By Alice Collins for Jump Media/USDF
The third and final weekend of 2023 Great American Insurance Group (GAIG)/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Regional Championships action wrapped up with a busy schedule of four shows. Regionals are held across a total of nine USDF regions, and they are qualifiers for the 2023 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® at the Kentucky Horse Park on November 9-12.
Mason Marks Multiple Wins at Region 9
John Mason rode a jaw-dropping nine horses in 31 tests at the Region 9 Championships on October 5-8 in Katy, TX, taking home a huge haul of ribbons, including three GAIG winners’ sashes and three reserve champion titles. Mason was unfazed by so many hours in the saddle as he routinely rides 12 to 15 horses a day at home.
Two of his Regionals wins, at Training and First Levels, were with Victoria Reeder’s four-year-old Splendido by Secret x For Romance. In the First Level test, which he won with 74.167%, Mason filled five of the top seven spots.
“Splendido came to me in late spring when his previous trainer relocated out of state and already had some really good solid training and show experience,” said Mason, who scored 78.6% on him at Training Level. “He’s got the most amazing brain — the best of any four-year-old, and I’ve ridden a lot of them. He has an amazing work ethic, he’s easy, and he loves to compete.”
Mason describes his Third Level winner and Second Level reserve champion Mein Toto as “a total accident.”
“My long-time client Christine Renne was looking for her next horse and wanted a six or seven-year-old confirmed at Third Level,” said Mason, who is a German-trained Bereiter rider and has been based at Tex-Over Farms in Conroe, TX, for a decade. “Dinah Babcock sent me a video of a barely started three-year-old at 5 a.m., and by 6 a.m. we decided he was the one. There was something about him that we both saw, and Christine has a lot of faith in us. We had him vetted on the same day.
“He’s been the dreamiest, sweetest horse,” he added. “We knew he was a solid horse, but he’s turning out to be more and more special. He’s not for the faint of heart on the show grounds — he can be spicy — but the moment he goes into the show ring he’s all business. I was in tears at the end of his Third Level test; it was hands down one of the best tests of my life. I’m so fortunate to have amazing clients who are so supportive. It’s a great team effort.”
Just as in 2022, Anartz Chanca and his wife Marta Renilla were a force to be reckoned with at the Region 9 Championships, taking home five titles between them.
Chanca won all four classes he entered: two on Dante Rubin M.R. and two on Dazzle, who was a double winner at Big Tour at last year’s Finals. Dazzle, an 11-year-old by Danone, topped the Regionals Grand Prix (64.728%) and the Grand Prix Freestyle (68.375%).
“Last year was his first year at Grand Prix so he was much greener. This year he’s grown up a lot and in strength, and I feel like the piaffe/passage tour is much more solid,” said Chanca, who is based at his wife’s family’s Woodlands Equestrian Club in Tomball, TX.
Dazzle is a boomerang horse for Spanish-born Chanca, who is the president of the American subsidiary of an Italian company that manufactures truck parts.
“We imported him at four and sold him as a five-year-old, but I missed him so much that when the opportunity came to buy him back after two years I jumped at it,” added Chanca.
His other double winner, Dante Rubin M.R., was bought as a weanling colt and originally intended as a sales project for Renilla, but Chanca took over the reins of the son of Dante Weltino when she found him to be too strong. Despite being young, Dante finds flying changes easy, which has helped him shoot up the levels, winning at Third and Fourth.
“He’s only six, so Third Level is really his level, and he does well. He got 73% [more than 6% ahead of the reserve champion]. He only did Fourth Level once before Regionals, but the changes are very easy for him,” added Chanca, who was AA First and Second Level Champion with the horse at the 2022 Finals.
“I’m very lucky to have two such nice horses that I have developed since they were little,” concluded Chanca.
Renilla topped the Prix St. Georges with 69.118% in a class of 18 starters riding Zalando B (Zansibar x Wenzel I), who was the Third Level Champion at last year’s Finals. She also finished as reserve regional champion in the Open Grand Prix on WEC’s Señor Rubinstein, a 10-year-old black stallion by Sir Donnerhall.
Easy Youngster Victorious in Region 1
Stephanie McNutt and her young superstar Easy Going extended their unbeaten Training Level streak by topping the Region 1 Championship in Lexington, VA, with 74.2%, and then added the First Level championship class to their winning tally, scoring 73.611%. This was the four-year-old’s first Regionals.
Both classes were colossal, with 52 and 53 starters apiece. At Training Level, McNutt and Easy Going finished 2% clear of the rest of the class despite being just five months into their show career together.
“Easy Going is just that; the easiest youngster I’ve ever had,” said McNutt, who owns a telecom construction company with her husband. “I was certainly nervous going into the classes — just the size alone would give anyone pause — but ‘Cashew’ felt really good in the warm-up, and he’s confident in the ring for a four-year-old. At the end of the tests, I looked at my friends and everyone was giving me the thumbs up, but you don’t really know until you get the scores.”
McNutt keeps her four horses at home in Southern Maryland and cares for them herself. She bought Easy Going (Escamillo x Fürst Heinrich) based on watching a video from Germany during the pandemic after being attracted to his correct and manageable paces.
“I’m an amateur, and I thought he had nice movement that I could work with and wouldn’t be too much for me,” explained McNutt, who trains with Debra Wiedmaier, but only about once a month. “I had someone test ride him for me over there, but he was only 30 days under saddle. He’s pretty supple and a nice mover, and the judges obviously liked him. He was nice and forward and consistent and steady. I was thrilled with the results.”
Marek Takes Region 3 Titles Before International Championship
At the Region 3 Championships in Ocala, FL, Anna Marek won four Open championship titles spanning First Level to Prix St. Georges riding three different horses — all with scores above 74%.
Her top score of the show — 76.181% — came at First Level. It was Cynthia Davila’s Franklin gelding Nashville who topped the class of 26 starters.
At Third and Fourth Level her own and Wendy Mantell’s seven-year-old Rousseau gelding LaReau D.E. delivered dual wins. The Third Level class was another strong start list, with 34 combinations going down the center line. Carolyn Eberle’s 10-year-old Johnson gelding Ignado facilitated Marek’s fourth title, bagging the Prix St. Georges with 74.485%.
Marek has only been riding LaReau for a year after exchanging him for another young horse through a friend of hers who takes on horses with behavioral issues.
“I went to see him and of course I loved him. He had just been in the wrong situation,” she explained. “I couldn’t afford a horse like that, but I ended up trading him for a really nice young horse that wasn’t so sensitive. LaReau is very young but he’s flown up the levels, and now that he trusts me he’s difficult to beat. When I rewatched his Fourth Level test, I loved his confidence and his lovely frame. It looks easy for him even though he’s green.”
Marek now heads to training camp in Wellington, FL, ahead of the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, where she has been selected to ride on the U.S. Dressage Team with Fire Fly.
Siems Is Region 6 Winner
At the Region 6 Championships in Sherwood, OR, amateur adult rider Christine Siems put a huge winning margin between herself and the reserve champion at First Level. Riding her own six-year-old Morengo DVB, Siems notched up a 76.805% test, more than 6% clear of the rest of the field of 17 starters. She bought the Totilas x Bordeaux gelding from his breeders in Holland in the spring of 2021 and began competing shortly after he was imported. Their scores have not dipped below 70% for well over a year.
The 2023 US Dressage Finals will be held November 9-12 in Lexington, KY, at the Kentucky Horse Park and is a national championship competition that showcases the Adult Amateur and Open divisions. Classes run at Training Level through Grand Prix, plus divisions for Junior/Young Riders at Training Level through Fourth Level. There is $120,000 in prize money up for grabs over the four days. Learn more at www.usdf.org/usdressagefinals/index.asp.