By Jennifer Keeler/Yellow Horse Marketing
Emotions ran high as the final six champions were crowned yesterday at the inaugural US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan in Lexington, KY. Riders who traveled to the Kentucky Horse Park from coast to coast celebrated their championship experience with memorable rides and victory laps while cheered on by friends and family.
Adult Amateurs: "Treated Like True Champions"
Adult amateurs at the Prix St. Georges level were the stars of the day in the Alltech Arena, and one of the riders who traveled the farthest to compete was rewarded with a national title.
Akiko Yamazaki, of Woodside, CA, is widely known as the owner of US dressage team horses Ravel and Legolas 92 for Olympian Steffen Peters; but this weekend was her turn to be in the saddle -- and the spotlight. Yamazaki became the inaugural recipient of the Janine Westmoreland Malone Perpetual Trophy for winning the Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur Championship with a score of 67.895 percent. Her partner was her Danish Warmblood gelding, Matrix, who successfully returned to competition after two years off for an injury.
"Here is a horse I thought at one point I might have to retire," Yamazaki said afterward. "But he rose to the occasion, and I was really happy with how my ride went today."
"I think this show exceeded all of my expectations, right from the get-go," Yamazaki continued. "All the information was provided in such a timely and organized manner, so I already felt well taken care of before I even arrived. And then once I was here, everything ran so smoothly and was just great. Congratulations to the show organizers; I think this has exceeded everyone's expectations, and I'll be returning home and spreading the word in California that we have to come back en masse."
A rider whose journey to Kentucky we profiled earlier in this blog, Krista Nordgren earned the reserve PSG championship title with Schando, her seventeen-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (by Schwadroneur) on a score of 66.228 percent.
"I was so proud of my horse. I had tears in my eyes from happiness when cantering down center line for my final salute," said Nordgren, of South Portland, ME, who also had loved ones in attendance to cheer her on, including her five-year-old son. "There's a certain magic to this place. The thrill of competing on this stage was a strong pull for me to come all this way, and it exceeded my wildest dreams. I loved the fact that here, the amateur competitor has been embraced; we've never had this sort of stage for us other than our [Great American/USDF] Regional Championships. We've all been treated like true champions just for making it here to the Finals, and because of that there's a sense of pride and tremendous camaraderie."
Stiff Competition for Open Riders
Building on her success in Saturday's Fourth Level Open Championship, Heather McCarthy, of Prairie Grove, IL, claimed another victory in the Prix St. Georges Open Championship, once again aboard Dr. Marilyn Johnson and John McGuire's elegant Oldenburg mare, Saphira (Florencio - Roxina, Chairman), with a score of 69.868 percent.
"I had a wonderful ride. I was concerned that I might not have enough horse left today because I thought she gave me everything yesterday, but she went right out there and did her job," said McCarthy. "I'm on cloud nine. I don't think I could have asked for anything more than I've achieved here this weekend. It's been a wonderful experience."
Finishing second by only two-tenths of a point, with an overall score of 69.605, was Heather Mason, of Tewksbury, NJ, and her Dutch Warmblood gelding Zar (Iroko - Inga, Actueel, bred in the US by Carol Collyer). Mason and Zar concluded their week in Kentucky with top-two finishes in each of the three small-tour championship classes they contested: reserve Intermediate I Open champion, Intermediate I Freestyle champion, and reserve Prix St. Georges open champion.
Tidd Bests Huge Field in Training Level Ad/Am Championship
In the largest division of these inaugural finals, 27 adult amateur riders fought for bragging rights at Training Level. Ultimately emerging victorious (and claiming her second championship title of the weekend) was Lucy Tidd, of Germantown, MD, and her four-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Ellert HB (73.200 percent).
"I was afraid my horse might be a little tired, but he was great, super focused, and he seemed to really enjoy himself," said Tidd afterward. "It's surreal. I was just hoping to place; never in a million years did I anticipate doing so well."
The reserve champion, with 71.333 percent, was another talented four-year-old, the American-bred RPSI mare DeLovely (Don Principe - Sky Spirit, Johns Line, bred and owned by Janet Stone), ridden by Lisa Seegar Brown, Travelers Rest, SC.
After narrowly missing the Second Level Freestyle title, Fie Andersen, of Hamilton, MA, would not be denied top honors in the Second Level Open championship. With her Oldenburg stallion Rocazino (Rosentanz - Escarda, Silvio I), Andersen earned the win with a score of 74.921 percent.
"I'm a little emotional right now," said Andersen afterward. "My horse is amazing! He was tired but gave me everything he had. It's been such an amazing experience to come here and compete head to head with riders from around the country, and I think it's great preparation for bigger and better things for us."
Saturday's First Level Open champions, Debbie Hill, Gurley, AL, and Boccaccio IOF easily moved up a level to earn a score of 73.968 to claim the Second Level Open reserve title. Boccaccio IOF (Bugatti Hilltop - Roxette, Rubinstein I) is a Hanoverian gelding bred by Hilltop Farm (MD) and owned by Marchella Richardson.
The inaugural US Dressage Finals concluded with the adult-amateur and open Intermediate II championship classes. In the ad/am division, Kristy Truebenbach Lund, of Wellington, FL, earned the top score of 61.447 percent aboard the Hanoverian gelding Reel Adventure (Rotspon - Lanthess, Lanthan), owned by Blue Marlin Farms Inc.
"I'm a true believer in bringing them up through the levels yourself," said Lund, whose horse had jumped out of that very same competition arena seven years ago as a five-year-old during the Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championships. "I think it gives you such a true partnership, and I'm very proud that I've trained him and we've come this far together."
Finishing less than a point behind Lund was Alexa Briscoe, of Poolesville, MD, on her Bavarian gelding, Wildfeuer (Welt As - Investa, Inschallah X, bred in the US by Monika Levay), with 61.228 percent for the reserve championship.
In the I-II open division, Laura Graves, of Geneva, FL, rode her Dutch Warmblood gelding, Verdades, to the national title on a score of 71.140 percent. Graves bested Heather Mason on her ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Warsteiner (Riverman ISF - Welona, Roemer) (69.035).
"We had a good go today, thanks to a little bit of luck and a whole lot of practice. I'm so proud of my horse," said Graves. "We knew we'd have tough competition here, and that's why we came. We were really looking forward to it and are so glad to finally have a national championship like this to look forward to."
Miss Anything? It's Archived Online
Visit the US Dressage Finals official event website for results, photo galleries, and news archives. Video on demand from select championship performances is available on the USEF Network.
For behind-the-scenes photos, news bits, Vine videos, and more, check out the USDF Facebook page, USDF's US Dressage Finals Flickr gallery, and the USDF Twitter feed.