Live from Omaha!

Live from Omaha!
On the scene at the 2017 FEI World Cup Dressage Final

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Giving Back

Red-letter day: Region 8 delegates at the USDF convention. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Saturday's theme at the 2014 Adequan/USDF Annual Convention was giving back to the sport of dressage. Throughout the day, officials, presenters, and honorees echoed the importance of returning something of oneself to the sport that has provided us with enjoyment, friendships, and opportunities.

At the conclusion of the Board of Governors assembly, Regional GMO Volunteers of the Year were recognized, as was excellence in media produced by GMO -- the organizations and their contributors, of course, nearly all volunteer-based. The award winners and photos, like all of the other awards and honors presented at convention, will be featured prominently in the 2014 yearbook issue of USDF Connection (February 2015 issue).

We recognized the USDF Executive Board, all of whose members give countless hours in an effort to improve the organization. And then we gathered together the Region 8 BOG delegates in attendance, many of whom put in extra hours this year helping to make the Cambridge, MA, convention a fun and memorable one. I think I speak for most convention-goers when I say it should not be 20 years before we return to New England!
2015-2016 Nutrena/USDF Adult Clinic Series presenters Kathy Connelly and Betsy Steiner. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Educational presenters give back to the sport and to the USDF by sharing their expertise. Renowned trainers Kathy Connelly and Betsy Steiner packed them in (literally -- people were sitting on the floor when chairs became scarce) for their introduction to their 2015-2016 Nutrena/USDF Adult Clinic Series.

You won't want to miss this dynamic duo in action. Longtime friends as well as colleagues, Kathy and Betsy share a delightful sense of humor and, more important, an abiding love for the horse that pervades their teaching and training. As Kathy put it, "We are shepherds for the horse while we are here on earth." She likened the training process to the famous quote by Michelangelo, who said that his job as a sculptor was to reveal the figure already present in the marble: "to bring out the talent innate in the horse while preserving his spirit, heart, and personality."

The 2015-2016 Nutrena/USDF Adult Clinic Series kicks off in April 2015 in USDF Region 9. Clinics are open to auditors of all ages -- in fact, these clinics, unlike the typical dressage clinic or symposium, is geared toward the auditors, not to the individual riders. Any USDF group or participating member over the age of 22 is eligible to apply to be a demonstration rider. Amateur rider or pro -- doesn't matter! Clinic selectors are seeking horses and riders of various levels. For all the details, click here.
Slide from Dr. Hilary Clayton's presentation. Yes, the horse's spine can bend -- but not always the way we think it does. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

From training and riding, the educational focus turned to the latest findings in equine-biomechanics research, presented by the world-renowned expert Dr. Hilary Clayton. Her session, entitled "Going in Circles," explored the unique forces (and stresses) placed on the horse's body when he circles or turns. Some of the findings might surprise you. For the full story, you'll have to wait for the convention coverage in USDF Connection, but here's a teaser: Believe it or not, training a horse to carry himself "correctly" (without leaning in, motorcycle-style, as horses do naturally) in turns and circles may actually be more stressful on his limbs. Fortunately, there's something we can do to counteract the stresses, so don't miss this report.

Laura Marie Kramer of Standlee Premium Western Forage wrapped the 2014 convention educational sessions with a look at the importance of good forage to the performance horse. I may give one of her suggestions a try with my own ulcer-prone youngster: feeding him a couple of handfuls of alfalfa pellets 30 minutes before exercise. Thanks to its calcium content, alfalfa is basically Tums for horses, according to Laura; plus it's higher in protein and calories than other types of forage, which makes it a good choice for my rangy fellow. (Not all horses need alfalfa, and those with easy keepers may want to invest in a good slow-feeder, Laura said.)

The culmination of the USDF convention is the Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet, during which we celebrate members' accomplishments with their horses. We also celebrate those who have made outstanding contributions to USDF and to the sport of dressage.
USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Janine Malone (center) with USDF Historical Recognition Committee chair Anne Moss and USDF president George Williams. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Maryal Barnett (center). Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

This year, four remarkable volunteers were honored: USDF Youth Volunteer of the Year Christiana Logan, USDF Volunteer of the Year Terry Ciotti Gallo, USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Maryal Barnett, and USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Janine Malone. These four women have given back to dressage and to the USDF in ways that truly go above and beyond the call of duty. Christiana somehow manages to be both a dedicated dressage volunteer and a top student. Terry, a longtime USDF Freestyle Committee member, has immeasurably advanced dressage freestyle and has shared her musical and choreographic expertise with scores of enthusiasts. USDF certification examiner and Instructor/Trainer Program faculty member Maryal Barnett has worked tirelessly to improve dressage education in the United States. And former USDF Region 1 director, USDF secretary, USEF dressage-rules guru, and US Dressage Finals organizer Janine Malone has gotten things done, buttoned down, and squared away for decades.

Thank a dressage volunteer today. Better yet, become a volunteer yourself! For as Maryal Barnett pointed out in her acceptance speech, there is no greater satisfaction than in giving back.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake

Celebrating the USDF Instructor/Trainer Program's 25th anniversary. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
Unlike with Marie Antoinette, this time the invitation was a welcome one. The occasion: the USDF Instructor/Trainer Program's 25th anniversary. Adequan/USDF Annual Convention attendees, and especially members of USDF's Board of Governors, enjoyed slices of delicious cake during a break in day 1 of the BOG's annual assembly.
Cake wars: USDF members vied for the best angle to photograph the anniversary creation. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

In truth, the break was hardly needed. Once a notoriously contentious governance marathon, the BOG assembly is on track to break speed records for the second year in a row. Today's agenda -- which included reports from USDF's president and executive director, a budget report, and talks by various United States Equestrian Federation officials -- wrapped half an hour early. It left plenty of time for the eagerly anticipated drawings for those most cherished of door prizes, the traditional gift baskets donated by USDF's group-member organizations.
The 2014 USDF Board of Governors assembly. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
Beautiful baskets, many displaying state or regional pride, are a cherished BOG tradition. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

The reports and addresses were universally upbeat. According to USDF treasurer Steve Schubert, the USDF is in the black and has been pronounced squeaky-clean by its independent auditing firm. In its second year of existence, the US Dressage Finals attracted 100 more horses than the 2013 edition and are in the black, according to Janine Malone, who chaired the national championships' organizing committee. USDF member and horse-registration numbers are healthy, although some GMOs have seen attrition, a concern addressed in the morning's GMO roundtable discussions, in some committee meetings, and in USDF executive director Stephan Hienzsch's BOG report.
GMO representatives share challenges and solutions at the popular GMO roundtable discussions, Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

The USEF reports were practically fountains of delight. No one can compete with national dressage chef d'equipe and technical advisor Robert Dover when it comes to optimism. Referring to the USEF-USDF relationship, Dover said, "We are putting together a true machine that works together at every single level, from the littlest kids to the highest level." Make no mistake: This man is going to get US dressage riders on the medal podiums or die trying. My own money's on the former.

We heard from USEF president Chrystine Tauber, who praised the USDF's efforts in creating the US Dressage Finals and promised continued support for dressage. Some of that support will assuredly come in the stout, genial form of Will Connell, whom the USEF lured across the pond from the British Equestrian Federation to become its director of sport.

Connell had the BOG delegates laughing at his tales of his days as commander of the King's Troop in the Royal Army, and later as a new employee at the BEF, working to transform a "dysfunctional" British team into the world-beaters they proved to be at the 2012 London Olympics. (In Athens 2004, Connell said, he found Carl Hester in the arena the night before the Grand Prix Freestyle, frantically trying to learn teammate Richard Davison's freestyle. Hester figured his chances of qualifying were so poor he hadn't bothered to create his own freestyle, Connell said.)

Under that pleasant exterior and the hello-old-chap stuff must beat the heart of a ferocious go-getter, however. Most sources give Connell the credit for turning around Team GB's equestrian fortunes, and it's clear the USEF wanted him badly. It will be very interesting to see what Connell does with what he's calling Operation Tokyo, the reference being to the 2020 summer Olympic Games.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


"Paul Revere" poses with USDF members at the convention welcome reception. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

OK, so we didn't actually go to the touristy watering hole (with accompanying gift shop, of course) named for the long-running TV comedy set in Boston. We did pass "Cheers," though, on our way through Faneuil Hall Marketplace to our destination, Ned Devine's Irish Pub, site of the 2014 Adequan/USDF Annual Convention welcome reception.
Making merry at the welcome reception, sponsored by NEDA. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Region 1 member Fran Severn and "Molly Pitcher" deep in conversation. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

The reception was generously sponsored by the New England Dressage Association, and NEDA president Kathy McHugh greeted attendees. A DJ spun upbeat tunes and encouraged USDF members to visit with the costumed "Molly Pitcher" and "Paul Revere," who willingly posed for photos. A coincidence that more people clamored for pix as the party progressed and the open bar saw more action? I think not.
Exterior of Quincy Market. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

The picturesque marketplace, aka Quincy Market, was dressed in its holiday best, with the trees lining the walkways adorned in twinkling white lights. Carolers entertained passersby. On the bus back to the convention host hotel, we passed a park where a large Christmas fair and tree-lighting ceremony was taking place. Surprised at the massive crowds, we looked more closely. It turned out that much of the turnout was for a demonstration against the recent Staten Island grand jury's decision not to indict the NYPD officer after the Eric Garner chokehold death.
Carolers at Fanueil Hall Marketplace. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

Bronzed basketball shoes of beloved Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird in Fanueil Hall Marketplace. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

For a moment, against such a serious backdrop, the concerns of a dressage organization seemed frivolous. Even the holiday merriment, juxtaposed against the sign-waving protesters, suddenly felt out of place. But in truth the events served as a reminder that even though peace on earth hasn't happened yet, it's still worth striving for. Maybe, given life's twists and turns, it's even more important to embrace the uplifting times. I know that's why I hold fast to my love of horses and dressage, and why people travel every year to the USDF convention to renew friendships and do their part to help our sport. When we attend convention, we're among friends. Come join us!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Volunteer Spirit Is Alive and Well

One of my favorite duties at the Adequan/USDF Annual Convention is interviewing each year's Salute Gala honorees -- the USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipients and/or the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame inductees. The USDF Historical Recognition Committee videotapes the interviews for the record and to share with USDF members, and for some years now I've had the pleasure of playing Barbara Walters.

Today I had back-to-back interviews with this year's honorees, Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Maryal Barnett and Janine Malone. The USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary volunteer contributions to the USDF. (For more about this award and to see a list of past recipients, click here.)

Maryal and Janine are two very different personalities, and their contributions to the USDF have been equally different. Maryal has been a dedicated faculty member of and examiner in the USDF Instructor/Trainer Program, and faculty member of the USDF "L" Education Program. Janine's contributions lean more toward the governance and organizational side: She has served as USDF Region 1 director, USDF secretary, and in many other committee roles; and she has helped organize several major USDF programs, including the US Dressage Finals.

Despite these differences, there were remarkable similarities in their interviews. Both Maryal and Janine said that their love of horses and dressage motivated them to get involved with the sport on a level far beyond that of casual participant. Both attended early USDF annual meetings, liked the people they met and the shared passion for dressage, and wanted to do more. Most strikingly, both said they were aware of the importance of giving back to the sport that has given them so much. And, overachievers that they are, both said that if they're going to do something, they're going to do it to the best of their abilities.

As a result, our 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award honorees have devoted countless hours to bettering the sport of dressage in the US. They are proud of what they have helped to create and achieve -- although, as Maryal put it, "I was just doing my job."

Just doing her job? Going way above and beyond the call of duty is more like it. Those of us who ride dressage in this country are better off for these women's efforts, and I look forward to watching them formally accept their awards at this weekend's Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

We're Shipping up to Boston!

SHIPSHAPE: The USS Constitution in the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston.
Photo courtesy of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Every year at this time, dedicated dressage volunteers from all corners of our country make their way to the Adequan/United States Dressage Federation Annual Convention. The convention is a few jam-packed days of education, networking, shopping, awards and honors, and -- most important, if not the most glamorous -- business meetings, committee meetings, and governance proceedings.

The wheels of American dressage -- the programs, procedures, education, and more that enable our sport to function and grow -- turn all year, but nowhere is the process more evident, or more public, than at the USDF convention. Any USDF member may attend and voice an opinion at the many open meetings held during convention, which kicks off tomorrow in Cambridge, MA. You can even attend an open forum on proposed United States Equestrian Federation rule changes affecting dressage held by the USEF Dressage Committee, which makes the rules and writes the tests for USEF-licensed, national-level dressage competition.

If you can't make it to Cambridge, be sure to follow this blog for news and photos from the convention. As always, there are some special happenings planned for this edition of convention. I'm excited to be interviewing this year's USDF Lifetime Achievement Award recipients, Maryal Barnett and Janine Malone, "for the historical record" tomorrow. And I'll be sure to get photos of the 2014 USDF Volunteer of the Year, Terry Ciotti Gallo, as she accepts her award at Saturday night's Salute Gala & Annual Awards Banquet.

I always look forward to the convention educational sessions. In Cambridge I'll be learning about equine nutrition, sport-horse breeding and judging, and equine biomechanics, to name just a few.

Do you have convention-related questions? Are you traveling to Cambridge, perhaps to receive an award? Tweet using the hashtags #USDF and #USDFConv. You'll be able to follow the USDF Twitter feed on the right-hand side of this blog page, as well. So be sure to post those convention and awards photos, and I'll see you in Cambridge!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ten More Champions Crowned on Final Day of US Dressage Finals Presented by Adequan

By Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals

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 (NJ) was the final ride of the class but made the biggest impression with the judges, carrying Region 8's Amy Gimbel, Lebanon, NJ, to victory in the hotly-contested Training Level Adult Amateur Championship with a score of 75.800 percent.  

"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."  

Amy Gimbel of New Jersey rode Eye Candy to championship and reserve-championship titles on the final day
of the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan. Photo by
First to go down center line at 8:00 a.m. was Carolyn Desnoyer, Mosinee, Wis. (qualified in Region 4), aboard her warmblood mare Fresca (Festrausch -- Rising Star, GP Raymeister). They posted a score of 73.533 percent that stood atop the leader board for the duration of the class until Gimbel's final ride, but ultimately was still good enough to clinch the reserve title 

"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 came during the presentation by the USDF of the Janine Westmoreland Malone Perpetual Trophy to the Adult Amateur Prix St. Georges champion. Region 7's Adrienne Bessey and her Danish Warmblood mare, Dido, ran away with the title on an impressive score of 71.491 percent, more than six points over the next-placed competitor. With this score, Dido (by Royal Hit) also earned the Lloyd Landkamer Perpetual Trophy, presented by Janet Foy, as the FEI highest-scoring mare.  

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," Bessey said. "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."  

The reserve champion 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 percent.  

"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."
Adrienne Bessey (left, with trainer Mette Rosencrantz) received the 2014 Janine Westmoreland Malone Perpetual Trophy, presented by the USDF to the US Dressage Finals adult-amateur Prix St. Georges champion (trophy at left). Bessey also received the Lloyd Landkamer Perpetual Trophy for the FEI highest-scoring mare (trophy at right). USDF photo.
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 Kerrin Dunn's Dutch Warmblood mare Allure S, led another victory lap after posting the top score of 71.491 percent. 

"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 champion Mette Rosencrantz (Topanga, Cal., Region 7) also has big plans for Anne Solbraekke's Hanoverian gelding, De Noir 3 (De Niro -- Maharani, Matcho): Rosencrantz is considering the pursuit of a US 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 on Sunday with a score of 71.009 percent.  

"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." 

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 test with Greenwood Sporthorses' Dutch Warmblood mare, Wies V/D Klumpert (Future -- Sarina V/D Klumpert, 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 mare rewarded Paterson's trust by earning a score of 68.690 percent, 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 Sunday with 68.333 percent. "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.

Region 8's Heather Mason, of Lebanon, N.J., 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 percent.  

"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, TX (Region 9), who earned the reserve title with her flashy Dutch Warmblood gelding, Uberlinus (by Metall), with 66.865 percent.  "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, Monroe, Wash. (Region 6), and Janice Davis' six-year-old Oldenburg gelding, San Corazon, proved unbeatable at Second Level Open at these Finals. The duo followed their freestyle win Saturday by claiming Sunday's Second Level Open title with a score of 72.063 percent. 

"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, Holland, Mich. (qualified in Region 2), who earned a score of 70.159 percent with her Oldenburg gelding, Royal Heir, whom she has developed since he was a three-year-old. "I can't believe that we've done this," said Frieling, blinking 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 under way with 24 entries in the First Level Open Freestyle in the electric atmosphere of the Alltech Arena.  Emerging victorious was Megan McIsaac, Oregon, Wis. (Region 2), who rode the Trakehner gelding Kingsley, owned by Wisconsin Kid LLC, to a top score of 73.722 percent. McIsaac won the title over Stacey Hastings (Mooresville, N.C., Region 1) on Karen Guerra's Friesian mare, Trijntje v.d. Bokkefarm (by Beart 411) (73.167 percent). 

"It was so awesome to be here and be a part of this event," said McIsaac, a Finals first-timer.  "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."

Lexington local and Region 2 competitor Cariann Wlosinski and her Oldenburg mare, Rhiannon (by Rousseau), had already added Saturday's Second Level Adult Amateur Freestyle title to their resume. The pair returned on Sunday to claim one more victory in the First Level Adult Amateur Freestyle on a score of 73.700 percent.  

"It's been a fun weekend!" Wlosinski said. "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 Eye Candy added a second championship honor to their roster by earning the First Level Adult Amateur Freestyle reserve title. Said Gimbel: "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 Westfalen gelding, Rudi Regali, to top the Third Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship with 69.056 percent. "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 percent 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 returned home a national champion after claiming the Fourth Level Open Freestyle title with 72.278 percent 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 down side 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, 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 percent 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."

Final results, photo galleries, and news archives from the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan are available on the official event website. Video on demand from select championship performances is available on the USEF Network. For a complete archive of each competition day's results, click here

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Riders and Horses Dance to Victory on Freestyle Day at US Dressage Finals Presented by Adequan

By Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals

Music filled the concourse of the Alltech Arena to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd of spectators and VIPs Saturday as some of the country's best dressage horses and riders did their best to captivate the judges and earn national-championship honors for their carefully choreographed musical freestyles at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan, November 6-9, 2014, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. 

One of the highlights of the day was the presentation of the new Calaveras County Perpetual Trophy (by artist Olva Stewart Pharo) to the inaugural US Dressage Finals Grand Prix Freestyle Adult Amateur Champion, Janne Rumbough, Palm Beach, Fla. (Region 3). The crowd went wild and clapped to the beat of Rumbough's Mary Poppins-themed music as her gray PRE gelding, Junior (Gaucho III -- La Nina, Brioso VI), seemed to relish the Alltech Arena's electric atmosphere. Rumbough and Junior earned the winning score of 70.708 percent over fellow Region 3 competitor Aileen Daly, Aiken, SC, and her Hanoverian gelding, Windsong (Weltmeyer -- Lara, Laurie's Crusader) (65.250 percent).

Afterward, Rumbough was emotional about her win. "I'm just speechless. I am so honored to be the first one to have my name on this beautiful trophy and to finally win a championship title like this," said Rumbough, who also earned the 2013 and 2014 Grand Prix Adult Amateur reserve titles. "It gives me chills to talk about it, I'm so grateful and honored. This has been a goal of mine for years, and now I can check it off the bucket list. But I still want to come back next year and win the Grand Prix test too!"
Janne Rumbough and Junior danced to a Grand Prix Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship victory during the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan. Photo by
Starting off the day were competitors showing off their Second Level Freestyles. In the Adult Amateur division, crowd favorite and Lexington hometown girl Cariann Wlosinski earned the unanimous win with a score of 70.567 percent. A full-time middle-school teacher who "teaches by day and rides by night," Wlosinski attended the inaugural US Dressage Finals last November and was "determined to try to get back here this year." She danced to a Beatles medley aboard her Oldenburg mare, Rhiannon (by Rousseau), a horse she bred and raised herself.  

"I had her dam, so I was there when she was born. We've been together six years now," said Wlosinski. "She loves it here in the Alltech Arena because she loves to come in here and have the ring to herself. We had a great ride, and it was awesome to have all my friends and family here to cheer me on."  

Finishing second was Camilla Van Liew (Charleston, SC, qualified in Region 1), aboard her Dutch Warmblood, Dartesch (Special D -- Sedesch, Jazz) on 68.322 percent. As a small-animal veterinarian, Van Lieu explained, she often has to make time to ride during pre-dawn hours before going to work, but her efforts paid off at the Finals.

"I was a little worried about riding in the Alltech today since it's only the fourth time we've ever ridden a freestyle and my horse is young," Van Liew said of her six-year-old gelding, whose sire is also competing at the Finals. "But he really kept it together. I was awfully proud of him. He's such a good guy, and it's been a dream to be here."

Perhaps no competitor had more fun with her performance than the Second Level Open Freestyle champion, Morgan Barrows (Monroe, Wash., Region 6). Her Billy Idol-themed freestyle with Janice Davis' Oldenburg gelding, San Corazon, was rewarded with a top score of 74.678 percent.  

"I had a blast! I want to go out there again," said Barrows, who has been partnered with her mount for less than a year. "I originally saw him at a friend's farm in Sweden when he was three. Later, when he came up for sale, I knew we had to get him.  It's been fun to bring him up, and the longer I ride him, the more fun he gets. He's a great horse, and I'm excited to see where he's going to go."  

Delighted to also be accepting national honors with a score of 72.022 percent was reserve champion Claudia Novick on her Friesian gelding, Marco von Laar (Onne 376 -- Wydana von Laar, Sjaard 320). This pair returned to Kentucky after attending the 2013 Finals, where they went home to Gastonia, NC (Region 1) as reserve champions in the First Level Adult Amateur Freestyle.  

"The cold weather actually helps us!" Novick laughed. "My horse is such a character. He was formerly a driving horse, so he had to change his body and mindset from pulling to pushing. I think this year he's really 'gotten it.'"

Retired small-animal veterinarian Jeanne Van Nuys-Hitt, of Harrisburg, Pa. (Region 8), rode her Oldenburg gelding, Sirtaki, to victory in the Intermediate I Adult Amateur Championship, where their Enya-themed freestyle earned a top score of 68.792 percent.  

"I am thrilled. You put a lot of time, money, and blood, sweat, and tears into getting here," said Van Nuys-Hitt, "so any time you end up on top of a great field of riders, it's the ultimate thrill." 

Finishing just a point behind the leader to earn their second reserve title of the weekend on a score of 67.792 percent was Lauren Thornlow, Monroe, Wash. (Region 6), and her Oldenburg gelding, Royal Konig (by Rubin Royale). "It's been a great journey to bring him along," Thornlow said of the horse she's had since he was three and who has become her first FEI-level mount. "He's a great guy with a terrific personality, and his favorite thing to do is to go out there and show off." 

Region 2 riders claimed top placings in the afternoon's Third Level Open Freestyle Championship.  The top pick of all three judges was Angela Jackson, Henderson, Ky., and Theresa Schnell's impressive Oldenburg stallion, Hemmingway (Hofrat -- Alsonara, Archipel), who earned a score of 73.878 percent.  

"It's so beautiful in there, people are cheering, and I just had a fantastic time," said Jackson of her Pirates of the Caribbean-themed freestyle performance. "My horse was energetic and right with me every step of the way. He's had a fantastic year already, and to top it off by being champion here is just great."  

The Third Level Open Freestyle reserve champion was Laurie Moore, Ada, Mich., on Christine Miller's Holsteiner gelding, Lyric PT, whose freestyle set to Beatles tunes earned a score of 71.367 percent.  

"I had a super warm-up getting him nice and forward, and we went in the arena and he was just free and happy," said Moore afterward. "The music is fun and up-tempo, and it suits him perfectly."

Former jumper rider Anna Jaffe, of Concord, Mass. (Region 8), has made a successful switch to the dressage ring as she rode Jane Karol's Westfalen gelding, Moonshine (by Lamerto H), to victory in the Fourth Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship on a score of 68.822 percent.  

"This is the first horse I've ever done dressage on, and it's been an extraordinary opportunity to learn from him," Jaffe said. "We don't have any indoor shows like this in New England, and my horse is naturally very spooky. But he loved the Alltech Arena! This was the best show of his life, and I'm so happy to be here."  

Region 6's Jacquelyn McMaster, Sherwood, Ore., drew confidence from her Dutch Warmblood gelding, Paviano, to overcome her show nerves and ride to a score of 68.156 percent. "I was quite nervous, but about two minutes before show time he felt so good," she said, "so I just took a deep breath and let it all sink in, and it was just amazing being in there in that atmosphere.  It ended up being a lot of fun."

Topping a huge field of 35 competitors in the First Level Adult Amateur division was Julie McCrady, of Raymore, Mo. (Region 4), riding her five-year-old Remanessa. Even though the pair had to wait all day to compete as they were scheduled last to go in the class, their patience paid off when they earned the winning score of 71.290 percent. Making the win even more meaningful was the fact that McCrady and her husband bred the Hanoverian mare (Rousseau -- Leonessa, Louis Heslegard), and they were making a return trip to the Finals after competing at Training and First Level last year.  

"I think the people are so friendly here; everyone bends over backward to help you. I encouraged one of my friends to come here to ride in the open show just so she could be part of the experience," McCrady said. "It's just been wonderful, and so special to have bred Remanessa ourselves. She was a handful on the ground until we started her under saddle, where she seemed to find her purpose in life.  Now she's a great mare."  

Another competitor who was delighted to find success at the Finals was Viki Meyers, of Russellville, Ark. (Region 9), who rode her Hanoverian gelding, Gold Flash (by Gold Luck), to the reserve championship with 70.753 percent.

"I had the time of my life today. Each of my rides has gotten a little bit better, and I've learned a lot since I've been here," said Meyers. "We don't have any licensed dressage shows in Arkansas, so I have to travel extensively just to train and compete. This was my first year to even go to Regionals, and now I find myself at the Finals, and I'm just amazed. My friends drove all the way to Kentucky just to watch me compete in one test! I feel really special to be here, and it may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I do hope to be back here next year."

In the First Level Open division, Gwyneth McPherson will now make the 20-hour drive home to New Gloucester, Maine (Region 8), with a championship title in hand after guiding Pineland Farms Inc.'s five-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Eskandar (Zhivago -- Ostara, Caritas), to victory with 75.538 percent. 

McPherson was impressed with how her mount (whom she found in 2012 as a young stallion in Belgium) handled the conditions. "I was delighted with my ride," she said. "He can be spooky, but even with the wind and cold, he stuck with me for the whole test."  

The 2014 US Dressage Finals Training Level champions, Patricia Becker, Wadsworth, Ill. (qualified in Region 2), and Joan Pecora's five-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Edward (by United), also claimed reserve honors at First Level with a score of 73.333 percent. "He has such a super temperament, and he couldn't have been better," Becker said.

Rachael Hicks, of Prospect, Ky. (Region 2), has already had a successful Finals, with both a championship and a reserve title to her credit at Fourth Level. On Saturday she earned yet another tricolor, thanks to a decisive victory in the Third Level Adult Amateur division with 70.342 percent aboard her Rheinlander stallion, Don Cartier (Don Schufro -- Carmina, Cartier).  

"It was a little chilly out there today," laughed Hicks. "He was a bit tired today, so I decided not to push for a '10,' but it was a steady and consistent test, and he gave me a great feeling throughout."

Back home in Santa Monica, Cal. (Region 7), Christine Ekstrand is an orthopedic surgeon and the mother of seven children. But Saturday she celebrated earning reserve-championship honors with her Hanoverian gelding, Braxxton (Baroncelli -- Rosana, Rotspon) on a score of 67.479 percent.

"He was tired from the trip at first, but he perked right up and I was really pleased with how he did today," Ekstrand said of her mount.

Melissa Beardsley's Hanoverian gelding, Louis Vuitton, lived up to his name, giving Seattle-based Shauntel Bryant a fashionable ride that was good enough to win the Fourth Level Open Championship on a score of 69.417 percent.  

"He's an 'on' or 'off' kind of horse, but he was really 'on' today and gave it his all," Bryant said. "It was the kind of ride where you just say to yourself, 'This is lovely.' He definitely woke up on the right side of the stall today, and the brisk weather actually works to his advantage. I almost didn't bring him to the Finals because he's not a super-consistent horse, but now I'm glad I did because he pulled it off!"  

Debbie Hill, of Gurley, Ala. (qualified in Region 2), earned her second reserve-championship title in as many days with the Hanoverian gelding Boccaccio IOF (Bugatti Hilltop -- Roxette, Rubinstein), owned by Marchella Richardson, with 69.167 percent.  

"Bo was ready to go again today. He always aims to please and works hard. He put in a great effort out there, and of course I was thrilled," Hill said. "There's so many fantastic horses and riders here, which makes for great company and competition, so I'm just glad to be a part of it and I've really enjoyed myself."

Kentucky women seemed to claim home-field advantage as they swept the top spots in the evening's Intermediate I Open Freestyle Championship. Angela Jackson earned her second national title of the day, this time aboard Kerrin Dunn's lovely Dutch Warmblood, Allure S. Even though the mare wasn't feeling quite like her normal self on Thursday, when she entered the arena as the first combination down center line for the class, "She rebounded and put her game face on today," said Jackson. "The feeling you get from her in the arena is just amazing. The crowd was really into it, and she loved it. I just love a good mare."  

Linda Strine, from nearby Versailles, Ky., had high praise for her mount, Julie Roche's Friesian mare Inke FCF (Erik -- Nynke Marije, Nikolaas 310), who improved on a fourth-place finish in this division at last year's Finals to earn the 2014 reserve title on a score of 67.292%. 

"The best horses I've had have been mares," said Strine. "She was fired up. She's very expressive but also so reliable. I can always count on her, and she knew she was there to show off."

It may have taken North Forks Cardi four days to travel across the country from Battle Ground, Wash. (Region 6), to attend the Finals with owner/rider Jessica Wisdom, but it only took a matter of minutes for the charismatic Welsh Cob stallion to become the fan favorite on his way to winning the final class of the night, the Grand Prix Open Freestyle Championship.  

"Freestyle is where he really shines: He hears that music and he becomes a big horse. Nobody told him that he's only 14.3 hands!" said Wisdom. "All he has to do is go out there and be the rock star that he knows he is. And you saw what happens! He has an ego the size of Texas. He seemingly becomes three hands taller and says, 'Watch this.'"  

The reserve title went to Region 4's Emily Miles, La Cygne, Kan. (69.833 percent), who found success aboard her Hanoverian gelding, Weltdorff, a horse she's had since he was a youngster. The two have come up through the levels to Grand Prix together. 

"It's always seemed that he's played the role of bridesmaid to my other horse, WakeUp, so I'm happy for him to earn this," said Miles. "I have to admit I don't particularly like my music, but I trusted my freestyle designer, who insisted that it works for my horse. Obviously she was right! The best moment was coming down center line as we did 25 one-tempis one-handed and the crowd started clapping. And turns out my husband was watching our ride from home on the USEF Network! So it's been a really fun night."

First Round of 2014 Championship Titles Awarded at US Dressage Finals Presented by Adequan

By Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals

The first championship honors were awarded today at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. This spectacular competition being held from November 6-9, 2014 in four championship arenas has brought together the top dressage riders and horses from across the nation to ultimately honor a new generation of adult-amateur and open division champions from Training Level to Grand Prix.

Mette Rosencrantz, of Topanga, Calif., was grinning from ear to ear as she accepted congratulations for becoming the first Finals champion crowned in 2014. Her long journey all the way from the West Coast ultimately proved worthwhile as she guided Anne Solbraekke's elegant black Hanoverian gelding, De Noir 3 (De Niro -- Maharani, Matcho) to a resounding victory in the Open Intermediate I Championship, earning the unanimous win under all three judges for a total score of 72.632 percent.

"I saw all the other riders warming up, and I thought, 'Uh oh, I'm going to have to go for it because everyone's really really good,'" said Rosencrantz. "But my horse was great in the ring and handled the atmosphere with no problem. It's a long way and a long time away from home, but everyone has gone out of their way to make us feel welcome here. The setting is great, and it's really fun to come ride at a show like this."  
Mette Rosencrantz, Topanga, Cal., won the first championship awarded at the
2014 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan
 for the Intermediate I Open division. Photo by  

Finishing in reserve was Susanne Benne aboard the Dutch Warmblood Zonnerhall (by Gribaldi), owned by Toni Pastermack, on a score of 68.816 percent. Benne recently obtained her US citizenship and became eligible to come to the Finals, and happily traveled from Satellite Beach, Fla. (Region 3) to participate.  

"I definitely think it's worthwhile to come here, even from a long distance," Benne said. "Having so many excellent riders and horses here makes it all even more special."

Patti Blackmore (Louisiana, Mo., Region 4) placed third at last year's Finals in the First Level Adult Amateur division, and this year she improved on that performance to claim the Second Level Adult Amateur title aboard her Hanoverian gelding, Rubico (by Rotspon). As the only combination to break 70 percent, they earned a decisive win with a total score of 71.905.  

"I breathed a sigh of relief after our counter-canter portion of the test," laughed Blackmore, who is a small-animal veterinarian and mother of twin 12-year-old girls. "My family is so supportive; in fact, my daughters are helping to clean stalls for the horses at home so that I could be here." 

Reserve champion with 68.810 percent was Jessica Iorio (Region 8), who is also a busy mom with three young boys at home in Foxboro, Mass. She and her warmblood mare, Roulette (by Loerke), are former diehard eventing competitors, but an injury forced a change in career.  

"It's worked out well, and competing in dressage has been more exciting than I expected," said Iorio, who drove all night Monday to come to Kentucky. "Roulette did the best she could despite the chilly weather, and I was thrilled with how she held it together in the ring."

Two talented five-year-olds ruled the day in the morning's Training Level Open Championship.  Patricia Becker (Wadsworth, Ill., qualified in Region 2) rode Joan Pecora's five-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Edward, to a strong performance and a winning score of 77.933 percent.

"He warmed up so well despite the cold and the wind, and I think it was the best test we've had all year," said Pecora. "It's such a great experience coming here, and is so important for a young horse's future to get exposed to a big venue like this."  

Mike Suchanek of Cambridge, Minn. (Region 4), and Douglas Leatherdale's Hanoverian mare Fleur De Lis L may both be newcomers to the dressage ring, but they did not let the fact that this was their first show season keep them from earning the reserve championship with 74.667 percent. "She didn't put a foot wrong today, and I'm honored to be here," said Suchanek.  

Heather Blitz, of Medfield, Mass., is no stranger to international dressage competition, but the Region 8 rider made it a point to add the Finals to her calendar this year. Her decision paid off as she won the hard-fought Third Level Open Championship with Oak Hill Ranch LLC's young Danish Warmblood stallion, Ripline, on a score of 71.239 percent. Despite Ripline's long 24-hour trip to Kentucky, Blitz was thrilled with both her young star and the Finals.  

"I'm really happy with my horse and how he's handled everything here," Blitz said. "I'm also very impressed with this event, and it was incredibly worthwhile to come here. The facility is of such a high quality, and the indoor looks like a top-notch European show. I will definitely come back."  

Reserve Champion Debbie Hill, Gurley, Ala. (qualified in Region 2), was a big winner at last year's inaugural Finals, and she returned to Lexington this year to claim even more honors despite currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She and her partner, Marchella Richardson's charming Hanoverian gelding Boccaccio IOF (Bugatti Hilltop -- Roxette, Rubinstein), didn't even let a broken bridle in warm-up shake their concentration, earning a second-place score of 69.872 percent.  

"He was pretty fresh out there this morning," Hill said. "I had a few little bobbles, but overall he was so good. I'm just so happy to be here."

The Fourth Level Adult Amateur Championship was dominated by Region 2's Rachael Hicks of Prospect, Ky., who claimed both the champion and reserve-champion honors with her two mounts. Her Westfalen gelding, Fabio Bellini, (Furst Heinrich -- Dakota, Davignon I]), edged out his stablemate, the Rheinlander stallion Don Cartier (Don Schufro -- Carmina, Cartier), with scores of 71.750 percent and 70.458 percent.  

"Today the sun came out and we enjoyed the brisk weather, and I think it energized them a little bit. They're both so different, and so I have to ride them very differently," said Hicks of her mounts, both of which she's had since they were four years old and brought through the levels. 

As a busy mom, Hicks works hard to find time to be in the saddle. "I have three young kids, and every morning I get them to school, and then I have few precious hours with the horses on the farm before 3:00 p.m., when the kids come home and I become a mom again."

Region 2's Jacqueline Beasley may have only had a 15-minute drive from her home in Lexington to the Finals, but her journey to winning the Intermediate I Adult Amateur Championship has been much longer. She purchased her now 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Winston (by Worldly) as a three-year-old in Germany, and together the pair has risen through the levels, culminating in today's winning ride with a score of 67.632 percent.  

"I never thought we'd come so far," said Beasley. "Even though I live here and I've shown at the Horse Park before, I've never had the opportunity to show in the Alltech Arena. During yesterday's schooling session, he was very impressed by the atmosphere, so I was concerned going in the arena today. But he rose to the occasion, was so perfect, and answered all my questions. He gave me a lovely ride today, and I couldn't have asked for anything more."  

Lauren Thornlow and her Oldenburg gelding, Royal Konig, had to trek 2,500 miles with friends and their seven horses from Monroe, Wash. (Region 6), to earn reserve-championship honors (67.193 percent), but she was happy to have made the trip.  

"I've never hauled this far for a show before, but it's been a great experience for all of us," said Thornlow. "I had a great ride today with my horse; he's put the right foot forward every step of the way on this journey."

Despite being only seven years old, the talented Oldenburg mare Elfenfeuer carried owner/rider Alice Tarjan, Frenchtown, NJ (Region 8), to victory in the Grand Prix Adult Amateur Championship with 68.133 percent.

"We still have a lot to learn, but I think this level suits her, and she's a good girl and tries hard," said Tarjan. "I haven't been here at the Horse Park since coming for a Pony Club event about 20 years ago, and it's absolutely gorgeous. These Finals are such a big event, and it's exciting and inspiring to be here."  

Janne Rumbough's gray PRE gelding Junior (Gaucho III -- La Nina, Brioso VI) literally bucked for joy during the victory lap in celebration of his reserve championship on a score of 65.000 percent.  Rumbough returned to the Finals from Palm Beach, Fla. (Region 3), after earning the same title last year.  

"I had a wonderful time in there. I've brought him through every level, and he's proof that the test system works," Rumbough said of her longtime partner. "I thought he was even better than last year, and I'm just happy and feel lucky to be here." 

Grand Prix Championship Tops Festive Evening

A huge crowd gathered at the Alltech Arena for a "Taste of the Bluegrass" dinner and evening festivities that included opening ceremonies and special presentations followed by Grand Prix championship competition.  

Topping 20 other competitors for the nation's top honors in the Open division, Diamante Farm's black Danish Warmblood gelding, Destiny, lived up to his name as he carried Devon Kane (Wellington, Fla., Region 3) to victory with an impressive score of 72.000 percent.

"It's very exciting, especially since I didn't even expect to come here," Kane said afterward. "But after we won at Regionals we said, 'Why not?' It's a wonderful opportunity to ride with great competition and fantastic judges in a tremendous venue, and it's really fun to see everyone from all over the country. We had a great ride, and he was so 'on' tonight."  

Last year's Intermediate I Open champions, Emily Miles (La Cygne, Kan., Region 4) and her American Warmblood stallion, WakeUp (Wagnis -- Maiden Montreal, Macho) successfully made the jump up to the Grand Prix level, earning reserve-championship honors on a score of 69.067 percent. 

"This is just our fifth Grand Prix test together, and I couldn't be happier with him," said Miles of her partner.  "He handled the electric atmosphere like it was no problem. He was just a rock star through the whole thing, so solid and easy."