By Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals
Music filled the air across the Kentucky Horse Park on the final day of competition as horses and riders danced their way to new national titles at the 2019 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® held November 7-10 in Lexington, Ky.
Among the victors was Beth Parsons Bird of Southern Pines, N.C. (Region 1) who won the Third Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship aboard her 13-year-old KWPN gelding Fahrenheit (Florenco I x Revanche by Rivero II) with a winning score of 70.922%. “I was very nervous going in since this is my first year doing a freestyle,” she admitted. “I initially wanted some happy, upbeat music but it didn’t fit my horse at all, so my freestyle designer Cynthia Collins picked out music from Power Rangers and Call of Duty. It’s very dark but it fits him well. It wasn’t what I wanted at first but now I love it.”
Parsons Bird found her way back to the saddle after taking some time off for family, and if it wasn’t for her mother and trainer Lucy Parsons she may never have cantered down victory lane at the Finals. “Right before Thanksgiving three years ago, I called my mom to ask her what she was bringing to Thanksgiving dinner. She said ‘I’m going to Germany to find a horse,’ and off she went and she found Fahrenheit,” Parsons Bird laughed. “I had had six years off from riding and two children via C-section, so I was really unfit. I could barely ride a centerline straight! It took a good year to get back in shape, but we’ve been really solid all year.”
Less than one-tenth of a point out of the lead, Heather Fultz of Land O Lakes, Fl. (Region 3) and her 10-year-old Oldenburg mare SS Seraphina returned to the Finals to earn Reserve Championship honors with 70.889%. “To me, musical freestyles are the best because I’m a music teacher, so I love to ride along to the music. I put the music together and did the choreography, so during the ride I am all smiles,” Fultz said of her Beauty and the Beast-themed performance. “It’s such a great experience to be here at the Finals. Everyone is so kind and it’s wonderful to meet new people. Every time I come back I think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m here!'”
Region 8 Riders Sweep Top Spots in First Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship
A field of 25 competitors enjoyed the fall sunshine in the Murphy Ring for the First Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship, and emerging victorious with 70.911% was Elizabeth Charpentier Allwein of Pawling, N.Y. (Region 8) with her own seven-year-old KWPN gelding Heart Throb SCF (Jazz x Divine SCF by Krack C, bred in the U.S. by Carlos and Karin Jimenez). Not bad for someone who, before qualifying for the Finals, didn’t really have any interest in doing a freestyle.
“This is just unbelievable,” said an emotional Charpentier Allwein. “I never believed we could even do a freestyle let alone at the Finals until Heather Mason pushed me to do it. We chose music by Harry Connick Jr. and from Stand By Me because I love how the rhythm matches my horse so well and has a happy sound to it. He was so good – I’ve had him since he was two and a half and I started him myself at home. We’ve had our challenges but he’s such a wonderful horse and a lot of fun.”
Finishing less than a tenth of a point out of the top spot with a score of 70.867% was Reserve Champion Jennifer Miranda of New York, N.Y. (Region 8) with her own six-year-old Oldenburg mare Hhemlock (Hotline x Lhoretta by Loerke, bred in the U.S. by Maureen Swanson). “This is our second time here at the Finals and once again it’s been fabulous, the show is amazing and the management and volunteers are so awesome,” said Miranda. “My horse is only six but she was really on the aids and listening to me and held her own today.”
80% Score Earns Zwilling the First Level Open Freestyle Championship Title
One of the most talked-about classes of the day came on Sunday afternoon in the Alltech Arena as 25 horses and riders fought it out in the First Level Open Freestyle Championship. Ultimately it would take a score of more than 70% to even make it into the top ten, but it was a whopping score of 80.111% that gave the title to Brianna Zwilling of Wentzville, Mo. (Region 4) with Sally Miller’s nine-year-old KWPN mare For Dea Bella (Don Schufro x A Royal Diamond MC by Royal Diamond, bred in the U.S. by Wendy Sherlock).
“It is beyond words. To earn a score like that in this kind of atmosphere and from three top judges, it was a dream come true,” said Zwilling after the win. “I love doing freestyles, so her owner and I worked a lot on choreography that would be creative and different, with music that suited her. She’s a really elastic and balanced horse so we wanted to come up with something that would show off her skills. She came to me as a green five-year-old and this is her third time at Finals, but she’s super grown-up this year and has really come into her own.”
Also posting an impressive score of 77.667% was Jenna Upchurch of Chesterfield, Mo. (Region 4), thereby claiming her second Reserve Championship title of the week aboard her own six-year-old Oldenburg gelding Dante Divino (Dante Weltino x Force Majeure by Furst Romancier). The score was a personal best for Upchurch, who created the successful freestyle herself. “My horse was actually pretty nervous about the Alltech Arena when we went in, but I put my leg on and he followed me through it, and I was really proud of him and we ended up with a really nice flow to our test,” she explained.
2017 Champion Returns to Finals for Fourth Level Open Freestyle Championship
Former Second Level Open Freestyle Champions Hailey Guard of Huntersville, N.C. (Region 1) and her 11-year-old KWPN mare Dalwhinney (UB-40 x Windsor CA by Warkanson, bred in the U.S. by Susen Shumaker) came back to the Finals to earn another title, this time in the Fourth Level Open Freestyle Championship with a winning score of 73.256%.
“For the last two years we used music from the Nutcracker which is a nice light type of music that suited my mare’s floaty movement style, so this year we used music from the Peter Pan soundtrack because it was along the same lines,” Guard explained. “Today we were right on our timing in the test, and I was particularly proud of our pirouettes which have been a little bit of a work in progress, as well as our changes that were super straight.”
After earning top honors in the Third Level Open Freestyle division on Friday, Jennifer Roth of Pataskala, Ohio (Region 2) and her self-described “quirky” 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding Serengeti (Sir Donnerhall x Feldbunte by Painter’s Row) also added the Fourth Level Open Freestyle Reserve title to their growing resume with 71.700%. “It was breezy out there so the atmosphere was electric, but once again he was a very good boy and contained his enthusiasm until the very end,” she laughed. “I was thrilled because it was probably the best ride I’ve had on him all year. It’s always great just to qualify to be here let alone do so well and have so much fun with my entire team.”
Frederick Takes Training Level Adult Amateur Championship Home to California
A tough field of 25 horses and riders trotted down centerline in the Claiborne Arena on Sunday morning for the Training Level Adult Amateur Championship, but rising above the crowd was new Finals champion Kimberly Frederick of Lincoln, Cal. (Region 7) with her five-year-old Hanoverian mare Fantastica CS (Furst Romancier x Lady Lieselo by Londonderry) with a top score of 70.172%.
Frederick decided to come to Kentucky for the first time with barn mates and trainers Kevin and Ericka Reinig. “We have a great camaraderie at the barn and that made a journey like this so enjoyable,” Frederick said. “Overall, I just had fun today. My mare was such a good girl, I was pleased with everything about my ride and I couldn’t ask for more. I’ve enjoyed my entire experience this weekend. I want to be a better rider and so I wanted to come here and compete against the best.”
Jeanne Brose of Minneapolis, Minn. (qualified in Region 2) rode her six-year-old KWPN gelding IL Divo (Bon Bravour x Deluna by Kansas C) to a close second with 70.057%. “He’s a young horse too and we had to work through some nerves early in the week, but today he was calm and confident when we went into the ring and we had a very nice ride,” Brose explained. “It’s such an incredible opportunity to see the best of the best riders and participate in such an electric environment. It’s an honor to be here.”
Reflection Comes Out On Top in Second Level Open Championship
Donna Gatchell of Nokesville, Va. (Region 1) was already pleased with her 2019 Finals experience after winning Reserve honors in the previous day’s Second Level Open Freestyle division. But she was even more thrilled after returning to the ring on Sunday and win the Second Level Open Championship with Margaret Groom’s six-year-old 14.3-hand Weser-Ems mare Reflection (Ridley x Royal Beauty by Farmer, bred in the U.S. by Chris Rush) with an impressive winning score of 73.452%.
“She really went in there and stepped up today, and even sort of surprised me because some of the movements that have been a little tricky for her in the past were just super today,” Gatchell said of her mount. “She’s been here for five days and is young but she was still so with me today. I got her when she was only 30 days under saddle, and this never really was the plan for her but she kept eating up her training and evolving. She has such a super character and is probably the easiest horse I’ve ever had to train, and I’m very blessed to get to ride her.”
After winning two championship titles in the span of less than an hour on Saturday, Martin Kuhn of New Berlin, Ill. (Region 4) and his and his wife Kathryn’s Hanoverian gelding Ronin (Romanov Blue Hor x Something Royal by Sir Donnerhall I, bred in the U.S. by Marcia Boeing) added one last Reserve Championship to their impressive roster with 72.698%. “It was a perfectly pleasant test, just not quite as energetic and elastic as usual. I’m still so proud of him but the better horse won today,” Kuhn noted.
Gimbel Wins Hard-Fought Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur Championship
After earning top honors in the Intermediate I Adult Amateur division earlier in the week, Finals veteran Amy Gimbel and her longtime partner Eye Candy (10-year-old KWPN mare [UB-40 x Wednesday by Weltmeyer], bred in the U.S. by Judy Barrett) proved they weren’t ready to head home to New Jersey without one more title. The Region 8 pair topped 25 rivals in the Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur Championship with a score of 71.373% to earn the coveted Janine Westmoreland Malone Perpetual Trophy (presented by USDF) – watch their winning ride HERE.
“Candy has been super all weekend and I’m very fortunate – it will take some time to digest the fact that I won two national championship titles this weekend,” said Gimbel. “I’m going right back to work tomorrow – that’s one of the realities of being an adult amateur! – but soon all of this will set in and I can’t wait to reflect on my time here at the Finals.”
Less than 24 hours after achieving a dream with a national title in the Intermediate I Adult Amateur Freestyle division, Region 7’s Ruth Shirkey of Livermore, Cal. returned to the Alltech Arena with her nine-year-old Hanoverian mare Wyleigh Princess (Weltmeyer x Heiress B by His Highness, bred in the U.S. by Cheryl Johnson) to earn Reserve honors with 70.843%. “Of all things I had an error in my walk which cost me a one point deduction per judge,” she chuckled. “Despite that, she gave me some lovely moments. It’s been a long 10 days for us and we took turns carrying each other today, but she’s a super competitor and it was a great joint effort.”
Bragdell Perseveres in Prix St. Georges Open Championship
Despite battling the flu all week, Region 8 rider Michael Bragdell of Colora, Md. had already earned several top honors with various mounts over the course of this year’s Finals. But before heading home to Maryland, he captured one last title by riding Hilltop Farm Inc.’s nine-year-old Hanoverian stallion Sternlicht Hilltop (Soliman de Hus x Rhapsody GGF by Rascalino, bred in the U.S. by Rachel Ehrlich) to victory in the Prix St. Georges Open Championship with 72.500%, earning the Miki Christophersen Perpetual Trophy (presented by USDF Region 4).
“He felt good the first day in the Intermediate I and each day he’s gotten better and better,” Bragdell said of his partner. “Everything came together today – the weather was beautiful this morning and he felt great! We purchased him as a three-year-old stallion and it’s been an interesting journey to bring him through the levels.”
Also from Region 8, Bridget Hay of Flemington, N.J. was also pleased with the Reserve Championship performance of 70.833% aboard her homebred eight-year-old Oldenburg mare Fauna (Freestyle x Guinevere by Governeur) owned by Amy Price. “Fauna is only eight so she’s just gaining experience, but for a young horse she has a crazy work ethic and I’m very happy with her,” said Hay. “She was a little backed off in the other tests in the Alltech Arena, but today I felt she was more comfortable riding outside. She felt fantastic and I am absolutely thrilled.”
Region 2 Claims 2019 US Dressage Finals Regions Cup
Adding to the excitement of the final day, the top-scoring riders in various divisions from each of the Great American/USDF Regional Championships competed on regional teams in the US Dressage Finals Regions Cup, vying with competitors from across the country for awards and bragging rights for their respective USDF Region in which they qualified to attend the Finals. Coming out on top after four days of championship competition was the Region 2 team comprised of Angela Jackson with Royal Heiress, Elisabeth Ritz and Fairmount, and Angela Jackson aboard Figaro H. Their winning average score of 72.007% just edged out reserve champions Region 8 with 71.343% and third-placed Region 4 finishing on 71.244%.
On a final note, after sweeping the Intermediate II, Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle Adult Amateur Championships earlier in the week, Alice Tarjan of Oldwick, N.J. (Region 8) and her nine-year-old Hanoverian mare Candescent (Christ x Farina by Falkenstern II) were presented with the Lloyd Landkamer Perpetual Trophy for FEI Highest Scoring Mare (presented by Janet Foy).
Watch archived streaming videos of Championship classes on the USEF Network HERE. Follow the action through updates on the USDF Facebook page and the US Dressage Finals website. 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 first day of competition click here.