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On the scene at the 2017 FEI World Cup Dressage Final

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."

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