Tag Archives: US Dressage Finals

Festive Freestyles Featured on Third Day of 2017 US Dressage Finals

“I wasn’t looking for another Friesian when I got the call about Wietze, so at first I said I wasn’t interested. But then I tried him and after 10 minutes I said, ‘I have to have this horse!’”

Little did retired dance teacher Lynnette Wadsworth of Hastings, Fla. (Region 3) know that her now 18-year-old Friesian gelding Wietze G (Rypke x Wijke by Reitse) would carry her to back-to-back victories in the Grand Prix Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship division at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, being held November 9-12 in Lexington, Ky. The pair claimed the Calaveras County Perpetual Trophy (presented by Olva Stewart Pharo) in 2016, and came back to the Alltech Arena to reclaim the title with a top score of 66.417% for their classic rock-themed performance.

“He was actually quite tense today but I was able to pull him together and make a decent ride out of it. I wanted to have a good time because it’s new music for us and it was all about having fun this year,” said Hastings. “Nine years ago when I bought Wietze, he had all of the upper-level movements already on him but I was barely a Third Level rider. So I get this big horse and he can piaffe and passage but I couldn’t get basic movements out of him, so I had to rise to the occasion – he’s really taught me how to ride. We started together at Third Level and with lots of help from my trainers I’ve been able to get to his level. He’s so willing, safe, and fun – I couldn’t ask for a better dance partner.”

Finishing in reserve was Jennifer Drescher of Frederick, Md. (Region 1) riding her 16-year-old Morgan gelding Blue and White Raven (Night Hawk of Rocking M x Four-L Black Magic by Goldenaire Senator G, bred in the U.S. by Joanna Kelly) with 66.058%. “We’ve also come through the levels together and I’m so lucky to have him,” Drescher noted. “He was a superstar and so willing today and I couldn’t be happier.”

A tough field of horses and riders competed for Intermediate I Freestyle Open Championship honors, and in her first trip to the US Dressage Finals Melissa Taylor of Wellington, Fla. (Region 3) rode the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood Ansgar (Special D x Diona by Formateur) to a decisive victory with 74.058% as owner Nicole Polaski watched her gelding earn the win from New York City via livestreaming on the USEF Network. “I’d always heard great things about this show, and this year the timing worked out for us to come. I love the facility and it’s an amazing event,” Taylor explained. “When I got Ansgar, we needed to work on trusting each other in the show ring, and it really took me all season to develop that. Just now I felt like he really stepped up at Regionals, and again here at the Finals. I was super proud of him today – he’s a hot little tamale who definitely has an opinion of his own, so I was pleased that we came together in such a good way.”

Nicole Levy (Georgetown, Ky. Region 2) was also pleased with her partnership with Kate Sanders’ nine-year-old Hanoverian mare Floratina (Fidertanz x Rubina by Rubin-Royal) as they claimed reserve honors with 71.817% for their final Intermediate freestyle performance before moving up to the large tour next year. “It took a while to gain her trust and get her to want to work for me, not feel like she had to,” said Levy. “So my goal for her is to always come out and feel confident in what she does, and she was really good today.”

For Adult Amateurs in the Intermediate I Freestyle Championship, 2016 reserve champions Alexandra Krossen of Basking Ridge, N.J. (Region 8) and Heather Mason’s 11-year-old Hanoverian cross mare Damani (Duvall x Godiva by Gesandt, bred in the U.S. by Virginia Godfrey) came back to Kentucky to claim the top title with 70.842%. “She was amazing – she was very calm and collected, which isn’t always the way she is so it was a nice surprise,” Krossen noted. “She was totally with me and did everything I could have asked. She has really good flying changes, so I did my 3s on a circle and my 2s down centerline to really show them off, and our pirouettes have gotten a lot better this year as well.”

Friday’s Intermediate I Adult Amateur Champions Elma Garcia of Mill Spring, N.C. (Region 1) padded her resume even further by earning reserve in today’s freestyle with her 15-year-old Hanoverian mare Wenesa (Westernhagen x Dancing Girl by Davignon) on 68.792%. “We’re fairly new to freestyles, but I was inspired by Mongolian music at a film festival so I decided to try it for our performance,” said Garcia.

The top placings for the Fourth Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship could hardly have been closer as less than one-tenth of a point separated champion from reserve, but it was Susan Jones of Walton, Ky. (Region 2) who claimed the top spot with her 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding Reliance (Rohdiamant x Gesstine by Classiker) on 71.067% for their Beach Boys-themed performance. “We’ve been together almost eight years – I got him to build my confidence and learn to be the best dressage rider I could be, and he’s lived up to his name,” Jones explained. “He’s always very calm, but today six mounted police officers went by the warm-up 10 minutes before my ride, and I thought I was going to get bucked off. I went into the ring thinking it was going to be the best ride I’ve ever had or it would be a disaster. I was able to use everything I’d learned to harness that feistiness and he was awesome. Now I should thank those officers! It was the best we’ve ever done so it was a bit of a surprise in a nice way and very special.”

Lisa Rush’s 17-hour drive from Dell Rapids, S.D. (Region 4) almost ended in disaster after arriving at the Kentucky Horse Park, but she and her eight-year-old Westfalen gelding Finestep HW (Florenciano x Merana by Medici) rebounded to claim reserve championship honors with 70.989%. “After we arrived here on Wednesday, he fell in the lunging ring and hurt his stifle and I wasn’t sure we’d even be able to ride,” said Rush. “So I’m very grateful that he recovered so quickly and end up being able to be here today – he felt great! He works so hard for me and I’ve really enjoyed being with him, and we’d like to try for the Developing Prix St. Georges Championship next year.”

Adult amateurs from across the country also competed Saturday for the Second Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship, where Sara Stone of Lake in the Hills, Ill. (qualified in Region 2) rode her six-year-old American Warmblood gelding Gotham (Gabriel x Mystic bred in the U.S. by Indian Hills Sport Horses) to the win with 72.844%. This was the pair’s third trip to the Finals, but their first attempt at a freestyle which featured music from One Republic. “He was very relaxed – actually it was the most relaxed he’s been all weekend. He came out ready to work today,” said Stone, who works in commercial insurance when not in the saddle. “Every year he just gets better and better and I learn more and more. I was actually quite nervous, and to be sitting here as the champion is just unreal. I love this horse show, and to be fortunate enough to come back year after year is just incredible.”

Family nurse practitioner Ashley Miller of Fort Myers, Fla. (Region 3) rode her 15-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding Hickeys Creek (Afternoon Deelites x Slewadore by Seattle Slew, bred in the U.S. by Wild Ride LLC) to reserve honors with 69.833% for their Madonna-themed performance. “I like to pick music that makes people stop and want to watch, that’s easily recognizable and which people can relate to,” Miller explained. “We had some training setbacks due to Hurricane Irma and shoeing issues, but we made it to Regionals and then here to the Finals. He’s a very steady Eddie kind of guy who’s taught me so much, and he really ‘brought it’ today.”

In the Second Level Freestyle Open Championship, Hailey Guard of Huntersville, N.C. (Region 1) with her nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Dalwhinney (UB 40 x Windsor CA by Warkanson, bred in the U.S. by Susen Shumaker) cruised to the unanimous win under all three judges with 74.556% for their Tchaikovsky-themed performance which Guard put together herself. “I originally wanted to use Swan Lake but it didn’t quite suit her, but then stumbled on the Nutcracker and it matched her gaits so well so that’s what I went with,” said Guard. “‘DW’ has been phenomenal this week and I couldn’t be prouder. I actually started her under saddle as a four-year-old for a client in Minnesota, but she was bred the next year and then I moved away so I didn’t see her for three years. A year ago the owner got in touch with me and said they didn’t really have a use for her anymore and asked if I wanted her because I had loved her so much, so a big thank you to her previous owner for bringing her back into my life. Since then we’ve taken our time and went back to basics for this year – I’m enjoying bringing her along and now look forward to moving up together.”

Also looking forward to great things to come is reserve champion Kristen Becker of Lemont, Ill. (qualified in Region 2) who earned 71.544% with her six-year-old Oldenburg gelding Amadeus (by Ampere bred by Tricia Veley). “Our freestyle uses Lou Bega’s ‘Mambo No. 5’, and it’s really fun and suits his personality. He’s such a great competition horse and I’m really excited about the future with him.”

Angela Jackson of Henderson, Ky. (Region 2) had her hands full juggling four rides on Saturday morning, but her hard work paid off in spades as she claimed both Champion and Reserve honors in the Third Level Freestyle Open division. As the first pair down centerline, Jackson topped the leaderboard with Jane Lineberry’s seven-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Femke Zarma TF (Contucci x Allure S by Rousseau, bred in the U.S. by KC Dunn) on the strength of a score of 74.100%, a mark which could not be caught for the duration of the class. Jackson’s own home-bred seven-year-old RPSI gelding Figaro H (Fantasmic x Romina H by River H) finished a close second with 72.211% for reserve honors.

“Both horses had lovely tests and I’m so proud of them. Yesterday Femke was a little distracted outside, but today she really focused and it was the best freestyle we’ve had all year, so it was great to have that kind of ride here at the Finals,” said Jackson, who interestingly also found success at this event in previous years with Femke Zarma TF’s dam, Allure S. “I’d like to say a huge thank you to breeders like KC Dunn who breed amazing horses like this right here in the U.S., as well as everyone who makes this event a reality, including Adequan, whose support helps to make all of this possible. It’s a dream for us to be here.”

In outside rings, Anna Marek (Williston, Fla., Region 3) rode Diane Morrison’s five-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Haiku (Sir Sinclair x Melvira by Gentleman) to win the First Level Open Championship with 72.843%. “I’ve ridden her since she was three and she has endless energy and loves to have all attention on her,” Marek laughed. “She’s young and sometimes it can be a little bit ‘hit or miss’ with her, but we had a great ride today. She does have a little bit of an ego, but I like that about her because she goes in the ring and tries so hard, and I think that will eventually help make her a really good upper-level horse.”

Martin Kuhn of New Berlin, Ill. (Region 4) was also pleased with Elizabeth Cronin’s six-year-old Westfalen gelding Venivici (Vitalis x Sabrina by Sherlock Holmes) as they earned 71.324% for reserve. “Venivici hasn’t had a lot of show experience, but he’s eager and wants to do a good job,” said Kuhn, who earned his second Reserve Championship title of the weekend. “He tries really hard – sometimes too hard – but I was very proud of him and as his confidence grows, I think his good qualities are really going to blossom.”

Despite frigid morning temperatures, Stephanie McNutt of Mechanicsville, Md. (Region 1) rode her five-year-old Westfalen gelding Freestyler HRH (Furst Fugger x Dolce Vita HRH by Don Bosco) straight to the winner’s circle in the First Level Adult Amateur Championship with 72.598%. “A little chilly would be an understatement, but I do have to say that brisk is good – it keeps the horses motivated,” McNutt noted. “I was super happy with him – he’s had a long season and was feeling a little unmotivated, but he really pulled it together for me today and gave me good energy, so I couldn’t ask for more than that. He’s a really good egg. I’m excited to be back for my fourth Finals – this is the pinnacle event for adult amateurs, and to make it here again is really thrilling.”

Bonnie Canter of Hocksley, Texas (Region 9) has had a great week at this year’s Finals, and a “rear-and-spin move” just before entering the arena did not deter Canter from earning reserve with her youngster Shakira 467 (five-year-old Hanoverian mare, Sporcken x Waluga by Weltmeyer) with 71.176%. “She’s definitely a hot red-head,” Canter laughed. “She’s still young so can be a bit unreliable, but once she’s in the ring she’s great and I was pleased that she kept it together today.”

Drawing the day’s first ride time of 8am, Linda Currie of Holliston, Mass. (Region 8) had to deal with some of the worst of the sub-freezing temperatures as she prepared for her championship ride. But 25 degrees did not stop her and her appropriately-named seven-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Frost T (San Remo x Alona by Jazz) from posting the best score of 70.000% in a huge field of 35 competitors in the Third Level Adult Amateur Championship, ahead of Bonnie Canter of Hockley, Texas (Region 9) and her Connemara/Hanoverian cross mare Fifinella GCF (Fred Astaire x South Ridge Bliss by South Ridge Duncan’s Honor, bred in the U.S. by Sharon Garner) who finished in reserve with 69.829%. “I hope someone out there appreciated the irony of my horse’s name,” she laughed. “Fortunately I live in New England so I’m used to riding in cold weather. Frost T is young but knows his job and has never let me down. Some say it was karma that I got him – I had lost my previous horse to a tragedy and found Frost T just ten days later. He had just been imported and all this weird stuff happened that just seemed meant to be. We have just clicked ever since. He’s very talented and is a cool character but he does have an electric side to him that comes out sometimes. Everything seems to come easy to him and he’s so willing, he thinks everything is fun and he hasn’t had a bad day in his life.”

With multiple titles already to her credit, Heather Mason of Lebanon, N.J. (Region 8) knows her way around victory lane at the US Dressage Finals and once again had no problem finding her way there with her 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding RTF Lincoln on a top score of 72.852% to win the Fourth Level Open Championship. “I’ve known this horse since he was born,” said Mason. “He was reserve champion at Third Level at the inaugural Finals in 2013, but the next year he hurt himself and was out of competition for two years. But now he’s back in the ring and better than ever. His amateur owner sold him to me for a dollar last year because she had to have hip replacement surgery, and she knew he wouldn’t be the right fit for her after that. But she felt like he’d be in good hands with me, and she’s even here cheering us on. It’s a great situation for everyone. This is such an exciting show to come to – we love this show and come every year, and I have a bunch of clients who also like to come. It’s challenging, but everyone gets a lot out of the experience and I look forward to bringing Lincoln back for the small tour next year.”

Mason just edged out Region 3’s Nora Batchelder (Williston, Fla.), who rode her eight-year-old Hanoverian mare Fifi MLW (Fidertanz x Wolkenstanza MLW by Wolkentanz I, bred in the U.S. by Mary Winn) to reserve with 72.593%. The pair earned a reserve championship at Third Level last year and had no trouble now succeeding at Fourth. “She was a little tight when we first started and there’s a lot to look at out there, but she loosened up well and was a really good girl in the ring. I was especially happy with our trot work,” Batchelder added.

The highlight of the evening was the Grand Prix Freestyle Open Championship and the presentation of the new Jazzman Perpetual Trophy (presented by Donna Richardson), where fan-favorite and hometown hero James Koford of Lexington, Ky. (Region 2) rode the eye-catching chestnut tobiano 10-year-old Friesian Sporthorse mare Adiah HP (by Nico, owned and bred by Sherry Koella) to a victorious score of 71.133% for the debut performance of their brand new cowboy-themed freestyle. “She’s just starting Grand Prix so I was actually feeling guilty this week thinking ‘what am I doing?’ because I wasn’t sure I had her ready,” Koford explained. “When you’re this visible and this different, you don’t want to not be ready or seem unpolished, but then I thought, ‘bring it on’.

“She has so much talent but there’s nowhere to school for these types of conditions – it doesn’t matter how much you practice at home or go to regular shows, it’s not the same,” Koford continued. “So win, lose or draw I felt like I had to expose her to this and see if she wants to go ‘bright lights, big city’. She literally heard the applause from the horse before her and charged down the tunnel to go in the ring, like ‘hang on Jim, I’ve got this’ and I said ‘game on sister, let’s go!’ I could feel that the crowd was so into it. I love riding her and she makes me laugh every day – she’s bigger than life.”

Also enjoying success in their first season at the Grand Prix level were reserve champions Nicole Harrington of Amelia, Ohio (Region 2) and Three Oaks Farm LLC’s 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Wizard of Oz (Weltmeyer x Vadella by Landacel), earning 70.617% for their appropriately-themed Wizard of Oz freestyle. “The music just seemed to suit him to a ‘T’. He’s still a little green but it’s all coming along,” said Harrington. “He’s such a hard worker and is a character in the barn. Has only been to maybe six shows in his life and this was the biggest environment he’s been in, but he handled this atmosphere fantastically.”

Watch live online streaming on the popular USEF Network at: https://www.usef.org/network/coverage/2017usdressagefinals/. To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review day sheets and results, and read daily news releases, visit the official event website at http://www.usdressagefinals.com.

Source: Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals

US Dressage Finals Set to Begin at the Kentucky Horse Park

Photo Credit: USDF.

Lexington, Ky. – The prestigious United States Dressage Federation’s (USDF) US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan are set to begin at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park from November 9 through 12. Top dressage competitors from across the country will compete on a national stage, in an event that showcases adult amateurs and open division competitors from Training Level through Grand Prix.

More than 390 entries will represent nine of the USDF regions from 38 states, plus the District of Columbia, at the fifth annual event. Vying for 30 titles across the divisions, competitors will head down the centerline looking to earn the title of National Champion.

Additionally, riders can cheer on their fellow regional members as they compete for the Third Annual Regions Cup Team Competition. With a regional team of three athlete/horse combinations representing each USDF region, competitors can show their regional pride and compete for bragging rights as the top-scoring eligible athlete/horse combination from Training/First Level and FEI-level Regional Championship classes. The highest-scoring eligible adult amateur athlete/horse combinations from the Second through Fourth Level Regional Championship classes complete each regional team.

USEF Network will stream live coverage of the 2017 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® beginning at 8:00 a.m. EST on Thursday, November 9.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

New Travel Grant Program and Increase in Prize Money Announced for 2017 US Dressage Finals

“I dream, quite literally, of going back to the Finals again, and to this day I compete with that mindset.”

For Jennifer “Joey” Evans of San Francisco, Calif., last fall’s journey across the country to compete in the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® with her Dutch Warmblood gelding Bombay Sapphire in the First Level Adult Amateur Championship division was the trip of a lifetime. Now the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) announces a new travel grant program for qualified competitors representing certain states in the Western United States, which may help riders like Evans realize their dream of competing in Kentucky again in the future.

To alleviate some of the financial burden for those traveling the greatest distance to the 2017 Finals, the USDF is making up to $50,000 in travel grant funds available to eligible competitors who apply and fall into one of two groups based on the rider’s address of record as associated with their USDF membership. Competitors from Group 1 (which includes Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada and Utah) are eligible to apply for grants of up to $1,200 per horse/rider combination, while competitors from Group 2 (Wyoming, New Mexico, and Colorado) are eligible to apply for grants of up to $900.

“I think this is great news for West Coast riders – my trainer and I are always telling fellow riders what an incredible experience the Finals was last year,” said Evans. “I would love to go back every time if I were to qualify again, but the reality is that it was such an expensive trip out that I cannot justify the cost year after year. We have some very talented riders out here who would love to go to Kentucky, but I know first-hand that the logistics and expense of making the trip can be discouraging.

“Conversely, possibly the top reason we found the Finals to be such an extraordinary experience was because we were at the Kentucky Horse Park,” Evans continued. “We were showing in the ‘big leagues’ at one of the nation’s most famous and historical horse parks. So with the Finals continuing to be held in Kentucky for the time being, I am thrilled to hear there will now be funds available to riders in my area and neighboring regions. I think it may help make the dream a little more accessible for more competitors.”

This new travel grant program announcement comes on the heels of an increase in USDF’s overall support of the US Dressage Finals, which will be held November 9-12, 2017 in Lexington: prize money for the main event will see an exciting increase to $75,000 this year, as well as a total of over $180,000 in prize money now being offered for the 2017 Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Championships, which serve as qualifying competitions for the Finals.

“The USDF is proud of what has been created with the US Dressage Finals and is committed to keeping it one of the premier dressage competitions in the U.S.,” said USDF President George Williams. “Making it easier for those competitors who have to travel great distances to attend has been one of the goals from the start for this showcase event, so we’re excited to be able to make travel grants a reality for this year as well as continue to offer generous prize money incentives for both the Finals and the Regional Championships.”

Excitement for this year’s event is now officially underway as USDF has also released the official prize list for the 2017 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. To learn more about the Finals, download the 2017 prize list, and sign up to receive news and updates, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.

MEDIA CONTACT: JENNIFER M. KEELER
YELLOW HORSE MARKETING, jennifer@yellowhorsemarketing.com

Texas Takes the Titles at US Dressage Finals

Bonnie Canter and Fifinella GCF. Photos by Susan J. Stickle.

Lexington, KY – (Dec. 6, 2016) – The state of Texas was well-represented when Region 9 raked in the ribbons at the 2016 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. Thirty-three of the region’s 35 riders attending the Finals hailed from Texas with an almost even distribution of Adult Amateurs (16) and Open riders (19).

Region 9 placed third in the US Dressage Finals Regions Cup in which the top three scoring riders of designated divisions competed on regional teams to win bragging rights for their respective USDF Region. Participants Bonnie Canter from the Houston area rode Fifinella GCF to win the championship in the Second Level Adult Amateur (AA) Finals with a 72.317 percent, Terri Sue Wensinger from the Dallas area rode Valentino in the AA Prix St. Georges Finals to earn a 65.263 percent, and Arkansas’ Amanda Bailey and Les Paul scored a 69.621 percent in the AA Training Level Finals for a total regional score of 69.067 percent.

“We were well-represented in Region 9,” said Canter, adding that it was exciting to be among some of the elite in the sport at the event held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington Nov. 10-13. “You felt like you were in the big-leagues. It was fun to see a lot of the names you read about or have seen videos of actually riding. It was nice to be in the thick of things. That was a treat for us.”

She rode her 6-year-old 15.1 hand Hanoverian/Connemara cross mare (ES Fred Astaire-South Ridge Bliss) to victory in an AA Second Level Finals class of 30 riders.

“The amateur at Second Level was pretty darned good,” she said. “I was pleased and, in general, the amateurs got better scores than the Open riders at Second Level. The winning score of Open riders at Second Level was a 70.163 percent and that score would have come in fourth in the Adult Amateur class. You can still be a good rider and be an amateur rider.”

Ashlee Watts and Hampton

Another AA rider, Ashlee Watts of College Station, Texas, also earned accolades at the Finals. She and her 8-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Hampton (Hotline-Madiganl) scored a 72.059 percent for the championship in the AA First Level Finals, although it was a bit of a rocky start to this year’s event. In 2015 when she qualified for the Finals, she arrived early and settled in. This year, her demanding job as a veterinarian specializing in equine orthopedics at Texas A&M University changed the dynamics. Her husband trailered Hamilton to Lexington and Watts flew in with time for one warm-up before the show. She hadn’t ridden in a week.

“It wasn’t quite the preparation that was ideal for either of us,” she said. On Friday, they competed in the AA Second Level Finals class to place fifth with a 68.699 percent. “He was a little too hot and spooky. As a result, I overrode the tempo and it was not a very good test.”

On Saturday, she warmed up a little more carefully and asked for a little bit less. “Whenever I enter at A, he turns it up at least 10 percent, sometimes 20 percent. When he doesn’t have time to get used to the venue, I think I really need to back off.”

Her Saturday ride was an early morning one and the temperature was in the high 20s to the low 30s – quite a change from the 90-degree temperatures in the Houston area. “He was awesome on Saturday and his normal, cocky, amazing self.”

She was impressed with the event and with the riders from her area. “The show was very exciting and very friendly with lots of nice people and a lot of really nice horses,” she said. “I think in my Second Level test there were three people from Region 9 in the Top Ten. Region 9 has become very competitive with quality horses, riders and trainers.”

Another hard-working Houston area rider, John Mason of Conroe, Texas, also dealt with a bit of equine excitement at the show. The head trainer at Tex-Over Farms rode four horses in 14 classes at the show.

“I had one horse [Adante’s Image, a 9-year-old Holsteiner/Cleveland Bay gelding by Linaro out of By the Grace of That owned by Nancy Kretschmer] that was slated to do well and the test was going really well,” he said. “He got a little exuberant and high on life and we had a small melt-down in our test. He won his Second Level warm-up test the first day with a 71.098 percent and got second in his warm-up test the second day. The first of his Finals test was absolutely spectacular and then in the canter work he just got a little bit rambunctious.”

Not only did Mason ride in 14 classes but he also brought one of his students to the National Finals.

“As always, I loved it,” he said. “Finals is our opportunity to play with the big boys and to see what the competition is like for some of the bigger shows. I enjoy it. It’s great having that level of competition and being able to be competitive against that caliber of horses. I think the difference between my eighth-place finish in the Freestyle Open on my I-1 mare [Christine Renne’s Faye, an 11-year-old Hanoverian mare by Forsyth out of Elfe] and first place was around two percentage points [Mason scored a 69.00 percent and the winner, Morgan Barrow, scored 71.708 percent on Janice Davis’ 8-year-old Oldenburg gelding, San Corazon]. To be that close to winning in a test I was really proud of – for me, that’s what it’s all about. It’s making sure I’m on the right track to be competitive with the best horses in the country.”

Another pro, Anna Whit Watkins, rode in her second National Finals. She said the Texas people took it in stride when things got tough, including when the electricity failed in the main arena due to a blown transformer.

“I was watching and Erica-West Danque was riding and she was doing her line of three tempis and the lights just went ‘poof’ and it was totally dark,” Watkins said. “It took 30 seconds or a little longer for the emergency lights to come on and she walked around for a little bit and the judge at C said, ‘Maybe you should start that line again.’ And she did.”

Watkins claimed the Reserve Championship in the Open Grand Prix on Friday night on her own Oublette, a 20-year-old KWPN gelding by Amulet out of MV Jinnardi. “I was Reserve Champion the first time I came to Finals in 2013.”

They placed fourth in the Open Grand Prix Freestyle Finals class with a 69.458 percent. She said her freestyle, created by Tigger Montague of Virginia, has been successful for she and Oublette in shows in Florida as well as in Houston. “My horse really likes the music,” Watkins said. “It’s been a blast to ride. The music really fits him and its fun. It helps that he likes his job. He’s a fine fellow.”

Watkins agrees that the US Dressage Finals is a unique opportunity. She appreciated the excitement and atmosphere of the show but was quick to say that it felt like old home week since she and her students were stabled next to fellow Region 9 riders Mason and Danque.

“When people go and get out of the region, they begin to appreciate the diversity and the amazing athletic ability that we have across the country,” she said. “When you go to the National Finals, you begin to go, ‘Oh these people are pretty good. There’s a lot of competition around here.’ It gives you perspective and it’s a fascinating place to go see people ride.”

To see the show results, go to results.horseshowoffice.com. To learn more about the Houston Dressage Society, go to houstondressagesociety.org, and like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HoustonDressageSociety.

For more information, contact:
Chris Renne
President, Houston Dressage Society
president@houstondressagesociety.org

The Show Must Go On at the 2016 US Dressage Finals

Debbie Hill and Cartier.

Debbie Hill comes to Kentucky every year for the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, and has gone home to Gurley, Ala. (Region 3) with her share of championship titles. But this year, much to her dismay, uncharacteristic mistakes by each of her three mounts had so far kept her out of the winner’s circle. She was down to her last ride Sunday afternoon in the Fourth Level Open Freestyle on a horse she’d already had a disappointing performance with earlier in the week. And then the lights went out. “I came into the arena and just thought, ‘oh no’,” said Hill.

A blown transformer just after 2pm ET had utility crews scrambling and left the Alltech Arena shrouded with only emergency lighting to illuminate the arena floor. But as the saying goes, “the show must go on” and officials, staff, volunteers and competitors all came together to make sure the last class of the day went off without a hitch. Still, Hill wasn’t optimistic about her chances with Cartier, a nine-year-old unregistered Dutch Harness gelding owned by Robbie Rice.

“This is his first year of showing and he’s quite green, and he can be very afraid and spooky. When that happens, the first thing he does is back off and throw his neck up,” she explained. “I had a very hard time in the warm-up because it was so dark. But once we got in the ring, I was pleasantly surprised that he came through! I’m so thrilled that he’s come so far because he really is fun, and I always hoped he’d succeed.”

The pair’s unanimous win under all three judges with an overall score 74.389% for their Pink Panther/James Bond medley could also be considered for a “Least Likely to Succeed” award. “We were told by his previous owner that he came from the Amish, and went through the New Holland sale as a driving reject,” Hill said of her mount. “He was put up for sale as a dressage horse, and when we first saw the sales video my client was like, ‘no way’. But there was something about him I liked – I couldn’t put my finger on it. There were moments where he had that nice swing in his gait and he has a lot of presence. When we went to see him, it was out in the middle of nowhere and there was no arena to ride him in. His owner said he just rode him out in the forest! Everybody said ‘no’, but I thought I could make something out of him.

“Right from the start, Cartier was so sweet and willing, but it was a mess,” Hill continued. “It was quite a struggle trying to get him to put his neck down, bring the hind legs under and his back up. He had no idea how to even be on the bit. For the first six months I was like, ‘what are we going to do with this?’ Thankfully Roel Theunissen really helped me with him. Of course in hindsight, I’m so lucky we took a chance on the horse, because he’s certainly rewarded my faith.” Finishing with Reserve honors on her home turf with a score of 72.778% was Reese Koffler-Stanfield of Georgetown, Ky. (Region 2) aboard her seven-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Elancourt (Ampere x Belita V by Stedinger).

Endel Ots of Wellington, Fla. (Region 3) has competed around the world, and he turned his first trip to the US Dressage Finals into a winning one aboard the seven-year-old Oldenburg gelding Samhitas (Sir Donnerhall x Heidebluete by Abanos) owned by Ots and Gary Vander Ploeg. The pair earned 71.009% in the Prix St. Georges Open Championship to be awarded the Miki Christophersen Perpetual Trophy (presented by USDF Region 4). “He’s only seven so this is his first year at the level, but he was very solid,” said Ots. “We’ve competed together in Europe for the 2015 Young Horse World Championships as well as Devon this year, so he’s used to competing in venues like this with a lot of atmosphere. I’d heard and read about this show and wanted to come, and it’s been fantastic. If I had more horses ready I’d bring them too. I couldn’t recommend the show any more.” Having already earned the Intermediate I Open title earlier in the week, Mike Suchanek of Cambridge, Minn. (Region 4) added Reserve Champion Prix St. Georges honors to his resume with Hero L (nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding [His Highness x Waterlily L by Wolkenstein II] owned and bred in the U.S. by Leatherdale Farms) with a score of 70.132%.

Rachael Hicks and Don Cartier
Rachael Hicks and Don Cartier

Last year’s Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur Champion Rachael Hicks of nearby Prospect, Ky. (Region 2) successfully defended her title Sunday morning to be awarded the Janine Westmoreland Malone Perpetual Trophy (presented by USDF), but this time it was aboard her nine-year-old Rheinlander stallion Don Cartier (Don Schufro x Carmina by Cartier) with a score of 68.377%. “The good and the bad of it is that we weren’t in the indoor where he sees spooky monsters, but it was freezing out there at 8am! I couldn’t even feel my fingers and couldn’t adjust my reins because they felt frozen in one position,” she laughed. “I don’t know that it was our best ride, but it was very steady and good enough to get the job done. He needs as much event exposure like this as possible to keep progressing, and we now hope to try the CDI Adult Amateur division in Florida.” Hicks just edged out California’s Elma Garcia from Thermal (Region 7) with 68.246%. Her 14-year-old Hanoverian mare Wenesa (Westemhagen x Dancing Girl by Davignon I) hitched a plane ride to Kentucky with Thoroughbred racehorses returning from the recent Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. “I think we held back in our Intermediate I ride earlier in the week, so we really went for it today. My changes were clean and big and bold, and I’m just delighted,” said Garcia. “I told my coach right from the beginning of the year that I wanted to qualify for the Finals and have this experience. This is a ‘bucket list’ event and I don’t know how you can’t come if given the chance – I’m just so happy we came and proud of my mare.”

Mike Suchanek of Cambridge, Minn. (Region 4) may have been the busiest rider at the Finals this year, but his efforts were rewarded with yet another title for Leatherdale Farms as Hannigan L (five-year-old Hanoverian gelding [Herzensdieb x Pia Colada by Pik L] bred in the U.S. by Leatherdale Farms) was the only performance to break the 70% barrier to earn 70.163% and the win in the Second Level Open Championship. “I love these youngsters!” said Suchanek. “In warm-up he was a little excited at first about the freestyles going in another ring, but he settled and the ride went perfectly. He likes to perform and I had a lot of fun out there. The Second Level work comes easy for him – he has the gaits and the stature to pull it off. His canter work is very good, he’s very well-balanced. I couldn’t have been more pleased with him.” Finishing with his second Reserve Championship title of the week was Martin Kuhn of New Berlin, Ill. (Region 2), this time aboard Colleen Rull’s six-year-old Hanoverian gelding Rapson (Rapture R x Wisteria by Warkanson, bred in U.S. by the St. Louis Equestrian Center) with 68.943%.

As a trainer for the world-famous Tempel Lipizzans, Jessica Starck of Old Mill Creek, Ill. (Region 2) is usually helping to prepare the legendary white stallions for special appearances across the country. But this week she stepped into a different type of spotlight to win the First Level Freestyle Open Championship with Tempel Lipizzans’s U.S.-bred six-year-old stallion Maestoso Alfaya II (Maestoso Legeny x Alfaya by Favory V Jacinda) with an impressive score of 74.178% using music from the 1940’s. “He was right with me, which is a blessing because he’s a very spooky horse and he can either be ‘on’ or ‘off’. I was the most nervous for this class that I’ve ever been out of everything we do,” said Starck. “But he stepped up to the plate and kind of took over, and we had a fun, beautiful ride. I’ve been working with him for about a year, and dealing with the spookiness has been difficult. To bridge over to the competitive sport was a little bit of a stretch at first, but it was a great goal and we did it. This experience has really helped him mature, and he may take the skills he’s learned this year in the competition arena to become part of the Tempel stallion show in the future. It would be great fun to do both.” Taking home Reserve honors with 71.722% was Nicole Harrington of Amelia, Ohio (qualified in Region 4) aboard Camomila MCD, a five-year-old Pura Raza Espanola (Hielo MOR x Jazmin MOR by Zodiaco II) mare owned and bred in the U.S. by McDowell Equestrian Inc.

The competition couldn’t have been more hard-fought than it was in the First Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship, where the top two combinations finished on the same score of 70.722%. A tiebreak gave the ultimate victory to Malena Brisbois of Nokesville, Va. (Region 1) with her homebred 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding Amadeus (Briar 899 x Rock Starlet by Rocamadour). “It’s fun to be able to ride a horse you’ve had since he was a thought in your head and take him to the national championships,” said Brisbois. “Our freestyle uses the song ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ by Falco, so it’s very fitting and he puffs up when he hears his music – he loves to hear his name over the loudspeakers! This was our last freestyle ride before we move up to Second Level, so it was a great way to finish.” Fellow Region 1 competitor and former eventer Jessica Keating of Ashburn, Va. also rode her homebred mount Divine Comedy (13-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding [Nevada x Cair Paravel by Castle Guard]) to earn Reserve with her Fleetwood Mac-themed performance. “He’s 15.2 hands but I’m 5’10” so he looks deceptively small – he’s a little guy but he takes big steps,” Keating noted. “This is our first year doing dressage and I actually wasn’t going to come to the Finals. But someone said to me at Regionals that with horses, if they’re sound, healthy, able, and you get the chance, you have to do it. So I really took that to heart and my experience here has been fantastic.”

After being the bridesmaid in Saturday’s First Level Adult Amateur division, pharmaceutical sales representative Lauren Lewis-Gladish of St. John, Ind. (Region 2) finally walked down the aisle to claim the Training Level Adult Amateur Championship with her “dream horse” Sinfonie (six-year-old Hanoverian mare [Soliman de Hus x Bravour by Belissimo M]) with a winning score of 72.121%. “Can you believe it?” she exclaimed. “I was really looking for her to trust me, and she really gave me her all. We’ve had some ups and downs since I got her because she had her foal last year and we just started back riding this spring. Then when we got here the other night, she slipped and fell on the cement and I didn’t even think we’d be competing. Coming here is overwhelming, so for them to look to you for guidance like she did today and go like she did, it’s very special.” Earning the Reserve Championship with 70.379% was Sara Davisson (also representing Region 2), a special education teacher from Calamus, Iowa. This was Davisson’s third trip to the Finals, but she wasn’t so sure about coming this year with her Dutch Warmblood gelding Havallo. “It was a little nerve-wracking to think about coming this year with a four-year-old, and I was kind of on the fence about it,” she explained. “But he won at Regionals and I took the chance even though you never know how things can go with young horses. He handled everything like a pro and just kept getting better and better throughout the week. He really is a rock star. This was the first time in nine years that my in-laws got to see me show, so it was a family affair and made it all the more special.”

Birgitt Dagge’s seven-year-old Oldenburg gelding Laxwell (Lingh x Dessous by Donnerhall) recovered from an untimely hoof abscess just in time to earn a unanimous victory for her and Region 3 in the Third Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship with 71.000% over Teresa Fickling of Macon, Ga. (also of Region 3) aboard her eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Dolcetto O (Sandreo x NN by Welt Hit II) with 68.944%. “A special thank you to my farrier who is here and re-shod him about 10 times on Wednesday trying to get him figured out, and it worked,” said Dagge, a realtor from Bonita Springs, Fla. “He loves the atmosphere in the Alltech because he thinks he’s awesome, and of course I do too! I love doing freestyles and he’s a super horse – this is just his fourth time doing this freestyle, and his flying changes were very good today. We had to work for the last few days to get our momentum back, but today was our day.”

Adding to the excitement of the final day, the top-scoring riders in various divisions from each of the Great American/USDF Regional Championships competed on regional teams in the second-annual US Dressage Finals Regions Cup, vying with competitors from across the country for awards and bragging rights for their respective USDF Region in which they qualified to attend the Finals. Coming out on top after four days of championship competition was the Region 3 team comprised of Kristy Truebenbach Lund and Living Lucky at Training Level Adult Amateur, Amy Swerdlin with Quileute CCW at Second Level Adult Amateur, and Endel Ots with Samhitas in the Open Prix St. Georges. Their winning average score of 70.498% was good enough to successfully defend their 2015 Regions Cup title ahead of Region 7 with 69.172% and Region 9 with 69.067%.

More information including final results, photo galleries, and news archives from the 2016 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® are available on the official event website www.usdressagefinals.com. Video on-demand from select championship performances is also available on the USEF Network at www.usefnetwork.com.

Source: Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals

Media Contact: Jennifer M. Keeler,
Yellow Horse Marketing, jennifer@yellowhorsemarketing.com

Riders Have the “Best Day of My Life” at the 2016 US Dressage Finals

Katherine Lewis.

Katherine Lewis of Aiken, S.C. had already had a fairy-tale trip to the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® after being crowned Friday’s Fourth Level Adult Amateur Champion. But when her distinctive freestyle music featuring the American Authors hit “Best Day of My Life” rang out over the loudspeakers in the Alltech Arena in Lexington, her winning week was about to get even better. “What more is there to say for a freestyle when you’re here riding in this type of atmosphere on your once-in-a-lifetime horse?” she asked.

That special horse is the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Donneur (Donnerschwee out of Akorina by Cordeur), who has reformed his formerly self-destructive ways into cruising to another Finals victory in the Fourth Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship with 73.778% (see Lewis’ winning freestyle ride HERE courtesy of US Dressage Finals videographer Richard’s Equine Video). “We had to learn to manage him in turnout, because he’s jumped out, crashed on pavement, and taken high-speed farm tours. We had to be so vigilant because he kept hurting himself,” she explained. “But at the same time we didn’t want him to have to be locked up forever. So finally we just held our breath and turned him out in a 12-acre field with a retired show hunter to babysit him. And thankfully it worked.”

Lewis also had to figure out how to channel her mount’s energy in a positive direction in the electric setting of the Alltech Arena. “It’s such an amazing venue and it gives my horse lots of extra lift and presence, but he also can get quite worked up especially during awards,” she said. “My incredible trainer Shawna Harding is staying at my house taking care of all my animals so we could be here, and she and my husband figured out a way to Facetime our schooling and warm-ups. Her help has been invaluable to me, and we worked out a plan to use Donneur’s lift and brilliance in that ring to our advantage. It’s a fine line because he’s an overachiever and we want him to feel good about himself, but he still has to listen. Shawna always says, ‘don’t bore me, wow me,’ so that’s what I tried to do and it worked!” Lewis’ freestyle music also has a family connection. “My daughter and son-in-law are here with me, and they used two of the songs from my freestyle including ‘Best Day of My Life’ in their wedding at our farm last year,” she explained. “It was a little bit of a home job putting this together, but I’m so proud to win with their wedding music.” Taking home the Reserve Championship was Anne Chapin of Charlottesville, Va. (Region 1) with her nine-year-old Oldenburg mare Luna Popp (Liberty Gold x Fein Dancer by Feinbrand, bred in the U.S. by Isabel de Szinay) on 68.833%.

Michael Bragdell, Colora, Md. (Region 8) also enjoyed his freestyle as he rode William and Laura Mitchelson’s six-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Faberge Blue (Contango x Kroniek U by Democraat, bred in Maryland by Marie Emrey) to the winner’s circle in the Third Level Open Freestyle with 73.556%. “I’m a big ‘80s fan so Karen Robinson was excited to put this together for me. It’s fun, my horse seems to love the music, and I think it goes really well with his gaits,” said Bragdell. “I’m so excited for his owners. He grew up on our farm and he’s always been a worker bee – he’s a thrill to ride and I love his brain and work ethic. He’s the type of horse that if he’s not ridden first in the morning then he’s a little disappointed in me.” Jennifer Roth of Sunbury, Ohio (Region 2) earned Reserve honors with her 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Reebok (Royal Prince x Andromache by Arrian, bred in Pennsylvania by Diane and Jack Vickery) with 72.889%. “I used music from Game of Thrones, because who doesn’t love dark and scary music?” she laughed. “It’s my horse’s first season back after two years off for a rear suspensory injury, so it means a lot to be here. I’m just so glad to have my horse back.”

In the Second Level Open Freestyle, Region 2’s Jennifer Conour of Carmel, Ind. rode the nine-year-old American Warmblood mare Emerald (Andre x Opal, bred in Illinois by Indian Hills Stables) to victory for owner Diane Breier with a top score of 72.778%. “The chilly temperatures didn’t bother her at all, she’s very steady and such a good girl. She was purchased for her owner who asked me to help ride her so I get the pleasure of competing her here. She’s so solid in her work, really good with her simple changes which have coefficients, and she seems to like her music,” said Conour, who also explained why the music has special meaning for Breier. “Her owner picked out her music because it was her father’s favorite music from the movie ‘The Sting’, so she thinks of her dad every time she hears the freestyle music.” Finishing in Reserve with 72.111% was Deirdre Malburg of Belton, Texas (Region 9) with Boldness Be My Friend SLR, a nine-year-old Friesian cross gelding (Gabriel x Savannah SLR by Whitesville) owned by Raelynn Stephens. “He also is a very steady horse and I can always count on the fact that he’s going to go in the ring and do his job,” Malburg explained. “He’s half Friesian, a quarter Thoroughbred, and a quarter Shire and was purchased by his owner for $500. I got him about a year ago and he wasn’t the easiest to work with at first, but he had a breakthrough this year and has decided he loves dressage and loves competing. After going through three freestyles we now use tango music because he chose it!”

Kendall Brookhart and Rianna
Kendall Brookhart and Rianna

After successfully qualifying in Region 7, Kendall Brookhart decided to bring her nine-year-old Oldenburg mare Rianna (Regazzoni x Desert Princess by Diamont, bred in Arizona by Sharee and Kendall Brookhart) all the way to Kentucky from her home in Cave Creek, Ariz. “I had heard some wonderful things about competing here so we were very excited to come,” said Brookhart. “We had planned to bring Rianna in 2014 but she came down with a cough so we couldn’t put her on the trailer and had to scratch. So it’s been a two-year wait, but now I couldn’t be happier to be here.” Her patience paid off with a win in the Second Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship on the strength of a score of 71.722% for a performance using music from Madonna that Brookhart had originally planned to use with Rianna’s dam. “It was so much fun riding in the Alltech today. She was a little on edge and spooked pretty hard in the corner so I had to ride creatively and adjust as I went, but I’m really pleased. She gave me all that she could today.” Hometown girl Michelle Morehead of Lexington, Ky. (qualified in Region 3) rode her nine-year-old Oldenburg mare Silhouette (Staccato* x Lafonsa by Hofnar, bred in Virginia by Donald and Yolanda Williamson) to a close second with 71.444%. “Right before we went in the ring, my trainer told me I had to go for it, so we did,” she said. “My previous mare had suffered a career-ending injury and I was just devastated. Soon after my trainer found Silhouette who was up for sale, and she said I really needed to look at her. So she kind of fell in my lap, and it’s been quite a blessing to say the least.”

Region 9’s Ashlee Watts and her family had to go the extra mile to make it back to this year’s Finals with her eight-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Hampton (Blue Hors Hotline x Madigan L), but those efforts paid off with a victory in the First Level Adult Amateur Championship with 72.059%. “I am an equine orthopedic surgeon in College Station, Texas, and I almost didn’t come due to work commitments,” she said. “But the more I thought about it, the more I said, ‘I have to go’.” So her husband drove the horse to Kentucky while she flew in the day before competition to meet him, which didn’t leave much time for preparation. But Watts didn’t let that, or an unfortunate off-course error in her test, keep her from victory. “Hampton was more settled today and was perfect in our test. To come here where it’s such a showcase with so many great riders and amazing horses, with an atmosphere that is competitive but so pleasant and happy, it’s a great way to end the year.” Reserve Champion was Lauren Lewis-Gladish of St. John, Ind. (Region 2) who rode her six-year-old Hanoverian mare Sinfonie (Soliman de Hus x Bravour by Belissimo M) to a score 71.961%. “This is my dream horse – I saved money for 15 years to be able to get a horse like her,” Lewis-Gladish explained. “I’ve owned her for two years but she had a foal last April and she’d never been shown prior to being bred, so this is her first season out. Today she settled in and decided to show me what she’s capable of doing and tried so hard to please me. It’s so amazing that I’m sitting here and we’ve accomplished so much in such a short time.”

Heather McCarthy of Prairie Grove, Ill. (Region 2) has found plenty of success at the Finals in past years, and she once again found the winner’s circle as she rode Sandi Chohany’s five-year-old Oldenburg gelding Au Revoir (Ampere x Lara by Liberty M) to a score of 73.971% to claim the First Level Open Championship title. “This is a new horse for me – we’ve only been together since April and this was his first big show season. I rode him a little conservatively yesterday not knowing how he’d handle everything, but today he was just perfect and I could really go for it,” she said. “I’ve attended every single Finals and look forward to it every year. I have an even bigger group with me than ever before, including several first-timers, and we wouldn’t miss this for anything.” McCarthy just edged out Mike Suchanek of Cambridge, Minn. (Region 4) who rode three horses to top ten finishes in the class, including Reserve honors with the five-year-old Hanoverian mare Duchess L (Damsey x EM De La Rosa by De Niro, bred in the U.S. by owner Leatherdale Farms) with 73.627%. “It’s just her first year of showing so I am really proud of her coming all this way,” he noted. “She’s still growing in strength but her gaits have been really improving.”

Amy Swerdlin of Region 3 took the long drive north from Wellington, Fla. as well as the chilly temperatures in stride as she and her homebred six-year-old Oldenburg gelding Quileute CCW (Quaterback x Gluckslady by Gluckspliz) claimed the Third Level Adult Amateur Championship with 67.650%. “He was quite fresh and excited today but he stayed with me, and despite a few bobbles overall I was very happy,” she said. “It’s even more special because I bred him myself and I was there when he was foaled. There were so many good riders in the class but I think he has a lot of presence and is a bit of a show-off so that helps him do well.” Lisa Rush of Dell Rapids, S.D. (Region 4) also traveled a long way to the Finals and was rewarded with Reserve Championship honors with her seven-year-old Westfalen gelding Finestep HW (Florenciano x Merana by Medici) on a score of 67.393%. “My horse was also fresh today, but all in all he did everything I asked him to do,” noted Rush, who added that she and her daughter trailered her mount 17 hours to Kentucky in order to participate in the Finals for the first time. “Three years ago I purchased him sight unseen off the internet and imported him. It was quite a leap of faith, and at first you think, ‘what have I done?’ But he’s been fantastic and it’s turned out really well.”

Region 8 riders claimed top honors in the Fourth Level Open Championship, where Shannon Stevens of Annandale, N.J. rode her seven-year-old Hanoverian mare Pik L’s Donabella (Pik L x Donatela by Don Primero, bred in the U.S. by Horses Unlimited) to the win with 71.556%. “I bought her when she was two years old, sight unseen from an online auction. There was something I saw in her in the first 30 seconds that made me feel I had to have her, but my husband thought I was out of my mind!” she laughed. “My mare is a super energetic, exuberant type so my goal going into this was to ride a clean, conservative, harmonious test and I think we achieved that. To be honest, she’s a humbling horse and every day can be a bit of a challenge, but she’s pushed me to become a better rider. I’ve learned so much from her and I was really pleased with our performance today.” Region 8 team mate Jane Hannigan of Harvard, Mass. rode the seven-year-old Oldenburg gelding Fackeltrager (Fackeltanz x Whisper D by Gribaldi, owned by Ruling Cortes LLC) to Reserve with 69.741%. “We did Third Level here last year and wanted to come back because it’s such great experience for him to be in this environment,” said Hannigan. “It was cold and windy today and he was a little snorty but he tried his best to pay attention. He tried to do too many flying changes but he was just trying too hard. He’s a very elastic mover and the lateral movements are his strength.”

After traveling all the way across the country to compete, a Region 6 competitor once again grabbed headlines as Morgan Barrows of Monroe, Wash. rode Janice Davis’ eight-year-old Oldenburg gelding San Corazon (San Amour x Ridehna by Rohdiamant) to victory in the Intermediate I Open Freestyle Championship with 71.708%. “I came out knowing I needed to do better than I did in the Intermediate I class yesterday, but pulling the first ride in the class is not a position I like being in. I don’t get nervous during the ride, but I do get extremely anxious after the ride so it was hard for me to watch the rest of the class,” said Barrows. “I’ve been using this freestyle in CDIs this season and I knew what I needed to do to amp it up, so I took those risks and it paid off. It’s a long way for us to come to the Finals, but we had a super trip coming here and have no regrets. For all of those people sitting at home considering coming in the future, I would have to say, ‘get in the truck and go.’ It’s great here in Kentucky and I’m not sure there’s anywhere else that can do this event like this.” Earning her second straight Reserve Championship of the weekend was Ashley Wimmer of Winston-Salem, N.C. (Region 1) who earned 71.583% with her own 11-year-old Oldenburg mare Somerhall (Sir Donnerhall x Arantscha B by Archipel). “She was a little bit tense in the Alltech today but I was able to get her settled for the most part. We had a mistake in the three-tempis but it was completely my fault, and the rest was really good,” said Wimmer. “My freestyle was designed by my daughter and it suits my horse really well because she’s a very elegant, light-moving horse. That can be a challenge to get right, but we get great scores for it.”

Less than one-tenth of a point made all the difference for Darcy Gaines of nearby Versailles, Ky. (qualified in Region 4) to win the Intermediate I Adult Amateur Freestyle with 69.917% aboard her 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Amigo (by Scandic). “I’m so thrilled. Everything I asked for, he responded – he was right with the music and didn’t make any mistakes. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from him today,” said Gaines, who described her long journey to find her current partner. “I spent about 13 years buying and selling inexpensive horses to build up enough money to buy a really fabulous horse. But after only a year and getting to show at Prix St. Georges one time, he suffered a career-ending injury and I thought I was done with the sport. But I kept working my tail off and saved every penny I could, and went to Europe where I found Amigo as an unbroken two-year-old and didn’t spend a lot of money on him. I’ve brought him along all by myself and I still do everything I can to support this hobby I love.” Alexandra Krossen of Basking Ridge, N.J. (Region 8) and Heather Mason’s 11-year-old Hanoverian cross mare Damani (Duvall x Godiva by Gesandt, bred in the U.S. by Virginia Godfrey) earned the Reserve Championship for this division in 2015, and returned to Kentucky to earn the same honor this year with 69.833%. “Damani came to Heather as a sale horse, and last year was our first season together. Luckily I still have the ride on her,” said Krossen, who works for a pharmaceutical company when not in the saddle. “She was a little hot today but that actually made things flow a little easier, despite a bobble in our three-tempis.”

Under a stunning November moon shining over the frosty Bluegrass countryside, Region 3 riders quickly heated things up in the Alltech Arena as evening festivities got underway with the Grand Prix Adult Amateur Freestyle, where Lynnette Wadsworth of Hastings, Fla. rode her 17-year-old Friesian gelding Wietze G (Rypke x Wijke by Reitse) to claim both the win and the Calaveras County Perpetual Trophy presented by artist Olva Stewart Pharo with 66.750% over Phyllis Sumner of Atlanta, Ga. with her 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding Wilby (Walt Disney I x Doretta by Darling) on a score of 66.500%.

As the next-to-last combination to canter down centerline in the Grand Prix Open Freestyle, the elegant pair of Chase Hickok of Wellington, Fla. (Region 3) and Sagacious HF (17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Welt Hit II x Judith by Cocktail, owned by Hyperion Farm Inc.) quickly took command of the crowd and powered to their second Finals triumph in as many days. Their winning score of 74.167% gave them the unanimous victory under all three international judges including Janet Foy, Lilo Fore, and William Warren. “We are just ecstatic with the results from this weekend! Our goal was to come here and have a positive experience in anticipation of moving up to the CDI Grand Prix level during the upcoming Florida season, but this far exceeded our expectations,” said a delighted Hickok. “I really love our freestyle. The music actually came with Sagacious, and I’ve tweaked it a bit to suit us and changed around the choreography some, but the credit for the design and music selection really goes to Marlene Whitaker. It’s such a fun freestyle to ride and I think the music really suits Sagacious and highlights his strengths.” After winning Thursday’s Intermediate II Open title, Heather Mason of Lebanon, N.J. (Region 8) and her 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Warsteiner (Riverman ISF x Welona by Roemer) had another strong performance to finish with Reserve honors on a score of 72.917%.

To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review day sheets and results, and read daily news releases, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.

Source: Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals

Media Contact: Jennifer M. Keeler,
Yellow Horse Marketing, jennifer@yellowhorsemarketing.com

Riders from Coast to Coast Are Crowned Champions at the 2016 US Dressage Finals

Missy Gilliland and Windermere DDB.

Windermere DDB is living proof that even former bucking broncos can be crowned champions at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, a unique national head-to-head competition for exhibitors of all levels being held being held November 10-13 in Lexington, Ky.

Coincidentally, just a year ago, Missy Gilliland of Phoenix, Ariz. happened to be horse-shopping for a client in the central Kentucky area during Finals week and decided to purchase a young Hanoverian gelding named Windermere DDB (Waterford x Donnerella by Donnerhall, bred in the U.S. by Lisa Dunn of Creekview Farm). “Of course it wasn’t until after we get him home to Phoenix that we found out he has a long history of bucking people off, and had been turned out to pasture for two years because of it,” Gilliland explained. “When we first got him you couldn’t walk him out of the crossties saddled without him being a bucking bronco.”

But Gilliland persevered and was able to channel her mount’s energy in the right direction, including claiming a victory in the Great American/USDF Region 7 Open Training Level Championship in September in Burbank, Cal. for owner Diane DeBenedetto. “So then we had a decision to make about going all that way to the Finals. I left it up to the owners and they decided in just a minute that they wanted to do it,” said Gilliland. “I guess when things are going so well and you have such a great season with a horse, you can’t pass up an opportunity like this because you never know when you might have it come around again. I didn’t know how he’d handle the trip and the atmosphere, and the first day here he was pretty bug-eyed, but every day he’s figured it out more and more.”

The pair’s long journey proved worthwhile as they topped the Training Level Open Championship with a winning score of 74.167% over Martin Kuhn of New Berlin, Ill. (Region 2) who won a tie-break for reserve with 73.712% aboard Frazier, a six-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Sir Sinclair x Melvira by Gentleman, bred in Florida by INSPO, Inc.) owned by Jodi Lemkemann. “I was a little worried in the warmup – it was early this morning, and he was freaking out a bit about the sun and the shadows, but I had just enough time to get him settled,” said Gilliland. “During my ride he kind of puffed up in the right way and we had a great time. He has definitely stepped up to the plate and I’m so glad we came. I love the venue and everything about the show, and so far it couldn’t be a better experience. I’ll be back for sure.” Kuhn also had his hands full in the warm up arena, “but he really settled down in the test and had no mistakes. He’s very talented and eager to please. I was here in 2013 for the first Finals and was amazed with how smoothly the event went, and in our first year back since then I continue to be impressed.”

In the Third Level Open division, Michael Bragdell of Colora, Md. (qualified in Region 8) earned top honors with a score of 72.350% aboard Sternlicht Hilltop, a six-year-old Hanoverian stallion (Soliman de Hus x Rhapsody GGF by Rascalino, bred in the U.S. by Rachel Ehrlich) owned by Hilltop Farm Inc. This pair was last year’s First Level Open Champions, and also placed third in the USEF young horse championship program in August. “We made some tweaks from our warm-up ride yesterday and had a great test today, and I’m so pleased,” said Bragdell. “My main goal for this year was the six-year-old championships and we did that, so we just kept going, one step at a time. With young horses, you listen to what they tell you and if they’re ready to take the next step forward, you do it. He’s got such a great workmanlike attitude and knows to stay focused on me even though he’s a breeding stallion.”

Finishing a close second was Nora Batchelder of Williston, Fla. (Region 3) who rode her seven-year-old Hanoverian mare Fifi MLW (Fidertanz x Wolkenstanza MLW by Wolkentanz, bred in Florida by Mary Lou Winn of Home Again Farm) to a score of 72.222% in just their fourth show together. “She’s a big powerful girl and she really picked herself up and showed off in the ring today, so I was really proud of that,” said Batchelder. “We were ecstatic to get to come here. Having the chance to show a young horse in a national championship atmosphere is an incredible opportunity.”

In the lavish Alltech Arena, FEI-level competition kicked off the morning schedule with hard-fought Intermediate I Open Championship. As the last competitor to enter the arena, Mike Suchanek of Cambridge, Minn. (Region 4) didn’t let the pressure of the moment, or a bobble down centerline, get in the way of earning a winning score of 71.798% aboard Hero L (nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding [His Highness x Waterlily L by Wolkenstein II] owned and bred in the U.S. by Leatherdale Farms). “By the time I got to C I thought to myself, ‘okay, I’ve got to pick it up and come together on this.’ And the rest of the test went great. I’m amazingly proud of my horse and happy for the entire Leatherdale team to get this win for them,” said Suchanek, who also credited his special relationship with his mount. “When I started working for the Leatherdales in 2010, Hero was the first horse I ever sat on there. He was just three, and we’ve built up quite a connection over the years. To now enter into the FEI levels, I’m just so proud and I enjoy all of the challenges that come with that.”

Finishing as Reserve Champion was Ashley Wimmer of Winston-Salem, N.C. (Region 1) who earned 71.096% with her own 11-year-old Oldenburg mare Somerhall (Sir Donnerhall x Arantscha B by Archipel) who she has also developed from a young age. “I brought her up through the young and developing horse program, and I think that experience and exposure definitely helped prepare her for this moment,” said Wimmer. “She was impressed with the atmosphere in the Alltech but she’s matured enough to where she came back and let me ride her anyway. In Europe the horses are used to this type of environment, but in the U.S. there’s not many places like this, so it’s great experience for us.”

Bonnie Canter and Fifinella GCF
Bonnie Canter and Fifinella GCF

A popular phrase notes that “everything’s bigger in Texas,” and one could say that also applies to Fifinella GCF. The 15-1-hand Connemara/Hanoverian cross mare may have appeared almost diminutive next to her huge Warmblood competitors, but in the Second Level Adult Amateur Championship she proved that size doesn’t matter, carrying her owner/rider Bonnie Canter of Houston, Texas (Region 9) to an impressive score of 72.317% and victory in the class of 30. In fact, the talented mare has never let her small stature get in the way of accomplishments: last year, she and Canter competed against the best young horses in the country in the USEF five-year-old championship program at Lamplight. “She has been so great this weekend. I’ve had her since she was just two, and she has that little bit of ‘pony’ in her and she loves a trip and loves to feel special,” said Canter. “Second Level is tough, there’s so many things that can go wrong, but she was forward and flowing and enjoying the cool fall temperatures. The weather has been so beautiful, the grounds are wonderful and footing is perfect – you can’t imagine riding someplace any nicer. It’s been a great time.”

Small animal veterinarian Lucy Tidd of Germantown, Md. (Region 1) returned to the Finals for the second time with her seven-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Evita to earn Reserve with 71.057%. “She’s a little bit of a worrier, but she was much improved over our performance last year at Training Level where she was a little tense,” said Tidd. “Today she had a solid test and was really listening. She’s starting to really mature and come into her own now. It’s so fun to come back here and be around all of the top amateurs from around the country.”

Last year’s Third Level champions Katherine Lewis of Aiken, S.C. (Region 3) and her 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Donneur (Donnerschwee out of Akorina by Cordeur) successfully made the move to Fourth Level, earning the unanimous victory under all three judges to win the Adult Amateur division with 68.111%. But Lewis’ partnership with her mount almost never happened. “I saw Donneur when he was three and I tried to buy him, but he didn’t pass the vetting. I kept searching for a horse for eight more months, but could never get him out of my head. So I asked a friend who’s a vet to look at him again in Germany, and he gave me the right answer! But then he came home and was so wild in turnout that he blew suspensories in both front legs, and we totally rehabbed him each time,” Lewis explained. “My horse was definitely ‘up’ today but he was listening and it was such a fun ride. It’s like the Olympics for amateurs here. After coming last year, I planned out all of 2016 just to make sure we’d be back.”

A fortuitous move off the wait list resulted in Kathryn Bennett of Manassas, Va. (Region 1) and her 12-year-old American Warmblood mare Just Georgie riding to a score of 66.963%, winning a tiebreak for Reserve. “I bought her as an unbroken three-year-old and I backed her myself. She’s been a bit of a tough go but she’s a lot more willing now and I’m doing things with this horse I never dreamed of,” she said. “I remember being at Training Level and seeing someone doing flying changes and thinking I’d never be able to do that. It’s been a little bit like the blind leading the blind, but she’s turned into the most amazing horse and I’m so lucky.”

Twenty-four talented competitors from across the country vied for the Intermediate I Adult Amateur Championship, but it was last year’s champion Rachael Hicks of Prospect, Ky. (Region 2) and her 11-year-old Westfalen gelding Fabio Bellini (Fuerst Heinrich x Dakota by Davignon I) who came out on top with 69.123%. But Hicks almost didn’t get the chance to defend her title. “I’m not up to date on my rules so I thought since he won last year that we were no longer eligible at this level, and I wasn’t ready to move up to Grand Prix. So I didn’t pursue qualifying at all,” she explained. “All of a sudden I read something USDF sent out right before the last weekend of the qualifying season which said that I could win three times. I literally ran out, loaded him on the trailer, drove all the way to a show in Michigan, and got my qualifying scores in one weekend. And here we are! So now I’ve learned my lesson – read your rules! It worked out well and I was pleased with our ride. He’s such a trier and has gotten more confident in himself over the last year.”

Jessica Nilles took time off from her job as a physical therapist to come to the Finals for the first time, and now will go home to Franklin, Wis. (Region 2) with a Reserve Championship title earned with her 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Wish (Flemmingh x My Fonsa by Voltaire) on 68.421%. “We received a wild card and we just had to come, and we’re both so excited to be here,” said Nilles. “I think my horse has the biggest heart of any horse I’ve ever known, and our test felt like the most expressive and fun that we’ve had all year. It was a great feeling to have him so ‘up’ and feeling powerful with me in there.”

Perhaps the most dramatic turnaround performance of the Finals so far was Lauren Thornlow and her 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding Royal Konig (Rubin-Royal by Pica Ramira by Pablo). Their long trip from Snohomish, Wash. (Region 6) may seem shorter on the way home after earning the Grand Prix Adult Amateur Championship with 64.000%. “It definitely was the ‘comeback kid’ ride,” said Thornlow. “I had a freestyle ride yesterday and everything that could have gone wrong did. It’s the first time I’ve ever gotten below 60% on this horse in the 10 years I’ve owned him. I was definitely not in a good place yesterday, so I told myself that I had to pick myself back up and get it together.” A short morning schooling session seemed to get Thornlow and her sensitive mount back on the same page, and it paid off in spades when the afternoon’s championship title was on the line. “He can be a very difficult ride and sometimes he thinks he can just get by on his good looks,” she laughed. “But today it felt like he was with me the whole time in there. I think as far as our connection and communication went, it ended up being our best Grand Prix ever. We’ve grown together since I was a young rider and everything in our relationship has seemed like it’s meant to be. It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster but we’ve found a good balance, and I’m so happy to have him in my life.”

Kristy Truebenbach Lund of Wellington, Fla. (Region 3) also rebounded from a tough first day to ride her 13-year-old Spanish Warmblood gelding Akvavit (Sylvester x Onni by Jazz) to the Reserve Championship with 62.700%. “We also had a disaster ride yesterday in the Intermediate II, but I’m so pleased with him today,” Truebenbach Lund said of her mount, which she “got out of a bankruptcy sale in Spain and bought off a video. He’s a hot horse, but he will do anything for me, and if you ask him to jump he says ‘how high?’”

Capping off evening festivities, 15 horse/rider combinations contested the Grand Prix Open Championship where Chase Hickok of Wellington, Fla. (Region 3) rode Hyperion Farm Inc.’s 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Sagacious HF (Welt Hit II x Judith by Cocktail) to a top score of 70.667% to win the Veronica Holt Perpetual Trophy (presented by USDF Region 5 and Friends). “We wanted to focus on positive, harmonious performances with Sagacious and I felt like we really accomplished that tonight, especially given the atmosphere,” said Hickok. “I can’t really put into words what an incredible opportunity it’s been for me to ride this horse. From day one he’s been such a generous teacher, and it’s a testament to him that we’ve accomplished so much together.” This was Hickok’s first trip to the Finals in Lexington, but it won’t be her last. “We graduated last year from the Under-25 division and were looking for a new goal to set for us. This felt like a natural choice because I think it’s an awesome program, it’s a great way to cap off the season, and we were really excited to come and see it for ourselves,” she explained. “Everybody’s been so nice, from the volunteers driving the coffee cart in the morning to the staff handing out carrots for the horses; we’ll certainly be coming back. This will now have a permanent spot on our calendar.”

Anna Whit Watkins of Moody, Texas (Region 9) was equally pleased with her performance with her 20-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Oublette (Amulet x Jinnardi by Expo), earning 68.000% for Reserve honors. “He was really on tonight – he likes his job and loves a crowd,” said Watkins, who also earned the Reserve title at this level at the inaugural Finals in 2013. “It’s great to come back again. Everyone that I’ve spoken with is just so excited to be here because it’s such a unique experience. For competitors who don’t usually the chance to get out of their home state or region much, to come here and see the diversity from across the country in such a supportive atmosphere is an incredible experience.”

To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review day sheets and results, and read daily news releases, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.

Source: Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals

Leach and Mason Earn First Two Championship Titles Presented at US Dressage Finals

Amy Leach and Radcliffe.

Five months ago, the last thing on Amy Leach’s mind was returning to the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® to defend her 2015 Intermediate II Adult Amateur Championship title. She just wanted her horse Radcliffe to be healthy again.

“It’s been a very difficult year for us. He had some serious health issues and was off from last December until June. We’ve had some very long days, but he’s my family and I fought hard for him,” she explained. “When he finally started feeling better, we started back to work just for fun and he felt really good. So we went to a few shows in August, and Regionals was just his fourth time down centerline where we qualified to come here.”

Then disaster nearly struck again. “Two days ago, he stepped on me in the stall 15 minutes before he got on the trailer. I knew right away he had broken my foot. My mom had to drive the truck and trailer seven hours to get here and then I went to the emergency room after we arrived,” said Leach of South Elgin, Ill. (Region 2). “I didn’t even know if I would be able to get my foot in my boot today.”

Courageously, Leach did get her dress boot on, and would not be denied another victory as she and her 18-year-old Holsteiner gelding that she’s developed from a gangly three-year-old (Rantares x Felicitious by Coriolan, bred in the U.S. by Cheryl Kellerman) earned 67.982% for the unanimous victory under all three judges in the Intermediate II Adult Amateur Championship. “This would not have been possible without so many people helping me, both my friends and members of the show staff, who offered assistance without my even having to ask for anything. It’s been so amazing and I’m so appreciative,” Leach continued. “Our intention was just to enjoy this experience and have fun after everything we’ve been through, and he’s a total ham – he lights up in the show ring. It’s our fourth time here, and I’m so glad to be back. It’s our favorite event and I so appreciate all the sponsors and people who make it happen. It’s not about competing and coming out on top – for me, it’s about enjoying each moment with him. I even took time to look around me today in the arena, and it was a great feeling.”

Fellow Region 2 competitor Amy Grahn of Lake Bluff, Ill. and her 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Zabaco (Contango x Piacenza by Juventus, bred in Florida by Roy and Beth Godwin of Bear Creek Farm) were first down centerline and gave Leach a run for her money with a solid mark of 64.254% to earn the Reserve Championship title. “My horse showed in the Grand Prix here two years ago, and then when he came up for sale I was lucky enough to try him. I’d never ridden at this level, so for the first two months I couldn’t even get him to canter, so we’ve come a long way!” she laughed. “We had a good clean test and he’ll work his heart out for you. For our first time here and riding at this level, I’m thrilled. I have to say that I have been so impressed with how nice everyone is here. It’s so welcoming, and the facility and organization are the best. I’ve never been in anything like that – going in that arena is overwhelming.”

Leach and Grahn were two of the nearly 400 horse/rider combinations representing all nine United States Dressage Federation (USDF) regions and 39 states as well as the District of Columbia in attendance at this year’s US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, being held November 10-13 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Due to the high number of entries (which have steadily increased every year since the Finals’ inception in 2013), the first two championship classes were held on Thursday afternoon, a day traditionally reserved for “warm-up” classes held as part of the Dressage in the Bluegrass open competition.

Heather Mason and Warsteiner
Heather Mason and Warsteiner

The day’s second awards ceremony was held for the Intermediate II Open division, where Heather Mason of Lebanon, N.J. (Region 8) rode Warsteiner to victory. Mason found the Dutch Warmblood (Riverman ISF x Welona by Roemer) as a two-and-a-half year old in Europe and purchased him as a resale project, but soon decided to keep the now 13-year-old gelding with the big personality for herself to develop through the levels. And Mason’s brave decision to make a last-minute tack change and discard her double bridle for the Finals resulted in a winning score of 69.737%. “It’s the first time he’s shown in a snaffle bridle since Third Level,” Mason explained. “I decided to change it up after Regionals because he’s always gone well with it, even though I was having second thoughts this morning because he was jumping around! But I had made the decision so I stuck with it, and it paid off. He felt really good and elastic today; we just worked to keep the test steady and not too electric. He is the barn favorite and he’ll stay with me forever.”

Finishing with Reserve honors was Karen Lipp (Ball Ground, Ga.) of Region 3 with Kathleen Oldford’s 11-year-old Hanoverian mare Whitney (White Star x Grace by Grand Cru) on a score of 68.202%. “I showed her in the USEF Young Horse Program as a four-, five-, and six-year-old, then the owner rode her for a while, and now we’re back together to work on the Grand Prix,” said Lipp. “She’s a hot, electric horse and I was a little worried about the atmosphere because it’s a lot for them to deal with, but she stayed with me in there and I was very happy with her.”

Also competing in the Intermediate II Open class was none other than USDF President George Williams, who finished sixth with Sara Anderson’s Dutch Warmblood mare Uniqa. “I have to say, from its inception I’ve wanted to ride in the Finals, but it just hadn’t worked out until now,” said Williams. “I just started competing this horse this spring, and I find myself here. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s great to see everything from the competitor perspective, and yes, I had that same magical feeling that so many others have experienced. There is something exceptional about riding in the Alltech; it’s a great atmosphere here, and it’s even more special knowing all the hard work and vision it took to create this event in the first place.”

Watch live online streaming on the popular USEF Network at this link: http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2016USDressageFinals/. To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review day sheets and results, and read daily news releases, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.

Source: Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals

Nearly 400 Competitors Converge on Kentucky for 2016 US Dressage Finals

Marge Savage with Willow’s Dream.

She’s literally been driving across the country for four days, but Morgan Barrows of Monroe, WA wasn’t going to let a little distance stop her from attending this week’s US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, where she will join nearly 400 other competitors representing all nine United States Dressage Federation (USDF) regions in head-to-head competition for national titles across 30 different Open and Adult Amateur divisions.

Barrows knew what she was in for when she loaded her partner San Corazon on the trailer, since the pair made the same trek to Lexington, KY in 2014. Then the pair’s long journey proved worthwhile, as Barrows and Janice Davis’ Oldenburg gelding earned both the Second Level Open and Second Level Freestyle Championships. “We had so much fun two years ago and we did really well, so we definitely wanted to come back,” she explained. “Coming to the Finals was such a great experience for us all the way around. The Kentucky Horse Park is incredible, the people are amazing, and being a part of that atmosphere with athletes from all around the country and meeting new people was really special. Now we’ve successfully moved up to the small tour and hope to go out there and do our best once again. We’ll be hoping to keep him feeling fresh despite the long trip, but he’s such a professional and I anticipate he’ll feel as comfortable with the environment in Kentucky as he was last time.”

Barrows hails from Region 6, which implemented a new travel grant system this year whereby riders who qualified for the Finals could apply for financial assistance. “Our regional director Carolynn Bunch worked to get it started, and it’s really helped us with some of the costs. Every little bit helps,” said Barrows. “I love competing on the national stage, but being from the Northwest it does mean that we have to travel to be able to do that, and having some funding assistance really helps. I think it’s a great idea and I hope it grows both in our region and for other regions around the country.”

Since she is also participating on the Region 6 Team in the Second Annual Regions Cup Team Competition, Barrows will get a chance to show her regional pride (read more and see all regions’ team members here). Each regional team consists of three horse/rider combinations from various levels vying with competitors from across the country for special awards and bragging rights. “I think it’s a great way to show our pride and encourage regional spirit,” Barrows noted. “Interestingly, I don’t even know the other two people on our Region 6 team, so this way we get a chance to meet new people not only from around the country but also from within our own region. And then when a region does well, it can really boost interest and excitement for everyone, and we can show people back home how we proudly represented our region and thank them for supporting us.”

She may not be hitting the road for four days, but it’s still been a long haul to the Finals for Marge Savage of Jacksonville Beach, FL. As she prepares to travel 12 hours from the Atlantic coast to Kentucky for her very first US Dressage Finals experience, it’s a trip Savage wasn’t sure she’d ever get to make. “From the minute USDF announced they were creating the Finals, I thought it was a great idea,” she explained. “It’s always been a goal for me, and several of my friends have been (some of them every single year), and they loved it. I think it’s the top event that adult amateurs like me can reach for.”

After qualifying for the inaugural Finals in 2013, Savage chose to stay home due to health concerns with her Oldenburg mare Willow’s Dream. A year later, Savage underwent rotator cuff surgery, and the day she was given clearance to ride again by her doctor, her beloved mare suffered from a severe colic episode. “She went to the hospital and they had to do surgery and remove nine feet of her colon, and then she developed a heart murmur from the ordeal which she still has to deal with,” Savage explained. “It was a very long road, but we did it and got ‘back in the saddle’, only to finish dead last in our 2015 Regional Championship classes. So I wasn’t sure this was ever going to happen.”

But the tenacious pair never gave up. At this year’s Great American/USDF Region 3 Championship show, they claimed top placings to finally punch their ticket to Kentucky to compete in the First Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship. “With everything that we’ve been through, this was the year to do it – I wanted to experience this now in case we never got the chance again,” said Savage. “I don’t think most riders get many opportunities like this, so I’m taking advantage of it. It’s a big honor and I feel so proud to be going. I’m riding in a national championship this weekend – it doesn’t get any better than that!”

Due to the large number of entries this year, championship action begins at the US Dressage Finals on Thursday, November 10 when the first round of national titles will be presented in the Alltech Arena. For a truly unforgettable championship experience, limited VIP seating in the Alltech Arena is still available for purchase (to learn more, click here). For those dressage fans unable to attend the Finals in person, the popular USEF Network will feature live online streaming of select classes from the Alltech Arena on their website, www.usefnetwork.com. Coverage begins Thursday, November 10 at 2pm ET (see the entire live streaming schedule here).

To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review entry lists, purchase tickets to special events, and sign up to receive news and updates, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.

Source: Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals

Inspirational Adult Amateurs and Olympians Are Highlight of Second Day of US Dressage Finals

Catalina Sherwood and Razmitaz. Photos by Susan J. Stickle.

Earlier this week, things weren’t looking good for Catalina Sherwood as she pursued her dream of riding at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, a unique national head-to-head competition for adult amateur and open riders of all levels being held November 5-8, 2015 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. After a long van ride from Tucson, Ariz., her eight-year-old RPSI mare Razmitaz wasn’t her usual self.

“She wasn’t feeling well when she came off the trailer, but the wonderful show vets from Hagyard Equine Medical Institute got right on it and it turned out she was coming down with shipping fever,” Sherwood explained. “So we didn’t know if we’d even get to ride. Fortunately she responded to treatment and bounced right back, but it was quite a dramatic few days.” Despite the worry, Razmitaz rewarded Sherwood’s faith by earning a victory for Region 5 in the First Level Adult Amateur Championship with 69.118%. “She’s half Quarter Horse and half Dutch Warmblood, so she’s an interesting mix and you never know what you’re going to get with her. Some days we call her ‘Ranch Raz’ and other days it’s ‘Spaz Raz’ depending on her mood,” laughed Sherwood. “But she felt great this morning, so I just focused on riding her just like I do at home and tried not to get distracted by the incredible surroundings here and all the other amazing riders and horses. To end up winning is so much more special after a long week of worry.” Sherwood is just one example of a multitude of inspiring stories at the Finals, especially among the adult amateur ranks. “I’m a working mom with a full-time career in engineering and sales, and my husband is at home with my three-year-old son, and I couldn’t be here without their support and that of my mom who came to Lexington with me,” she said. “We all work hard and there’s a lot of early mornings and late nights to try to ride, so it’s really special to be here with so many other amazing amateurs who are doing the same thing.” Reserve Champion was Region 9’s Ashlee Watts, an equine orthopedic surgeon at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas who rode her Danish Warmblood gelding Hampton (Blue Hors Hotline x Madigan L) to 68.284%. “My friends make fun of me because all I talk about is how amazing my horse is, but he is!” said a thrilled Watts. “He hasn’t traveled a lot or done that much showing, so I wasn’t sure how he’d handle all of this but he’s been perfect and happy here.”

A friendly Region 1 rivalry continued on the national stage today in the First Level Open Championship as Michael Bragdell of Colora, Md. rode Hilltop Farm, Inc.’s five-year-old Hanoverian Sternlicht Hilltop (Soliman de Hus x Rhapsody GGF by Rascalino, bred in the U.S. by Rachel Ehrlich) to the win with 74.363%, just ahead of Stacey Hastings of Mooresville, N.C. with hers and Ronald Woodcock’s Oldenburg gelding Fürst Aurum (Fürst Romancier x Kapela by Rohdiamant) on 72.598%. “I was really happy with how he was today – we had a great warm-up class yesterday and he felt really good so I went for it today,” said Bragdell of the young stallion. “He’s a really good boy and no matter what I ask he puts his best foot forward. The weather’s been great this year, and it’s such a fun experience coming here. As an athlete, you really feel like it’s something special. There are all these people from across the country who come to compete, and it gives you the sense that it’s a true national championship and makes for such a special event.” Hastings was also pleased with her mount’s performance. “He was pretty spicy yesterday so I was a little concerned that there might be more of the same today, but we took our time warming up and it paid off. This trip has been really special because his co-owner has had a long illness this year, and this was the first time since last year’s Finals that he was able to attend a show and see his horse go.”

In the Third Level Adult Amateur Championship, Katherine Lewis of Region 3 put the talent and energy of her Oldenburg gelding Donneur (Donnerschwee x Akorina by Cordeur) to good use as the only competitor in the division to break the 70% banner, earning a score of 71.239% for the win. “I have such an incredible horse – he always gives 500 percent. But he used to ‘self-destruct’ in his paddock, so now he goes out in a big field with a retired show hunter where he stays safe and sound and is doing super. He’s very brave and tries so hard – he’s an overachiever but a joy to ride,” said Lewis, who is retired from a career in mechanical engineering and now owns Black Forest Equestrian Center in Aiken, S.C. with her husband. She explained how she’s also enjoyed her first Finals experience. “The footing here is incredible everywhere, we’ve met the most wonderful people, and the volunteers are so dedicated and friendly to everyone. I just love it all, it’s very well done.” Hometown favorite and middle-school language arts teacher Cariann Wlosinski of Lexington, Ky. (qualified in Region 1) has competed successfully in every edition of the Finals so far with her seven-year-old Oldenburg mare Rhiannon (Rousseau x Odette by Riverman) who she bred herself. Today the pair earned another Reserve Championship on a score of 69.231%. “We spent all summer working on our flying changes, and I really enjoy Third Level. We get so excited to be here each year.”

Former western rider Mike Suchanek of Cambridge, Minn. (Region 4) is enjoying success in a very different type of arena as he rode Douglas and Louise Leatherdale’s Hanoverian gelding Corenzo (Conteur x Ramira by Rotspon) to a narrow victory in the Fourth Level Open Championship thanks to a top score of 70.741%. “Our test went really well today. He took some deep breaths out there and relaxed into his rhythm – he was a real partner and shared my confidence in the ring,” said Suchanek of his mount, who he’s brought up from Second Level. “I especially enjoyed our flying changes; I think it was some of his best work so far. He’s come a long way in a short amount of time.” Suchanek just edged out Bridget Hay of Flemington, N.J. (Region 8) with her own six-year-old Oldenburg stallion Faolan (Freestyle x Wyoming by Weltstern, bred in the U.S. by Barbara Hay) with 70.481%. “It’s been a bittersweet journey bringing Faolan along because we also bred his older brother, who I was just about to bring out at Grand Prix when we lost him at just 11 years old. He was the horse of a lifetime,” Hay explained. “But Faolan has grown up so much this year, and even though it’s hard not to compare him to his brother, it means so much that he’s my next superstar.”

Sara Schmitt and HB Dschafar
Sara Schmitt and HB Dschafar

Music rang out across the Kentucky Horse Park grounds today as eight national titles for musical freestyles were awarded. Sara Schmitt and her German Riding Pony gelding HB Dschafar (Daylight x Champion de Luxe) made quite an impression on the judges for this afternoon’s Second Level Freestyle Open Championship on their way to earning a dominant score of 77.611% and take the winner’s sash home to Flemington, N.J. (Region 8). “He’s a hot tamale and he went around the ring looking at everything,” said Schmitt. “But once we entered the arena he focused on his job. We got about halfway through the test and I kind of sat back and thought, ‘this is just the best’. I had no expectations to win so that just makes it all the more sweet.” Finishing in second with 72.500% for her Celtic-themed performance was Jonni Allen of Pleasant Hill, Mo. (Region 4), who rode Mary Adams’ FWF Princess Juliana, a seven-year-old Georgian Grande mare (Pieter fan Lutke Peinjum x Flying W Farms Dresden Figurin by Flying W Farms Firedance, bred in the U.S. by Flying W Farms, Inc.). “She was a little tense at first but she came back to me and I was delighted. I just love coming here to the Finals,” noted Allen.

After winning Reserve honors in yesterday’s Second Level Adult Amateur Championship, Region 8’s Amy Gimbel (Oldwick, N.J.) and her six-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Eye Candy (UB40 x Wednesday by Weltmeyer, bred in the U.S. by Judy Barrett) returned to the ring today to decisively claim top honors by more than a seven-point margin in the Second Level Freestyle Adult Amateur division with 76.333%, ahead of fellow New Jersey resident and Region 8 competitor Jamie Reilley, who finished in second with 69.000%. “Jamie and I have been competing together for about two years, and now we both train with Heather Mason and it was really special to cheer each other on and finish in the top two together,” said Gimbel. Reilley improved upon a third-place finish last year to move into the top two with her Charlie Brown-themed freestyle aboard her with her home-bred Oldenburg gelding Feinest Proof (Feiner Stern x Proof Run by Proof). “Everything fell into place for us today,” Reilley explained. “He’s a special boy because I bred and foaled him, and he came back from a devastating injury as a three-year-old. I even tried to give him away but he was so bad to handle on the ground that they gave him back, and I’m so glad they did! Now he’s a gift to ride every day.”

Brianna Zwilling (Wentzville, Mo.) of Region 4 rode her seven-year-old Oldenburg gelding Griffindor (Galiani CH x Ronja M by Ravallo, bred in the U.S. by Fernando Cardenas) to win the Third Level Freestyle Open Championship with 72.333%. “I’m very happy with my ride; it was actually quite emotional for me. My horse is very sensitive and he was a little bit spooky going around the ring, but as soon as the music turned on he was right there with me and I feel like he gave me 150 percent. He’s the most special horse I’ve ever sat on,” she added. “I love it here at the Finals. It’s different from any other show, it feels very elite. But at the same time I don’t feel nervous because it’s just such an honor to be in that ring. Plus it’s so well run every year, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here.” Elizabeth Landers’ 50-hour drive from Agoura Hills, Calif. (Region 7) proved worthwhile as she partnered with her stunning black Hanoverian gelding His Highness Crusador (His Highness x Lynn by Lauries Crusador) to 70.389% and Reserve Champion honors. “My horse fell in love with the Alltech Arena, and he came in there today like he owned the place. When our ride started he clicked in his groove and it was just fun,” said Landers. “We’ve come so far this year, and it’s a mind-blowing experience to be here.”

Region 7’s Amalia Boyles also braved the cross country trip to the Finals from her home in Carlsbad, Calif. and was rewarded with a victory in the Fourth Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship aboard Donna Richardson’s Hanoverian gelding Welt Erbe (Weltmeyer x Solveig by Shogun) with 69.944%. “Yesterday he was really hot, so today I was hoping for a more relaxed horse and in the warm-up I think we did a better job to prepare,” said Boyles, who is a recent college graduate. “He’s more experienced than I am but he’s also a little quirky – he has about a hundred different personalities all in one. You never know what you’re going to get, but he’s definitely made me a better rider. I’ve never competed in a facility quite like this and it certainly was a very tough competition, but I wanted to experience this and my parents and friends helped me get here. It was all definitely worth it after today.” Nelson Long of Signal Mountain, Tenn. (Region 3) returned to the Finals for a second straight year and this time earned the division’s Reserve Championship for a Les Miserables-themed freestyle with his Dutch Warmblood gelding Be Cool Metall (Daddy Cool x Tannory by Metall) with 68.611%. “My horse is very green so when we first went in the arena he was pretty full of himself, but he settled down and went to work,” he explained. “We were here in 2014 for First and Second Level, and what a difference a year makes. He works very hard and it really was a delight.”

In the Intermediate I Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship, Colene Stevens of Canton, Ohio (Region 2) rode her 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Bonifaz S (Brentano II x Windgame by Weltmeyer) to the win with 66.125%. “I love riding to the music in the Alltech Arena, it really enhances the whole experience,” she explained. “My gelding loves to show off in front of people, so it was fun. It was quite a process with a lot of laughs to find the right music for him – we tried song after song and even had votes at the barn to help choose the right ones, but ultimately it was my horse who picked the music.” Earning her second Reserve Championship in as many days was Alexandra Krossen of Basking Ridge, N.J. (Region 8) who had another good performance with Heather Mason’s Hanoverian cross mare Damani (Duvall x Gqdiva by Gesandt, bred in the U.S. by Virginia Godfrey) for 65.958%.

It was a hard-fought and heartfelt win in the competitive Intermediate I Freestyle Open Championship for Heather McCarthy of Prairie Grove, Ill. (Region 2) as she rode John McGuire and Marilyn Johnson’s Oldenburg mare Saphira (Florencio x Roxina by Chairman) to the win with 73.125%. “John McGuire recently passed away, so it was a hard show for me but this was his dream for Saphira to succeed like this,” McCarthy explained. “I really went for it today and I think it was one of the most fun rides I’ve ever had. We look forward to coming to the Finals all year – when we’re at Regionals we keep our fingers crossed hoping we’re going to qualify because it’s such a fun show to come to.” Earning Reserve Champion honors with a score of 72.917% was also sincerely appreciated by Heather Mendiburu of Wantage, N.J. (Region 8) who wasn’t sure she would be even able to come to Kentucky with her Hanoverian mare What Happen (Waldstar x Gina de Ro by Gloster, owned by High Point Solutions). “Things were a little up in the air for us coming into this because my mare had an injury right after Devon, so we only had about three decent rides before we came here so didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But once we got going everything was clicking and I knew that we were in sync and that it was going to be a good ride. It’s such a privilege just to be here.”

Alice Tarjan of Frenchtown, N.J. (Region 8) has proven to be unbeatable in the Grand Prix Adult Amateur ranks, and today added the division’s Freestyle Championship to her list of accomplishments. With her eight-year-old Oldenburg mare Elfenfeuer (Florencio x Elfensonne by Sion) she earned a score of 71.083% for her Alice in Wonderland freestyle to accept the Calaveras County Perpetual Trophy presented by artist Olva Stewart Pharo. “I’m just thrilled to be here again and I had so much fun,” said Tarjan. “It’s so exciting to meet people from all over the country, share a passion with horses and talk to people about their stories and how they got here. I really enjoy it.” Candace Platz of Auburn, Maine (Region 8) was thrilled to earn 66.750% and claim the Reserve ribbon with her 11-year-old American Warmblood gelding Fynn*/*/*/*/*/, who was a PMU rescue horse. “I’m really thrilled – my goal with this freestyle was to touch people’s hearts. It’s really important to me that the message of how I feel about my horse and our relationship as best friends and partners comes through, and tonight it did.”

Closing out festive evening performances, Olympian and USDF Hall of Fame member Michael Poulin of DeLeon Springs, Fla. (qualified in Region 8) made the crowd come alive with Pineland Farms, Inc.’s mighty Dutch Warmblood gelding Thor M (Mirakel x Debora by Westvoorn). After finishing second in Friday’s Grand Prix Open Championship, Poulin was not to be denied top honors on this special night and the pair earned a unanimous victory from FEI judges Axel Steiner, Lilo Fore and Natalie Lamping with a score of 72.583% to claim the Grand Prix Freestyle Open Championship for their performance featuring music from the Brave movie soundtrack. No one in the audience as able to tell that Poulin had barely rehearsed the routine and even improvised movements as he went along, including 37 consecutive one-tempi’s. “I really didn’t practice it at all – I ride a freestyle by the numbers in that I do it by ear and by timing, counting the number of beats. That’s just the way I do it and it works for me. And tonight I also threw new things in the test and just said ‘let’s give it a whirl’,” said Poulin, who emphasized he had every faith in his mount. “He’s quite a clever horse and a tremendous giver. You have to treat him with respect and kindness because he’s hot and sensitive, but that’s what makes him great.” Emily Miles of Overland Park, Kansas (Region 4) and her long-time partner Weltdorff (Hanoverian gelding, Weltmeyer x Luna by Ludendorff) finished a solid second with 71.208% earned for their precise routine also highlighted by single-handed one-tempi’s on the final centerline that even prompted a grin from judge Lilo Fore. “I don’t love the music but it works so well for him – he may not be the biggest mover but it highlights his precision,” she noted. “It’s not the first time he’s come through for me – I’ve had him for ten years since he was a three-year-old and here we are. That’s pretty cool.”

The US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® will conclude on Sunday as the last 10 champions for 2015 are crowned. Follow the action through updates on the USDF Facebook page and the US Dressage Finals website, as well as watch live online streaming on the popular USEF Network (http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2015usdressagefinals). To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review day sheets and results, and read daily news releases, visit the official event website at http://www.usdressagefinals.com.

Source: Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals