By Jennifer M. Keeler

Grand Prix Adult Amateur Championship & Freestyle

He’s grumpy. She’s always cleaning up after him. They have spats, then make up. But when it’s all on the line at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, the self-described “old married couple” of Kristin Herzing and her equine partner Gentleman find a way to put aside their differences and work together to find success. Having traveled to Lexington four times in the last five years, the pair’s persistence paid off last November with their most successful Finals to date, earning Reserve Championship honors in both the Grand Prix Adult Amateur division and the Freestyle.

Kristin and Gentleman compete in one of the outside arenas at the Kentucky Horse Park (SusanJStickle.com)

“I try to make it a goal to come to Finals every year, and we’ve gotten better and better each time, even if last year my horse did try to put the ‘free’ into the freestyle,” joked Herzing, who hails from Harrisburg, Pa. (Region 1) and works as a business consultant with Verizon when not in the saddle. Her partner for the last 16 years is the opinionated Hanoverian gelding Gentleman (Grusus x Rumpelstilzchen by Raphael, bred in the U.S. by Kathryn and Jeffrey Nesbit).

“I purchased him as a green broke five-year-old,” Herzing remembered. “I had never shown in a recognized dressage competition and he had never competed. We did our first recognized show together in 2009, and since then we have competed at every level from Training to Grand Prix. I earned all of my USDF medals and Freestyle Bars on him.

“But we’re also a bit of a dysfunctional couple,” laughed Herzing, who explained how Gentleman doesn’t always live up to his name. “He’s a total prankster and we argue constantly. He has many tricks: he likes to hold water in his mouth and then soak me. He refuses to tie and gets loose at least once a year…and then comes to anyone but me. I’ve been head butted and pooped on more times than I can count. His favorite trick is slobbering on my back where I can’t see it, but everyone else can. Despite all this, I know I’m his favorite. When it’s time to go down centerline, he puts his game face on and I know that there’s no other horse I’d rather be riding. We’ll always have each other. My horse has done everything and owes me nothing, but he still comes out every day, (usually!) with a smile on his face.”

Kristen and Gentleman in their Grand Prix Championship Adult Amateur ride that earned them a reserve.

What does Herzing love most about coming to the US Dressage Finals? “I love the competition and I love to challenge myself,” she said. “The USDF, and the sponsors, and the organizers know how to put on a great event. I get to see top riders from around the country – last year I met Heather Blitz, George Williams and Debbie McDonald! There’s no other show like it. I also love the camaraderie among competitors – I’ve met many wonderful horsemen and made some great friends there.

“But in particular, the facility is fabulous and the Alltech Arena should be on every rider’s bucket list,” Herzing continued. “There is magical quality to this venue, and the US Dressage Finals is our Super Bowl, our World Series. If you are a serious adult amateur rider who truly wants to get the most out of yourself and your horse, this is the ultimate test. You may win or you may not, but the results are not the true payoff of this adventure. The payoff is finding something in you, and your horse, that you would have never imagined was there: the drive, the spirit, and the confidence to compete against the best riders from all over the country.”

So will we see the “old married couple” back in Kentucky this fall? “We’ve had a bit of a bump in the road this year – Gentleman had some nosebleeds this summer and we discovered an ethmoid hematoma. It was surgically removed recently and he’s recovering well,” Herzing explained. “But we haven’t missed the Regional Championships in nine years, and since we are already qualified again this year so we do plan to go to Regionals and hopefully be back in Kentucky! My horse and I have conquered many obstacles in our long time together and I’m not counting him out. Regionals and the Finals will always be on my calendar!”

The Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Dressage Championships are about to get underway! Don’t miss your chance to qualify for the US Dressage Finals – submit your declaration today at www.usdressagefinals.com, and thenremember to submit your nomination (the next step of the qualifying process) immediately following your Regional Championship show!

The US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® is a unique national head-to-head competition which offers a wealth of championship titles and over $100,000 in prize money, all while showcasing adult amateur and open riders from across the country in Training Level to Grand Prix. This year’s event will be held November 7-10 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, declare and nominate for the Finals, and sign up to receive news and updates, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.

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