By Alice Collins for Jump Media
A staggering 13 championship titles were presented on Saturday, November 12, the third day of the 2022 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® at the Kentucky Horse Park. The prestigious show, which offers over $120,000 in prize money, runs through Sunday, November 13, and features competition from Training to Grand Prix level. Music and artistry abounded on Saturday as many of the classes were freestyles.
From reserve champion in 2021, Ashley Maul went one better this year, landing the AA Grand Prix Freestyle — and the Calaveras County Perpetual Trophy — on her own Adiah HP. Their 70% marked the first time the pair have reached that magic score at the level, and they did it on the national stage. Maul also finished third on her own Johnson gelding, Caprice.
The 15-year-old Adiah HP — who is part-bred Friesian — has an impressive record, having competed extensively under James (Jim) Koford at international Grand Prix before Maul bought her.
“The 70% score was actually what I was after, and the win was just an extra that I wasn’t expecting,” said Maul, who used to event and is a long-time student of Koford’s. “I knew Adiah really well. Then when we started looking for a horse for me, I wondered if they [Koford and former owner/breeder Sherry Koella] would ever sell her. I tried her, and we liked each other.”
Taking on an educated horse has its own challenges, though: “I call her a supercomputer because there are so many details, and she is so nuanced,” explained Maul. “Occasionally I put in the wrong input and I get an error message back, so I’m trying to keep decreasing the error messages by making better inputs.”
How does Maul, who works full-time as a small animal veterinarian, cope with the inevitable pressure of showing a well-known and well-loved horse on the circuit?
“It’s intimidating because people recognize her everywhere I go, and I’m just the amateur riding her,” she laughed. “But Jim is the best cheerleader and gets you feeling like you can do it even though you’ve never done it before. He sees her all the time and comes to teach us.”
Come December, Maul will head to Wellington for the winter season and her new farm with both of her horses.
Mason Lands The Elusive Triple Crown
Heather Mason achieved her goal of winning the triple crown on RTF Lincoln, adding the Open Grand Prix Freestyle title — and with it the Jazzman Perpetual Trophy — to the Intermediate II and Grand Prix classes she and the 17-year-old gelding claimed earlier in the week.
A spectacular test featuring a line of 25 lofty one-time changes as well as pirouettes and piaffe/passage work performed one-handed was richly rewarded with 76.2% by the judges — and whooping from the spectators.
In a high-scoring Saturday night finale, Lauren Sprieser on the Elvis Syndicate LLC’s Guernsey Elvis finished second (74.517%), with Shelley Van Den Neste on her own Eyecatcher just behind on 74.067%.
“I’m glad Lincoln is mature now because the crowd doing that during the freestyle would have set him off in the past,” said the rider from Lebanon, NJ. “He actually got into it though. I think 25 ones is the most we’ve ever done, but he just felt so solid. I was very happy when I saw my score because I knew there was a 74 in there already. That’s why I did more one-handed than I had intended to. I really wanted this particular class — it’s the one I didn’t get last year [they finished fifth].”
Mason has the management of the quirky gelding down to a fine art. He lives out at night at home, is lunged before rides, and doesn’t show too much.
“I didn’t show him a ton this year but he’s still getting better, and we’ll keep going as long as he’s getting better and stronger and he wants to do it,” said Mason. “It’s great to be in the Grand Prix ring, and it teaches you a lot. CDIs would be stressful for a horse like him, so this is where I want to be. This show is great to make you push yourself because the competition is strong.”
Judge at C, Mike Osinski, agreed that Mason had taken risks: “The judges agreed it was an exciting performance and a pleasure to judge,” he said. “There were so many highlights that the crowd saw, and we saw too. Heather took so many risks, and they paid off — we love to give the big marks.”
Mason’s day was replete with championship accolades as she also topped the Open Second Level Freestyle on her five-year-old Manuskript SCF (Jazz x Krack C) with 73.822%.
Vowell Delivers on Her Trainer’s Birthday
In a class where the top 13 all achieved 70% or more, it was the first to go, Greta Vowell, who held the lead throughout the Open Intermediate I Freestyle. She rode her own Guinevere CPF (UB40 x Contango) to 74.358% and delivered exactly what her trainer Olivia LaGoy-Weltz had requested for her birthday: the win.
“The test felt amazing because Guinevere stayed with me, and that’s been our struggle,” said Vowell, who bought the now 11-year-old as a foal. “I couldn’t be happier with her. Things haven’t all been straightforward with her. She was injured in the pasture at three years old so only got started when she was five. She’s an incredibly sweet mare but she’s very hot and can be tense, so we’ve been building her confidence and getting her relaxed in the ring so she can show her talent and not just the tension.”
Vowell rode to a freestyle made by her mother Julie and used music from the TV show Bridgerton and a Colorado-based band called Spinphony.
Michael Bragdell Savors Championship Atmosphere on Louisville HTF
A nine for Louisville HTF’s lengthened trot strides contributed to his score of 73.287% which captured the Open First Level title for rider Michael Bragdell. Riding Hilltop Farm Inc.’s licensed stallion (Lord Leatherdale x Negro), the Maryland-based Bragdell earned over 74% from two of the judges.
“He’s a home-bred I’ve ridden since he was three,” enthused Bragdell, who is originally from Sweden. “He’s really fun to develop, and I’m excited about him. Louis was a trooper out there. It was a tough day for everyone showing this morning with the rain and cold, but he said, ‘Whatever you want, I’ll do it.’”
Bragdell particularly appreciates the opportunity to expose his young horses — which he hopes will become Grand Prix horses — to the championship atmosphere that the Finals provides.
“It’s fun, and this show makes you feel something special,” he added. “For me to bring this five-year-old and for him to experience all this — especially going in the Alltech Arena and seeing all that — is very exciting.”
Louisville was actually named after a previous trip to the Finals that his owner, Jane MacElree, made.
“Jane was here and went to the Louisville museum where they make the baseball bats,” explained Bragdell. “Then we had a foal by Lord Leatherdale and we needed an L name, Louisville came up and that’s where he got his name.”
Riders Claim Multiple Titles
Winners already this week, Cecelia Stewart, Penelope Sachs, and Anartz Chanca all claimed further victories on Friday.
Stewart added the AA Intermediate I Freestyle to her war chest, riding her own Friend to 72.533%. Sachs rode Frisbee 55 to 70.633% to clinch the AA Freestyle at Fourth Level, and Chanca continued his extraordinary run of form, winning the AA First Level title with 72.546% — his highest score of the week.
“Four out of four, I can’t believe it; I’m pinching myself,” beamed Chanca, who rode his own Dante Rubin M.R., by Dante Weltino. “We bought him as a yearling from the Oldenburg auction, and he was actually for my wife [Marta Renilla]. She started him but at four he got too strong for her. I said he was too small for me, but I got on and it convinced me right away. My type of horse is powerful, and I don’t mind if they’re a bit stronger in the contact.”
The winning horse in the AA Second Level Freestyle, Carlson, also came from Renilla’s Texas base. Rider Bobby Covington bought the 14-year-old gelding by By Contendros Bube from her two years ago. On Saturday they posted an unassailable 74.644% with a balanced, positive test.
“This is amazing and surreal,” beamed Covington, who works full time as the executive assistant to the CFO of Whole Foods. “Every amateur wants to do the lap around the Alltech Arena, but to win and do it is mind-blowing. It was my first time competing in the Alltech and coming down the tunnel I felt like I was going to the Olympics. I had to remind myself to focus. I teared up afterwards because he was so good.
“I used to event, but I bought a young horse and realized that at 45 I’m too old for that, so I got me an older dude,” added Covington, who is based at Concordia Dressage near Austin, TX. “Carlson has bounced around a lot — he’s actually been sent to Marta twice to be sold — which is odd because he’s a sweet teddy bear. But he’s in his forever home now. My dream is to do Prix St. Georges with him one day.”
Covington and Carlson stood reserve champions in the AA Third Level class, which was won by the second rider to go, Emma Batchelder. She rode her sister Nora’s 13-year-old Hanoverian mare Fifi MLW, by Fidertanz, to 70.167%.
“It was a huge class, and it was very chilly and snowy here, so I had a lot of horse,” said Batchelder, who is a nurse anesthetist. “My sister and I sat nervously waiting to see what would happen. I’m on cloud nine.”
“I took 10 years out of horses, and I was here last year watching and grooming thinking what a dream it would be just to come and compete, so to come and win surpasses everything,” beamed Batchelder, who has taken on the ride after her sister trained the mare to Grand Prix.
“She’s powerful and talented but rock solid safe,” enthused Batchelder, who moved from Colorado to Florida in April. “She’s so talented, but not always the easiest; she demands that you get it right though, which is great for learning. I figured I’m not getting any younger, so it’s now or never.”
Bravado Puts on a Brave Face
Kelsey Broecker has spent the past two years building trust with her nine-year-old Bravado, and on Friday that partnership came to fruition to claim top honors in the Fourth Level Open Championship. In chilly conditions, Broecker, who works at Gentle Creek Equestrian Center near Dallas, TX, piloted the gelding by Benetton Dream to 70.278%.
“It was cold, and he was a little tense, but I am stoked,” said Broecker. “The win was unexpected because there were a lot of good horses and riders — it’s Finals.”
Despite his name, when Broecker bought Bravado from Natalie Hamilton-Hinnemann in California, he was scared of everything.
“When I first got him, we went backwards and in all directions except for forwards,” added Broecker, “but in the past two years he’s really come around and got brave. I’ve worked him up to Prix St. Georges — and I’ve had a baby — so a lot has happened.”
A Pandemic Purchase Pays Dividends for Ella Fruchterman
Teenager Ella Fruchterman capped a stellar year by adding the Third Level Jr/YR accolade to her rapidly expanding collection of ribbons. During the pandemic, many people made wild online purchases, and Fruchterman’s family was no different. They bought her Finals-winning horse, Holts Le’mans, sight unseen from Denmark and imported him.
Since then, she and the 11-year-old Danish gelding by L’espoir have won triple gold at the 2022 North American Youth Championships and were the FEI Jr/YR champions at this year’s U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions.
“It was a leap of faith but I’m so thankful to my dad that we took it,” said the 18-year-old, who is a freshman biology major at Indiana University. “It’s been an incredible season, and my trainer Angela Jackson has really helped me grow our partnership. We rode in the sleeting hail this morning [scoring 70.625%] but he tried super hard for me. Our trust has solidified, and I know he’ll be right there with me.”
Another teen, the 16-year-old Caroline Colby, topped the First Level Jr/YR championship. She rode her own eight-year-old Westphalian gelding My Lorino, to 69.676%. Last to go of the 14 starters, Colby relegated Renee Stockfisch and Immortal Thor into the reserve championship spot by 0.1%.
Competition concludes on Sunday, November 13, with 11 championship titles to play for. Follow the action via the USDF Facebook page and the US Dressage Finals website, plus live online streaming on the USEF Network. To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, view results and day sheets, and read daily news releases, visit the official US Dressage Finals event website.
Scenes from Saturday at the 2022 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®
Photos © Katie Lewis