5 Unforgettable Moments from the 2022 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®

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Jesse Woodhead celebrates aboard Waldor, a horse she purchased for just $1. Photo by Amber Wiseman

By Chelsey Burris

The US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® gets its moniker, the Centerline of Champions, for good reason.  Competitors from across the United States converge each fall to compete head-to-head for honors from Training Level to Grand Prix, featuring adult amateur, open, and junior/young rider divisions.  Each edition of the show features new and spellbinding performances as the top riders and horses in the nation dance their way down centerline.  Here are 5 moments from the 2022 Finals that we are sure to be talking about for years to come.

Who Says a Dollar Doesn’t Buy Much Anymore?

Heather Mason and RTF Lincoln winning the Grand Prix Open Championship. Photo by SusanJStckle

When horse hunting for a top dressage prospect, what budget range comes to mind?  Low to mid four figures?  Five figures?  More?  Well, the 2022 US Dressage Finals proved a good horse doesn’t have to demand a huge budget.  Multiple horses purchased for only $1 each at some point in their careers were at the Finals, ready to add their names to the storied history of the show.

Lincoln RTF with rider/owner Heather Mason entered three classes at Finals and came away with three first place rides – in the Intermediate II Open, Grand Prix Open, and Grand Prix Freestyle Open.  Heather, a rider and trainer based out of New Jersey, brought four horses to the show, along with a strong contingent of her students and clients, but it was certainly her $1 horse that had everyone talking, as they were awarded the Top Hat Perpetual Trophy, the Jazzman Perpetual Trophy, and the Veronica Holt Perpetual Trophy.

In the Fourth Level Freestyle Open, Bridget Bursey and Forty Creek couldn’t be stopped, locking up the division with a 72.989%.  Forty Creek, a mare who Bridget calls a “wild child” was also acquired for just one dollar.

Meanwhile, Jesse Woodhead was also at the Finals, aboard a Hanoverian/Appendix cross that she purchased for $1.  The pair competed in the Intermediate I Open and the Intermediate I Freestyle Open.  Earlier this year, Jesse shared her remarkable story in the exclusive story The Best $1 Purchase Ever on YourDressage.

All in the Family

Anartz Chanca and Dazzle in the Intermediate II Adult Amateur division. Photo by Susan J. Stickle

As horse people, it’s always wonderful when one of our loved ones shares our passion for horses.  This joy was multiplied for the husband-and-wife duo Anartz Chanca and Marta Renilla, who both went home with championship titles from the 2022 Finals.  In an interesting twist of fate, each of them was riding a horse that had originally been intended for the other to ride.  Anartz topped the division in four classes: the Grand Prix Adult Amateur and Intermediate II Adult Amateur aboard Dazzle, and the Second Level Adult Amateur and First Level Adult Amateur with Dante Rubin M.R. Meanwhile, Marta claimed top honors in the Third Level Open Championship aboard Zalando M.R.

“Being here is such a pleasure and a gift,” Anartz, who took home the 2022 George W. Wagner Jr. Perpetual Trophy, shared.  “We love this show; ever since we became US citizens in 2018, we haven’t missed it.” 

Fan Favorite Adiah HP Delivers a Sparkling Performance

For those who follow dressage, Adiah HP is an easily recognizable star with her flashy, unique coat.  The 15-year-old Friesian/Dutch Warmblood cross has won the hearts of many through the years for her scintillating performances at the US Dressage Finals.  She has become so famous that Breyer even created a model horse in her likeness! 

As has come to be expected from this fan favorite, Adiah brought her A-game to the 2022 Finals with her rider/owner Ashley Maul.  The pair came away with a victory in the Grand Prix Freestyle Adult Amateur and a runner-up effort in the Grand Prix Adult Amateur, missing out on first place honors by just 0.833%.  In the process, the pair took home the Calaveras County Perpetual Trophy.

“It’s intimidating because people recognize her everywhere I go, and I’m just the amateur riding her,” Ashley shared.  However, Adiah’s previous owner Jim Koford, who also serves as Ashley’s trainer, has been a huge supporter of this duo.  “Jim is the best cheerleader and gets you feeling like you can do it even though you’ve never done it before.”

Junior and Young Riders Strut Their Stuff

Rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of Ella Fruchterman and Holts Le’mans’ as they claimed victory in the Third Level Jr YR division. Photo by Susan J. Stickle

Last year, the US Dressage Finals introduced classes for junior and young riders for the first time ever.  The addition was met with huge interest in their inaugural year, with even more excitement building for 2022 as the fresh young faces that are the future of our sport enjoyed their time in the spotlight.

Among the most memorable performances at the Finals was Ella Fruchterman aboard Holts Le’mans, splashing through a torrential downpour without turning a hair.  The teenage sensation and the 11-year-old Danish gelding have had a fantastic year so far, earning three gold medals at the 2022 North American Youth Championships (NAYC) and being named FEI Jr/YR Champion at the US Dressage Festival of Champions.  They capped off their year with a win in the US Dressage Finals Jr/YR Third Level Championship.  Additionally, Ella earned third place in the Jr/YR Fourth Level Championship, this time aboard Hannah Montana W.  You can read more about Ella’s outstanding year in our YourDressage NAYC recap from this summer.

Back In the Saddle and Inspiring Us All

Laurie Saldana-Rich’s triumphant return to dressage aboard Straight Horse De Milla. Photo by Susan J. Stickle

Much as we love horses, sometimes life gets in the way of the time we’d want to devote to riding and showing.  This was the case for Laurie Saldana-Rich, who took a 27-year break from riding competitively while she focused on raising young Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.  Getting back into riding dressage just 18 months ago, the very idea of attending the Finals was a pipe dream for Laurie.

She traveled from Indiana to the Finals with her trainer, Jennifer Conour, saying, “I just hoped that I would show and do okay and not make a fool out of myself.”

With her dance partner, Straight Horse De Milla, not only did Laurie succeed in not making a fool of herself – she came away with a coveted first-place ribbon!  In the Third Level Freestyle Adult Amateur class, the duo danced their way to a 70.244%.  They also finished 5th in the Third Level Adult Amateur Championship.  Laurie was thrilled and surprised by her win, proving that it’s never too late to get back to what you love!

Did you miss any of the 2022 US Dressage Finals?  You can find our daily recaps, photo galleries, perpetual trophy winners, Regions Cup winners, and much more in our official Event Recap.

These were just a few of the moments that made the 2022 edition of the US Dressage Finals so memorable, but there were many, many other amazing riders, inspiring stories, unique horses, and unforgettable rides at the show. What was your favorite moment from the 2022 Finals?  Let us know in the comments below.

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