By Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals
Julia McDonald, of Byron Center, Mich. had a wonderful experience at the 2021 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, held November 11-14 at the Kentucky Horse Park. In her first trip to Lexington with her 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Lehndorff Van Vogelzang (Quaterback x Dolce Vita VD Vogelzang by De Niro), the Region 2 junior rider not only faced open company to claim the Third Level Open Freestyle title on Friday, but returned to the ring on the final day of Finals competition to cruise to victory in the inaugural Fourth Level Junior/Young Rider Championship with a score of 73.565%.
Watch the entire class on-demand from the USEF Network HERE.
But just like her rocky warm-up class for the Third Level Freestyle earlier in the week, McDonald had a bit of a scary experience in preparation for her competition debut in the Alltech Arena. “There was a loose horse in our awards ceremony in the Alltech on Friday, so I was a little worried having to go back in there for today’s test,” McDonald explained. “But we had another warm-up class yesterday in an outside arena and there wasn’t any spooking – he was perfect, which gave me a bit more of a confidence boost for today, plus I really like riding the Fourth Level test.”
As she is aging out of the FEI Junior division and looks to move up to Young Riders, McDonald believes that her Finals experience will work to her benefit. “I definitely think that coming here helps me prepare for the bigger shows, and doing so well makes me more optimistic for the future,” she noted. “I would encourage other juniors and young riders to come to the Finals too, because you meet so many new people and see how they do and what they do. Watching all the open riders and professionals is just amazing and a great learning opportunity, plus it’s just a super fun show. I’d like to thank USDF and all of the sponsors for making this incredible show possible for riders like me.”
McDonald was also presented with an Uvex helmet as recipient of the inaugural US Dressage Finals High Score Junior/Young Rider Award, awarded to the highest-scoring Junor/Young Rider in their Championship classes.
A Dressage Newcomer Claims Second Level Junior/Young Rider Championship
Audrey Allen of Boulder, Colo. (Region 5) joined McDonald as one of almost 70 competitors who took advantage of the new Junior/Young Rider divisions offered for Training through Fourth Levels at this year’s US Dressage Finals. And despite being a newcomer to dressage, Allen braved a 25-hour trip to Lexington to embrace the opportunity and ultimately claim the Second Level Junior/Young Rider Championship with a score of 69.921% earned with her nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Hugo Boss.
“This entire experience has been really cool – it’s one of the biggest venues I’ve ever been to,” Allen exclaimed. “This is my first show season and I’m very new to dressage. I’ve been around horses most of my life but mostly did pleasure riding, so when I found my trainer and she introduced me to dressage and I thought, ‘well this is fun!’ I only had two shows in 2019 with a little Quarter Horse before I got Hugo Boss about six months ago, so it’s been a short amount of time that we’ve been together and it’s been great. Coming to the Finals has been a great experience and well worth the trip, and I hope there will be many more.”
Albrecht’s Long Journey Also Proves Worthwhile in Earning Training Level Junior/Young Rider Championship
It’s daunting for anyone to consider making a cross-country drive to pursue their dreams. Now imagine being just 19 years old with three horses on the trailer, driving three days from California to Kentucky through 75mph winds and freezing cold just to have the chance to compete on the national stage. That’s exactly what Josh Albrecht, of Oroville, Cal. (Region 7) did, and he was rewarded for his efforts with a national title in the Training Level Junior/Young Rider Championship aboard Lisa Cieri-Welsh’s five-year-old Oldenburg mare San Heinrich RF (Sandro Hit x Furstin Nordica by Furst Heinrich, bred in the U.S. by Debra MacMillan) with a score of 71.092%.
Albrecht has big goals, and he believes that despite the difficulties, embracing opportunities like competing at the US Dressage Finals is key to his future success. “Everything here has been wonderful from the beautiful arenas to the level of competition,” he explained. “Even though we had to ride in the rain one day, it’s such an incredible opportunity to be here. My goal is to do the FEI Young Riders division and I realize that this is invaluable experience not only for me but also for my horses, and it’s been wonderful to be a part of it. The trip was absolutely worth it.”
Anderson Improvises to Take Third Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship
The long drive back to Erie, Colo. from Kentucky will also seem shorter for Taryn Anderson (Region 5) after claiming top honors in the Third Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship with Tammy Anderson’s seven-year-old Oldenburg gelding Fürst Romanov (First Choice x Florell by Romanov Blue Hors) on the strength of a score of 71.356%.
“Our ride was actually a little interesting today because he was terrified of the score board,” Anderson explained, who handles accounting for her family’s construction company when not in the saddle. “So I had to improvise a little bit because I couldn’t go into that corner. Despite that he was such a good boy, and I felt like I finally got him where I need him to be in the show ring. I don’t always get the ‘forward’ in the arena but I had it today. We’ve only been together since February and this is his first show season, so it’s a never-ending process of learning, but competing in CDI’s is our goal and coming here was part of the plan to get him ready for that.”
A Triumphant Return to the Finals for Perkins in Fourth Level Open Freestyle Championship
Ashley Perkins, of Landrum, S.C. (Region 1) made her first trip to the US Dressage Finals in 2013 where she had such a wonderful experience that she hoped to come back year after year. But fate got in the way as a progressive and ultimately deadly illness prevented her Grand Prix horse from being able to continue to compete. Finally able to return to Lexington this year, Perkins made her comeback a triumphant one as she claimed the Fourth Level Open Freestyle Championship with 72.300% aboard the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Eastpoint JS (Westpoint x Anoque by Prestige VDL).
Watch the entire class on-demand from the USEF Network HERE.
“Eastpoint JS is owned by Barbara Bezpa, and he was spot on today, just perfect,” said Perkins. “He loved the Alltech Arena, where he was relaxed but energetic. This is the first formal freestyle that I have done here because I haven’t ridden at the Finals since 2013, and the whole experience was just as good as I remember. My horse does tend to get a little tense but only because he tries so hard, and today he pulled it off without a hitch, and I think our changes were a great highlight. We have music from ‘Hamilton’ which I just love. I had sent it to my friend Vefele Petruik in the hope that we could use it for a freestyle, and she did such an amazing job, it worked out perfectly.”
Anderson and Roy Claim First Level Freestyle Championships
Fie Studnitz Anderson of Sherborn, Mass. (Region 8) has been on a roll at this year’s Finals with her five-year-old Oldenburg gelding Equito’s Fürsten Hit (Fursten-Look x German Classic by Sir Donnerhall I). Earlier in the week, the pair claimed the Training Level Open title, then trotted into the impressive atmosphere of the Alltech Arena to claim the First Level Open Freestyle Championship with a top score of 74.578%. Fie and Equito’s Fürsten Hit secured the Top Hat Perpetual Trophy (presented by Janet Foy) with a combined average score of 73. 748%. The pair earned a 74.578% in the Open First Level Freestyle Championships and a 72.917% in the Open First Level Championships.
“I have to admit this was an interesting ride because he was a bit tired from the week of competing, but he still showed up and did what he needed to do,” Anderson explained. “I didn’t have a brilliant ride but he did everything I asked. Even if he didn’t have that extra spark, you can’t ask for more than that. My music is from ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ which I love because when I was hunting for freestyle music for him, I happened to come across it and thought it was just quirky enough to work. And my horse just loves it.”
The second time’s a charm as Emily Roy traveled to the Finals from Round Rock, Texas to take home the First Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship with a score of 74.244% earned aboard her 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Santana (EX Sonntagskind x E Atlanta by ES Akatschi). “I purchased him from my trainer Jenna Stern who not only bred him, but who also introduced me to dressage from the hunter/jumper world,” Roy explained. “This is our second time coming to the Finals – we finished in eighth place at this level in 2019 and now it feels really special to win and build his confidence for the future.”
Wallace and Kruemmling Share Training Level Adult Amateur Championship
With a huge class of 40 competitors in the Training Level Adult Amateur Championship, it took a score of at least 69% to simply earn a top ten ribbon. So it seems only fitting that the top honor of 2021 Champion would ultimately be shared by two Finals first-timers.
With almost six hours of rides in the picturesque Stonelea Arena, Anna Wallace of Knoxville, Tenn. (Region 2) was part of the early group of competitors to trot down centerline, setting the bar high with an impressive score of 71.552% aboard her six-year-old Trakehner mare Kalaska. That mark held atop the leaderboard almost to the very end, when Kathryn Kruemmling of Pottstown, Pa. (Region 1) rode her six-year-old Oldenburg mare Dhreamgirl (Dheputy x Ghodiva by Gold Luck, bred in the U.S. by Maurine Swanson) to match Wallace’s score and share championship honors.
“This has been such an amazing experience and the facility is incredible,” said Kruemmling. “This is my mare’s first year out at the big shows and I’m so pleased with how she’s done. I bought her as a yearling and we came through those rough youngster years together. Now five years later I’m so proud of her and how far we’ve come.”
Even though Wallace has only had her mare for four months, she was equally proud of Kalaska’s performance. “I’ve heard so much about the Finals but I never expected to be here. It’s been like a fairy tale,” Wallace explained. “This summer I wasn’t really looking for a new mount but one day my coach called and said, ‘I have your horse.’ It turns out she was right and it couldn’t have been a better fit. After Regionals I asked my coach again if I should come to the Finals, and she told me quite definitively that since I qualified, of course I had to come! And I’m so glad I did.”
Watts and Kohmann Earn Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur and Open Championships
Capping off an incredible weekend of competition was the highly-competitive Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur Championship, where Ashlee Watts (Region 9) saved the best for almost last in a field of more than 30 combinations, moving to the top of the leaderboard with 68.088% to earn the coveted Janine Westmoreland Malone Perpetual Trophy (presented by USDF) aboard her 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Hampton (Blue Hors Hotline x Madigan L).
“My horse is just so good and absolutely amazing,” said an emotional Watts, who works as an equine orthopedic surgeon in College Station, Texas. “We’ve been together since he was five and we won the First Level title here in 2016, so it’s crazy to be here now. We were outside today in the cold and wind for our test and he was spooky and wild at first, but he just perked up and went to work for the test. I can’t say enough how amazing he is.”
Coming on the heels of their impressive Intermediate I victory earlier in the week, Kevin Kohmann of Wellington, Fla. and Equitas LLC’s 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Five Star (Amazing Start x U-Padoeska PB by Jazz) returned to the ring to once again earn a decisive victory, this time in the Prix St. Georges Open Championship to win the Miki Christophersen Perpetual Trophy (presented by USDF Region 4) with a score of 74.412%. Despite the chilly and damp conditions in the vast Rolex Arena, the talented pair seemed to dance though each movement with ease and was completely fearless as to the elements that Mother Nature presented.
Barteau Strikes Again in Second Level Open Championship
After cruising to victory in the previous day’s First Level Open title, Kassandra Barteau of Bell, Fla. (Region 3) and her seven-year-old Oldenburg gelding Falling Skies returned to center stage one more time to move up and claim the final title presented at this year’s US Dressage Finals, the Second Level Open Championship, with a top score of 74.325%.
“Every ride we have had in this experience in Kentucky has been extremely rewarding,” said Barteau. “For him to go from where he was when we first got him to where he is now as a successful ambassador for our rescue organization Horses Without Humans – it’s just incredible. Also it’s been a personally fulfilling trip for me because as a trainer with lots of other horses and clients, being able to come here with just my own personal horse and focus on our partnership, it’s been a real treat.”
Region 3 Claims 2021 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 8 team comprised of Alexandra Krossen on Looker SCF, Lyndsey Bailey on Kasparov Toja, Heather Mason on RTF Lincoln, and Caroline Colby on My Lorino. Their wining average score of 70.606% edged out reserve champions Region 3 with 70.258% and third-placed Region 5 finishing on 69.742%.
On a final note, after sweeping the Intermediate II and Grand Prix Adult Amateur Championships earlier in the week, Alice Tarjan of Oldwick, N.J. (Region 8) and her nine-year-old Hanoverian mare Serenade MF (Sir Donnerhall x Duet MF by Don Principe, bred in the U.S. by Maryanna Haymon) were presented with the Lloyd Landkamer Perpetual Trophy for FEI Highest Scoring Mare (presented by Janet Foy), as well as the inaugural Verne Batchelder Memorial Trophy (presented by River House Hanoverians), awarded to the FEI highest-scoring U.S.-bred horse at the US Dressage Finals (74.928%).
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.