Wayne, Ill. – The six remaining national championship divisions concluded on Sunday at the 2022 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions. A week full of seasoned competitors as well as up-and-coming talent made for an exciting, high-caliber event.
USEF Children Dressage National Championship
Twelve USEF Children Dressage National Championship combinations began the competition in the Grand Prix Arena by riding the second of two tests to determine the winner. Autumn Vavrick and Dante had an impressive FEI Children Individual Test to win the class with a score of 81.657%. Vavrick (Oxford, Mich.) and her 2007 Hanoverian gelding clinched the National Champion title with an overall score of 79.728%. The pair also was third in the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 13 & Under division earlier in the week.
“Right when I got in the ring, he was just focused on my aids and listening to me,” said Vavrick of her test. “He just went around, tried to listen and do what I asked him. He was just really good. And yesterday was really good. It was one of my best tests, so I’m very, very happy.”
Virginia Woodcock (Atlanta, Ga.) and The Safari Party, the 2009 North American Sport Pony gelding owned by Virginia, Elizabeth, and Richard Woodcock, were second in the FEI Children Individual Test with a score of 79.532% and Reserve Champions with an overall score of 79.728%. Korey Denny and Hemingway HW test 77.523% finished third in the FEI Children Individual Test with an overall score of 76.549%.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your tests.
Denny: “Going in the ring he was a little frisky. His head was up a little bit, but we got through it. Our test had a couple bobbles, but yeah, we got through it. He was good.
Woodcock: “It was pretty good. He was tired. Sundays are our day off, so he wasn't super enthused about doing everything I asked him to. But I rode through it and I was really happy that he stuck with me for the test.”
Tell us about your horses.
Vavrick: “I just bought my horse Dante in May, so that's four months and lots of training. My trainer, Laurie [Moore], all through the season, and my parents just helping me every step and I couldn’t have done it without my whole team.
“He's pretty sweet. He is kind of funny sometimes. He's pretty quiet though and keeps to himself. But he loves his outside time and grass and all the horse things.”
Denny: “I started riding ‘Ollie’ in December. My sister actually was riding him before and she won the 14-18 dressage seat equitation on him. Then I took him over, so I've been riding him for seven months now.
“He's definitely a cuddle bug in his stall. He can get a little amped up sometimes, but he's pretty quiet most of the time.
“[My sister’s] been training me most of the way and my mom.”
Woodcock: “I got ‘Safari’ two years ago. He's a little bit of a pistol. He’s funny in the barn. He is either really happy or really mad at everybody. It's hard to sometimes to go in there when he's pinning his ears and I'm like, ‘Can we work together, please?’ But he is a really good boy.”
Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old Dressage National Championship
Fourteen combinations in the Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old Dressage National Championship started the day of competition in the Markel Arena. Cesar Parra and Møllegårdens Fashion led from start to finish in the division to win the title on an overall of 8.348. Parra (Whitehouse Station, N.J.) and his and Marcella Parra’s 2016 Danish Warmblood gelding secured the win by taking first place in the FEI Six-Year-Old Final Test with a score of 8.30, collecting scores of 8.5 for the trot and general impression, 8.2 for the walk, 8.3 for the canter, and 8.0 for submission.
“It was great. Very relaxed. I didn't want to push for much more. He's a very powerful horse,” said Parra of his test. “We are a little bit new to each other. I've been riding him a few months, and I know how he can get really, really strong. So, I just wanted a loose and pleasant test. I'm very, very happy that he's getting so supple. He's learning every day, he's almost doing now the Grand Prix movements, so I'm very, very happy with that.”
Rebecca Rigdon (Cardiff by the Sea, Calif.) and Lionell VE, Lauren Fisher’s 2016 KWPN gelding, scored 8.14 in the FEI Six-Year-Old Final Test and claimed Reserve Champion honors with an overall score of 8.18. Alice Tarjan (Oldwick, N.J.) and Gjenganger, her 2016 Danish Warmblood mare, were third in the FEI Six-Year-Old Final Test with a score of 8.18 and third overall with a score of 8.084. Tarjan and Gjenganger are members of the Markel/USEF Dressage Young Horse Emerging Program.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your tests.
Rigdon: “I'm very happy with my guy today. He was gelded last fall and needed some time to get strength and he's new to me as well since December. And I'm really, really happy with him. The one mistake he made was totally my fault, which I'm thrilled with. That I can fix easily! I'm super happy with that.”
Tarjan: “I’m really pleased with my horse. She was a good girl. We got through the test and she did her job.”
What are your thoughts on coming to Festival of Champions?
Parra: “Obviously this is important to come here and win if you can, but is more important to follow the parameters that we need to bring [a horse] to Grand Prix. And I think that's why we keep coming with them here. We keep coming with the same horses doing the same thing. And I think ‘Fashion’ is a statement to that, that he's doing it. He's a very, very good. I mean, I love that guy since I started showing him.”
Horseware Ireland/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship
Nine combinations rode their final test in the Horseware Ireland/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship. Averi Allen and Superman, past Junior and Dressage Seat Medal Final champions at Festival of Champions, continued their winning ways at the event. Allen (Pleasant Hill, Mo.) and Jonni Allen’s 2013 Hanoverian gelding had a lovely FEI Young Rider Individual Test to score 69.411% and win the class. With that score, they claimed the National Champion title with an overall score of 69.608%. The duo are members of the USEF/USDF Emerging Athlete Program.
“My goal with the test was to make Superman a little more alive. We definitely accomplished that because I kind of felt like we were running,” said Allen. “But he was very good, and he was listening to me still, even though I made him more alive. And I'm very happy with myself for riding the test and not just going on autopilot and then him listening to all the half-halts and everything. So, I'm very happy with it.”
Ellanor Boehning (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) and Sir Junior, her own and Ann Boehning’s 2011 Hanoverian gelding, scored 68.137% in the FEI Young Rider Individual Test and was the Reserve Champion with and overall score of 69.069%. Sydney Lipar (The Woodlands, Texas) and Zerragamo, Denise Lipar’s 2012 Westphalian gelding, finished third in the FEI Young Rider Individual Test with a score of 68.823% and in the overall standings with a score of 68.970%.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your tests.
Boehning: “I think today I just really tried to push the trot again and the trot work definitely paid off. Every test I keep on seeing improvements. There's little bits where we can still pick up the pieces and hopefully get higher scores. But for now, I'm just super happy with how he's been going and performing."
Lipar: “My goal today was just to have a clean test, so it was mostly clean. I'm really happy that he just went in there calm and steady because the past few weeks we've been making mistakes. And so today I took the power down a little and made it confidence-boosting for both of us."
Talk about the partnerships with your horses.
Allen: “I've had him since he was four or five. He's nine now, so we've really just done everything together and I think that plays a big part in us. I think we basically know whenever the other one's anxious or we can feel like the slightest bit different from each other and then we know what to do and I think our partnership is very spot on with each other."
Boehning: “I got him as a surprise in September, and I was still training with Patricia Becker in Chicago at the time. So I started consistently riding him in January in Florida, and he started off as like a really timid horse. And now it's to the point where he'll do stuff for me that he won't do for trainers and my mom, so it's really interesting to see that he's willing to perform and it's always nice to kind of see that bond growing."
Lipar: “I've only had my horse since late January, early February, so I'm really proud of how far we've come in such a short time. At the beginning, when I got him in late January, he'd never shown before, so it was a process getting him in the show arena, showing him that it's okay. He was a little nervous at first, so I'm really proud of how our partnership has developed.”
What’s next for you and your horse?
Allen: “For us, probably trying to do the European Tour next year, thinking about that. And then just still going up the levels, training for the U25 and seeing how that goes.”
Boehning: “So I think the next step for us is just going to start to be working on the U25. He doesn't know any of the Grand Prix, so now I get to go home and can play around with that. And we're also going to work on cleaning up the young rider test a little bit more and then hopefully try for the European Tour. That's the ultimate goal next year. And if not, I'm still 16, so I've got quite a few years to go, which is nice."
Lipar: “My goal for next year is to do Young Riders again. Especially since I've only had my horse for six months, I wanted to go to do a whole year at Young Riders—a full season. Eventually I would like to make it the European Tour, but we'll see.”
Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Dressage National Championship
Nine combinations competed in the final test of the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Dressage National Championship. Claire Darnell and Harrold S had strong performances throughout the week to earn the National Champion title on an overall score of 69.942%. Darnell (Mt. Vernon, Wash.) and her 2012 KWPN claimed top honors thanks to the score of 69.250% in the USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Test.
“My horse was super good today. He’s been super all week,” said Darnell. “I could not be more happy with how he's gone. I made a couple little rider errors in the tests today, but he just kept doing his thing. He made up for my mistakes, which is really great with a young horse like him.”
Alice Tarjan (Oldwick, N.J.) and Jane, her 2014 KWPN mare, scored 67.666% in the USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Test and earned Reserve Champion honors with an overall score of 69.325%. Marcus Orlob (Annandale, N.J.) and Spirit of Joy, Jeanette Pinard’s 2014 Westphalian gelding, were third in the USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Test with a score of 68.833% as well as third overall on a score of 68.966%. All of the top three combinations are members of the Kundrun USEF Dressage Development Program.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your horse’s background.
Darnell: “I got him when he was four, and as a five-year-old showed him in training and first level, six year old, and at the end of the year at Third Level, then just kept moving up. It's just been so much fun to bring this horse up through the levels. He is so willing and so kind and the hardest trying horse I’ve ever had. The best thing about this horse is how reliable he is. I can bring him to any show anywhere and he's going to be the same. So, it's been really, really fun bringing him up through the levels. My goal for the year was just to qualify for this competition, so to come and have him win is really super, super special.”
What is next for your horses?
Darnell: “We'll go home and have a little break. And then I think we're going to head to California for the Thermal CDIs and we'll do either two of those or a whole series. Then, we’ll head to Wellington later in the winter.
Orlob: “He will have a few weeks light work and then I think our home homework will start. I planned earlier this season to qualify for here because I had in the winter a lot of issues with allergies and he had a long time off. There’s a lot of green stuff for him. He's only eight. So, now I think I have to push to the next level, and then hopefully in Florida starting to do the national Grand Prix.
Tarjan: “I think the horse just needs exposure, so we will try for [Dressage at] Devon.”
USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals 14-18
Nine youth athletes demonstrated their equitation in front of the judges in the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals 14-18 division. The combinations performed rail work and a pattern to show off their riding skills. Kayley Knollman was declared the winner after an excellent ride on JP Zeppelin. Knollman (Maineville, Ohio), trained by her mother Rebecca Stromatt, and JP Zeppelin, Stromatt’s 2012 Andalusian gelding, won the class on a score of 87.000%.
“I was really happy with how it went,” Knollman said of her pattern. “He came in very nicely. It was hard coming in because I was the last to go. So we were sitting around waiting for a long time, but he really promptly picked up the trot, and then we did the leg yield zigzag and did the canter. I was a little worried he would walk in the canter-trot-canter transitions. So maybe a little forward in those because I didn't want him to walk. But he was really good. He listened to everything that I asked and I'm really proud of him.”
Marin Roth, trained by Tae Erickson and Annie Cizaldo, rode Erin Meadows Jägermeister to Reserve Champion honors on a score of 85.000%. Lucy Sheldon, trained Molly Maloney, rode Porsche’s Florencia to third place to 83.000%.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your pattern.
Roth: “I thought my pattern went pretty well. Our leg yields were a little bit sticky, but we recovered and improved after that. And I thought he picked up the right lead canter really nicely and the trot through canter changes were really clean and smooth, so I'm really happy.”
Sheldon: “I was really proud of it. I was really happy with the leg yields. And then when we did the canter-trot-canter. I think I did wish it flowed a little bit better. But we recovered and we continued, and I was proud of how it ended."
Why you think this division is important?
Knollman: “I think it's so important to have a good seat and control of your aids and be able to direct your horse in a not-so-simple test. These tests, they seem really simple, but when you do them, it's very hard. I was so fortunate to have a good ride today and in the individual [pattern] with those tricky trot-canter portions."
Roth: “I think it's important because [equitation] is the basis of our riding. If you have good [equitation], then usually things will flow a little bit better. I also like it because, even if you don't have a spectacular horse, and because it's solely on the rider, you can do really well.”
Sheldon: “Just to echo that, I fully agree with what they said, and I also think it's just so nice to have the opportunity to come to such an amazing venue at a really accessible class that anybody can really have the opportunity to do. You don't necessarily need a really nice horse. You can just focus on yourself and what is at the core of dressage.
Markel/USEF Young Horse Seven-Year-Old Dressage National Championship
Fifteen combinations closed out Festival of Champions riding the FEI Seven-Year-Old Final Test of the Markel/USEF Young Horse Seven-Year-Old Dressage National Championship. Endel Ots and King’s Pleasure won the test with a score of 7.8129. Ots (Wellington, Fla.) and Heidi Humphries’s 2015 KWPN stallion clinched the inaugural championship with a score of 7.8295.
“I loved it,” Ots said of his test. “Couldn't be better. I didn't ride him yesterday. We just took him on a hand walk and just itched him, let him roll, turn him out a little bit. So, we had a lot of power and energy. He really stayed with me, so I couldn't be happier.”
Cesar Parra (Whitehouse Station, N.J.) and Fanta 4, Parra and Gina Raful’s 2015 Hanoverian gelding, finished second in the FEI Seven-Year-Old Final Test with a score of 7.6914 and with Reserve Champion honors on an overall score of 7.6181. Amanda Perkowski (Wellington, Fla.) and Sonata MF, Next Level Performance Center Inc.’s 2015 Hanoverian mare, were third in the FEI Seven-Year-Old Final Test with a score of 7.6100 and third overall with a score of 7.5992.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your tests.
Parra: “I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it because he is a totally different horse. ‘Fanta’ until now, to me, has been a bit too quiet. And it's getting harder trying to keep him on my aids, so I rode him until the last minute I was allowed to ride to get in the ring, but I was happy he came out good and the judges liked it. He is an amazing horse. I really love him. I mean, I've been riding him now for like two years and really in love with him.
Perkowski: “I was really happy with my ride. I've had her since October, so we're relatively new. But, you know, I feel we've come a long way and I'm happy to be here. So, I was happy with the test.
What is the background on this horse?
Ots: “So I had actually sold my friend's horses to the owner of King's Pleasure, Heidi Humphries. And when I met her, I had a feeling when I met her, really great vibe and energy, so throughout the years when I've won with Lucky [Strike] and then teamed [for the 2019 Pan American Games] with Lucky and won with Everdance, I would just send her articles through Facebook and then all of a sudden one day she said, ‘I want to buy a horse.’ And then I sent her a couple of options and I didn't hear anything. And then I just messaged her back and I said, ‘Hey, no pressure if you want to. If you don't…’ And she said, ‘Oh no, he’s coming tomorrow.’ And I was like, ‘Who, which one?’ And so then King’s Pleasure came in. I really wanted to do six-year-olds last year with him, but he was so green. I mean, he didn't know changes, no shoulder-in, no half-pass or anything. Heidi is relatively new in dressage, so I just told her, ‘Listen, if you trust me.’ I actually for her birthday about 10 months ago, I gave her a silver frame and it said ‘Seven-Year-Old 2022 National Champion King’s Pleasure.’ And I said, there'll be a photo in that frame with your horse with the championship ribbon on there. I gave that to her and she was like, ‘Well, it's no pressure. I don't want it.’ And I said, ‘No, no, no. I see it, I feel it, I know it is there.’ And she is just a fabulous, wonderful owner who does everything for her horse.”
The top three combinations in all of the Young Horse and Developing Horse divisions had their names added to a lottery to win a custom saddle from N2 Saddlery. At the conclusion of the event and the subsequent drawing, Endel Ots won the prize.
Two Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation Best Turned Out Awards were presented on Sunday. Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old Dressage National Championship competitors David Blake and Lion Heart and Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Dressage National Championship competitors Nora Batchelder and Amillion FS collected the honors.
Watch the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions on demand on USEF Network.