Ten More Riders Return Home as National Champions After Final Day of US Dressage Finals Presented By Adequan®

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November 9, 2015 -- Adult amateur riders showing off their Third Level freestyles were first in the Alltech Arena early Sunday morning, but it was the final competitor down centerline who impressed the judges the most on the last day of national championship action at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, held November 5-8, 2015 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. 

Julie McCrady of Raymore, Mo. rode her six-year-old Hanoverian mare Remanessa (Rousseau x Leonessa by Louis Heslegard), and as the only pair to break 70 percent on their way to earning a score of 70.778% they took the Third Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship home to Region 4. This was the pair’s third trip to the Finals, where they were crowned as the First Level Adult Amateur Champions last year. “It’s such a blast riding a freestyle! My horse likes to go with the music and her forte is flying changes so we do a lot of those,” said McCrady. “She traveled well coming to Kentucky again and got better the longer she was here – she doesn’t seem to stress, which is good because I do! I was the last ride in our class, so the waiting was torture but it worked out. I saw others warming up and just decided to go for it and ride my butt off, and my horse said ‘okay!’” McCrady and her husband, an equine veterinarian, bred Remanessa but weren’t sure she’d become the horse they’d dreamed of. “She was very naughty as a baby so we even tried to sell her when she was a youngster. But then the first time I sat on her I knew she would be good. To this day she’s not nice on the ground and isn’t ‘lovey-dovey’ at all, but as soon as you put the bridle on her she’s all business. I do think it means more when you breed them, watch them grow up, and do a lot of the work yourself. It’s been quite a journey with her.” Amy Hedden of Manassas, Va. (Region 1) was thrilled to earn Reserve honors her Oldenburg mare Sadira TWF (Starlight x Revlon by Routinier, bred in the U.S. by Laureen Megan) with 69.444%. “I was really happy with my ride, my mare was a little physically and emotionally spent so I went out there with the attitude that I’d be happy with whatever she could give me, and she gave me everything she had so I’m very proud,” explained Hedden. “I hadn’t done a freestyle since I was in Pony Club so I thought it would be fun to do it again. I work the late shift as a nurse and have a lot of hours at night to sit on the computer, so I did the music editing myself using a Batman theme. I call it my 99-cent freestyle!”

Julie McCrady won the Third Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship with her home-bred Hanoverian mare Remanessa. | Photo copyright Susan J. Stickle

Julie McCrady won the Third Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship with her home-bred Hanoverian mare Remanessa. | Photo copyright Susan J. Stickle

A homemade freestyle with a Batman theme was also a recipe for success for Heather Fultz of Gainesville, Fla. (Region 3) who claimed top honors with 72.167% for the First Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship aboard her colorful six-year-old tobiano Oldenburg mare SS Seraphina (Sympatico x Hall of Fame, bred in the U.S. by Shiloh Sport Horses), who she bought as a yearling and trained herself. “I’m a music teacher so I actually put the entire freestyle together myself, and then it was great to just be at the Finals and ride it in front of everyone. I’m so lucky to have great friends who helped me get here,” said Fultz. “I don’t even have a regulation-size arena at home, so had to trailer off-site to practice it and use schooling shows to tweak the choreography. It slowly got better and better and we ended up here! It’s been an adventure. Last year was the first time we’d ever even done a recognized dressage show, so we’re delighted to be here and I’m excited for our future.” Also from Region 3 (which sent 84 competitors to this year’s Finals) was Reserve Champion Carol Wertz of Cramerton, N.C. with 69.333%. Even though her Friesian gelding Marco von Laar (Onne 376 x Wydana von Laar by Sjaard 320) is a Finals veteran, it was Wertz’ first time taking a turn in the saddle. “I came here with him last year as his groom, and never in a million years thought I’d be back here riding my own horse, but I fell in love with him at the barn,” she explained. “I’d never even ridden a freestyle before, but I was fortunate that when I purchased him in January he came with his First and Second Level freestyles so I got a really nice package deal. I’m thrilled beyond belief.”

After finishing a close second in Saturday’s First Level Open Championship, Stacey Hastings of Mooresville, N.C. (Region 1) with hers and Ronald Woodcock’s five-year-old Oldenburg gelding Fürst Aurum (Fürst Romancier x Kapela by Rohdiamant), she returned to the ring determined to emerge the victor in today’s First Level Freestyle Open Championship. Despite an initial case of stage fright, the pair reached their goal with a winning score of 74.278%. “At first my horse was pretty scared going in the ring today and I was a little concerned, but he pulled it together and we’re really proud of him. Hopefully we’ll be back again next year,” noted Hastings. Finishing in second with 73.556% was another youngster in the five-year-old Oldenburg mare Rae Sangria (Royal Prince x Ferrymore Lane by Fantastico, bred in the U.S. by Donna Mayne), ridden by Kristin Stein of Spencer, Ohio (qualified in Region 1). “We bred her ourselves so we’ve had her from the ground up,” said Stein. “We chose Lady GaGa music for her because it’s a little edgy. It’s our first time to the Finals and it’s been an absolutely wonderful experience.”

Another repeat winner was Jonni Allen of Pleasant Hill, Mo. (Region 4) who had already earned the Second Level Freestyle Open Reserve Championship and wrapped up her 2015 Finals experience on a winning note Sunday. Aboard Bobbi Wojtowicz’ Friesian Sport Horse mare Celtic Grace (Roi Des Blues x Zena TB) she topped the Fourth Level Freestyle Open Championship with 72.944%. “I was very happy with my ride today, she was with me every step and we hit every mark,” said Allen. “We’re thankful to even be here – we’ve had several injuries and lameness issues in the last month, so even at the beginning of this week we weren’t sure if we would make it. So we’re thrilled, she’s an amazing horse.” Region 1 qualifier Domenique Carson of Keymar, Md. rode her Oldenburg mare DeLiza (De Laurentis x Dutch Treatt by Hall of Fame, owned and bred in the U.S. by Victoria Carson) to the Reserve Championship, earning 69.444% for a Taylor Swift-themed performance. “I was so proud of my horse for holding herself together in the Alltech Arena. She’s normally very sound sensitive and likes to look up and get scared, but she put her head down and stayed with me. She loves to dance to the music and did her job today. I was there when my mare was born and I’ve done all the training with her, so it was really special to do this.”

Coming into the final day of competition, equine orthopedic surgeon Ashlee Watts of College Station, Texas (Region 9) had already had a successful Finals as she previously earned her division’s First Level Reserve Championship. Despite an early morning ride time, she trotted into the picturesque Stonelea Arena and set a whopping mark of 75.152% that could not be caught to claim the Training Level Adult Amateur Championship. Watts couldn’t stop smiling when talking about her Danish Warmblood gelding Hampton (Blue Hors Hotline x Madigan L). “I warmed up the exact same way and didn’t change a thing and it all worked, from the moment I put my foot in the stirrup he was so solid. He was amazing and right with me the entire time – he never changed his frame and was so soft, it was perfect harmony,” said Watts. “He grew up a lot here, and it’s been a great week and a great atmosphere for him. I think this weekend was worth two years of training at home! Just watching all the incredible riders and horses here has been inspiring.” Christine Malpartida of St. Petersburg, Fla. (Region 3) had her hands full at first with the four-year-old Hanoverian gelding Freudentänzer (Fürst Nymphenburg x Design-Ra by Donnerhall) but ended up with a great ride for 72.273% and the Reserve Championship. “My horse warmed up really hot and I was a little surprised, but once we started the test he came together and I think my smile got bigger and bigger as the test went on,” she explained. “I was so happy that he came back to me even though he was feeling so frisky. I’ve only had him a short while, but he has an amazing mind and that was one of the reasons why my trainer selected him for me. He’s so talented and I just adore him.”

Ashlee Watts was all smiles as she trotted to victory with Hampton in the Training Level Adult Amateur Championship. Photo copyright Susan J. Stickle

Ashlee Watts was all smiles as she trotted to victory with Hampton in the Training Level Adult Amateur Championship. Photo copyright Susan J. Stickle

Mike Suchanek of Cambridge, Minn. (Region 4) won his second national title of the week, this time in the Second Level Open Championship with the Hanoverian mare Fleur de Lis L (First Dance x De La Rosa by De Niro, owned and bred in the U.S. by Douglas and Louise Leatherdale) with 72.683%. “It was an amazing ride, she came out there and was so confident and perfect going into the ring,” said Suchanek of his mount. She goes out there with a winning attitude every time and I’m really blessed to have such a horse to ride. We’ll keep bringing her up the levels, she keeps picking up her training just lickity-split. I’ll absolutely be back next year.” Even what was originally thought to be a career-ending injury couldn’t keep Molly Maloney of Verbank, N.Y. (Region 8) and her eight-year-old Hanoverian gelding Felissimo (by Fidertanz) from earning Reserve honors with 70.041%. “Felix was on stall rest for over a year and a half and has only been back in work for the last eight months. I purchased him three months ago as a bit of a risk, not being sure if he’d fully come back,” Maloney explained. “We had a few bobbles today – my horse really does not like warming up in company so that’s a challenge at a large show like this, but once he got in the ring he focused on me and tried his heart out. He’s happy to be back to work and loves his job, so today was a lot of fun and I had a great support team behind me.”

Rachael Hicks of nearby Prospect, Ky. (Region 2) and her black Westfalen gelding Fabio Bellini (Fuerst Heinrich x Dakota by Davignon I) have proven to be an unbeatable combination at this year’s Finals, and today they added the Prix St. Georges Adult Amateur Championship to their resume with a score of 69.079%, earning the right to have their names engraved on the Janine Westmoreland Malone Perpetual Trophy presented by USDF. “Fabio was a little tired today – I had to work for it to keep it going, but he’s such a trier and gives me everything he’s got. I think the competition has been tougher here this year, and it’s a great thing to see,” said Hicks, who now has her sights set on some new goals. “I’ve never done a CDI or a freestyle, so I think that will be a goal for me now, maybe in the CDI Adult Amateur division which could be a great way to get my feet in that type of competition. I think it would be fun and add a new challenge for us.” Heather Mason’s Hanoverian cross mare Damani (Duvall x Gqdiva by Gesandt, bred in the U.S. by Virginia Godfrey) carried Alexandra Krossen of Basking Ridge, N.J. (qualified in Region 8) to her third Reserve Championship title of the weekend thanks to a score of 68.202%. “I felt like she was more relaxed today, very happy and on her game,” said Krossen. “She has a lot of talent for piaffe and passage, so now we’ll see about moving her up. I’d like to thank my family and trainer and everyone from the farm that helped me get here.” 

In the Prix St. Georges Open Championship, James Koford of Raleigh, N.C. (qualified in Region 3) and the impressive seven-year-old black Hanoverian stallion Doctor Wendell MF (Don Principe x Stellar Hit MF by Sandro Hit, owned and bred in the U.S. by Maryanna Haymon) earned a top score of 72.982% and were awarded the New Miki Christophersen Perpetual Trophy presented by USDF Region 4. “I was immensely happy with my ride today. For me, it was a shot at redemption because we went to the Developing Horse National Championships at Lamplight in August, and I just did not have the results I wanted. This was our chance at a second shot and it worked out,” said Koford after the ride. “I am a big fan of this horse and hope to do right by him. Even though he is only seven, he has an amazing talent for pirouettes and his strength is that he has no weaknesses! He is so happy when he goes. I enjoy riding him and the judges obviously enjoy watching him because he does everything with such joy and exuberance.” Heather Mason of Lebanon, N.J. (Region 8) wrapped up her busy weekend with the Reserve Championship aboard her Hanoverian gelding Romantico SF (Romancero H x Wesermelodie by Wenzel I) with 71.096%. “He was super, unfortunately I missed the last flying change after the extended canter which was costly, but he was really really good. I really like coming here, all my clients had a lot of fun, it’s such a great show.” Also of note, the lovely Wesfalen mare Rocky Lane (Rock Forever by Rica) ridden and owned by Rebecca Knollman of Maineville, Ohio finished fourth in this division and was presented with the Lloyd Landkamer Perpetual Trophy for FEI Highest Scoring Mare (presented by Janet Foy) for their score of 70.044% earned in their winning ride in Friday’s Intermediate I Open Championship.

James Koford & Doctor Wendell MF enjoyed their winning ride in the Prix St. Georges Open Championship. Photo copyright Susan J. Stickle

James Koford & Doctor Wendell MF enjoyed their winning ride in the Prix St. Georges Open Championship. Photo copyright Susan J. Stickle

In the Intermediate II Open division, less than four-tenths of a point separated the top three finishers but ultimately emerging as Champion with 68.509% was Heather McCarthy of Prairie Grove, Ill. (qualified in Region 2) riding Sandi Chohany’s Oldenburg gelding Sandro Paix (Sandro Hit x Ariyola by Absatz), a horse she’s developed all the way from Second Level. “In Saturday night’s Grand Prix freestyle, the atmosphere was a little too electric for him, so for this class I really focused on trying to have a relaxed ride and he was a different horse today. It was a very nice fluid test and I was very happy, he stayed with me,” said McCarthy. Stacy Parvey-Larsson of Reddick, Fla. (Region 3) finished a close second with 68.158% aboard Benidetto, a Hanoverian stallion (Belissimo M x Crispy Sweet by Cordoba) who she owns with Linda Woltz and has also brought along from a young age. “I got him in the fall of 2009 and brought him through the young and developing horse programs. The journey’s been amazing,” said Parvey-Larsson. “It’s a little bit like rolling the dice with a stallion, but he was a really good boy and came through for me today. He was spot on and I’m really happy with him.”

Amy Leach of South Elgin, Ill. (Region 2) overcame her show nerves to ride her Holsteiner gelding Radcliffe (Rantares x Felicitious by Coriolan, bred in the U.S. by Cheryl Kellerman) to a score of 65.351% for the unanimous victory under all three judges in the Intermediate II Adult Amateur Championship. “I’ve had him since he was three and he’s 17 now, so we’ve journeyed together all the way from green-as-grass to Grand Prix and have done all our training together,” said Leach. “My ride today was incredible, it was the culmination of everything we’ve been working on with both the technical and psychological aspects of the test. To be able to just ride in the moment and do the best that we could – it was an incredible feeling.” After earning 63.947% for Reserve Championship honors with her Hanoverian gelding Wilby (Walt Disney I x Doretta by Darling),

Amy Leach overcame her show nerves to win the Intermediate II Adult Amateur Championship with Radcliffe. Photo copyright Susan J. Stickle

Amy Leach overcame her show nerves to win the Intermediate II Adult Amateur Championship with Radcliffe. Photo copyright Susan J. Stickle

lawyer Phyllis Sumner of Atlanta, Ga. (Region 3) mirrored so many other Finals competitors as she was headed to the airport to get right back to “real life” and a full day of meetings on Monday. “It was a little bit of a challenging weekend for me as I’ve been under the weather and had a very hot horse, but he settled into a good ride today,” she explained. “I appreciated how my horse was working so hard for me and that’s one of the things I love about him. Just being here has been spectacular.”

For added excitement this year, the top-scoring riders in various divisions from each of the Great American/USDF Regional Championships competed on regional teams in the inaugural US Dressage Finals Regions Cup, vying with competitors from across the country for awards and bragging rights for their respective USDF Region in which they qualified to attend the Finals. Coming out on top after three days of championship competition was Region 3 which also sent 84 competitors to this year’s Finals, the most of the nine USDF Regions. Composed of Kathryn Stoy riding Rapunzel of Hillock at Open First Level, Camilla Van Liew with Dartesch in the Third Level Adult Amateur division, and James Koford aboard Doctor Wendell MF in Open Prix St. Georges, the Region 3 team earned a winning average score of 70.762%. Finishing in second was Region 8 with 70.039%, and Region 2 was third with 69.629%.

More information including final results, photo galleries, and news archives from the 2015 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 at www.usefnetwork.com. A complete archive of each competition day's results is listed at this direct link: http://www.usdf.org/usdressagefinals/competitors/results.asp.