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.
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.”
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
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.”
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.”
Competitors are now arriving on the hallowed grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park for this week’s US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, and these horses and riders represent a myriad of both physical and personal journeys in traveling from across the country to take part in this unique national head-to-head dressage competition. For one exhibitor, even financial constraints and the memory of an “exploding truck” can’t keep her from making her annual pilgrimage to Lexington.
When Cecilia Cox qualified for the inaugural Finals in 2013, she and friend Shelly Schoenfeld happily embarked on the 18-hour journey from Leon Springs, Texas with American Warmblood mare Donabella in tow for what they hoped would be the experience of a lifetime. It certainly was a memorable trip – but not for the reason they originally envisioned. “We were halfway there and our truck ‘exploded’,” said Cox. “We were stranded on the side of the road for three hours with Donabella, and had to find alternate transportation to finish the trip to Kentucky. It ended up taking three months to get that truck fixed.”
Despite the first year’s nightmarish journey, Cox would not be deterred. She happily came back to the Finals in 2014, and has once again returned to compete this week with Donabella as well as stablemate Winnie Too, her 12-year-old gray American Warmblood mare. “My experiences at the Finals have been wonderful,” she noted. “I love the venue, being able to see riders from all the other regions, and competing with others who have experienced the same things as you but come from different areas of the country. It pushes you that extra bit to be around them because it makes you want to be a better rider.”
Cox is one of almost 400 entries gathering in the heart of the Bluegrass for the US Dressage Finals and corresponding open show. Over four exciting days of competition, riders representing all nine United States Dressage Federation (USDF) regions will compete for championships in 30 divisions, offering exhibitors from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels (including adult amateurs, professionals, and High Performance riders) a chance to earn national honors, fantastic prizes, and more than $50,000 in prize money at all dressage levels from Training to Grand Prix as well as musical freestyles. For added excitement this year, the top-scoring riders in various divisions from each of the Great American/USDF Regional Championships will also compete on regional teams in the new US Dressage Finals “Regions Cup”, vying with competitors from across the country for additional awards and bragging rights for their home USDF Region.
With her two mounts, Cox will once again trot down the centerline with the staunch support of her family, including husband Mark and daughters Eirin and Amanda. “My husband is so supportive of me – he’s willing to stay home and take care of everything while I’m gone so that I can do this. It’s a team effort,” Cox said. She also explained how she goes to great lengths to be able to afford to make the annual trip to the Finals. “I don’t want to take money out of the household budget to do this, so we stay in the campground and eat meals in our RV to help keep costs down. At home, I critter-sit for friends and neighbors, braid at horse shows, and body clip horses so I save can every penny I can towards the horses. The Finals are my goal every year, and the sacrifices are absolutely worth it – I’m happy to get covered in horse hair in order to do this! It’s such an incredible opportunity.”
Traveling from the opposite side of the country to experience her first Finals is Lisa Schmidt of Hampton, N.J. She earned an invitation to compete thanks to a victory in the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 1 Open Training Level Championship with Debbie Gunset’s five-year-old Hanoverian gelding Qrown Prince. When not in the saddle, Schmidt is a USEF “S” judge and also serves as the USDF Region 1 Director, marking the first time a member of the USDF Executive Board will ride in the Finals. “Over the last two years I have always been somewhere judging so haven’t had the opportunity to come to Kentucky,” said Schmidt. “But this year I worked to balance the judging and showing and am lucky enough to get the chance to finally go. I am particularly excited because as an Executive Board member, I have been involved in the planning process for the Finals but never got to experience it for myself. I know so many people in my region who have competed in previous years and raved about it, so I feel like I can’t miss this chance.”
The US Dressage Finals get started on Thursday, November 5 with USDF Dressage in the Bluegrass open classes, followed by a Competitor Welcome Party at the Alltech Arena. Championship classes kick off on Friday, with special evening performances and activities both Friday and Saturday to entertain competitors and spectators alike. For a truly unforgettable championship experience, limited VIP seating in the Alltech Arena is still available for purchase. 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.
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 http://www.usdressagefinals.com.
Source: Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals
“I anticipated that competing in the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® was going to be an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it absolutely was. The thrill of competing on that national stage was a strong pull for me to travel all that way, and it exceeded my wildest dreams. I would love to go back!”
Adult amateur rider and full-time mom Krista Nordgren echoed what so many dressage competitors have experienced attending the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. Now that the first four Great American Insurance Group/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Regional Championships have concluded with almost 850 competitors already declared for the Finals from USDF Regions 2, 6, 7, and 8, excitement and anticipation are running high as the first round of Finals invitations have now been distributed to qualified horse/rider combinations.
Nordgren first made the 1,000-mile trek from her home in South Portland, Maine to the Kentucky Horse Park for the inaugural Finals in 2013 where she claimed the Reserve Championship in the Adult Amateur Prix St. Georges division. Now she and her Danish Warmblood gelding Schando have progressed to the Intermediate II level, and last weekend they claimed the Region 8 Adult Amateur title in Saugerties, N.Y. to secure an invitation to return to Lexington and pursue another championship on November 5-8, 2015. “Ever since our first trip two years ago, I guess you could say I’m a bit of a US Dressage Finals ‘evangelist’ because I’m such a huge fan of the event,” laughed Nordgren. “The show staff and volunteers make you feel like a champion for being there, and I don’t think any showgrounds compares to the magnificent atmosphere of the Kentucky Horse Park. My horse is 19 this year so that’s a factor in deciding about the trip, but I’m part of an enthusiastic group of competitors up here in Maine so we’re all actively working on arrangements. This could be my last chance for an experience like this with Schando, so if we do make it, I’ll be savoring every moment.”
With so many competitors like Nordgren now beginning to plan their journeys to Kentucky from across the country, USDF has unveiled a new Transportation Resources webpage which includes links to horse transportation vendors, as well as a Horse Transport Share Forum where competitors can connect with others in their areas to organize group transportation. As part of ongoing efforts for the Finals to be the most exhibitor-friendly competition possible, USDF created the Horse Transport Share Forum to assist in what can be a daunting process in arranging transportation for horses to and from Lexington. For more information, visit this link: http://www.usdf.org/usdressagefinals/competitors/forum.asp.
In addition to returning competitors like Nordgren, this year’s Finals will also welcome a multitude of first-timers such as Lori Tormoehlen of Sand Creek, Mich. Aboard Horses Unlimited’s Zweibrucker mare Gracefull Rendition HU, Tormoehlen claimed top honors for Third Level Freestyle at the Great American/USDF Region 2 Championships in Grass Lake, Mich., and now she can’t wait to come to Kentucky and show off a performance that will be near and dear to her heart. “I have always wanted to do a freestyle and this is my first year riding one. The music we ended up with is so beautiful and suits this horse perfectly, and our canter music of ‘Over the Rainbow’ connects me to my mom who passed away a few years ago, so it’s pretty emotional,” said Tormoehlen. “I haven’t yet been to the Finals as a competitor or spectator, so I am thrilled to participate this year! The opportunity to compete in a competition of this level does not happen by accident, and like so many other riders with a goal like this, I’ve worked very hard to get myself and my horse here and I take none of it for granted. I realize I am so fortunate and I may not get this opportunity again in my life, so I can’t wait to go!”
Despite traveling the farthest for the opportunity to compete in Kentucky, West Coast riders from Regions 6 and 7 have enjoyed great success at the Finals and Elizabeth Landers of Agoura Hills, Calif. hopes to join that growing roster of champions. After big wins during last week’s Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 7 Championship in Rancho Murieta, Calif., Landers is ready to hit the road for her first Finals experience. She’ll be bringing her own Hanoverian gelding His Highness Crusador to compete at Open Third Level and the Freestyle, as well as her Oldenburg mare and former show jumping partner Liberty for First Level Freestyle.
“I’m still waiting for someone to pinch me – It’s a dream come true and such a joy for me to be able to compete these two very special horses,” said Landers, who added that qualifying for the Finals was her “number one goal” for the year. “It’s a long way and I know it will be an expensive trip, but one way or another, I’m going to figure out a way to get there. I think that this national competition is invaluable for the development of the sport, and I truly believe that in ten years we will look back and see that these early years of the Finals were the beginning of what will be the most important event to happen to the sport in this country. I’m just so very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.”
Great American/USDF Regional Championships continue in Regions 3, 4 and 9 on October 8-11, with Regions 1 and 5 closing out the qualifying calendar on October 15-18. There’s still time for competitors in these regions to declare for a chance to come to Kentucky – click HERE to find out how to complete a free declaration. To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, declare and nominate for the Finals, and sign up to receive news and updates, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.
September marks the traditional end of summer but it also rings in the start of the fall championship season as the first round of Great American Insurance Group/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Regional Championships get underway across the country, with almost 950 competitors preparing to ride down the centerline this weekend in USDF Regions 2 (Michigan), 7 (California), and 8 (New York). While plenty of ribbons and awards will be on the line, many riders have an even bigger goal in mind: to qualify for the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan, which will once again return to the Kentucky Horse Park, November 5-8, 2015.
One of those riders hoping to punch a ticket to Lexington is Lauren Chumley of Frenchtown, N.J. who is headed to the upcoming Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 8 Championships in Saugerties, N.Y. Chumley traveled 13 hours to last year’s Finals with two horses in tow, and now she’s seeking to return to the Bluegrass and once again participate in this unique national head-to-head competition which offers a wealth of championship titles and over $50,000 in prize money, all while showcasing adult amateur and open riders from across the country in Training Level to Grand Prix. This year, new perpetual trophies will be presented as well as a return of the popular High Score Breed Awards, offered at national and FEI levels for both Open and Adult Amateur competitors. To date, 33 breed organizations have elected to participate in this special High Score Breed Award program (see a complete list HERE).
“I think having the national Finals is a great concept for bringing everyone together,” Chumley explained. “To see people from across the country who are the best that each region has to offer is just great to be a part of, and I especially enjoy seeing old friends from other regions that I wouldn’t otherwise get to see. I also think having the opportunity to show in the Alltech Arena is super cool – it’s such a great environment.
“I know it’s a challenge for riders from some of the regions who have to come so far, but it’s worth it in so many ways,” she continued. “Is it a long drive? Yes. Does it take a lot of planning? Yes. Can it be cold? Yes. Is it time and money well spent? Absolutely.”
Before heading off to Saugerties, Chumley made sure to submit online declarations for the five horses she’ll be hoping to qualify for the Finals, as did her clients and friends. As a reminder for competitors, a horse/rider combination must declare their intention to participate in the US Dressage Finals by completing the Declaration of Intent form by midnight on the day prior to the first day of their Regional Championship competition (including any open class day before the start of championship classes). There is no fee to declare, but horse/rider combinations must declare at the level(s) and eligible division(s) they intend to compete in at the US Dressage Finals. For instance, the deadline for participants at Regional Championships 2, 7 and 8 is September 16th at midnight (defined as 12:00 am [midnight] in the time zone where the Regional Championship is held).
“I’ve got nothing to lose so I declared all of my horses and if they get the scores, I’ll probably bring them all. Why not? It’s a great time and I’d love to come back and bring my clients and owners to experience it,” she said. “I’m especially excited about Nikolas, the four-year-old German Riding Pony I’ve competed this year for Melissa Dowling. He’s already proven himself in the ring despite his young age, and I just think it would be so cool to bring a pony to the Finals to compete in the open division. I think he can be competitive, and we’ll see what he can do this week at Regionals. I also have an Adult Amateur client riding Prix St. Georges and she has declared herself to go, as well as two good friends who also would like to attend, so if we make it we’ll all caravan out together.”
After this weekend’s initial round of Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Championships, next on the calendar will be competition in Region 6 on September 24-27, followed by Regions 3, 4 and 9 on October 8-11, and Regions 1 and 5 closing out the qualifying calendar on October 15-18. With the first three regions looking to be off to a strong start, USDF President George Williams believes the excitement for the 2015 Finals will once again sweep across the country.
“Now in the third year, we’re looking forward to the Finals getting better and better each time,” noted Williams. “I’m so proud that this idea finally came to fruition and has exceeded everyone’s expectations, offering our members this unique competitive opportunity and what for many may be a once-in-a-lifetime event. I wish good luck to all USDF members competing at the upcoming Regional Championships and remember to submit those declarations, because whether you’re a Finals veteran or looking to come for the first time, it is an incredibly special experience.”
To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, declare and nominate for the Finals, and sign up to receive news and updates, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.
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Destiny gives Devon ideas on what to say in her Dressage Radio Show interview (Photo courtesy of JRPR)
Wellington, FL (November 26, 2014) — The winner of the 2014 United States Dressage Finals Grand Prix Championship is now also a radio star. FEI dressage competitor and trainer Devon Kane of Wellington, Florida, is featured as a guest on Dressage Radio Show’s “Dressage Radio Episode 285 — US Dressage Finals Wrap.” In the thirty-five minute episode, Kane shares the exciting story of her unexpected journey to Lexington, Kentucky that resulted in national victory.
Dressage Radio Show, produced by the Horse Radio Network, broadcasts top dressage news and entertaining rider interviews every Friday. The show was eager to welcome Kane as the guest of Episode 285 on November 12, 2014. Equestrians Reese Koffler-Stanfield and Phillip Parkes hosted the episode, which featured successful U.S. Dressage Finals competitors Kane and Rachael Hicks. With an over twenty-hour trek from south Florida to the sleeting, stormy Lexington finals and the outstanding accomplishments of a spirited horse in the Grand Prix ring, Kane’s story is one that dressage enthusiasts will not want to miss.
“I wasn’t planning to go to Kentucky because of the distance and the traveling, but the more I thought about it, the experience of being able to go up there and ride in a real indoor arena was really something I couldn’t pass up,” Kane explains on the radio show. “I need that exposure and I need that time in the arena. It worked out greatly to our advantage, obviously!” Kane and her self-trained Danish Warmblood gelding Destiny took first place in the U.S. Dressage Finals Grand Prix Championship Open on Friday, November 7, with an impressive score of 72.000 percent. Since Kane purchased Destiny as a barely broke five-year-old, the pair has become a formidable team in the show ring. The now eleven-year-old horse is a brilliant example of Kane’s training abilities.
“My horse was wonderful! He was super and ready and we were so prepared,” Kane shares about the Finals. “Destiny is one of those really special horses. When I first met him, I knew there was something great in the horse. He’s a little spunky. He’s always been a little bit different and kind of difficult to keep together. But in the Grand Prix, he’s really come into his own. He’s so much happier in the Grand Prix work then in anything else. It keeps his mind and his body busy.” Both Destiny’s and Kane’s love for Grand Prix dressage was evident from their beautifully fluid movements throughout the test.
“The coolest part about nationals is there are so many different people and different areas represented that you don’t always see at other show circuits,” Kane enthused. “They made the atmosphere so electric and so exciting! I’m very happy that we did this.” As the winter competitive season of Wellington, Florida approaches, national champions Kane and Destiny are ready to continue their winning ways.
Rachael Hicks at the 2014 United States Dressage Finals in Lexington, Kentucky (Photo courtesy of Caroline Roffman)
Wellington, FL — It’s been an exciting autumn season for Lionshare Dressage, home of international dressage competitor and trainer Caroline Roffman. Roffman, a Nations Cup Individual Bronze Medalist and Nations Cup United States Team Gold Medalist, watched her students flourish in prestigious national competitions under her training. Student Rachael Hicks repeatedly scored at the top of her classes in the 2014 United States Dressage Finals in Lexington, Kentucky on November 6-9.
The 2014 U.S. Dressage Finals, presented by Adequan, took place at the Kentucky Horse Park. The park was filled with qualified top competitors such as Roffman’s students, representing states all across the country. The Finals were a Level Five Competition, which is the highest level of competition held in the United States under United States Equestrian Federation rules. The competition featured the country’s best riders in the adult amateur division and open division.
Hicks, who began training under Roffman this year, has been amazed with the drastic improvements in her riding since their partnership began. “I have been working with Caroline since April of 2014, but with the results I’m getting I wish now that I had begun working with her sooner,” Hicks of Prospect, Kentucky explains. At the 2014 U.S. Dressage Finals, Hicks rode her eight-year-old Westphalian gelding Fabio Bellini (by Furst Heinrich) to first place in the U.S. Dressage Finals Fourth Level Championship in the Adult Amateur division. The pair rode beautifully, and scored 71.750 percent. Hicks further proved her talents by also obtaining second place in the Fourth Level Championship on Don Cartier, a seven-year-old stallion by Don Schufro, with a score of 70.458 percent.
The following day, Hicks and Don Cartier won the U.S. Dressage Finals Third Level Championship in the Adult Amateur division with 70.342 percent. Hicks’s successes continued throughout the weekend, with a win on Fabio Bellini in the USEF Fourth Level Test Three Adult Amateur division (68.938 percent) and a second place on Don Cartier in the same class.
Roffman was thrilled with her students’ performances. “Congratulations on a winning weekend at the U.S. Dressage Finals, Rachael! Two Championships and one Reserve Championship in one weekend,” Roffman smiles. “I’m very proud!” Hicks was also proud to have earned such prestigious national wins, and is grateful to Roffman for helping her equine partners and her attain this level of skill. “We couldn’t have done it without Caroline,” she says.
Caroline Roffman settles for nothing less than the best when training riders and horses, competing herself, and running her top-quality dressage training, lessons, and sales business Lionshare Dressage. Lionshare Dressage, based in Wellington, Florida, has the knowledgeable, caring staff and advanced equipment necessary to give horses and riders the best learning environment possible. For more information about Roffman and Lionshare Dressage, visit www.lionsharedressage.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 617-633-1003.
Devon Kane and Destiny on their way to victory at the US Dressage Finals. (Photo courtesy of SusanJStickle.com)
Wellington, FL (November 13, 2014) — As international dressage rider Devon Kane and her self-trained Danish Warmblood gelding Destiny ease back into competition after a summer of training in Europe, an unexpected change of plans brought the pair amazing results. A last-minute decision to compete in the 2014 United States Dressage Finals led to Kane and Destiny achieving first place in both the U.S. Dressage Finals Grand Prix Championship Open and the FEI Grand Prix Open.
Kane and Destiny had recently claimed the win at the 2014 Great American Insurance Group USDF Region 3 Championships and Wellington Classic Dressage Autumn Challenge, which was their first post-Europe competition. The pair then planned to focus entirely on preparing for the fast-approaching winter competition season in Wellington, Florida. As the 2014 U. S. Dressage Finals drew near, though, the encouragement of Kane’s supporters convinced the young competitor to venture from Wellington to Lexington, Kentucky on November 6-9 for the prestigious national event.
“It has been a long and challenging year turning my dragon into a Grand Prix horse,” said Kane, referring to Destiny. “Green mistakes during season kept us a little frustrated, and not being able to compete in Europe this summer was heart wrenching, but I’m confident that our patience paid off. This was a fabulous way to finish the year, and get us ramped up for next year. I am feeling very confident in my horse and my training and excited for the CDI circuit this winter at the Global Dressage Festival!”
The 2014 U.S. Dressage Finals, presented by Adequan, took place at the Kentucky Horse Park. Qualified top competitors from across the country filled Lexington for this Level Five Competition, which is the highest level of competition held in the United States under United States Equestrian Federation rules. The competition featured talented riders from Training Level to the Grand Prix in adult amateur and open divisions.
Kane and Destiny’s first class was the FEI Grand Prix Open on Thursday, November 6. The Finals weekend was chilly with sleet falling from the sky, but the Florida duo rode into the show ring with sunny spirits. Kane was especially enjoying the electric competition atmosphere in the Horse Park, and felt that she and Destiny were at a good place as they returned to competition with a summer of training on their minds. “We are bringing back the pizazz and the flash, and keeping the calmness. It seems to be balancing out,” the USDF Gold Medalist explained. She added, “I think it’s really great to have people here from all the different states. It’s really fun!”
Although the FEI Grand Prix Open class was large, Kane and her eleven-year-old mount (by Diamond Hit out of MIDT-West Regina) won with an impressive ride and a score of 70.100 percent. The pair then moved on to the U.S. Dressage Finals Grand Prix Championship Open on Friday, November 7. Once again, Kane and Destiny’s precise, beautiful movements captured first place. Their score was 72.000 percent.
Kane was thrilled with her horse’s performances, and feels excited and prepared for further successes in Wellington, Florida this season. For more information about Devon Kane, her horses, their upcoming show schedule, and her training, sales, and boarding business at Diamante Farms in Wellington, visit www.DiamanteFarms.com or call 210-240-1614.
Intense head-to-head dressage competition across 30 championship divisions concluded on Sunday at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington for the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. Surrounded by friends and family, emotions ran high for competitors as they rode their way into history and celebrated their success with joyous victory laps before packing for their long journeys back to homes across the country.
The appropriately-named Dutch Warmblood Eye Candy (Weltmeyer x UB40) was one of the day’s big winners. In the largest class of the Finals, the lovely five-year-old mare owned by Heather Mason was the final ride of the class but made the biggest impression with the judges as she carried rider Amy Gimbel of Lebanon, N.J. (Region 8) to victory in the hotly-contested Training Level Adult Amateur Championship with a score of 75.800%. “I started riding Eye Candy about nine months ago,” said Gimbel. “The horse I had been riding before her was sold, so I was looking for something to catch ride and Heather offered her to me. She’s been a super horse to show – even though this was only her fifth competition and it has a huge atmosphere, she handled it all so well. I feel so lucky to ride her and I have a lot to be thankful for.” First to go down centerline at 8am was Carolyn Desnoyer of Mosinee, Wis. (qualified in Region 4) aboard her warmblood mare Fresca (Festrausch x Rising Star by GP Raymeister). They posted a score of 73.533% that stood atop the leaderboard for the duration of the class until Gimbel’s final ride, but ultimately was still good enough Reserve Championship honors. “She came out of her stall ready to work and two minutes after we got to the warm-up I thought ‘hey, they could ring that bell any time; we’re ready to go,'” said Desnoyer of her mount. “She went in and did her job and gave me everything she had. I was so proud of her. I feel like Cinderella – it’s been an amazing experience here at the Finals.”
A particularly heartwarming moment of the day came during the presentation of the Janine Westmoreland Malone Perpetual Trophy (presented by USDF) to the new Adult Amateur Prix St. Georges Champion, Adrienne Bessey of Region 7. Bessey and her Danish Warmblood mare Dido ran away with the title on an impressive score of 71.491%, more than six points better than the next-placed competitor. With this score, Dido (by Royal Hit) also earned the Lloyd Landkamer Perpetual Trophy for FEI Highest Scoring Mare, presented by Janet Foy. It was an emotional win for Bessey, a family practice physician in Thousand Oaks, Cal. “My test felt great; she was perfect for me and did everything I asked,” she explained. “I hadn’t ever thought of traveling this far for a show, but some of my friends in California were coming and asked if I wanted to go, so I said ‘sure, why not’. I can’t believe how well organized and fun this show is. The atmosphere is almost indescribable, it feels very big but at the same time everyone is so supportive of each other. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to come here.” Earning Reserve Champion honors was Jennifer Van de Loo (Holly Springs, Miss., qualified in Region 2) who rode her Oldenburg gelding Lanzelot 99 (by Lord Sinclair I) to 65.000%. “He is my schoolmaster, and this is just my second year at the FEI level,” said Van de Loo. “He’s the best horse ever and I’m so thankful for him. It’s an honor to be here and I’ve enjoyed it so much.”
The morning’s Prix St. Georges Open Championship became a clash of the titans as incredibly talented horses and riders battled for the win. Saturday night’s Intermediate I Open Freestyle Champions Angela Jackson and Allure S (Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Kerrin Dunn) returned to the ring no worse for wear to once again post a top score of 71.491% and lead another victory lap. “She was still asleep this morning when I had to get her ready, but she got up and felt great! It felt like the best Prix St. Georges test I’ve done with her all year,” said an elated Jackson of her partner. “Now we’re going to go home, take a little time off, and then start preparing for a move up to the Developing Horse Grand Prix.” Reserve Champions Mette Rosencrantz (Topanga, Cal., Region 7) also has big plans for Anne Solbraekke’s Hanoverian gelding De Noir 3 (De Niro x Maharani by Matcho) as she is considering the pursuit of a U.S. Team berth for next year’s Pan American Games in Toronto. The elegant pair followed up their Intermediate I Open Championship on Friday by finishing a close second today with a score of 71.009%. “I had a good ride; he’s a great show horse, and I enjoy riding him,” Rosencrantz said. “There were so many talented riders and horses in this class; it was amazing. Everyone was breathing down each other’s necks because we’re all here for the same reason – to win.”
Amy Stuhr Paterson (Lee’s Summit, Mo., Region 4) thought she might be in trouble as she prepared for her Intermediate B Adult Amateur Championship performance with Greenwood Sporthorses’ Dutch Warmblood mare Wies V/D Klumpert (by Future x Sarina V/D Klumpert by Havidoff). “My horse was incredibly wild in that ring yesterday when we were just hand walking around the perimeter,” she explained. “She was literally passaging in-hand, so I was a little bit worried about what today might bring.” But the lovely Dutch Warmblood mare rewarded Paterson’s trust by earning a score of 68.690%, good enough for a narrow victory. “She ended up using all that energy for good and not evil, so I was thrilled with our ride,” said Paterson, who missed last year’s inaugural Finals due to battling breast cancer. “It’s a tricky test, but she was honest and with me the entire time. It meant a lot to me to be here, and I definitely want to show at Grand Prix next year and come back.” Friday’s Grand Prix Adult Amateur Champions Alice Tarjan (Frenchtown, N.J. Region 8) and her young Oldenburg mare Elfenfeuer returned to claim Reserve Championship honors today with 68.333%. “She handled being outside really well today. We had some mistakes but we’re green at this level and we have plenty of work to do and room for improvement,” said Tarjan.
Heather Mason of Lebanon, N.J. (Region 8) found great success at last year’s inaugural Finals, and she returned to Kentucky to claim yet another title with her 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Zar by topping the Intermediate B Open Championship on a score of 69.286%. “This is a great show and so well-run. I love it, and my clients all love it. I think it’s just a fun show to go to, and it’s a lot bigger this year,” said Mason. “As for Zar, I think he’s actually going to be a better Grand Prix horse than a small tour horse, just because his piaffe/passage work is pretty special. He’s kind of a hot horse who is very honest but incredibly scared of everything, so I had a lot of horse under me today! But he was really good and he held it together.” Also returning to the Finals was Eva Oldenbroek Tabor of Medina, Texas (Region 9) who earned the Reserve Championship with her flashy Dutch Warmblood gelding Uberlinus (by Metall) with 66.865%. “I’ve have him since he was three years old and he’s 13 now, so I know him inside and out,” said Tabor. “I’ve been through some ups and downs with him because he’s sensitive and he’s not easy. But we’ve worked our way up from the young horse classes and here we are! Today was a wonderful day – he was flawless. I was here at the Finals last year and it made me want to come back. The arena is amazing and the footing is amazing. It’s probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever competed in.”
Morgan Barrows of Monroe, Wash. (Region 6) and Janice Davis’ six-year-old Oldenburg gelding San Corazon have proven to be unbeatable at Open Second Level at these Finals, following up on Saturday’s freestyle win by claiming today’s Second Level Open Championship with 72.063%. “He’s been such a ‘steady Eddie’ at every horse show from the minute you take him off the trailer,” said Barrows. “He’s already showing talent for the Prix St. Georges, so if he’s ready we’ll think about Developing Horse next year. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe we’ll even be able to come back here – we certainly had a great time this year.” Also enjoying the Finals experience was Reserve Champion Tena Frieling of Holland, Mich. (qualified in Region 2) who earned a score of 70.159% with her Oldenburg gelding Royal Heir, which she has developed since he was a three-year-old. “I can’t believe that we’ve done this,” said Frieling as she blinked back tears. “It’s completely unexpected. Today my ride was as good as it could have been. It’s been a long road for us, but I’m just so happy to be here. It’s been a fantastic experience.”
Music once again rang out across the Kentucky Horse Park as a second full day of freestyles got underway with 24 entries in the First Level Open Freestyle in the electric atmosphere of the Alltech Arena. Emerging victorious was Megan McIsaac of Oregon, Wis. (Region 2) who rode the Trakehner gelding Kingsley (owned by Wisconsin Kid LLC) to a top score of 73.722%, good enough for a narrow win over Stacey Hastings (Mooresville, N.C., Region 1) riding Karen Guerra’s Friesian mare Trijntje v.d. Bokkefarm (by Beart 411) with 73.167%. “It was so awesome to be here and be a part of this event,” said McIsaac, who was attending the Finals for the first time. “Kingsley is so talented and he always brings that to the table. He’s a really special horse and I have some exciting goals for him for the future.”
Cariann Wlosinski (Lexington, Ky., Region 2) and her own Oldenburg mare Rhiannon (by Rousseau) had already added Saturday’s Second Level Adult Amateur Freestyle title to their resume, but returned on Sunday to claim one more victory in the First Level Adult Amateur Freestyle on a score of 73.700%. “It’s been a fun weekend!” she exclaimed. “We rode this freestyle last year and finished third, so it meant a lot to come back and win with it this year. I thought she’d be tired today, but she actually was even better. I also would like to thank those who made the decision to separate the open and adult amateur freestyle championship classes. Everyone loves freestyles but they are a lot of work, and it means a lot to have our own division.” Amy Gimbel and Heather Mason’s young Dutch Warmblood mare Eye Candy had already earned the Training Level Adult Amateur title earlier in the morning, but the pair also added a second championship honor to their roster by earning the First Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Reserve Championship. “She was a little distracted in this test, but she’s still such a good girl and I couldn’t be happier with our experience.”
Nancy Szakacs’ smile was infectious as she rode a Ricky Martin-themed freestyle aboard her own Westfalen gelding Rudi Regali to top the Third Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship with 69.056%. “This music suits his movement and personality, and today we were so ‘on’ with the music, it really was like we were dancing,” said Szakacs, who works in clinical research for a biopharmaceutical company back home in Hollister, Cal. (Region 7). “It felt like so much fun just being in the Alltech Arena and having that electric experience. I remember at one moment I looked up to see my name on the huge scoreboard at the end of arena and just thought, ‘wow!’ It’s been wonderful.” Reserve Champion Taryn Hochstatter (St. Charles, Ill. qualified in Region 4) was equally thrilled after scoring 67.500% aboard Ginna Frantz’s Oldenburg mare Bella Luna GP. “She’s a sassy chestnut mare, so we love to show off that attitude in her freestyle,” said Hochstatter, who came to the Finals for the first time with her mother, who she called her “number one fan”. “Of course there’s pressure to do well, but when we halted at the end of the test I almost cried because my horse did so well today. It was unreal.”
Stacey Hastings brought five horses to the Finals from Mooresville, N.C. (Region 1) and now returns home a national champion after claiming the Fourth Level Open Freestyle title with 72.278% aboard Coves Darden Farm’s striking black PRE stallion Police. “This is a brand new freestyle with music by Peter Gabriel which suits him well,” Hastings explained. “The downside is that it’s so new; I just learned the music last week and didn’t have time to actually practice it more than about three times. But I had it on video so I just watched it over and over and over and hoped for the best. We lucked out! I’m so glad I came this year; the show ran well and everyone’s been so friendly.” Fellow Region 1 competitor Dawn Weniger of Apex, N.C. and her Dutch gelding Don Derrick (by Don Ruto) didn’t let a few bobbles keep them from claiming Reserve honors with 69.333% for their medieval-themed performance. “He was afraid of some patches of light shining on the floor of the arena so he jumped over them a few times, but he was lovely and forward and light, and I’m pretty darn happy,” Weniger said. “I’ve never done a national championship before, and I was having so much fun with my horse. He makes me smile every day. He’s so kind and fun and talented, but still a regular guy.”