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 SusanJStickle.com.
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."