November 11, 2013--Emotions ran high as the final six champions were crowned Sunday at the inaugural US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan? in Lexington, KY. Riders who traveled to the Kentucky Horse Park from coast to coast celebrated their championship experience with memorable rides and victory laps while cheered on by friends and family.
Adult Amateurs at the Prix St. Georges level were the stars of the day in the Alltech Arena, and one of the riders who traveled the farthest to compete was rewarded with a national title. Akiko Yamazaki of Woodside, CA (Region 7) is widely known as the owner of U.S. Dressage Team horses "Ravel" and "Legolas" for Steffen Peters, but this weekend was her turn to be in the saddle. Yamazaki became the first recipient of the Janine Westmoreland Malone Perpetual Trophy for winning the Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur Championship with a score of 67.895% earned aboard her Danish Warmblood gelding "Matrix", a horse she successfully returned to competition after being out of action for two years due to injury. "Here is a horse I thought at one point I might have to retire," she said."But he rose to the occasion, and I was really happy with how my ride went today." Attending the Finals with her entire family, Yamazaki was pleased with her experience. "I think this show exceeded all of my expectations, right from the get-go," she noted. "All the information was provided in such a timely and organized manner, so I already felt well-taken care of before I even arrived. And then once I was here, everything ran so smoothly and was just great. Congratulations to the show organizers - I think this has exceeded everyone's expectations and I'll be returning home and spreading the word in California that we have to come back en masse."
Journeying to the Finals from the opposite corner of the country, Krista Nordgren of South Portland, ME Region 8 earned the Reserve Championship with "Schando", her 17-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (by Schwadroneur) on a score of? 66.228% ?"I was so proud of my horse - I had tears in my eyes from happiness when cantering down centerline for my final salute," said Nordgren, who also had loved ones in attendance to cheer her on, including her five-year-old son. "There's a certain magic to this place," she explained with emotion in her voice. "The thrill of competing on this stage was a strong pull for me to come all this way, and it exceeded my wildest dreams. I loved the fact that here, the amateur competitor has been embraced; we've never had this sort of stage for us other than our Regional Championships. We've all been treated like true champions just for making it here to the Finals, and because of that there's a sense of pride and tremendous camaraderie."
Building upon the success she found in yesterday's Fourth Level Open Championship, Heather McCarthy (Prairie Grove, IL, Region 2) claimed another victory in today's Prix St. Georges Open Championship, once again aboard Dr. Marilyn Johnson and John McGuire's elegant Oldenburg mare "Saphira" (Florencio x Roxina by Chairman). McCarthy was thrilled with her mount's performance, which earned a top score of 69.868%. "I had a wonderful ride.? I was concerned that I might not have enough horse left today because I thought she gave me everything yesterday, but she went right out there and did her job," said McCarthy. "I'm on cloud nine. I don't think I could have asked for anything more than I've achieved here this weekend.? It's been a wonderful experience."? Finishing second by only two-tenths of a point with an overall score of 69.605% was Heather Mason of Tewksbury, NJ qualified in Region 8 and her Dutch Warmblood gelding "Zar" (Iroko x Inga by Actueel, bred in the U.S. by Carol Collyer). Mason and "Zar" conclude their championship week with top-two finishes in each of the three small tour championship classes they contested during the Finals (Reserve Intermediate I Open Champion, Intermediate I Freestyle Champion, and Reserve Prix St. Georges Open Champion). "I was thrilled with him," Mason said of her partner. "He's been very brave, just super for me all week, and it's been a great show all-around."
In the largest division of these inaugural finals, 27 adult amateur riders fought for bragging rights at Training Level under bright morning sun in the Murphy Ring.? Ultimately emerging victorious (and claiming her second championship title of the weekend) was Lucy Tidd of Germantown, MD (Region 1) and her four-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding "Ellert HB" with a score of 73.200%.?? "I was afraid my horse might be a little tired, but he was great, super focused, and he seemed to really enjoy himself," said Tidd, who was thrilled with her unexpected success at the Finals.? "It's surreal," she said.? "I was just hoping to place -? never in a million years did I anticipate doing so well."? Finishing in Reserve (71.333%) was another talented four-year-old, the U.S.-bred RPSI mare "DeLovely" (Don Principe x Sky Spirit by Johns Line, bred and owned by Janet Stone), ridden by Lisa Seegar Brown of Travelers Rest, SC (Region 3).
Returning to the Alltech Arena after narrowly missing the Second Level Freestyle title yesterday, Fie Andersen of Hamilton, MA Region 8 would not be denied top honors today in the Second Level Open Championship. Once again aboard her Oldenburg stallion "Rocazino" (Rosentanz x Escarda by Silvio I), Andersen earned the win with a score of 74.921%. "I'm a little emotional right now," she said.? "My horse is amazing!? He was tired but gave me everything he had.? It's been such an amazing experience to come here and compete head-to-head with riders from around the country, and I think it's great preparation for bigger and better things for us." Saturday's First Level Open Champions Debbie Hill of Gurley, AL (Region 3) with "Boccaccio IOF" (Hanoverian gelding [Bugatti Hilltop x Roxette by Rubinstein I], bred in the U.S.? by Hilltop Farm, Inc. and owned by Marchella Richardson) easily moved up a level today to earn a score of 73.968% and earn the Reserve Championship trophy in the Second Level Open division.
Wrapping up the day in both the indoor Alltech Arena and outdoor rings were the Intermediate II Championship classes for adult amateur and open riders.? Wellington, FL's Kristy Truebenbach Lund (Region 3) topped the field in the adult amateur division with 61.447% aboard her flashy chestnut "Reel Adventure" (Hanoverian gelding [Rotspon x Lanthess by Lanthan], owned by Blue Marlin Farms, Inc.). Ironically, the pair earned their win by returning to the same Stonelea Arena where seven years ago her then five-year-old jumped out of the ring during the Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championships.? "I'm a true believer in bringing them up through the levels yourself," said Truebenbach Lund. "I think it gives you such a true partnership, and I'm very proud that I've trained him and we've come this far together." Less than a point behind was Region 1's Alexa Briscoe of Poolesville, MD riding her own Bavarian gelding "Wildfeuer" (Welt As x Investa by Inschallah X, bred in the U.S. by Monika Levay) with 61.228% for the Reserve Championship.
Another Region 3 competitor, Laura Graves of Geneva, FL, rode her own Dutch Warmblood gelding "Verdades" to her first national title in the Intemediate II Open Championship on a strong score of 71.140% from FEI judges Gary Rockwell, Sandra Hotz, and Charlotte Bredahl over second-place finisher Heather Mason with her 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding "Warsteiner" (Riverman-ISF x Welona by Roemer) who scored 69.035%. "We had a good go today, thanks to a little bit of luck and a whole lot of practice. I'm so proud of my horse," said Graves. "We knew we'd have tough competition here, and that's why we came.? We were really looking forward to it, and are so glad to finally have a national championship like this to look forward to."? When asked if she would return next year, Graves replied without hesitation. "Oh yeah," she said emphatically. "If we get invited, we'll be here."
Final results, photo galleries, and news archives from the inaugural US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan? are available on the official event website www.usdressagefinals.com. Video on demand from select championship performances is also available on the USEF Network (www.usefnetwork.com).