By Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals
It’s often said that nothing matters more than family, and in one of the toughest divisions at this year’s US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® being held November 7-10 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., “family” came through for Angela Jackson.
Against a field of almost 30 competitors in an Intermediate I Open Championship class that was so competitive it resembled a dressage version of “Survivor”, Jackson of Henderson, Ky. (Region 2) knew who she could count on to earn her the victory with a top score of 72.157%: her nine-year-old Zweibrucker gelding Figaro H (Fantasmic x Romina H by River H), a horse she not only bred but has brought up through the Young Horse ranks to the FEI level (watch their winning ride HERE).
“This is definitely special for me, because he’s family. He represents five generations of horses we’ve bred and ridden,” she said. “I think what helped give us the edge today is that he was very focused. He’s finally growing up to where he’s focused on his work, and I can ride from movement to movement to movement and really have a beginning and end to each one. Today, right from the get-go until we went down the final centerline, he felt really with me.”
Mike Suchanek of Blaine, Minn. (Region 4) was also delighted with his Reserve Championship ride (71.520%) aboard Hero L, a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (His Highness x Waterlily L by Wolkenstein II) bred in the U.S. by Leatherdale Farms and owned by Louise Leatherdale. “He has a special place in our hearts at the farm, and in mine as well – he’s the first youngster I ever started when I began working at Leatherdale Farms,” he explained. “I thought we had good harmony and a really nice connection throughout the whole ride today, and that made it special too.”
Gimbel Claims Intermediate I Adult Amateur Championship
Five years ago, Amy Gimbel of Oldwick, N.J. (Region 8) and her young KWPN mare Eye Candy (UB-40 x Wednesday by Weltmeyer, bred in the U.S. by Judy Barrett) came to the US Dressage Finals for the very first time and went home with the Training Level Adult Amateur Championship title. Through subsequent years of ups and downs, victory and disappointment, the pair’s journey has once again brought them back to Lexington, and now jumping up into the FEI levels Gimbel and her mount found the winner’s circle again in the Intermediate I Adult Amateur Championship with a top score of 72.794% (read more about their story in the Why I Love the Finals series on YourDressage.org HERE).
“From the time I got on today, everything just worked,” said Gimbel. “We longed her a little bit today to get some of the sass out, and despite some adjustments with ring and time changes and the very cold conditions, it all just melded together quite well. The test had a very nice flow to it and I feel really lucky to be here and to have a great ride on a day like today.”
Finishing on Gimbel’s heels for Reserve honors was another Finals veteran in Bonnie Canter of Hockley, Texas (Region 9) and her Connemara/Hanoverian cross mare Fifinella GCF (Fred Astaire x South Ridge Bliss by South Ridge Duncan’s Honor, bred in the U.S. by Sharon Garner) with 71.520%. “Despite the cold the footing was wonderful, and even though you never quite know what you’re going to get with Fifi, she really did a great job today,” Canter laughed. “The fact that she was quite sick this winter and we weren’t sure if we’d ever have her here again makes it all that much more special.”
Cross-Country Journey Proves Worthwhile for Towne in Fourth Level Adult Amateur Championship
Unfortunately sun and balmy temperatures didn’t travel across the country from southern California when Jocelyn Towne made the trip to her first Finals from her home in Los Angeles (Region 7), but nevertheless, with heat packets literally in hand, she rode her nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding Bandini (Bon Fatious x Shakira by Sandro Hit) to victory in the Fourth Level Adult Amateur Championship with 70.833%.
“I admit I was dreading my ride today because of the cold, but I got out there all suited up, the adrenaline kicks in, and you just do it,” Towne said. “I was waiting at the airport after Regionals in September and I ran into some other people from the show. I said to them, ‘I don’t know if I should go to the Finals, it’s such a big trip.’ And they looked at me and said, ‘If you get the opportunity and can afford to do it, you’ll never regret the experience.’ And I thought, that’s it, I’m going to do it, how many times do you get that kind of opportunity? Now I hope to come back again someday.”
Finishing with Reserve honors was Region 2’s Elisabeth Ritz of Pepper Pike, Ohio and her nine-year-old KWPN gelding Fairmount (Sir Oldenburgh x S by Highline) with 70.185%. “Being from northeastern Ohio, I’m a little more used to this kind of climate so the cold didn’t bother me so much,” she laughed. “It was one of those tests where it felt really good and all came together. We are all so appreciative of how thoughtful all of the officials have been about making adjustments and always thinking about what’s best for horses and riders, and how hard they’ve worked here.”
Good Behavior Earns Third Level Open Freestyle Championship for Roth and Serengeti
Kicking off the morning in the Alltech Arena with the Third Level Open Freestyle Championship, Jennifer Roth of Pataskala, Ohio (Region 2) rode her 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding Serengeti (Sir Donnerhall x Feldbunte by Painter’s Row) to the win with 73.711% for their Game of Thrones-themed performance.
“I think being able to ride in the heated Alltech Arena really helped us,” Roth laughed. “He can be quirky but he kept all four feet on the ground today. Just a year ago I purchased him sight unseen off of a video – I don’t recommend it! – and we took a chance but he came with some ‘special’ antics. The first show we went to I couldn’t get him down centerline. But he was great today and got lots of cookies for good behavior.”
The pair just edged out last year’s Second Level Open Freestyle winners Kathryn Fleming-Kuhn of New Berlin, Ill. (Region 4) and her homebred Swedish Warmblood gelding Washburn SW (Wolkentanz II x Opal) with 73.356% (read more about their story in the Why I Love the Finals series on YourDressage.org HERE). She and her husband Martin Kuhn brought 11 horses to the show this year, but this in particular was a bittersweet ride for Fleming-Kuhn as Washburn was recently sold, so the pair are enjoying their last show together. “We love the Finals and love the atmosphere,” said Fleming-Kuhn. “It has its challenges with the weather but still feels like an international competition, and especially for our amateur clients this is the only place that they get an experience like that.”
Malpartida Braves the Chill to Win Second Level Adult Amateur Championship
Christine Malpartida of St. Petersburg, Fla. (Region 3) is having a great start to this year’s US Dressage Finals as she bested more than 20 competitors in the Second Level Adult Amateur Championship aboard her eight-year-old Hanoverian gelding Freudentänzer (Fürst Nymphenburg x Design-RA by Donnerhall) with a score of 71.508%. This was the pair’s second Finals victory as they had previously claimed the Training Level Adult Amateur title in 2017.
“It’s tough when you come from 80-90 degrees at home to working in 30 degrees, so my horse warmed up quite tight today but we did a lot of suppling work to get him solid and ready for the ring,” Malpartida explained. “My trainer found him for me five years ago in a small barn in Germany – she instantly fell in love with him and knew he’d be right for me.”
Also falling in love with her mount right from the start was Reserve Champion Jennifer Van de Loo of Holly Springs, Miss. (Region 3), who earned 69.563% with her nine-year-old New Forest Pony gelding Duke of the Dawn (Aladin x Wielgerma’s Mayke by Mikel). “He’s my first pony ever – I’ve only had big horses before,” Van de Loo noted. “I bought him off the internet, sight unseen. I saw his video online and was like ‘oh my God!’ He had such a forward-going energy and obviously wanted to do it. So I took a chance and the rest is history.”
Tarjan Now Two For Two at Finals, Claims Grand Prix Adult Amateur Championship
Just like last year, Alice Tarjan of Oldwick, N.J. (Region 8) and her nine-year-old Hanoverian mare Candescent (Christ x Farina by Falkenstern II) are on a roll at the US Dressage Finals. After winning yesterday’s Intermediate II Adult Amateur division, the pair returned to the Alltech Arena to successfully defend yet another 2018 title, this time in the Grand Prix Adult Amateur Championship with a score of 70.797% for another unanimous victory and claim the George W. Wagner Jr. Perpetual Trophy (presented by the International Georgian Grande Horse Registry).
Despite her success, Tarjan is quick to emphasize that she’s embracing experiences like the Finals to learn how her young mare handles the rigors of big shows for the future. “In the past she might get a little more electric after the first day because of the excitement,” Tarjan explained. “But this year it seems like she gets better as she goes through the competition. We’re still trying to figure out what works best for her. So I try to work as much as I can on the relaxation in the warm-up, and I ride the horse I have.”
Also finding success for the second year in a row was Region 1 rider Kristin Herzing of Harrisburg, Pa. and her Hanoverian gelding Gentleman (Grusus x Rumpelstilzchen by Raphael, bred in the U.S. by Kathryn and Jeffrey Nesbit), who were Reserve Champions at this level last year and were featured in this fall’s Why I Love the Finals series on YourDressage.org (read their story HERE). The self-described “old married couple” scored 64.022% for Reserve Champion honors despite having only a seven-week turnaround from surgery to the Regional Championships. “Our test was pretty good – we didn’t have any mistakes and I was happy. He knows his job and he just likes to show up,” Herzing laughed. “He had a couple of weeks off after his surgery to remove a hematoma in his face, but as soon as he started running around like a nut I knew it was time to put him back to work, and everything just kind of fell into place.”
Young Talent Tops Training Level Open Championship
In a tough Training Level Open Championship class, it would take a score higher than 70% just to place in the top six, but two promising U.S.-bred youngsters were up for the challenge. In the experienced hands of Martin Kuhn of New Berlin, Ill. (Region 4), the five-year-old KWPN gelding Jameson SW (Chippendale x Dulcinea BF by Don Primero, bred and owned by Martin Kuhn and Kathryn Fleming-Kuhn) earned an impressive score of 74.483% to win his first Finals title. Despite frigid conditions, Kuhn was happy his mount maintained his composure for a top performance. “My boy was definitely feeling his oats a little bit, but he stayed with me the whole time,” Kuhn noted. “The first diagonal produced a rather buoyant trot but I was pleased with that and he carried it right through.” (Read more about the Kuhns in the Why I Love the Finals series on YourDressage.org HERE).
Despite being only four years old, the young Oldenburg mare Royal Heiress (Rock Solid x Hermes by Hofrat) earned 73.678% and Reserve honors for owner/breeder Robert Jackson, and rider Angela Jackson of Henderson, Ky. (Region 2) was also pleased. “I rode her sire and her uncle, so this is little bit of a family affair for me too,” she explained. “Despite being only four, she has a really good temperament. We took her out to longe a little this morning, took her back to her stall for a nap, and then she went out and did her job.”
Koford and Adiah HP Successfully Defend Grand Prix Open Championship Title
As soon as James Koford of Winston-Salem, N.C. (Region 1) came down centerline for his final salute aboard the 12-year-old Friesian Sporthorse Adiah HP (Nico x Marije ANT by Anton, owned and bred in the U.S. by Sherry Koella), the enthusiastic crowd in the Alltech Arena could no longer contain itself and erupted in thunderous applause. The judges were also impressed as they awarded Koford and the colorful mare the Veronica Holt Perpetual Trophy (presented by USDF Region 5 & Friends) for the Grand Prix Open Championship for the second year in a row with 69.058% (watch their winning ride HERE).
“I’m so proud of her – she’s had a bit of a challenging fall since we’ve been doing a lot of traveling and showing,” said Koford after the win. “We used to do it on adrenaline- my heart would be beating and her heart would be beating. Now I feel like we know what we’re doing. She understands the exercises with confidence and she knows what to do in the ring. Now it’s all about showing off.”
Two years ago, Michael Bragdell of Colora, Md. (Region 8) rode Hilltop Farm, Inc.’s 11-year-old Oldenburg stallion Qredit Hilltop (Quaterback x Dream Rubina by Dream of Glory, bred in the U.S. by Judy Yancey) to win the Intermediate II Open title at the Finals, and on Friday night the pair returned to the Alltech Arena to earn Reserve honors in the Grand Prix Open Championship with a score of 68.370%. “We go back quite a bit,” said Bragdell of his mount. “I started him under saddle and showed him at Devon as a yearling where he was Grand Champion. It’s been a fun journey and an interesting one – you learn as you go.”
Watch archived streaming videos of Championship classes on the USEF Network HERE. Championship competition resumes Saturday – follow the action through updates on the USDF Facebook page and the US Dressage Finals website, as well as watch live online streaming on the USEF Network. To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review day sheets and results, and read daily news releases, visit the official event website at http://www.usdressagefinals.com.
To see the coverage from the third day of competition click here.