good timing; the previous owner decided to sell him while we were in Germany looking.” Said Davis, “I showed him a lot in Florida.”
She also finished in second with the 13-year-old Dutch Pony gelding, Bohdjan. This is the second consecutive Reserve Championship she has earned with the pony. Davis was very pleased with their improvement from last year, which she credits to their relaxation in the ring. The enhanced submission was demonstrated when a storm warning buzzer went off in the middle of their test.
“He was much more nervous last year but I have learned to relax and that has made him more relaxed. I’m not sure he would have been able to deal with the fog-horn last year.”
Finishing in third was Caroline Fernalld and Orrwood Madison Bay after scoring 63.561% Sunday and finishing on an average of 62.832. The 15-year-old Morgan mare had been part of Fernalld family for many years and has taught both the daughters important lessons about dressage and horsemanship.
The 13-year-old Fernalld (Greenwood Village, CO) believes the Pony Rider division is very beneficial to all the up-and-coming riders that participate in it.
“Thank you so much to everyone that supports the ponies. It’s been a great year and this division is so important in helping us transition to the Junior Level.”
National Grand Prix Dressage Championship
The overnight leader of the 2012 USEF National Grand Prix Dressage Championship continued his winning streak, scoring 77.933% in the Olympic Grand Prix Special test to take a commanding lead at the halfway point of the Championship.
Peters (San Diego, CA) and Legolas 92 made light work of a very difficult test despite the fact it was only the third time they have contested it. The most decorated active dressage rider in the US has forged a quick relationship with Four Winds Farm’s 10-year-old Westphalian gelding. Legolas 92 arrived in December from Germany and Peters continues to improve their partnership.
They won the Grand Prix yesterday and backed it up today in the Special with an improved effort.
“It was definitely a cleaner test,” said Peters. “Throughout the season here and there we’ve had a mistake in the one-tempis on the centerline or on the diagonal. This is the first time we’ve gotten them both (on the centerline and on the diagonal) so that’s very exciting. The bottom line is making it clean through the test. I can’t really get on the throttle with him; it’s just a bit too soon.”
Legolas’ piaffe and passage are very solid and those movements are a huge part of the Olympic Grand Prix Special Test. His walk and flying changes continue to improve for Peters but the overall quality of the work is exceptional.
“The piaffe and passage felt great even the trot extensions felt a little bit better,” said Peters. “It was very relaxed and supple – it was fun to ride.”
The top two placings remained unchanged – Tina Konyot continued to press the pace set by Peters. She rode her own 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding to a stunning effort, one of the best they’ve produced, to score 76.667%.
“It felt great,” said an emotional Konyot. “It felt just fabulous, so honest and in front of my leg and very elastic… Anne Gribbons has been such an enormous help to me and my horse.”
At the halfway point of the Trials, Todd Flettrich (Royal Palm Beach, FL) jumped up to third in the standings with an improved effort over Saturday’s Grand Prix test with Cherry Knoll Farm’s 16-year-old Danish Warmblood, Otto.
Flettrich rode more confidently in the Special and it was evident in the veteran gelding’s effort career best Grand Prix Special score.
“Otto was great,” said Flettrich. “Otto is getting a bit older and I’m getting older and I think we’re getting better. He did everything I asked of him. He puts his big heart into everything we do.”
With the temperature on the rise and two busy weeks of competition, Flettrich amended his strategy slightly with an abbreviated warm-up.
“I shortened my warm-up and it helps him do a better job in the ring,” said Flettrich. “He’s an experienced Grand Prix horse but also he is older and he needs a little time to loosen up but I can predict him a little bit. We did a great job together – as a partnership.”
Flettrich can rely on Otto now that they have spent so much time in the ring together and takes responsibility for Saturday’s fourth place effort not being one of their best.
“Yesterday I didn’t ask enough of him,” said Flettrich. “But he is so honest.”