August 31, 2007 -- With a stellar field of 22 riders, the 2007 United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Dressage Seat Medal Finals presented by Dressage Today brought together a wealth of talented juniors from across the country to the spectacular HITS on the Hudson showgrounds in Saugerties, N.Y., August 17-19. Hosted by Centerline Events, the finals were held in conjunction with the CDI-W/Y/J/P Saugerties, NY, an event also showcasing some of the nation's top high performance dressage riders.
The purpose of the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Program is to promote and reward excellence in equitation, including correct seat, position and use of aids in the sport of dressage. Junior riders in these finals qualified last year by competing in the Dressage Seat Medal Semi-Final classes held at each of the nine 2006 USDF Regional Championships, with the top two competitors in each age division being eligible for the finals. Since the rider, not just the horse, is the primary focus of the judges' scrutiny, one of the unique aspects of the Dressage Seat Medal Program is that riders may use borrowed horses. Thanks to the generosity of local horse owners, more than a third of the juniors rode borrowed horses, enabling these competitors to travel from across the country for the finals.
Under sunny skies and refreshing temperatures, riders were put to the test by the panel of national and international judges, including Jeanne McDonald, Margaret Freeman and Lisa Schmidt. All competitors were asked for both group and individual performances to show off their skills.
With an impressive score of 87.333 percent earned while riding a borrowed horse she hadn't met until that week, Christina Thomas bested the competition in the 13 & Under Division with Lendon Gray's Sympatico. Traveling from Kennewick, Wash., this was Thomas' second trip to the finals. Having competed in finals since the age of 8, now 12-year-old Isabelle Leibler from Greenwich, Conn., claimed the reserve championship riding her own horse Depardieu to a score of 85.667 percent. Rebecca Raede, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., took the bronze medal riding John Gross' Lucy to a final score of 82.333 percent.
In the 14-18 division, Robyn Weston of Grandville, Mich., took home the gold medal riding her own horse Polensio. A veteran of medal finals, this was Weston's fourth time competing--in 2004, she placed third, and in 2005 she was reserve champion. But this time, the national championship title was hers for the taking with a score of 86.667 percent. Also a returning competitor to the finals, Lauren Hadley of Ponca City, Okla., was named reserve champion with a score of 85.333 percent while riding Elaine Cornell's The Great Oz. Taking the bronze medal home to Eatontown, N.J., was Melissa Reese and her mount Witster Bratbjerg with a score of 82.200 percent.
In addition to a wealth of gifts and prizes including trophies, medals, bridles, halters, saddle and tote bags, silver photo albums and riding gear, the champions will have their names engraved on the perpetual Hart trophy kept on display in the USEF offices in Lexington, Ky.