Brittany Burson and Fiorenza. John Borys Photography
October 13, 2023 – Lexington, KY – The second of three weekends of 2023 Great American Insurance Group (GAIG)/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Regional Championships, held across a total of nine USDF regions, offered more riders the chance to pick up qualifying berths for the 2023 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® at the Kentucky Horse Park on November 9-12.
Five for Burson at Region 4
At Fourth Level it was Furst Emilio’s turn in the spotlight — once he overcame his fear of the spotted horse in the warm-up arena. Patricia Joy’s 13-year-old gelding by Fürst Fugger is another bought from Germany unseen during the pandemic, and was intended for Joy, but he can be complicated, so Burson is sharing the ride with his 70-year-old owner.
Linda Phifer’s seven-year-old Leonardo Z delivered Burson’s fifth victory. The Glamourdale son clinched the Third Level Freestyle with 74.688% and was reserve champion in the opening class with 71.188%. Leonardo has recently jumped up the levels.
Growing and Winning Together in Region 4
It was a memorable weekend for Adult Amateur (AA) Casey Eiten. Not only did she and the 14-year-old Eschaton win the Region 4 Intermediate II Championship title with 60.074%, but they also contested their first ever Grand Prix, gaining a score towards the rider’s USDF Gold Medal in one of the warm-up recognized classes that ran alongside the Regional classes. Eiten, who is 28 years old now, was 15 when she and her parents bought Eschaton, and they have climbed the competition ladder together.
“We didn’t know very much about what kind of baby horses we were looking for,” admitted Eiten, who liked the look of the young son of Sir Sinclair. “He was actually born and bred at the farm where I took lessons, and the breeding seemed right. I was out there every day when I was younger, getting him used to all the little stuff, like brushing and bringing him in.
“We started him, and I was the first person on him. It’s kind of crazy because I went through high school and college and now my adult career and life with him; he’s been there with me through it all. I feel really lucky that he turned out the way he did.”
Allen’s Four Wins Dominate Region 5
Adult Amateur Andria Allen had a stellar show at the Region 5 Championships on September 29 – October 1 in Scottsdale, AZ with her two horses. She scooped three Regional Championship titles and a reserve with the six-year-old Dutch-bred Mardeaux (Ferdeaux x Connoisseur) and Keno SSF (Governor x Contango).
Her double champion Mardeaux — at Second and Third Level — was yet another bought unseen from the Netherlands two years ago, mid-pandemic, and has been a little challenging since he arrived.
A fresh approach to saddle fitting has been the key for Allen’s other ride, the eight-year-old Keno SSF, whom she bought in-vitro from Shooting Star Farms.
“He’s such a big powerful horse, and as a five-year-old he was so naughty,” she explained. “We found a little bit of kissing spine, not much, but it needs managing. My Colorado trainer rode him in a different saddle — a Dresch — that sits further forward so the scapula can go underneath it. It puts my weight about four inches further forward, and it’s been an absolute game changer for Keno.”
Stacey Knox and Frosty Fox led an enormous Region 4 Second Level AA class, putting down an unassailable 71.429%, which was the only score above 70% out of the 25 starters. The seven-year-old Hanoverian by Floris Prince finished third at the Region 4 Championships in 2022 at First Level, and will be making his first trip to Finals.
The 2023 US Dressage Finals will be held November 9-12 in Lexington, KY at the Kentucky Horse Park, and is a national championship competition that showcases the Adult Amateur and Open divisions. Classes run at Training Level through Grand Prix, plus divisions for Junior/Young Riders at Training Level through Fourth Level. There is $120,000 in prize money up for grabs over the four days. Learn more at www.usdf.org/usdressagefinals/index.asp.
Founded in 1973, the United States Dressage Federation is a non-profit membership organization dedication to education, recognition of achievement, and promotion of dressage. For more information about USDF membership or programs, visit www.usdf.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian (USEF) announced today that the co-branded 2019 USEF/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Dressage Tests are now available and published online through USDF.
Effective December 1, 2018, through November 30, 2022, the 2019 USEF/USDF Dressage Tests are newly co-branded with the USDF as the two organizations work together to continue to proliferate and promote the sport of dressage in the United States. The 2019 USEF/USDF Dressage Tests continue to serve as a measure of the horse and rider’s schooling and training, while each level builds upon the preceding level’s principles.
USDF’s “On the Levels” will continue to provide examples of the new Introductory through Fourth Level dressage tests. “On the Levels” features engaging videos to help athletes understand the requirements for tests within each level, with commentary from top U.S. trainers and judges and segments geared toward improving difficult movements at each level. Keep an eye out for the launch of this product in the coming months.
Additional test products will include a new test app containing both the USEF and USDF tests and, once produced, a test booklet, which can be purchased through the USDF online store at store.usdf.org.
Click here to view the 2019 USEF/USDF Dressage Tests. For information on licensing the new tests, contact USDF at email@example.com. For questions or additional information, contact Hannah Niebielski, Director of Dressage National Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2018 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® and USDF Dressage in the Bluegrass are to be held at the Kentucky Horse Park, November 8-11. Start making plans to attend and view the official 2018 prize list, along with other information, at www.usdressagefinals.com.
Declarations are now being accepted for the 2018 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. There is no fee to declare, but horse and rider combinations must declare at the level(s) and eligible division(s) they intend to compete in at the US Dressage Finals. Declare now at www.usdressagefinals.com.
“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.
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%.
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
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!”
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
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.”
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
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
Isabel Gregory and Rock Star. Photos by Susan J. Stickle.
Houston, Texas – (Oct. 28, 2016) – If regional dressage championships are successful when amateurs, kids and pros shine in their Training Level to Grand Prix rides, then the Region 9 Great American Insurance Group/United States Dressage Federation Dressage Championships and Southwest Dressage Championships and HDS Autumn Classic was a huge success. Hosted by the Houston Dressage Society (HDS), the Great American Insurance Group (GAIG)/USDF Region 9 Championships and Southwest Dressage Championships (SWDC) were held at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy, Texas, Oct. 6-9.
Isabel Gregory, a high school senior from Lake Highlands, Texas, rocked it when she not only placed first in every Junior/Young Rider class in which she rode 16-year-old Oldenburg mare Rock Star (Rubinstein I-Lorance), she often bested the scores of the professionals and adult amateurs (AA) in the same class. On Oct. 6, she and Rock Star claimed the blue ribbon in the FEI Prix St. Georges (PSG) with a 65.00 percent, topping the scores of the Open and AA PSG classes by more than five and a half percentage points. On Oct. 7, she upped the ante by scoring a 69.386 percent in the PSG in the SDWDC class, and on Oct. 8, she again notched a first place win with a 66.316 percent in the GAIG PSG. On Oct. 9, they finished with an amazing trifecta of an 85 percent in the USDF Dressage Equitation 14-18 Semi-Final Medal class, a 67.944 percent in the SWDC Fourth Level Test 3 class and a 73.167 percent in GAIG Fourth Level Test 3 class.
“Isabel has been riding with me for five to six years,” said her trainer Yvonne Kusserow of Rocking M Stables in Dallas, Texas. “She has a very good base. She is very fair to the horse and she listens to what I am saying. She is a good student in that, even if she is very frustrated, I wouldn’t know. You can really work with someone like that.”
Kusserow is a licensed “Pferdewirtschaftsmeisterin,” one of the few Federation Equestrian National certified trainers in Germany and America. While at the show, she was presented the eighth annual USDF Region 9 Teaching Excellence Award from The Dressage Foundation in which she will receive a $5,000 grant. The grant is for demonstrating adherence to sound dressage principles and the ability to communicate these principles so that students develop themselves and their horses in a logical, progressive and humane way up through the levels.
“I am thrilled,” she said. “We are trying to figure out now what the whole region can do to benefit from the money – maybe a clinic. We don’t know yet.”
Another product of the active HDS youth program is Andrew Phillips, now the head trainer at Shoofly Farm in Cypress, Texas. He came up through the ranks in the HDS shows and rode in his first recognized show as a 12-year-old.
“I grew up in Houston and went to my first recognized show at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center,” he said, adding that his experience with the HDS has come full-circle. “Now, I’m in my first year as head trainer at Shoofly and doing well. The show was a great way to cap off my year. It couldn’t have gone better.”
In fact, Phillips had a great show. On Oct. 6, he and Kimberly Rathmann’s Valentino, a 14-year-old KWPN gelding (OO Seven-Nilzefonda), earned a 70.526 percent for the blue ribbon in the SWDC Intermediaire I Open and on Oct. 8, the pair earned another first place in the GAIG FEI Prix St. Georges Open with a 70.132 percent. On Oct. 9, they again claimed the blue with a 68.816 percent in the GAIG Intermediaire I Open. Phillips also notched a first place finish on Youke of High Meadow Farm, Rathmann’s 9-year-old Friesian gelding (Anton 343-Geartsje Fan’t Feidfjild), in the Prix St. George-Open, and two first place finishes in Third Level Test 3 on Empire, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Jazz-Kadette) also owned by Rathmann.
Another professional, Christy Raisbeck, had an outstanding show on Herslev Mark’s Mister B, also known as “Bodi,” a 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Michellino-Herslev Mark’s Candy) owned by her client, Gon Stevens. Raisbeck’s Freestyle Farm is just 20 min away from the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Fulshear, Texas. Bodi is the third horse she has brought up to Grand Prix.
“We bought him four years ago from Sharon McCusker for Gon to ride,” she said. “Two years ago, Gon gave me the ride on him to focus on training him to Grand Prix. We showed I-2 last year and qualified for [the U.S. Dressage Finals in] Kentucky, and did the same this year at Grand Prix.”
Raisbeck and Bodi rode in four Grand Prix tests over the four days of the show, which she said sounds like a lot, but he settled more with each ride now that he understands that the show ground is an OK place to be. In fact, as the competition continued, their Grand Prix scores rose steadily from a 60.10 percent to a 62.50 percent and a 64.10 percent, and then a final score of 62.5650 percent to net two Grand Prix blue ribbons in the Open classes in the HDS Autumn Classic, one Reserve Championship in the GAIG/USDF Region 9 Grand Prix, and one fourth place in the Southwest Dressage Championships.
“Bodi has a super talent for piaffe and passage,” she said. “He has big expressive changes and nice pirouettes, which are only hindered by me getting ahead of myself in the test. My hopes for the future are for Bodi to get stronger and more confident, and for me to settle down to ride the test more methodically at the show like I do at home!”
Raisbeck had nothing but praise for the show and the Houston Dressage Society. The event not only featured four full days of competition, but a Saturday night gala with a fun “Duck Toss” to raise money for the youth riders, a barn basket silent auction, a scavenger hunt and the camaraderie of friends.
“HDS does an amazing job organizing the shows,” Raisbeck said. “Leslie Rohrer is the HDS president and show chair, and she and her super army of volunteers works tirelessly to pull off great shows all year, culminating in the championships. Judge Sandy Hotz told me that the judges love to come to the shows here, and think Great Southwest is a top-notch facility.”