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Competition Concludes with Five New National Champions at the 2023 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions

by Leslie Potter/US Equestrian | Aug 27, 2023, 9:00 PM

Wayne, Ill. – Competition wrapped up on Sunday at the 2023 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions. After a week of weather ups and downs, riders and spectators were rewarded with a comfortably cool day at HITS Chicago at Lamplight Equestrian Center for the seventh and final day, which saw the final five dressage national champion titles awarded.

Winners in each division received prize packs generously provided by Le Mieux, which included an ear bonnet, saddle pad, and leg boots. Division winners also received Equine KONGS contributed by KORE Equine by KONG.

Sven Smienk and Fontenay
Sven Smienk and Fontenay. ©Leslie Potter/US Equestrian

Markel/USEF Six-Year-Old Dressage National Championship

Sven Smienk (CAN) and Fontenay, a 2017 Hanoverian owned by Dr. Cesar Parra and Gina Raful, went two for two in the six-year-old division, impressing the judges and earning an 88.200% in the FEI Six-Year-Old Final Test. David Blake (Cardiff by the Sea, Calif.) and G.Q., a 2017 Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Helen Stacy, finished second in the class with an 86.400% and earned the overall reserve champion title. Lindsey Holleger (Middletown, N.Y.) and MW Fürstencharmant, a 2017 Oldenburg stallion owned by Jennifer Vanover, rounded out the top three for the division.

Class Results

Final Results:

  1. Sven Smienk (CAN) and Fontenay
  2. David Blake and G.Q.
  3. Lindsey Holleger and MW Fürstencharmant

From the Mixed Zone:

Tell us about your horse.

Sven Smienk: I started riding Fontenay in November of last year. I believe Dr. Cesar Parra owned him since he was 3 or 4. I’ve gotten to know him in a relatively short period of time being a newer combination.

David Blake: My horse is a Grand Galaxy and Florencio. We found him in Denmark at Helgstrand’s. We’ve had him a little under a year. Helen Stacy owns him, and we picked him out together. She’s going to ride him, but she lets me do this for now.

Lindsey Holleger: My horse is by Furstenball out of one of Jen’s mares—Jen Vanover bred him. He’s exceptionally trainable. He’s still a stallion and he’s the best boy ever. He’s so well behaved. He’s been lovely.

What does it mean to you to have had the highest-placed U.S.-bred horse in the division?

LH: It’s good for the country. It’s really important for [U.S. dressage] to grow, and he’s an amazing horse.

What were some highlights of your tests this week?

SS: I think what I was most happy with is he’s a very powerful horse, and to have to be really soft and supple and light, but still powerful with balance, I think I really managed to pull that off and present a harmonious picture.

DB: I thought along the same lines of the highlights for this horse. He’s really powerful but he was really with me and super obedient. I’m really happy with it.

What are your plans with this horse?

SS: My plan is to back off a little bit for now, do some trail riding, and give him sort of a break. Then we’ll slowly start working towards the Wellington season and see what we can do.

Maryn Geck and Herr Karlson
Maryn Geck and Herr Karlson. ©SusanJStickle.com

USEF Children Dressage National Championship

In the children division, Maryn Geck (West Linn, Ore.) and Laura Geck’s 2015 Hanoverian gelding, Herr Karlson, earned their second victory with a 76.796% in the FEI Children Individual Test and won the overall championship. Scoring a 76.083%, Lizzie Oshman and Webster were second in the individual test and the reserve champion overall. Sage Chacon and Apfelkorn were a close third in the individual test with a 75.579% and moved into the third-place position overall.

Class Results

Final Results:

  1. Maryn Geck and Herr Karlson
  2. Lizzie Oshman and Webster
  3. Sage Chacon and Apfelkorn

From the Mixed Zone:

Tell us about your horse.

Maryn Geck: I originally got him in March, but he was with my trainer for a few months and came to Oregon, where I live, in May. So I just had a few months to really catch up my riding and his training, and he’s come so far in the past few months. I’m so proud of him.

Lizzie Oshman: My horse is Webster. I’ve had him for about three-and-a-half years, and he’s been really awesome. I’ve been showing children’s just this year, and it was a rough start, but I think he’s done really well and teaching me a lot. I’m really happy with him.

Sage Chacon: We first got my horse from a well-known trainer, Willy Arts. I was looking for a horse and he was like, “Yeah, I have a horse.” I went over there and got on him and my legs were so tiny I couldn’t even canter. But I gradually started to ride my other pony, and my sister Hope brought him up, and when she was done with him, I got him. We’ve come a long way since then. Now I can actually canter him. This is my last year in children’s. I’m moving on to juniors now with the same horse, so I’m very happy with him. We have a really good connection.

Have you been to FOC before, and what do you and your horse think about the atmosphere?

MG: I did ponies last year on my pony. She passed away in December, so I’m kind of here to honor her because we got reserve last year, so I’m here for her.

LO: I’ve never been here before. I think it was really nice. It’s pretty calm and relaxed, and I think it’s a nice environment to learn in.

What is your horse’s personality like?

LO: He’s a little bit happy, most of the time. He gets a little bit sassy, but I absolutely love him. He’s so sweet.

MG: He’s kind of a princess. He loves treats, and he loves to put his face everywhere near you. He doesn’t have any boundaries, but I still love him so much.

What are you going to be working on with your horse after FOC?

SC: First, I’m going to get him into a double bridle because I’m going to have to learn that in the juniors. I’m going to start working on flying changes at home. I’m going to start working on half-passes. Basically just all the stuff I’m going to be doing in the junior tests. I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a challenge for him because he already knows everything. He shows me everything and I learn from him when he does.

Miki Yang and Grey C Carrus
Miki Yang and Grey C Carrus. ©Leslie Potter/US Equestrian

Horseware Ireland/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship

Miki Yang (Los Altos Hills, Calif) took a second win in the young rider division with Grey C Carrus, a 2014 Oldenburg gelding owned by Four Winds Farm, scoring a 73.382% in the FEI Young Rider Individual Test and winning the overall national championship for the division. Kat Fuqua and her own Dreamgirl, a 2008 Dutch Warmblood mare, finished in second place for the class and reserve champion for the division. Mary Claire Piller and Emily Brollier’s Caterina, a 2011 Hanoverian mare, rounded out the top three in the overall final standings.

Class Results

Final Results:

  1. Miki Yang and Grey C Carrus
  2. Kat Fuqua and Dreamgirl
  3. Mary Claire Piller and Caterina

From the Mixed Zone:

What were some of the highlights of your test today?

Miki Yang: I was really happy with my horse, “Grey C.” He’s only 9, so each show I do, I want it to be a confidence builder for both of us. I was really happy with the power that I felt we had in the trot. I felt like we were able to showcase that pretty well. The walk was more relaxed today. We had a little bit of tension, but today I felt like he could stretch. The canter work, I was quite happy with, especially the pirouettes. They’re all the way down at X instead of closer to the quarterline, so being able to prepare that and get an honest feeling for those was a good feeling. I’m just overall very happy with it.

Kat Fuqua: I was also really happy with my test and my horse today. She was really on my side, just giving it her all. I think the highlight of the test would definitely be the canter pirouettes. They weren’t perfect, but they were a really big improvement from the team test. And, of course, the tempi changes are always our favorite.

Mary Claire Piller: I was really pleased with my mare. She’s always right with me, every time. We had some uncharacteristic mistakes in this test and the last test, which add up in the end, but I was super happy overall.

For those of you who were at NAYC earlier this month, how do you keep your horse fresh for these two big events back-to-back?

MCP: I took her home and turned her out for like two days and left her alone. She came back and was ready to work after that.

KF: Dreamgirl got a really big break because I had to start school, so she was laid over at NAYC and then came here. She was just grazing for hours every day and getting her energy back up for the shows. She came out fresh and ready to go.

What’s next for your horse?

MY: Next up, we’re hoping to see if we can do some small tour competition, stepping it up to the I-1. We’ll do our homework over the fall and winter and start playing around with some U25 things, introducing him to piaffe and passage and seeing how he takes to that.

What was the highlight of this week for you?

MY: I think the whole week, even though the weather was all over the place, was just magnificent. Being able to see all these different classes from the baby horses to the Grand Prix has just been very educational. And being able to meet a lot of new riders, talk to new people, and see familiar and new faces. And most of all, just having some quality time with my horse. It was really just me and him this whole week. We’re just spending a lot of time together each day, so I think our bond got a lot stronger.

KF: I think my highlight this week was I got to see my cousins because they live in Chicago, and they got to come watch me today. I don’t get to see them a lot, so it was really cool. This is the first time that they ever got to see me compete, so it was really exciting.

MCP: This horse show is almost inspirational in everything that happens here. You watch the Grand Prix and you get excited to go home and train. And again, getting to meet new people and reunite with people you don’t get to see all the time because everyone from all over the country comes to this horse show.

Emily Miles and Sole Mio
Emily Miles and Sole Mio. ©Leslie Potter/US Equestrian

Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Dressage National Championship

Emily Miles (Paola, Kan.) and Sole Mio, Leslie Waterman’s 2014 Hanoverian stallion, earned the top score of 70.092% in the USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Test, clinching the national championship for the division. Ali Potasky (Versailles, Ky.) and INXS, the 2013 Dutch Warmblood gelding she co-owns with Kathy Priest, had the second-best score, a 69.398%, finishing in the reserve champion position overall. Karen Lipp (Ball Ground, Ga.) and her own 2013 KWPN gelding, Infinity, rounded out the top three for the overall national championship.

Class Results

Final Results:

  1. Emily Miles and Sole Mio
  2. Ali Potasky and INXS
  3. Karen Lipp and Infinity

From the Mixed Zone:

What were some of the high points of today’s test?

Emily Miles: I was super happy with him. I was worried about his energy level through this week. It’s a long week, but I felt like his energy level was great today, so I was super happy with how much horse I still had. I was really happy with the uphill carriage that I had. I was able to be really light in there, but still go for it, and I hope the judges appreciated that. I liked the feel I had overall, the uphill self-carriage and the lightness I could get that translated throughout the movements.

Karen Lipp: I definitely feel like today I rode way better. I didn’t get a huge score, but I’ve never been so happy to be third place. I thought I worked really hard for it.

What is your horse’s background?

KL: I imported him as a 4-year-old, and this is our fifth time here. He did the 6-year-olds, developing Prix St. Georges, I-1 championships. We did the developing Grand Prix last year, which he wasn’t really ready for. So I was glad to be back this year.

Ali Potasky: I also found him in Europe as a younger horse and bought him with my boss, Kathy [Priest]. He’s the only horse I own part of. We say I own the cheap half as a joke about how when we got him he was a little difficult in the beginning. So it’s been a long journey of getting to really know him and get rapport with him. And once we got him confident, he’s a little bit easy with everything. It’s just the mental part that can be really challenging.

What are your goals for your horse?

AP: I think I just enjoy the training, and just seeing how far we could get and enjoying it. I sort of bought him as a sales horse—maybe train him up for a few years and sell him, but obviously he’s gone farther than I thought, so we will keep going and see where we get.

EM: Like Ali said, it’s about enjoying the journey and the everyday. I think we all know, with these horses nothing is given. So we might have hopes and dreams for them, and I would love “Mio” to do big, amazing, wonderful things. But I think it’s more important to stay in the moment and really appreciate the journey we’ve had. I am just so grateful to Markel for this. My horse was the winner of the 4-year-olds. He did the 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds, developing Prix St. Georges, developing Grand Prix, and now we’re here. So I really am just thankful for Markel for giving us this opportunity to showcase these young horses and watch their development and for people to get to know them. It’s a lucky thing that we have here at beautiful Lamplight, and to have an owner that stands behind you from buying him as a two-and-a-half year old all the way through the developing Grand Prix. We’re all very fortunate just to be here with the horses we have today.

Marin Roth and Erin Meadows Jagermeister
Marin Roth and Erin Meadows Jägermeister. ©Leslie Potter/US Equestrian

USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 14-18

Marin Roth (Bloomington, Ill.) has both a bronze and silver USEF Dressage Seat Medal to her name, and this year, she added a gold. Riding her own 2014 Zweibrucker gelding, Erin Meadows Jägermeister, she earned a score of 88% from the judges. Korey Denny (Williston, Fla.) finished in a close second place riding Hemingway KW, the 2012 Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by her mother, Amy Denny, to win the silver medal. Olivia Martz clinched the bronze riding Brook Martz’s Ronvair, a 2004 Oldenburg gelding.

Class Results

Final Results:

  1. Marin Roth and Erin Meadows Jägermeister
  2. Korey Denny and Hemingway KW
  3. Olivia Martz and Ronvair

From the Mixed Zone:

Have you done the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final before?.

Marin Roth: I’ve done all four years. This is my last year [of eligibility], and I’m just really happy to end it on a good note. But it’s been a long way coming. The first year I did it, I think I got dead last, and then the last two I got bronze and silver, so I’m ending it on a very good note.

Korey Denny: This is my third year. I did two years in the 13 & Under. I got reserve last year and this is my first year in the 14-18.

Olivia Martz: I did two years as well, in 2020 and 2021. In 2021, I won the 13 & Under Championship.

What makes you want to come back and compete in the medal year after year?

MR: I think the main thing for me was that you don’t have to have the fanciest horse because it’s solely based on the rider. And as good a rider as you are, that’s what makes the horse. You have to be a good rider to produce a good horse and have a good test, so I think that’s what really motivated me.

KD: Normally the tests are more on the horse, so I think it’s a good way to get a little feedback on your own position. I think if you have good equitation, it can help you in the future.

OM: I think position is so important. When you ride your horse, [your position] affects your horse in so many different ways. If you’re crooked, your horse is most likely crooked as well. And it’s also great that you don’t have to have the fanciest horse to come out here and do your best.

Full Schedule and Results

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