By Jennifer Keeler
As we look towards this year’s US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, it’s hard to believe how quickly the years have flown by! So to celebrate, YourDressage is reaching out to competitors, officials and volunteers to share their experiences and favorite memories from the first five years of this unique event. This month we spoke with two competitors from opposite sides of the country who have made the long journey to Lexington every single year since the Finals’ inception in 2013.
“The finals are always an amazing experience, and it truly is a privilege to go,” said five-time Finals competitor Cecilia Cox. Call her crazy, but each year she has excitedly made the grueling 18-hour trek from San Antonio, TX, to the Kentucky Horse Park, and even though a recent move to New Mexico has left Cox with a house full of boxes still waiting to be unpacked, she’s hoping to once again make the trip with her American Warmblood mare, Winnie Too.
Cecilia Cox riding Winnie Too at the US Dressage Finals in 2017. SusanJStickle.com photo
“We do hope to be able to return to the Finals again this year, even though it is a bit more challenging since we moved to a new region and we are just getting settled into our new home. We are not completely unpacked yet since much to our dismay we have had to gut the entire kitchen!” exclaimed Cox, who was a stay-at-home mom for her two daughters until they left for college, after which she became a certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist. “Thankfully Winnie and I were able to qualify for the Regional Championships before we left Texas. Because it was during the same qualifying period as Region 5 we didn’t have to re-qualify, so we are planning to compete in the Adult Amateur Prix St. Georges and Intermediate I as well as the Intermediate Freestyle.”
Cox’s perseverance in getting to the Finals has paid off as she has placed in the top ten in at least one of her classes every year since first attending in 2013. One of her most exciting moments was when she and Winnie placed third in the Fourth Level Adult Amateur Freestyle, where the pair got to dance in the Alltech Arena to music they picked out together. Now she hopes to return once more for another dose of the magical Finals experience. “You get to ride with the best in the country and meet so many wonderful people,” Cox explained. “Every year I have been able to see old friends from around the country and make new ones. The atmosphere is truly different from any other show, and everyone is so happy to be there – myself included!”
Traveling to Lexington each year from the completely opposite direction is small animal veterinarian and Adult Amateur competitor Lucy Tidd of Poolesville, MD. “I love coming to the Kentucky Horse Park: it’s such an amazing facility, and it’s so much fun to be surrounded by so many super horses and riders,” she said. “I have always been so impressed by the strength of the Adult Amateur divisions at this show. They would give the professionals a run for their money!”
Tidd doesn’t shy away from the strength of competition at the Finals, and in fact has risen to the challenge – in spades. To date, she’s placed in the top five of multiple divisions with three different horses, including her favorite memory of all – winning the Training and First Level Adult Amateur Championships on her KWPN gelding Ellert HB in 2013. “I almost didn’t come to the Finals that first year because I’d only made it into one class at Training Level. But I went ahead and came, and only found out after I arrived that they had been trying to reach me to let me know that a spot had become available at First Level too – I only found out two hours before the ride! I hadn’t schooled him at all as I’d arrived late the night before, but they fit my test into a ring break and somehow we managed to pull off the win. And then to come back the next day and win the Training Level Championship as well was too good to be true!”
Now Tidd is hooked on the Finals, and this year she hopes to make the eight-hour drive with not just Ellert (who now competes at the FEI small tour level), but also three of his stablemates: KWPN mare Evita (Reserve Champion at Second Level in 2016 who will now step up to Fourth Level and Prix St. Georges) and two young horses in L’Amour Fou and Budweiser, who Tidd hopes will qualify at Regionals for their very first trip to Kentucky.
Tidd will never forget the thrill of her unexpected success at the inaugural Finals. “It was surreal because never in a million years did I anticipate doing so well,” she remembered. “And now, coming back year after year, the show just gets better and better and the magic is just as memorable each and every time.”
Don’t miss your chance to make your own memories at the 2018 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, being held November 8-11 at the Kentucky Horse Park. Learn more at the US Dressage Finals website HERE. Join us!