Great American/USDF Region 2 Dressage Finals NODA Recap

Taya (left) and Jennifer– enjoying themselves at Kentucky Horse Park. Photo courtesy of Taya Workum-Byers.

This article won the 2022 GMO Newsletter Award for a general-interest article for GMOs with 175-499 members. It originally appeared in the Northern Ohio Dressage Association newsletter, NODA News, 2021/Issue 11.

The USDF Group Member Organization (GMO) Newsletter Awards are designed to recognize outstanding efforts by GMOs that produce newsletters. Awards in two categories will be presented for exemplary articles. Nominations are due by August 31st. Only an official representative of a GMO may submit the nomination. For a nomination form follow this link.

By Taya Workum Byers

The Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 2 Championships were held October 7-10 at the beautiful Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. The show was hosted by the Kentucky Dressage Association (KDA) in conjunction with their KDA Fall Classic I. Over the course of the 4 days, a whopping 34 championships, 2 semi-finals, and 65 open classes were contested across 7 rings! Add to this the fact that the UPHA Chapter 9 KY Fall Classic Horse Show (American Saddlebreds) and the KMSHA/SMHA International Grand Championship (Kentucky Mountain Saddlehorses) shows were going on simultaneously, and you can imagine the electric atmosphere pervading the KHP. It was quite an experience.

The list of judges was both awe-inspiring and terrifying, with such names as Lilo Fore (S), Hilda Gurney (S), Janet Foy (S), Michael Osinski (FEI 4, S), and Sandra Hotz (FEI 4, S). Rounding out the list were Joan Darnell (S), Janet “Dolly” Hannon (S), Cheryl Holekamp (S), Debbie Rodriguez (S), Ulf Wadeborn (S), and Rita Brown (R). Having a Training Level class judged by an FEI 4*/S judge was simply amazing!

Jennifer Tulleners & Crossed Sabres (“Sabre”) greeting 4*FEI/S judge Michael Osinski before her First 3-Adult Amateur warmup class. Photo courtesy of Taya Workum-Byers

I wasn’t showing, but Jennifer Tulleners had qualified on my 10yo Shire Sporthorse “Crossed Sabres” for both the Training Level and First Level AA Championships so I went as the chauffeur/equipment carrier/stall mucker/hot walker/cheerleader/groom/videographer/pep talker/anything-else-that-needed-done person. We arrived on Wednesday 10/6 in the early afternoon and made our way to Sabre’s temporary home in barn 15. Move-in and schooling were in full swing with people, horses, trucks, trailers, golf carts, and dogs everywhere. Thankfully, we were able to get everything unloaded and set up and a good long hand walk in for Sabre before the torrential downpour started. We were lucky- our stalls stayed dry, but others, like Jeff and Holly Taylor, were not and ended up having to strip their stalls – not once, but TWICE after further downpours arrived on Thursday evening.

Thursday morning we arrived early to perform housekeeping and chef duties for Sabre, as well as to get him out for a nice hand walk before we reported to the Rolex Stadium for our volunteer duties. Jennifer and I had decided that, since she was only showing once per day, we would fill some of our free time by volunteering for the show. We also figured that doing so would help us not spend extra money shopping! We were assigned to the outgates for the Rolex Stadium- Jennifer had the outgate for ring 3 and I covered rings 1 and 2. Due to COVID restrictions, we did not physically touch any horses, we merely looked for any overt violations such as blood and had the rider or assistant pull ear bonnets to check for ear plugs. Whip length was also checked for the open show classes. Due to our location, we had the great fortune of getting to watch many lovely tests and chat with fantastic people from all around Region 2.

When we finished volunteering, we spent time getting Sabre ready for his Training Level 3 warmup class. There were 8 AAs that went down centerline in front of Michael Osinski in Rolex ring #3 for the class and we were thrilled that Sabre and Jennifer came 3rd with a 66.897 and some fabulous feedback. There were certainly things that needed to be improved (accuracy!), but overall we were very pleased. Another downpour (with thunder and lightning!) put a temporary halt on the proceedings and caused some more stall flooding (sorry Holly and Jeff!), but we were, once again, spared. We put Sabre away for the night with extra snacks and pats, and headed to the hotel for some much earned rest.

Friday dawned with heavy fog. Jennifer’s ride time was 9:19am and it was still rather foggy when she went down centerline in the Stonelea Ring in front of Janet Foy. This was her First Level 3 warmup class and she was extremely excited to get some feedback from one of her favorite judges. Once again she had a fairly solid ride and man-aged to hold on to 8th place (of 20) with a 65.833. After lunch we again volunteered- this time as ring stewards for the Rolex Stadium. I like to call this position “air traffic control”- especially when you are stewarding 3 warm-up rings for 3 show rings. For a while, Jennifer and I were together in the warm-up rings, but she got moved to “the bottom of the ramp” where she directed riders into the correct ring after I sent them down from the warm-up. This resulted in me attempting to keep the rings and riders in order- no easy task when you have 3 rings full of large bay horses! After the rings were finished for the evening, we made certain Sabre was comfortable and then headed out for our own dinner and rest.

Colleen Welder & Ruby Tuesday of Thistleridge all smiles after a great ride in the Rolex Stadium. Photo courtesy of Claire Welder

Saturday brought about Jennifer’s Training Level AA Championship. As the class was quite large (39), it ran for a large portion of the day. Jennifer wasn’t scheduled until 4:28pm, so we again spent the morning volunteering- with her at the bottom of the ramp and me in the warm-up with a delightful woman from KDA named Catherine. Most everything ran smoothly and Jen and I were back at the barn by a little after 1pm. We made sure Sabre was buffed, polished, and shining so that he was present-able when he headed into the ring in front of Hilda Gurney at C and Cheryl Holekamp at E. I have to say, I think it was the nicest training level test I have ever seen them perform. Jennifer was thrilled and we both agreed that, regardless of what the judges said, it was a win for us! Luckily, the judges also thought it was fairly good and Jennifer got a beautiful purple ribbon for placing 7th with an average score of 68.621. The high point of the scoring (at last for me) was the comment “Nice Job” from Hilda Gurney. Lori Stella and Quinn Connection were also in the class and scored a 65.431. Bitsy Gascoigne and her lovely mare Awkward Silence were the last to go in the class and earned a solid 67.759 which, the ribbons. Hilda Gurney certainly liked her test giving her a 70.345 from her vantage point at C.

And then, it was the final day of competition. Jennifer and Sabre had a crack-of-dawn ride time of 7:24am. Of course, Lauren Wade had it slightly worse- she went at 7:16am! This was for the First Level-AA Championship and was another huge class- 53 would ultimately go down centerline and the last ride was scheduled for almost 4pm. Sabre was pretty much over horse showing by this point and demonstrated his displeasure in the warm-up, much to Jennifer’s consternation. They seemed to reach an agreement of sorts and went down the centerline in front of Sandra Hotz at C and Debbie Rodriguez at E in what wasn’t exactly harmony, but at least wasn’t overt arguing over the situation! He settled in a bit as the test progressed and there were some nice moments. All three of us were relieved after the final halt and we promised him there would not be any more showing. They received a respect-able 67.292 for their efforts and remained in the top 8 through the lunch break. We had agreed that, as long as they were in the ribbons, we would stick around, but we would head home when/if she fell out.

Sabre got turned out and we explored the KHP since this was Jennifer’s first time visiting. We had a horse-drawn trolley ride, watched a presentation in the Hall of Champions, checked out all the different breeds in the breed barn and big barn, wandered through the Museum of the Horse, and, of course, went shopping in the gift shop! Somewhere around 2pm, Jennifer fell to 9th so we began the process of packing up. She would eventually finish 12th. Other NODA members in the First Level AA Championship class were Lauren Wade and Lord Burberry CCSH (66.389), and Colleen Welder and Ruby Tuesday of Thistleridge (60.347).

A quick note of congratulations for Jeff Taylor- along with his beautiful rides, he also earned the final score he need-ed to obtain his silver medal!

All-in-all, we had a fantastic time! We saw wonderful people enjoying their beautiful horses with like-minded individuals. I heard “Have a great ride” and “You got this!” over and over. One big takeaway though- if you have spare time at a show, please consider volunteering- even if it isn’t your “home” GMO. The KDA folks were so grateful that Jennifer and I helped out- and we got free food!!!

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