By Alice Collins for Jump Media/US Dressage Finals
November 10, 2023 – Lexington, KY – Competitors flocked to the Kentucky Horse Park for the 10th anniversary edition of the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® for the opening day of the show on Thursday, November 9, 2023. The marquee national show — which competitors qualify for via the Great American Insurance Group/United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Regional Championships in nine USDF regions — offers a wealth of championship titles and more than $120,000 in prize money. The competition runs through Sunday, November 12.
Four champions were crowned on the first day of the show. Jennifer Truett’s 2022 Intermediate I champion Absolute Dream seamlessly stepped up to claim the Intermediate II Open crown this year, topping the class with 68.235%, with reserve champion Michael Bragdell and Vallos Dreaming Marong just 0.2% behind.
Absolute Dream, a nine-year-old Westfalen gelding by All At Once, looked every inch the developing Grand Prix horse, showing powerful piaffe passage work and expressive, elastic canter work.
“I was super proud and thrilled for him to win again. He’s a breakthrough horse in my career. He came into the arena and puffed up but stayed with me,” said Truett, who is based just two hours from Lexington, near Cincinnati, OH. “He’s so powerful and electric that he might just start throwing one tempis in here and there because he really likes them.”
Truett, who trains with Olivia LaGoy-Weltz, noted that the step up from Intermediate I to Intermediate II is massive, and Absolute Dream has developed physically as a result.
“He was much more up in his chest — not just in his hindlegs — and also he was sitting powerfully with his loin and croup, and that’s really new for him,” she explained. “He’s always had crazy legs, but the stability through his whole length, so he can really rock back and take the weight, is brand new for him. I admit that I lost count in the ones — that was on me. I thought, ‘Is this 11 or 13? I don’t know! I should stop.’ Sadly, it was 13.”
Truett bought Absolute Dream as a two-year-old from Reesink Horses in The Netherlands and has trained him herself.
“He’s always been a bouncy ball,” she added. “We still have a lot of strength to build, but he’s only nine. He really enjoys this work and keeping the horses wanting to do it and to please you is so important because the work is hard. All the Grand Prix work is right there — I can taste it — so I am super excited.”
The pair will spend the summer in Florida and contest the Lövsta Future Challenge for developing Grand Prix horses before heading back to Cincinnati to prepare for a potential Grand Prix debut next summer.
Chumley Triumphs From Final Draw
The Prix St. Georges Championship ran for almost five hours in the Walnut Arena. It was the final competitor in the class, Lauren Chumley, who swept in and produced the only plus-70% score riding Leeloo Dallas to capture the winner’s blanket and sash. At seven years old, the mare was the equal youngest in the class of 21 starters.
“I had a super lucky draw spot, and my horse is awesome. She’s just a baby but she’s absolutely amazing,” enthused Chumley, who also rides in Eventing and was at a 1* just three days previously. “I rode her a little bit this morning then just warmed up for 15 minutes before the test and she felt super. I thought ‘Let’s go!’ and she went. She rocked on.”
Chumley bought Leeloo Dallas, who is by the Ravel son Gaspard De La Nuit DG and out of a Negro dam from a video when she was a foal. She was bred by Racheal Redman.
“I bought her because she was little and black with four white socks, and I could afford her,” said Chumley, who trains with Michael Bragdell. “She is born, bred, and trained in America. All the horses out of her dam are so rideable. They’re easy, smart, and sensitive but not stupid.”
Has Chumley ever considered eventing Leeloo?
“I tried to jump her, and my coach was absolutely horrified,” she laughed. “She’s also not very good at it. But in dressage she’s had the best year ever. We went to Lamplight and did the FEI 7-year-olds, then won the Prix St. Georges at Regionals, and here we are.”
The pair also won the Fourth Level Open Freestyle at Regionals, so will be top contenders in that class on Sunday. Looking further into the future, this pair are another planning to campaign on the Florida circuit and will contest the Intermediate 1 class, with developing grand prix the year after.
“She 100% has the ability for grand prix; most importantly she’s got the brain,” said Chumley. “She’s done Challenge of the Americas and the dance off at Dressage at Devon all covered in glitter — she’s just fantastic.”
The Universe Delivers for Rebecca Lord
Adult Amateur (AA) Rebecca Lord and the 14-year-old Hanoverian Demetrius, by De Niro, were the penultimate combination down the center line in the Intermediate II AA Championship, and their 67.304% proved unbeatable.
This win caps an extraordinary journey to the upper echelons of dressage sport for the now 58-year-old rider. Lord had a 31-year break from riding, but at age 49 felt compelled to take it up again and take an extended sabbatical from her career training as a medical intuitive.
“I’m elated,” said Lord, who also finished fourth on Don Amigo. “I work so hard to bring all the learning and knowledge and awareness together and help horses do fantastic job because they’re all capable of being fantastic. Today was a reflection of the road of progress that ‘Demi’ and I are on.”
The only blip in the test came from a miscommunication in the trot work, when the horse popped into canter.
“I didn’t support him enough in the passage, and I came in a little hot. It is exciting in there, and I was nervous,” admitted Lord, who takes Rescue Remedy to help keep her nerves in check.
On purchasing Demetrius in 2020, Lord said, “I meditate, and I had finished one day and I asked the universe to help me find my completion horse — one that would bring together all this work I’d done with my trainers Franziska [Seidl] and Alex [Robertson] with the five or six horses I already had. I looked on Facebook at horses for sale, which I never do, and a dear friend had posted this amazing looking horse.
“If I hadn’t had all the other horses, I could never have had Demi as they have prepared me for him,” she continued. “His unique quality is the availability of his talent. There are plenty of beautiful horses, but it can be hard to get to the talent, and Demi gives it to you on a silver platter.”
Lord’s farm in Ocala, FL, is named Soul Passion Farm as that is how she feels horses have impacted her.
“I’m a quintuple A-type person and you have to be patient [with horses], so the learning curve has been Mount Everest,” added Lord, who gets up at 5 a.m. daily. “I’m not an Olympic rider, but now to reach some level of excellence, you have to be all in.”
She has four horses at the 2023 Finals.
Finals Specialist Mason Opens Her 2023 Campaign
Heather Mason’s accomplished training methods came to the fore once again in the Third Level Open Championship. She led the class on Shmoky Quartz with 71.75% and finished third with her other six-year-old, Manuskript SCF, on 70.083% — sandwiching Brittany Burson and Leonardo Z into second.
Shmoky Quartz is by Shakespeare RSF and was bred in the U.S. by Mo Swanson, and Mason acquired him at an affordable price thanks to his imperfect x-rays. He was the Training Level Open champion in 2022, so has moved swiftly up through the levels and has topped 80% a handful of times at rated shows in 2023.
These were the first two rides out of a total of 10 for the rider from Lebanon, NJ, who has competed in every edition held of the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®.
“Shmoky is green at the level, but he tried very hard and stayed with me very well,” said Mason, who owns a total of 18 horses. “He was a little ahead of me in the first flying change, but it was clean. He’s extra supple with good elasticity. He’s one of the sweetest horses I’ve ever had, but now he’s getting stronger, more confident, and cocky. He’s developed a lot and is now starting to find the next gear. I’m toning it down for this year, as that’s next year’s gear.
“Manuskript was a little spooky at the videographer at the end of the test, but they’re both only six and it’s a big venue for a six-year-old,” she added. “I’m glad I brought them both last year.”
Competition resumes on Friday, November 10, with nine championship titles up for grabs from Training Level to Grand Prix. 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 start lists, and read daily news releases, visit the official US Dressage Finals event website.