Wayne, Ill. – Talented combinations delivered quality performances on the penultimate day of competition at the 2020 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions at HITS Chicago at the Lamplight Equestrian Center. Four titles were determined on Saturday in the Markel/USEF Young Horse Four-Year-Old Dressage National Championship, Markel/USEF Young Horse Five-Year-Old Dressage National Championship, Adequan®/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship, and Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Dressage National Championship.
USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship
The USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship continued on Saturday with the FEI Grand Prix Special Test. Jennifer Schrader-Williams (Olympia, Wash.) and Millione were the top finishers in the class with a score of 69.489%. Schrader-Williams and Millione Partners, LLC’s 17-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding were third in the 2019 national championship, and they showed off the hard work they have done in the past year.
“I have been competing Mickey at this level for the last three years and it has always been my goal to really gain experience with him. He is a horse that came in as a sale horse several years ago. He has just become my partner in crime and I was really blessed to have him fall into my life,” said Schrader-Williams. “We have really just tried to take every opportunity possible that we can to learn, grow, get out here and compete and try to better ourselves in any way that we can with any opportunity that we can, so we have continued to train. We were in Florida through March. I have continued to work with Christophe Theallet monthly, either through FaceTime or, more recently, he has been having clinics at our place again. I see Debbie McDonald regularly as well. I just have a great support system that has helped us try to keep growing and learning.”
Nora Batchelder (Williston, Fla.) and WGangster Girl, Sally Seaver’s 17-year-old KWPN mare, finished in second place with a score of 67.830%. Dawn White-O’Connor (San Diego, Calif.) and Bailarino, Four Winds Farm’s 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding, was third with a score of 67.787%.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your ride.
Schrader-Williams: “Today, he gave me a little bit more of a tense feel in the warm-up. He’s starting to get a bit tired, so I had to really manage the warm-up and try to diffuse him and make him feel confident and work to keep everything light and happy.
“In the test, he stayed quite rideable. I tried to be a little bit braver in the changes. It can be a little sticky at times if he is getting tense, so I tried to be more forward and be more bold and powerful in my changes and that worked out for the most part. The piaffe and passage have always been real strong suits for him so I really try to let him enjoy himself in those pieces where he can shine. Just really try to keep the confidence going in the ring and keep the relaxation to the best of my ability while we are in the test.”
Can you give us a preview of your freestyle?
Schrader-Williams: “We changed our freestyle from the last two years and we debuted it in Florida. I really enjoy it. It is music from [the television show] Vikings. He is my little Danish Viking. He has just got a heart of gold. He is always ready to work and power forward, so I thought it was fitting for him. The music fits him well and we really enjoy doing it. He enjoys getting out in front of the crowd any time he can.”
Markel/USEF Young Horse Four-Year-Old Dressage National Championships
The Markel/USEF Young Horse Four-Year-Old Dressage National Championship division closed out today with 15 exceptional youngsters having a second go at the USEF Four-Year-Old Test in front of the four-judge panel.
Alice Tarjan (Oldwick, N.J.) rode her own Danish Warmblood mare, Gjenganger, to a score of 8.54, which was enough for second place in today’s class and a first-place finish overall for the division. The striking chestnut mare is by Grand Galaxy Win, and the judges believe she has strong potential for the future.
“I think this horse has got three solid gaits, and she’s quite rideable,” said Tarjan. “I think she’s a really good horse for the future.
“I think she was a little bit tired, so she got a little bit curly and the judges noticed that,” Tarjan explained. “I’m really happy; she still went in and did her job. That’s all you can ask of them.”
Tarjan is also the owner and breeder of the winner of Saturday’s USEF Four-Year-Old Test, Glory Day. Glory Day is also by Grand Galaxy Win, and was ridden to an 8.84 by Marcus Orlob. He finished the division as Reserve National Champion.
“He was more relaxed today. That made it much easier for me to just let him cruise around,” said Orlob. “The quality is amazing. He’s just sometimes a little bit spooky. He’s green. But he was very relaxed today and let me do my job much easier, so I was very happy with him.”
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your test today.
Alice Tarjan: “I don’t think it was quite as good as the other day. I think she was a little bit tired…[but]I’m really happy. She still went in and did her job. That’s all you can ask for them. It’s a long week for them. She was a little bit tired. She’s four. You don’t have a lot of strength to go on. It’s a matter of making sure they’re not too wild and then not too tired. Maybe I went a little bit, a tiny bit too tired. She still went in, she did her job.”
Can you talk about how you’re feeling about owning first and second place?
Tarjan: “Yeah, I’m thrilled! It was a tough morning. It’s been a busy morning. But I’m really happy. I’m really happy for Marcus with Glory. He’s doing a great job with that horse, so that’s exciting.”
How did you decide to send him to Marcus?
Tarjan: “We brought the horse over last year. It’s a stallion. He was quite good for a while and then he started getting a little feisty and he was more than I wanted to ride, so I got Marcus to do it for me and he’s been doing it ever since. He’s been doing a good job.”
How did that partnership develop?
Tarjan: “He helps me with the other horses too. He’s been helping me with the horses for a while. It’s good. I train with Lars when I’m in Florida but then I kind of need some continuity with the training when we go to New Jersey, so he’s close in New Jersey so he comes over a couple days a week and helps me, and then he’s down in Florida, too. So that’s good for me.
Talk about Glory Day, watching him from the sidelines.
Tarjan: “I love watching the horse. I think it’s a really dynamic horse. He’s got three good gaits and he can really work for you. He’s just gotten a little bit too strong for me. I would say I admire the horse and I really enjoy watching them work, but it’s the first time I’ve ever really played owner, so it’s kind of fun to watch him go and succeed. It’s nice to be able to watch the horse go and compete and not have the stress of doing it myself. So I can see why people like to play owner!”
Were you able to watch his ride today? Did you have any thoughts about it?
Tarjan: “Yes, we were able to watch. The horse is a young stallion and sometimes the hormones get the best of him, so we had low expectations. We were just hoping to bring him for the experience and get him through the test. We know the horse has good quality, but just trying to get him in the routine of working all the time has sort of been the goal . And the other thing is, like I said last time, this is probably the best four-year-old class I’ve ever seen. There’s gotta be at least six horses in there that could win on any day. The horses are fantastic quality. Every single one you’re like, ‘Oh, I’d bring that one home!’ It’s really, really fun. That’s been fun.”
What is in the future once he grows up? Do you plan on taking over the ride of Glory Day?
Tarjan: “I like training my horses and developing a relationship with them and my guess is that by the time I feel comfortable riding that horse it’s going to be quite trained and I have no interest in taking somebody else’s training. No offense to Marcus whatsoever! He’s doing a brilliant job. I like the process myself. That’s why I do it. If he trains the horse, good for him, then he can do whatever he wants with it. It makes no difference to me.”
Grand Galaxy Win sired both of the top two horses in this class. Tell us a little bit about Grand Galaxy and the qualities he passed on to these two horses.
Tarjan: “Yeah, I think that both of them have three quality gaits. They have good rideability and they have good mechanics for the upper level work. I think both of them are solid packages. They’re not lacking anything really. I think Grand Galaxy makes a lot of good horses. He’s younger so the horses are just kind of starting to get out there and get under saddle. I think maybe a lot of people were hesitant to breed to him because of his breeding. Personally I’m a huge Apache fan. I love the breeding which is why I breed to him. I think he’s proving now that he can put quality on the ground and they’re ridable and able to do the upper levels, maybe.”
Tarjan: “It takes a village to do this. I brought five horses and Glory. My husband is here and the girls back at the barn, and my friend Lauren [Chumley] has been helping me out and running every which way to keep me on a horse. It’s been really busy. And Desi Olland helps me out. We’ve been keeping it running. Without them I couldn’t do this. You just see the tip of the iceberg. You don’t see the chaos back there!”
Tell us about your ride today.
Marcus Orlob: “He was more relaxed today that made it much easier for me to just let him cruise around. The quality is amazing, so he’s just sometimes a little bit spooky. He’s green. But he was very relaxed today and let me do my job much easier, so I was very happy with him.”
How does it feel riding Alice’s horse to a reserve championship?
Orlob: “It’s very nice. To be honest, she’s tough to beat. I guess she’s the king of the young horses here. To be honest, it’s an honor to ride this horse, so I think I got close but it’s a nice feeling to have a good horse be behind Alice is OK. She can win. Ladies first.”
Talk about your third-place horse as well.
Orlob: “I’m also very happy with him because he is more green to me than Glory Day. I’ve had him since the end of April but I was stuck in Florida and he went to New Jersey because I thought I would go home much earlier, but the COVID changed plans. So we still have to get to know each other, but, overall, I’m super happy and I never thought I would be in the top three with him here. I think he would be also in the future a very great horse. He’s just a little bit more green than Glory.”
Alice says Glory Day is pretty strong and quite a character. Can you tell us what it’s been like getting to know him and develop him?
Orlob: “To be honest, it’s a little bit like I would say we always call him Macho Boy in the barn. He’s just a young stallion. Pretty wild and playful. I don’t get mad at him. I let him play. I let him do his stuff, and then he settles quite nicely. Everything at first is a little bit of drama. ‘Oh, there’s a flower box.’ He just uses it as an excuse to play. Once he’s over this, then it’s really all easy for him.”
Have you felt like his confidence in you has been a contributing factor in him succeeding here today?
Orlob: “I know him now pretty good and I know when he wants to spook now and what I can do to protect this from happening. I think we have a good relationship now.”
How long have you had the ride on him?
Orlob: “I had him for a while in November. And then he was fine then he went down to Florida with Alice and then I believe I started riding him like in January again.”
Alice is on record as being very happy with your work with this horse. Do you have any aspirations for him?
Orlob: “That’s a question for the owner. I pray that I can keep the ride, but who knows. That’s up to the owner. I love riding this horse, always. He’s beautiful, he’s fun. Everything you want in a horse, I believe. He’s totally my taste.”
Markel/USEF Young Horse Five-Year-Old Dressage National Championships
In the Five-Year-Old Division of the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage National Championships, it was Cristina Danguillecourt and Yeguada Des Ymas S.L.’s black Rhinelander gelding, Easy Di Fonteabeti Ymas, taking the National Champion title with rider Pablo Gomez Molina (Wellington, Fla.)
“It’s the first big trip that we’ve done with him, and today I felt him a little bit tired,” said Gomez Molina. “The ride was a little bit more trying to keep him together and trying to get a lot of power. But even if he felt tired, he was with me all the time and I’m really proud of him because he was a pretty good boy today.”
Alice Tarjan (Oldwick, N.J.) added another success to her long list of Festival of Champions accomplishments, riding her own Summersby II, an Oldenburg mare, to the Reserve National Championship title in the division.
“I think this is a great show to bring the young horses to,” said Tarjan. “I think the championships are fantastic. It’s really good for the young horses to get the experience to show come out here and show in this type of environment. We really try to get them qualified to bring them out here for that aspect; to hope that when they become grand prix horses they’ll already have a lot of experience under their belt and seeing the bigger venues won’t be such an issue.
From the Mixed Zone:
How does it feel to come out of here with a big win today?
Pablo Gomez Molina: “I’m really proud because I think it’s the work of all the year with the horse and I think it’s a big thing for Yeguada Des Ymas. I’m really grateful to them because they’re giving me the opportunity to compete to go to shows and I think all of us should be proud.”
Tell us about your experience here.
Gomez Molina: “This is my third year that I’ve come. I’m really happy because every year I’ve been doing a little bit better. Now to top it with a win is really nice. I still have one more day to go. Tomorrow I have a six-year-old horse. But I’m really happy. I really enjoy coming here. This year was a little bit weird because of the situation. But I really enjoyed to come here. I think it’s a really, really good show. The organization does an amazing job too. I hope to keep coming next year.”
What is your goal for Easy going into next year?
Gomez Molina: “We want to just keep improving at the end of the day, and then the six-year-old will be our goal for the next year. The problem and the advantage is this season in Florida comes a little bit early, so when you come to the six-year-old it’s a little more difficult so we will see how he is. But our goal is to do the six-year-old, and then come here and maybe try to go to Europe too.”
Tell us about your test today:
Alice Tarjan: It was a little better than the first test. She settled pretty well. I think the connection is pretty solid. I’m really pleased.”
What’s next for you with her?
Tarjan: She’ll get a couple of weeks off and then we’ll kind of start training for the six-year-old test and start the changes and a little piaffe and stuff like that. She won’t show anymore for this year. Six year olds next year, I think.”
USEF Children Dressage National Championship
Twelve combinations began their quest for the USEF Children Dressage National Championship with the FEI Children Team Test. The FEI Children Tests have judges on the short side focusing on technical marks, while judges on the long side focus on the quality marks.
Lexie Kment (Palmyra, Neb.) and Manatee, the 2019 USEF Children Dressage National Champions, hope to defend their title, they are off to a great start. Kment and Jamie Kment’s 17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding had a smooth, flowing test to earn a score of 76.725% with solid technical marks and high quality marks from the judges.
“Today’s test went really great,” said Kment. “He was super on my aids and we had a good test. It was better than I was expecting if we are being truthful.”
Maren Elise Fouché-Hanson and In My Feelings, her 25-year-old grade pony gelding, placed second with a score of 72.325%. Kat Fuqua (Atlanta, Ga.) and Dreamgirl, her 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, were third with a score of 71.700%.
From the Mixed Zone:
What were some highlights in your test?
Kment: “Some highlights in the test were my leg yields. Those felt really great. The canter-walk [transitions] felt really good, and the halts felt really good.”
Is there anything you want to improve upon in your next test?
Kment: “My last halt was a little wild. That is definitely something that I can do to get better, and we will see what tomorrow brings.”
How has your partnership developed in the past year?
Kment: “It has developed a lot. He is definitely my baby boy. We have really been working on his suppleness and throughness, and it has been going really well.”
Adequan®/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship
Sixteen combinations had their focus on taking home the Adequan®/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship title. Averi Allen (Pleasant Hill, Mo.) and Superman put forth a solid effort in the FEI Junior Individual Test, earning a score of 70.637%. Allen, a frequent USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final competitor, and Jonni Allen’s seven-year-old Hanoverian gelding maintained their lead from Friday to win the overall national championship with a score of 70.723%.
“It’s overwhelming. I am really happy! I don’t really know what to say. I’m just really happy,” said Allen. “I’m proud of my horse and thankful for everyone who has helped me along the way. My mom is very helpful with everything.”
Annelise Klepper (McCutchenville, Ohio) and Happy Texas Moonlight, Shannon Klepper’s 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding, claimed reserve national champion honors with an overall score of 69.627%. Sydney Lipar and Herzkonig were third with an overall score of 68.178%.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your test.
Allen: “I feel okay about it. We have done better ones. I think I just held back way too much. I felt like if I pushed him more, then we would have had incidents. I am really happy with it other than the fact that I waited too long and just was maybe a little afraid. I didn’t want to make a mistake. Other than that, I think he stayed with me pretty much.
“I am happy with the changes. He did all of them basically when I asked, unlike yesterday. I am happy with our walk pirouettes; they were a little nicer. Then, the medium trots, I felt like they were a little bit better.”
Klepper: “I was really, really proud of my horse. He was amazing. We were a little bit lethargic during team test day [on Friday], so I was really trying to push him forward and go for everything a little bit more. The trot work was a lot better, but it was also a lot more tiring. The canter work was a little bit slow, which I didn’t realize until after the fact. Overall, it was a clean test, which is really exciting. I was just really proud of my horse. He really gave me his all, which is all you can ask for. I was just happy. The score was the same as yesterday, but I felt like we had improved a lot, so I was just really, really happy.”
What is next for you?
Allen: “I believe next year we will do young riders. I’m not entirely sure. We will have to see how winter goes with getting there. After that we will do U25 and then see how it goes throughout the years
Klepper: “I am still 15 so I am probably going to be doing juniors for at least another year or so. I will see how that goes, maybe dabble a little bit in Prix St. Georges. In the immediate future, my horse is getting a big break, which is nice. He is just going to be home with us and go do some trails and just enjoy and be a horse. After that, who knows. Young riders is hopefully on the trajectory and, like Averi said, U25 in the more distant future. Yeah, just taking it every day.”
Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Dressage National Championship
Closing out Saturday’s competition, 15 combinations in the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Dressage National Championship completed the USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Test before a panel of three judges.
Christopher Hickey (Wellington, Fla.) and Cecelia Stewart’s Danish Warmblood gelding, Stenagers Wyatt Earp, repeated their win from earlier in the week, earning a score of 71.958% to win the class and the National Champion title.
“He was a little more electric [today],” said Hickey. “When he gets really electric and tight, he can be hiking his hind legs up and being a little crazy-legged, and there was a little bit of that. He is a horse that gets hot, and for a grand prix horse, to still be going at the end of a test, you need to have a horse that’s got some spice, so I really love that about him.”
Jennifer Wetterau (Mission Viejo, Calif.) had a spooky moment in her test with her own KWPN, Hartog, but the talented pair still scored a 70.042%, which was good enough to earn fourth place in the class and a Reserve National Champion title for the division.
“I’m thrilled!” said Wetterau. “This is our third time here. I think I was the only amateur in the class, so it’s a lot of hard work. I’ve had [Hartog] since he was coming four…He kind of looked like a Great Dane puppy when I bought him and to see how he’s kind of growing into his body and getting more balanced in stronger. I’m just really excited. He’s such a good boy and really tries hard. I just want to do him justice and be able to show everyone what he’s capable of.”
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your horse.
Jennifer Wetterau: “I bought him with Sarah Lockman, who’s been my coach for the last five years. So she’s been with us throughout the journey along with Scott Hassler, and then Lee Tubman has been an integral part of our training and it’s just really started to come together.”
What about him stood out to you?
Wetterau: “It’s funny, it was the first day I was in Holland and I sat on him, the second horse. I got off and I made an offer and that was it. He just, there’s a certain go-y feeling he gives you. He has this internal energy but he also has such a good mind. He really wants to try for you. If anything, I have to tell him, ‘Hey, it’s OK, take it down a notch.’ Sometimes he just tries so hard. It’s a lot of fun. I jump him once a month. I take him on trail rides, we’ve gone to the beach, he’s really an all-around horse that I also can take out in the ring and he can be a competitive dressage horse. So he’s been really a kind of special horse in my life.”
What happened when he spooked on the diagonal?
Wetterau: “Here I’m saying he’s the most reliable horse. I like hot horses. He’s not really that hot. If anything I want him to be hotter and what’s funny is the only thing he has spooked at since I bought him is a motorcycle. And a motorcycle backfired in the middle of our second trot, and I was like, ‘Of course it’s going to happen!’ But you know, when he was four, it would have been lucky if I stayed in the arena, and now for him to come right back in the corner and do a halt-reinback right after that, I was so proud of him because he was genuinely just scared and he came right back and said, ‘Yes ma’am, let’s keep going.’ That’s all I could ask of him. Not our best test today, but I think there were still highlights and moments and this was our fourth PSG ever so he’s really, he’s got a long ways to go.”
What do you do professionally? How do you balance work and horses?
Wetterau: “I’m in a medical sales industry. I’ve been in training, I’m going into a digital marketing role shortly. My passion and my other business is called Dressage Horse Source and it’s in dressage development and sales, I do it with Sarah, and I’ve done that for four years, it’ll potentially be a full time thing in the future, but right now I kind of dabble in both. My role is remote, so I get to work from the barn and bring my laptop to the barn, so I’m there six days a week. It’s pretty perfect. I had to find a career where I can make horses honestly my priority, so it’s really hard I know a lot of amateurs don’t have the luxury of remote roles. With COVID a lot of those roles are becoming more remote. But since I graduated from college I’ve always picked remote roles so I can focus on my riding.”
Did you get to show much this year before? How was your experience here this week?
Wetterau: “I didn’t. I’m in California and he was just coming into his first season at PSG and I wanted to feel really confident so the shows I’d planned on for April and May were canceled so we showed our first show in June. One in June, two in July, to practice for this. So it was a condensed season but we were really lucky in California to still have enough competitions that were qualifiers. I’m very grateful for the people that put those together. This experience, even with the new protocols we have to have, was, I mean it’s really amazing. First of all, we have a great community of Californians here and dressage riders from the West Coast. So it’s a lot of fun to all be here and it’s quite a journey for us. We flew the horses and it’s a big investment of time and funds to get here so we put a lot into this and it’s fun to see other people that motivated. They did an amazing job organizing this championship. I can’t ask for much more as far as keeping everyone safe and making sure everyone is sticking to the rules but we’re still able to enjoy rides. It didn’t completely take away from the experience of enjoying the competition. It was a really, really enjoyable week. Definitely glad we came.”
Tell us about your ride today and how it compared to your earlier ride with this horse.
Hickey: “He was a little more electric. My warmup perhaps was a little too long. I maybe could have shortened that. But he still, even with little bobbles, he overtook me in one of the pirouettes and he overtook me in a canter half-pass, so there were a couple of mistakes. When he gets really electric and tight he can be hiking his hind legs up and being a little crazy-legged, and there was a little bit of that, a moment here and there. So he wasn’t quite as relaxed today in the ring as he was the first day, but he is a horse that gets hot. For a grand prix horse, to still be going at the end of a test, you need to have a horse that’s got some spice so I really love that about him. He and I still have to get familiar with each other in this kind of venue. I haven’t ridden in this kind of venue, this championship-feeling ring and arena, and I’ve been taking my time with him and doing national shows and just having him be relaxed and calm. I think that’s important for this horse.”
Tell us about your experiences with the Young Horse and Developing Program in here at Festival of Champions?
Hickey: “Today I came out of the ring and I heard my scores and I got a little teary because it made me think of Cabana Boy. Cabana Boy was really special to me, there was only one Cabana Boy in so many ways. This horse has more quality than Cabana Boy, but Cabana Boy was very, very special to me. And at that time was special for Hilltop.
“I’ve had a lot of horses come from my program whether I rode them or I taught other people, I’ve had lots of students that have come in the four- five- and six-year-old and developing, and I think that [USEF Dressage] programs continue to get better and better. The coaches are fantastic. We’re lucky to have such educated and passionate coaches in our sport and I hope that other people realize how lucky we are that those people care so much, because without the coaches and without the USEF staff who work so hard to make this happen. Between the sponsors [Markel] and the horse owners, it really does take a village to get here and you do well and it makes all the difference, because there are certainly plenty of low spots in this industry and in this sport, so when you have a high note it helps bring you through the low spots.”
Any other thoughts?
Hickey: “I’ve been working with Anne Gribbons. I would not be successful with this horse today if not for Anne.”
Competition concludes Sunday with classes in the Young & Developing Horse Arena beginning at 8 a.m. CDT and the Grand Prix Arena at 8:30 a.m. CDT.