Endel Ots and Lucky Strike
Wayne, Ill. – Aug. 28, 2016 – The Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse National Championships, the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions and the USEF Medal Seat Finals concluded at the Lamplight Equestrian Center on Sunday, capping off the week of competition with the final group of champions.
Kicking off the morning was Endel Ots and the Hanoverian gelding Lucky Strike (Lord Laurie-Heidi, His Highness), who impressed the judges to earn an 8.58. The pair is coming off of a summer competing in Europe at the Longines FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Dressage Championships in the Netherlands. The gelding, who is co-owned by Endel and his father Max Ots, received an 8.64 in Friday’s Preliminary test and with his win today, they clinched the Markel/USEF 6-Year-Old National Championship.
“Today’s ride was very much the same [as our previous ride],” said Bechtloff. “We are in the funny stage where we’re either under-reacting or over-reacting. We need a certain quickness for certain things, and then more relaxation for other things. We don’t have this on or off switch really down yet. We are really electric at moments, and then we are a split second behind in other moments. But where he is as a 9-year-old, I’m very happy with him.”
“I thought he was a super boy, and I couldn’t be happier and prouder of my horse,” Ots said. “It was a little bit hotter today and I thought he stayed with me very well, and he was there for the lead changes.”
Ots will give him a well-deserved break after their busy summer of traveling, and he hopes to come out in the Developing Prix St. Georges division during the winter season in Wellington, Florida.
“I’m so thankful for [U.S. Dressage Young Horse Coach] Christine Traurig’s help and support this summer, and in Europe,” Ots concluded. “I couldn’t have done it without her. She has been above and beyond.”
Coming in second place was Cesar Parra on his Westphalian gelding Don Cesar with an overall score of 8.436. The pair earned an 8.28 in their Preliminary test and an 8.54 in their Final test.
“It was really exciting,” Parra said. “I was very happy with him, and I was happy with the score and the comments that the judges had; they were very encouraging.”
Michael Bragdell maintained his third place position from his score of 7.98 on Friday on Hilltop Farm Inc’s Hanoverian stallion Sternlicht Hilltop. Bragdell made a few tweaks to his ride after the judge’s recommendations on the first test, and he earned an 8.06 in their 6-Year-Old Final Test.
“He really stepped up to the plate for me,” Bragdell said. “They really loved his canter today and I felt the canter was much better than Friday. The connection flowed better today in the test.”
In the Markel/USEF Developing Grand Prix Championship, Jane Karol and her 9-year-old Oldenburg mare claimed the tricolor ribbon with an overall score of 66.91 percent. The pair placed second in the Intermediaire II on Friday, and came back to win the Developing Grand Prix test with a 68.75 percent.
“It’s a surreal feeling. It’s wonderful, incredible,” Karol explained. “We all work so hard, and when something like this happens, it’s wonderful. I did think we had a chance [to win], but I also knew there were wonderful horses and riders competing alongside us. She was so wonderful today, that we did.”
Karol of Concord, Massachusetts, placed third at the Dutta Corp./USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship in Wellington, Florida, in December. She has been focusing on maintaining balance in the halfpass zigzag as well as building on energy throughout her tests.
“We’ve been working on getting the activity and expression, along with the relaxation,” Karol said. “I tend to go for the relaxation before the power because I don’t want to lose the relaxation.”
The pair plans on competing at their regional championships next month in the Intermediaire II and Grand Prix before heading to compete in their first open Grand Prix CDI in Wellington during the winter season.
Holger Bechtloff and Clapton JP, a 9-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Peggy Mill, led the division on the first day, but after placing second in the Developing Grand Prix test with a 66.50 percent, the duo was named the reserve champions.
Barton made the decision this winter to move eight hours away from home to live and train with her trainers Nicole Gluesenk, and Grant and Sharon Schneidman at their Westmanton Farm in Elizabeth, Colorado. The sacrifice and hard work paid off today with the pony mare that she has had since she was a 3-year-old.
Clapton JP has competed throughout his young horse career at the national championships, and Bechtloff of Wellington, Florida, explained how spookiness caused issues when he competed in the 6-year-old and Developing Prix St. Georges divisions in previous years.
“He is now mature enough that he is now focusing on me, so outside things do not register with him anymore,” Holger said. “He was listening all the time. He’s an overeager pleaser and he tries his heart out.”
Petra Warlimont rounded out the top three on Susan Alvey’s 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding Highschool MCF. The duo came into the final day of competition in fourth place with a score of 62.061 percent from the Intermediaire II, and their score of 64.875 percent on Sunday improved their placings.
“I got a piaffe at X; that was the first time in two years, so I’m really proud of him,” Warlimont laughed. “Usually we go splat! He was very with me and he has a huge heart.”
USEF Young Adult Grand Prix ‘Brentina Cup’
Anna Buffini made history on Sunday as the first rider ever to claim both the champion and reserve champion titles in the USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Championship presented by Dressage Today, making it known that she is a rising star to watch.
Buffini and her 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Sundayboy were the only pair to post scores above the 70 percent mark in both tests. The pair rode to a score of 70.974 percent in the Intermediaire II test giving them an overall total of 71.115. She claimed the reserve championship with her own Wilton II, a 13-year old Dutch Warmblood gelding, earning a score of 70.474 percent in the Intermediaire II test and a total of 68.981 percent.
“Sundayboy was really with me today; we are best friends,” Buffini smiled. “Friday I was a bit nervous. I have never been expected to do well, I was the underdog at the last Festival, and this time we were on the poster! I put a lot of pressure on myself. Today I wanted to come out, enjoy it and really have harmony with both horses. Regardless of ribbons if you have a connection with your horse that is more important than anything.”
“I am so proud of Wilton today,” Buffini continued. “He can be a bit of a bugger sometimes and it was the hardest he has tried for me. He was with me, even though we had a few mistakes, he never gave up. He was really content in there and stayed with me the whole time.”
Buffini attributes her successful mental preparation and competition strategy to her father who is a motivational speaker.
“[His advice and strategies] help with how to handle pressure and what to do when things aren’t going well,” Buffini explained. “Success doesn’t come without adversity it, it comes because of adversity. You have to realize that when you struggle it is making you stronger and you have to push through it and you will come out as a better rider and person.”
Buffini plans to compete in World Cup qualifying classes next season and perhaps the National Grand Prix Championship with Sundayboy. Wilton II will also be trying his hand at the Open Grand Prix classes next year.
Kerrigan Gluch and HGF Brio, an 11-year-old Andalusian stallion owned by Hampton Green Farm, held onto the third place spot that they claimed in the FEI Young Rider Grand Prix 16-25 Test with a score of 65.553 percent in the Intermediaire II Test and earned an average of 64.893 percent.
“Today was very eye opening for me because I put a lot of trust into him,” Gluch said. “Yesterday, I felt like he was with me but it could have been even more relaxed. Our goal was to let him settle and to find a solid cadence, especially in the trot work. Sometimes he tends to get too quick for the judge’s liking. He responded well, he relaxed and settled into the test, so that’s a huge accomplishment for us. He did everything I asked of him this week, I couldn’t ask for more.”
The pair plans to head to Dressage at Devon in September and have their eyes set on the Under-25 European tour next summer after the winter season in Wellington.
USEF Pony Rider National Championship
Julia-Lee Barton and her own 7-year-old Weser-Ems mare Bonnaroo, sat in third place after the Pony Team Test on Saturday. The pair put in a solid performance in the Individual Test to earn a score of 67.439 percent and they clinched the USEF Pony Rider National Championship with a total score of 66.220 percent.
“Bonnie was fantastic today and she was really rideable,” Barton said. “She can get tense and hot sometimes and it’s hard to make corrections without her overreacting. Today she was so rideable and relaxed I’m so pleased with her.”
“We’ve worked up the levels together,” she explained. “She’s grown up so much over the past year and gotten more mature mentally and physically. It’s hard to be away from family but it’s a really good feeling to be improving every day.”
This weekend at the Festival of Champions at Lamplight has proven inspirational for Barton.
“It’s been really fun to watch all the up and coming horses as well as the young riders,” Barton said. “Getting an idea of the future of dressage through the young riders and the young horses at the same time, I think it’s an interesting and exciting combination to be able to watch.”
Hannah Irons, 16, of Queenstown, Maryland took home both the reserve championship as well as the third place ribbon. Irons and Bodhjan, a 17-year-old KWPN Sport Pony gelding were sitting in the top spot following the team test however an unfortunate spoke coming across the diagonal cost them valuable points. The pair posted a 64.837 percent in the individual test to finish just behind Barton with a total score of 66.179 percent.
“He was awesome today; he went out and tried hard,” Irons said. “I was really proud of him for coming back and listening to me [after the diagonal] and getting through the test. He’s a really amazing pony and I’m really thankful to be here and to Bebe Davis for donating him and to Lendon Gray for choosing me to be his next rider.”
Irons claimed the third place position aboard My Lucky Charm, a 7-year-old Welsh Pony Cross gelding that holds a special place in her heart. Irons bought his dam Paela not knowing that she was in foal so ‘Charmer’ was a surprise bonus.
Claiming the bronze medal was 12-year-old Lucienne Bacon also riding a borrowed horse for the class, Humble Hazel. Bacon had only put in eight rides on the 12-year-old mare before competing her.
“I’ve had him since day one,” Irons smiled. “I’ve done all the training on him myself. To do the Championships has been a goal of mine ever since I started dressage, and to do that on a horse that I have trained myself is amazing. I’m very proud of him.”
Irons and My Lucky Charm scored a 66.220 percent in the individual test giving them an overall score of 65.296 percent.
USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals
The USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals, held Sunday at Lamplight, tested youth riders on their dressage equitation. Judges scored riders’ position and the effectiveness of their aids, and the horses’ performances were only considered as they related to the riders’ aids. Averi Allen won the gold medal in the 13 and Under division while Allison Hopkins earned the gold medal in the 14-18 division.
In the 14-18 division, riders were first judged in a group and then were given a pattern to ride individually that involved leg yields as well as two simple changes of lead across the diagonal – a movement that proved tricky for some pairs to execute.
Hopkins impressed the judges throughout the group flatwork as well as in the pattern earning an impressive 87.00 percent.
“He tends to get a little bit nervous in the ring,” Hopkins said. “I could feel him getting a little bit hot but once we started the pattern he started to settle down. He felt like he was really on my aids and listening I was really pleased with how he behaved.”
Hopkins was riding Celtic Grace an 11-year-old German Sport Horse gelding that she had borrowed for the competition season from owner Michael Mayes. She is hoping to find a mount for the next year to allow her to compete in the Young Rider division.
Madison Peer took home the silver medal with a score of 85.00 percent aboard her own Stella Luna a 9-year-old Friesian mare. Peer has had the mare since she was a 3-year-old and plans to work on getting her silver medal and trying to qualify for Young Riders next season.
Rounding out the top three was Jenna Upchurch and Greystoke. Upchurch had a fantastic weekend winning the AGCO/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship on Saturday.
“This week has been amazing for me,” Upchurch beamed. “Especially since it is my last year as a junior, winning the junior championships yesterday was fantastic. Being in the top three now is crazy to me because I started as a hunter-jumper rider. Its really exciting to be able to say that my seat is starting to get there.
“I thought overall the pattern went really well,” Upchurch continued. “The [simple] changes on the diagonal could have been a little bit more polished but they came off. It’s a pretty difficult pattern especially if you have horses that know some upper level movements like the [flying] changes, to keep them on your aids and from anticipating but I was really happy with him today.”
In the 13 and Under division, 12-year-old Averi Allen rode a borrowed mount, Celtic Grace, to an impressive score of 83.00 percent to clinch the win. Allen has put in lots of time at home with trainer Johnny Allen and her hard work paid off Sunday.
“I have been working on correcting my head tilting and trying to sit deeper,” Allen explained. “As well as breathing and being confident. We do a lot of work without stirrups too.”
The silver medal went to 13-year-old Ella Angelo and her own Here-be Seren Gwyn with a score of 82.00 percent.
“I thought my pattern was pretty good today,” Angelo said. “In the lengthening it was a little bit hard to get her bending to the left after she had already done the canter lengthening. She was a hunter pony so the dressage is new to her I thought she was really good today.”
“I was a little bit worried as this was only my 8th ride on her,” Bacon said. “I was concerned about being able to bring her back from the canter lengthening. I think that in the ring we both wanted to try really hard and she wanted to do what I asked her.”