Survival Guide: US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® Edition

Katie on Freyja of Riverview qualified at her regional championship. Photo by

By Katie Tharp-Hebert

After our Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Dressage Championships placing, everyone kept asking, “Are you going to go?” to which I replied, “Of course! Why wouldn’t I?”  Turns out, not everyone who qualifies goes, for a whole host of reasons.  It’s too far, it’s too cold, etc.  I desperately missed doing the big shows and was dying to get back into it.  We were used to long drives, but going from showing in almost 100 degrees in Houston for the Region 9 Championships, we were NOT mentally or physically prepared for the frozen tundra that is US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®.  We came away from the competition with many things to do “next year.”  Here are a few tips we picked up to have a successful and stress-free show.

Nominate and pay your entry ASAP for indoor stabling!

 The nomination is a placeholder of sorts for your entry.  You haven’t filled it out yet or paid in full, but you intend to, and like Cinderella, it has to be done by midnight 96 hours after the last day of Regionals.  Come to find out, there is a limited amount of heated indoor stabling, and you have to complete your entry quickly to secure it.  Apparently, I didn’t know how fast “quickly” meant.  Region 9 Championships ended on Oct. 6.  I completed our entry on the 8th and didn’t get into the barns. If this happens, though, you will receive a refund for the difference 30 days after the show.   

Bring every blanket you own, and maybe two others.

You think I’m kidding.  Cold, rain, wind…chances are you will experience all of it at some point during the competition.  I also learned that just because it says waterproof doesn’t mean that it is waterproof.  Even, consistent light rain soaked my mare’s blanket all the way through, and we had to double up two of her other blankets for the first night’s freeze to let the other one dry out.   I suggest bringing two heavy blankets (if you have them) to rotate them out or invest in an actual rain turnout sheet to put over the heavy blanket when hand walking or grazing. Also, if your hotel has a guest laundry room, make use of it and dry that sucker!     

Facility maps are a must!

Competing at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The Kentucky Horse Park is HUGE, and you do not want to be driving around aimlessly with a horse trailer, or walking through the rain trying to find your way.   Trailer parking is very far away from the barns, so if you plan to leave some things in your trailer and get them out as needed, I would keep this in mind. 

Dress for the occasion.

Our championship class was outside, at the end of the day (getting dark) in the rain at 38-ish degrees and dropping rapidly. To say that my joints were not working correctly is an understatement.  I suggest investing in winter show breeches or long underwear.  But test them with your boots to make sure everything still fits, and you’re able to function in them.  Remember, not every championship class is held in the dry, climate-controlled Alltech arena, and you may get rained on.  Invest in a transparent or conservative color raincoat (per USEF rules) and pack it in your trunk.

Beware of ice.

Most of the Kentucky Horse Park is paved with blacktop.  Combine that with the possibility of rain, hoses dripping, the emptying of water buckets, and large animals with shoes, and you have a very slippery situation. If you’re emptying water buckets, consider throwing them out in the grass or into the large drains in the roads.  Make sure that when turning off your hoses that you empty them out into a bucket or drain.  KHP also installed a lovely lighted walkway with synthetic grass to give horses and riders a safe slip-free place to walk.  As riders and owners, our horse’s safety is of the utmost importance.

I’ll be the first to admit that, in the past, I was not always the most prepared. And after years of competing, I’ve learned to lessen stressors, starting with the things that are within our control.  I wish you all the best of luck in your Championship endeavors for 2020.     

Katie Tharp-Hebert is a professional dressage rider and trainer. A former US Advanced Young Rider and USDF Silver Medalist, Katie owns and operates Runnymede Farm in South Louisiana.


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