By Jennifer Keeler/Yellow Horse Marketing
Horses and riders danced the day away in six freestyle championship divisions during the inaugural US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
|US Dressage Finals Third Level Freestyle champions Emily O'Neill and Sir Lancelot, owned by Elaine Warner. Photo by SusanJStickle.com for USDF.|
In the Third Level Freestyle Championship, Emily O'Neill, of Conestoga, PA, danced to the win with Elaine Warner's Friesian gelding Sir Lancelot (Sierk - Marge, Oege) on a score of 71.778 percent.
"My ride was thrilling, that arena is amazing, and my horse was right on. He's a showman," said O'Neill, who admitted being initially anxious about the Finals atmosphere in the Alltech Arena. "I was a little intimidated at first by all the amazing horses and riders here, but this was a really special experience and an honor to be at the Finals."
A score of 70.878 gave Jennifer Roth, Magnetic Springs, OH, the reserve Third Level Freestyle championship on her American-bred Hanoverian gelding, Reebok (Royal Prince - Andromache, Arrian, bred by Jack and Diane Vickery), for their Game of Thrones-themed freestyle.
At Fourth Level, Kentuckian Linda Strine, who hails from nearby Versailles, KY, rode the striking black Friesian gelding Beerend W (Goffert 369 - Jacqueline, Wicher 334) to a top score of 68.333 percent to claim the championship trophy for owner Vickie Short. Finishing in a close second, with 67.889, was Kristy Truebenbach Lund, Wellington, FL, with Blue Marlin Farm's Spanish Warmblood Akvavit (by Silvester).
Region 3 rider Kathryn Stoy's harmonious ride on Virginia Moon's Andalusian-cross gelding Maggio (Lepanto I - Orisha, Peter Pan, bred in the US by Shannon Sluser/CF Andalusians) earned the winning score of 73.833 percent in the First Level Freestyle Championship. The reserve champion was Claudia Novick, Gastonia, NC, with 72.333 aboard her Friesian Marco von Laar (Onne 376 - Wydana von Laar, Sjaard 320).
At Second Level , the Hanoverian gelding Fhreelancer (Florencio - Lafayette, Londonderry) carried owner/rider Joanne Coleman, of Birdsboro, PA, to her division's national freestyle title with a score of 73.678 percent. Finishing less than a point behind (72.833) to earn the reserve championship was Fie Andersen, Hamilton, MA, who traveled from Region 8 with her Oldenburg stallion Rocazino (Rosentanz - Escarda, Silvio I).
"Despite the seventeen-hour haul, I thought that I needed to be here and try this to see where I stand," Andersen said afterward. "I am floored by how well this show has been put together. I'm just amazed."
Anna Marek, Williston, FL, dominated the Grand Prix Freestyle Championship on a score of 75.135 percent. The win, aboard her Dutch Warmblood gelding Unico G (Negro - Kleora, Animo), whom she's brought up the levels from Training Level, was made even more meaningful for Marek after an unfortunate elimination in the previous evening's Grand Prix.
"[The elimination] was heartbreaking, but the rules are there for a reason," Marek said. "I love my horse, and today I was just out to get the win back for him. The freestyle is one of my favorite tests to ride, it's so much fun. And I think my horse enjoys it as much as I do."
The GP Freestyle reserve champion, with a score of 70.667 percent, was New Jersey's Heather Mason on Warsteiner, her ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Riverman ISF - Welona, Roemer).
Adult Amateurs Earn Championship Titles
Amy Swerdlin, Wellington, FL, and her Oldenburg mare Scholastica (Sir Donnerhall - Loni, Sir Sinclair) claimed the national Third Level Adult Amateur title with a score of 70.342 percent.
"[Kentucky] was a big weather change for us because it's still ninety degrees at home, but she acclimated and got comfortable," said Swerdlin of her mare. "She was really with me today, and I couldn't be happier."
Kentucky rider Rachael Hicks earned her second reserve championship of the weekend, this time in the Third Level ad/am division with her Westfalen gelding Fabio Bellini (Fuerst Heinrich - Dakota, Davignon I) on a score of 68.077.
When Lucy Tidd, of Germantown, MD, woke up Saturday morning, she had no idea that she would be competing her horse Ellert HB that day, let alone that later she would be accepting the crystal trophy for the First Level Adult Amateur Championship.
"We just arrived last night to prepare for Sunday's Training Level class," Tidd said yesterday. "But I checked in at the office this morning, and due to a scratch, they offered me a spot in today's First Level class, where I was on the qualified reserve list. I was hoping I might get lucky and get in at the last minute, and I did! It was fortunate that it all came together."
Tidd was thrilled that her young horse rose to the occasion, earning a winning score of 72.634 percent. "As a four-year-old, my horse hasn't shown a lot, but he took it all in stride."
Another rider who earned multiple national titles in Lexington was Erin Laurent, Morristown, NJ. Laurent followed up on her success in Friday's Second Level division with another reserve championship, this time at First Level Adult Amateur with a score of 72.419 percent aboard her Oldenburg gelding Whasabi (Wonderful - Glimmer, Grundstein, bred in the US by Maurine Swanson).
Debbie Hill, Gurley, AL, earned her second national title in as many days by topping the field in the First Level Open Championship on a score of 75.484 percent. Her mount was Marchella Richardson's six-year-old Hanoverian gelding Boccaccio IOF (Bugatti Hilltop - Roxette, Rubinstein I, US-bred by Hilltop Farm.).
"The footing was great, the arena was super, he was relaxed and he did everything just as I had hoped," said Hill. "I'm proud to have been invited to be here, and it's been such great experience to compete outside our region with competitors from all across the country."
The reserve First Level Open champion was Carrie Wilson, Carson City, MI, riding Jane Hutchins' Friesian gelding Scepter Fan Leandra (Goffert 369 - Trinity, Daen 286, bred in the US by Dave and Kelly Baugh). They earned a score of 73.011.
In the Fourth Level Open Championship, Heather McCarthy, Prairie Grove, IL, claimed a decisive victory with 74.292 percent aboard the Oldenburg mare Saphira (Florencio - Roxina, Chairman, owned by Dr. Marilyn Johnson and John McGuire). The reserve champion was Karen Lipp and her Dutch Warmblood mare Baximiliana (Johnson - Vaximiliana M, Ferro), on 70.333.
Lipp, who traveled to the Kentucky Horse Park from Ball Ground, GA, said afterward: "I've been teaching and training for a long time, and I'm so happy that finally there is this terrific opportunity for adult amateurs. It's about time!"
Evening Festivities and a Final Freestyle
Exhibitors shared in a final evening of celebration in the Alltech Arena while a sold-out crowd enjoyed ringside dining. Among the VIPs making presentations were Jane Beshear, first lady of Kentucky; John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park; and Alston Kerr, chair of the Kentucky Horse Park Commission.
The dignitaries' speeches were followed by an amazing liberty performance by dressage trainer and competitor Kim Barteau, a former head trainer at the Arabian Nights Dinner Theatre in Orlando, FL; and the magnificent Friesian stallion GP Boater.
Concluding the evening was the Intermediate I Freestyle championship class. Heather Mason found herself leading another victory gallop after her winning test aboard Zar, her eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Iroko - Inga, Actueel, bred in the US by Carol Collyer), which earned a score of 72.125 percent.
Finishing in the reserve position with 70.167 was Friday's Intermediate I Open champion, Emily Wagner, La Cygne, KS, on her American Warmblood stallion WakeUp (Wagnis - Maiden Montreal, Macho, US-bred by Beverly McLean Tetrick/Red Mare Farm).