By Jennifer Keeler/Yellow Horse Marketing
The much-anticipated start of the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan became official today when the first horses trotted down arena center lines at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. As the inaugural national head-to-head competition for adult amateur and open riders from Training Level to Grand Prix, hundreds of exhibitors from coast to coast have gathered to share in what for many will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Today sixteen non-championship "USDF Dressage in the Bluegrass" classes were held in four arenas in front of an esteemed roster of FEI and USEF judges, including Jayne Ayers, Charlotte Bredahl, Janet Foy, Sandra Hotz, Jeanne McDonald, Michael Osinski, Gary Rockwell, William Solyntjes, Jane Weatherwax, and Lois Yukins.
Eva Oldenbroek Tabor of Region 9 was the very first exhibitor to enter the Alltech Arena this morning for her Intermediate II test aboard Uberlinis.
"When I first walked in I said, 'Oh my God, look at all this!'" said Tabor. "It looks like a European World Cup venue. The footing is fantastic, and the whole setup is just beautiful."
Tabor was thrilled with how her flashy Dutch Warmblood gelding handled the impressive atmosphere, scoring 65.000 percent to top the class.
With her Finals week off to a winning start, Tabor's 22-hour drive from Medina, TX, seems to be time and effort well spent. "From the moment we arrived on Tuesday, everything has been super-well organized, like a top-class event," Tabor said. "I have no complaints and am so happy to be here."
Looking fresh despite a four-day journey across the country from Region 6, Lisa Morton-Gramyk and her fifteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, Rubinesque, contested Fourth Level Test 3 in the outdoor Stonelea Arena, surrounded by picturesque fall foliage and under sunny afternoon skies.
"This is by far the biggest venue we've ever been in; we don't have anything like this at home. But even though it's such a big venue, it feels comfortable," said Morton-Gramyk, who noted that it was snowing in her home town of Sagle, ID. "Part of the reason I came here is to put myself in a new environment and to challenge myself. I've met some fantastic people, and I've learned so much already. I hope that more people from my region will be tempted to come next year. Win or lose, I'm just so thankful to have this opportunity to compete here. I feel like this is my Olympics."
It's not just competitors who have traveled far from home to participate in the Finals experience. USDF Region 5 director Heather Petersen, of Falcon, CO, is scribing for all four days of competition.
"As a regional director, I thought it was important for me to be here for the Finals," said Petersen, "and what better way to show my support than to volunteer?"
Wrapping up an exciting first day, exhibitors enjoyed a Competitor Welcome Party and Trade Fair Kick-Off on the concourse of the Alltech Arena. Competition resumes tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. ET as the first of the Finals championship classes gets under way.
Follow the action, check results, and view photos and video on the USDF Facebook page and the US Dressage Finals website. Starting tomorrow afternoon, watch live online streaming of the weekend's competition on the USEF Network.
Good luck to all competitors! We're glad you're here!