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Six New Leaders Emerge at 2019 Festival of Champions; Ots Maintains Lead

by Dana Riddlemoser & Kathleen Landwehr, US Equestrian Communications Department | Aug 22, 2019, 9:09 PM EST

Wayne, Ill. – While Endel Ots and Lucky Strike maintained their lead in the USEF Intermediaire I National Championship, six new leaders made themselves known across six divisions: Lauren Asher and West Side, Lucienne Bacon and Bonnaroo, Michele Bondy and Sonnenberg's Kain, Emily Miles and Sole Mio, Kathy Priest and Damon's Fantasy, and Nick Wagman and Don John. Four more divisions will begin on Friday.


USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Championship

Lauren Asher and West Side (

The USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Championship continued with the FEI Grand Prix 16-25 Test. Outside of the ribbons on Wednesday, Lauren Asher (Wellington, Fla.) and West Side, Select Equine International’s 16-year-old KWPN gelding, made the necessary adjustments to win the test with a score of 69.026 percent.


“The test went so much better today. I was super happy with the piaffe work. Yesterday, he was looking a bit and spooky, so I had some very expensive mistakes, but to come back from that and have the ride that I had today, I’m thrilled,” said Asher. “He’s a bit of a look-y horse in general, and he just flew from Holland where I’m based, so it was a long trip, and to come into a new arena not having done too many shows over the summer, I think he was a bit impressed by the atmosphere. Today, I was like,‘C’mon we have to do it,’ and he was there for me, so that was wonderful.”


Claire Manhard (Cardiff, Calif.) and Wilfonia, her 16-year-old KWPN mare, placed second with a score of 67.564 percent, and Hope Cooper (Concord, Mass.) and Hot Chocolate W, Mary Mansfield’s 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding, placed third with a score of 67.103 percent.


Following the FEI Intermediate II Test and the FEI Grand Prix 16-25 Test, Lauren Asher and West Side have the overall lead for the USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Championship. The national champion will be determined on Saturday following the FEI Grand Prix 16-25 Freestyle.


Complete division results


From the Mixed Zone


On today’s test:


Cooper: “I’m amazed at the moment. This is only Hot Chocolate’s fourth time competing this test or anything in the Grand Prix [16-25], so I’m happy for him. As we have gone through the season, he’s gotten better and better. I liked my test a bit better yesterday. He felt a little more with me. Even though he was maybe a little bit more tired today, he really stayed with me and tried throughout the entire test. I couldn’t ask more from him. The one [tempis] have always been really hard for him. He did those quite well today. I’m just very proud of him.”


Manhard: “I thought today was very good as far as mistakes. She’s a little bit more tired today. We didn’t have as much oomph in the trot lengthening and cantor pirouettes, but I think we did them well. We had one little bobble; she decided to trot at ‘A,’ but we fixed it. Her piaffe-passage was good. She got a little tired at the end, but she tried really hard.”


On Saturday’s Freestyle:


Manhard: “I’m really excited. I have new music that I made with my brother. He is a Deep House DJ. It is his first time making a dressage freestyle, so I helped him, but we made it together, so I’m really pumped.”


Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges National Championship


Kathy Priest and Damon's Fantasy (

Kathy Priest (Versailles, Ky.) rode Damon’s Fantasy to the win in the FEI Prix St. Georges Test of the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges National Championship. Priest and her eight-year-old Oldenburg mare bested a competitive field with a score of 72.745%. Their test’s highlights included quality trot work, canter half-passes, and flying changes.


“I was really happy with her. She is getting really solid, really nicely forward-thinking on her own now, so it was fun,” said Priest. “It was steady and I wanted to have a good, clean test and she tries real hard so that makes her really special for me.”


Emily Miles (Paola, Kan.) and Java Dulce, Leslie Waterman’s eight-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding, finished in second place with a score of 72.549%, while Mike Suchanek (Blaine, Minn.) and Duchess L, Louise and Doug Leatherdale’s eight-year-old Hanoverian mare, came in third place with a score of 70.980%.


FEI Prix St. Georges Test counts for 40 percent of the overall score. The championship concludes on Saturday with the USEF Developing Prix St. Georges Test counting for 60 percent of the overall score.


Complete division results


From the Mixed Zone

On the Lamplight Equestrian Center:

Priest: “It is such a beautiful facility and it is so inviting for the horses and the young horses. You have a nice warm-up [area] and then you aren’t totally leaving like you are going in an enclosed stadium, so it is a really positive place to show.”

On their tests:

Miles: “This was an awesome test. He stayed really with me, really quiet. He can get a little hot and tense and he really stayed with me. It was kind of a challenge because I only had 10 days to ride him before coming here after I had been gone for six weeks, so this is really a tribute to my mother who kept him going for those six weeks. … We are beyond thrilled to be back and beyond thrilled with how he did!”

Suchanek: “I really enjoyed her trot work. It was really nice and smooth; she just stayed together with me throughout all of that. We had a little trouble in some of the changes, but I thought it was a good test.”

Barbie Asplundh: “I have doing this sport since 1979 and this is the best horse I have ever had. He is a gift. He is the whole package. He is with me mentally and is physically fantastic. He is gorgeous. Did I mentions he is gorgeous?”

On producing a horse up the FEI levels:

Lindsey Holleger: “I actually started her. She is the first horse I brought to FEI as a horse that I started, so that is really cool for me. I am only 23, so this is the first year that I have ridden professionally. I am really excited to be here and to even be in the top 10. … It is so fun, and I love doing it myself because they feel like yours. It is the best experience.”

Cesar Parra: “I am very happy with the trot; it has developed a lot. We try to bring along the piaffe and passage for the next level, so I have seen a lot of improvement with the trot.”


USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship

Lucienne Bacon and Bonnaroo (

Lucienne Bacon (Atherton, Calif.) and Bonnaroo lead the USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship following the FEI Pony Team Test. She and her 10-year-old Weser-EMS Pony Mare earned a score of 68.810 percent.


“This year, we have been focusing on being a team in the arena and taking what we have in the warm-up into the competition arena, so to go in and feel her with me and to know that she’s trusting what I’m saying is incredible,” said Bacon.


Hannah Devine (Bedford Hills, N.Y.) and Masterpiece, Christina Devine’s 15-year-old Swedish Sport Pony gelding, placed second with a score of 67.476 percent. The 2018 USEF Children Dressage National Champions Miki Yang (Los Altos Hills, Calif.) and Garden’s Sam, Four Winds Farms 12-year-old New Forest Pony gelding, complete the top three with a score of 67.190 percent.


The FEI Pony Team Test counts 50 percent toward their overall score. The USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Champion will be named on Friday following the FEI Pony Individual Test, making up the remaining 50 percent.


Complete division results


From the Mixed Zone


On Bonnaroo’s personality:


Bacon: “She’s a lot like me. We both have strong opinions about everything. She can be a mare, but I think she tries to hide her affection sometimes … she loves donuts, so she gets a lot of those.”


On today’s test:


Olivia Brown: “Everything went as planned. It’s the best test I have ridden on her, so it’s a real plus for us.”


Devine: “I thought the canter portion was really good. He’s usually better in the canter. Some things in the trot were not as good. … He started trotting in the walk before I was supposed to. [I would like to get the] half-passes a little better and getting him a little more round [for the next test].”


Jordan Osborne: “I was really happy with my test today. He really improved in the past few weeks with his trot lengthening, so I was really happy with that. His cantor lengthenings are always a highlight for him. We had a couple bobbles, but, overall, I am really proud of how he went for me and behaved being a pony in a big ring.”


Megan Tursi: “Our test was really good. She’s definitely very spicy, but she held it together, and I am really proud of her. The greatest thing was our lateral work and half-passes.”


Yang: “I’m really happy how my test went considering how hot my pony got in the arena. He felt absolutely amazing in the warm-up, but in the arena he got a little tense. … I was really focusing on staying quiet and subtle with him to not overwhelm him.”


On competing at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions:


Devine: “It’s fun that it is a bigger show, so it matters more, which also makes it more stressful, but it is more fun when I do better because you’re competing against a lot more people. In smaller competitions there are not as many ponies [competing].”


On the progression since last year:


Yang: “Last year we were doing FEI Children’s, so from that to the [pony division] is a big step for him and I. There has been a lot of work put into it. My trainer [Hillary Martin] has devoted so much time to me, which is absolutely amazing. My mom always drives me to the barn, helps me ride, and gives me tips, just everybody who has helped me get here, I’m so grateful for that.”


USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship

Nick Wagman and Don John (

Nick Wagman (San Diego, Calif.) and Don John hold the early lead in the USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship following the FEI Grand Prix Test. Wagman and the 11-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Beverly Gepfer, earned a score of 72.630 percent.


“It took us a few movements to get into the swing of things. Once we locked and took a deep breath, the piaffe-passage and transitions were some of our best to date. The pirouettes felt really nice. I think the canter work was the strongest part of the test. I think the piaffe-passage is what ended up helping us recover from the shaky start.”


Anna Marek (Williston, Fla.) and Dee Clair, Diane Morrison’s 11-year-old KWPN mare, placed second with a score of 68.630 percent. Jennifer Schrader-Williams (Yelma, Wash.) and Millione, Millione Partners LLC’s 16-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding, earned a score of 68.543 percent, placing third.


The FEI Grand Prix Test counts 45 percent of their overall score. They will compete in the FEI Grand Prix Special on Friday, which counts 40 percent towards their overall score. The division concludes on Sunday with the Grand Prix Freestyle, making up the remaining 15 percent.


Complete division results


From the Mixed Zone


On the year leading up to the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions:


Wagman: “We went to Europe and competed in two nation cups, which was an honor to be a part of the team. We did well and learned a tremendous amount being in new territory, so that was a really good confidence builder for us. Then we came back and got named the alternates to the Pan American Games, which was another big compliment … the team did great and it was exciting to watch everyone there. Now we’re [at Festival], and we’re trying to stay in the ring and improve. This is one of the shows that is [similar] to a European show in terms of the set up and the environment and quality, so I wanted to be here to keep improving.”


On today’s test:


Schrader-Williams: “He came out a little more tired today. He’s not quite used to the heat being from Seattle, but I thought he put in a pretty solid test. He may have lacked a little more energy than I would have liked, and I had an unfortunate mistake in the one-tempis … but, overall, I was happy with the rideability; he was quiet and listened well, so I’m happy with him.”


Marek: “I was really excited to have a clean ride. [Dee] Clair and I always work on piaffe and passage, trying to get it a little bit more in place and get though with a clean ride. I was just really happy with how everything went. She did everything I told her to.”


On his progression from last year:


Schrader-Williams: “It’s been a long road. His first Grand Prix was last January. He’s a horse that tries extremely hard. My goal is to keep him proud of himself and happy with himself because he’s an overachiever, and it is very easy for him to try too hard in the test.”


Markel/USEF Young Horse Four-Year-Old Dressage National Championship

Michele Bondy and Sonnenburg's Kain (

Michele Bondy (Wilsonville, Ore.) rode Sonnenberg’s Kain to top honors in the USEF Four-Year-Old Test of the Markel/USEF Young Horse Four-Year-Old Dressage National Championship. Bondy helped display the lovely movements of Sonnenberg Farm, LLC’s four-year-old KWPN gelding to earn a score of 8.46 from the judges.

“We had a super nice, supple, soft ride,” said Bondy. “He was just great. Really there was nothing I could complain about. He just went in there and did his job, which is the most I can ask for him. He was super.”

Alice Tarjan (Oldwick, N.J.) and Summersby II, her four-year-old Oldenburg mare, were second with a score of 8.18, while Jackie Ahl-Eckhaus (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) and Kitalis MVS, her four-year-old KWPN gelding, were third with a score of 7.92.

Thursday’s USEF Four-Year-Old Test counts for 40 percent of the overall score. The championship concludes on Saturday with the FEI Four-Year-Old Final Test, which counts for the remaining 60 percent of the overall score.

Complete division results

From the Mixed Zone

On the championship atmosphere:

Bondy: “Going around [the ring] with people clapping he got a little excited, but then he went in right to work and had no problem. He was like a champion. You just never know how the four year olds are going to be – if they are the going to be wild, if they are going to be tired. He just was perfect. I can’t wait until Saturday to see what we will get.”

On developing young horses:

Tarjan: “I got her as a foal. She did the material last year and I brought her to Devon to qualify for this championship this year, so I got her out for a little exposure.”

Ahl-Eckhaus: “He has changed a lot from three to four. Now he has a body. He was not a very pretty yearling but he is really blossoming this year. He is getting stronger; there is a lot of power in there, and now and then you can really feel it. I am really excited for him. He has a great temperament, three good gaits, good balance, supple, elastic, so I think he is the whole deal.”

Craig Stanley: “That was really good for her. It’s [emotional] just because she is your own and you bred her. Earlier I didn’t think she had a chance to be here, I didn’t think she was going to be good enough but to be third is kind of unbelievable.

Nadine Schwartsman: “I have owned her since she was a weanling. I raised her on my farm. Today has kind of been an emotional day because her breeder, Michele Seaver, passed away very unexpectedly this year. I feel like this is her legacy and it is really important to me. She also bred my five year old, Jhocolate R, who I am going to compete later today, so it just makes me feel good to see her horses out here. I hope she is watching from above.”  

On her horse’s performance:

Ashlyn Dodge: “First of all, I love that horse. He was very steady and he always in all of my tests really tries really hard. He is one of those horses who has a lot of presence to him. He always tries for you. You hardly have to give him any aids and he is right there for you, so it is a really cool feeling to have, especially on a four year old. I have to pinch myself to remind me that he is only four.”


USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship

Endel Ots and Lucky Strike (

Endel Ots (Wellington, Fla.) and Lucky Strike maintained their lead for the USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship. He and the nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Max Ots earned a score of 73.853 percent in the FEI Intermediate I Test.


“I was very happy with this test. It was clean, and he was very with me today. I was really happy with his effort. After [everything] that happened [before the Pan American Games], I have been doing [light work] to make sure he feels the best he can. That is a goal all three days, just to have clean, nice rides. He did that yesterday and did that today, so I was very happy with him.”


Rebecca Rigdon (Cardiff By The Sea, Calif.) and La Fariah, her and David Blake’s 10-year-old Rhinelander mare, placed second in the test with a score of 72.941 percent, and Anna Marek (Williston, Fla.) and Einstein JP, her 10-year-old KWPN gelding, followed with a score of 71.008 percent. The championship will be declared on Saturday following the FEI Intermediate I Freestyle Test.


Complete division results


From the Mixed Zone


On today’s test:


Marek: “I was very happy with Einstein because he and Clair are completely different rides. Wind isn’t his friend, normally, and he was a good boy in [the ring]. I added a bit more power today … [there was] more expression in the trot and [we were] more forward in the mediums.”


Rigdon: “She felt really good for not having competed since February. I was super happy with her. She got a little hot, percolated a little bit, but I was able to get her back down and go on with the test. She’s better in the I-1 than the Prix St. Georges because it keeps her more busy.”


Markel/USEF Young Horse Five-Year-Old Dressage National Championship

Emily Miles and Sole Mio (

Emily Miles and Sole Mio wowed the judges and spectators with a phenomenal FEI Five-Year-Old Preliminary Test in the Markel/USEF Young Horse Five-Year-Old Dressage National Championship. Leslie Waterman’s five-year-old Hanoverian stallion demonstrated his light but powerful gaits with Miles in the irons to earn a score of 8.90.

“I felt like there was a little pressure; there’s high expectations. It’s a lot easier to be like, ‘Nobody knows me and go and ride my test.’ I felt like people were going to watch him,” said Miles. “I didn’t put the pedal to the metal like crazy, but I was super happy with how fluid he was and how light he was and that he stayed with me, just super solid. I think the judges did an awesome job of seeing his potential. … I was a little bit nervous for this test, but I was super proud of him, and I should have known he would be there for me because he’s that kind of guy.”

Nadine Schwartsman (Eagle, Idaho) and Jhocolate R, her five-year-old KWPN stallion, placed second with a socre of 8.26, while Rebecca Rigdon and Jagger, Ad Astra Collective, five-year-old KWPN gelding, placed third with a score of 8.02.

Thursday’s FEI Five-Year-Old Preliminary Test counts for 40 percent of the overall score. The championship concludes Saturday with the FEI Five-Year-Old Final Test, counting for the remaining 60 percent of the overall score.

Complete division results

From the Mixed Zone

On the FEI/WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championships for Young Horses experience:

Miles: “He is such a fantastic horse. Every day I get on him I’m like, ‘I love this horse.’… His work is not work for him, and that is a gift. I felt very prepared for this. We spent a lot of time training for the [FEI/WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championships for Young Horses]. I can’t thank USEF enough for believing in us and sending us over. [USEF Dressage Young Horse Coach] Christine [Traurig] was instrumental in organizing everything. She helped me so much with the strategic part of it, and to have the continuity. She came to my place for clinics, saw us in Ermelo, then [watched us] here, so that continuity with Christine in the background has been so helpful. I have to thank [Sole Mio]. … We got here, and he was pretty hot the first day, but he came out today and was like, ‘I got this Emily; I got you,’ so I was so proud of him, and I have to thank him. He’s an unbelievable teammate.”

On the horses’ performances:

Schwartsman: “I think he did the best test he ever has in his career so far, so that was excellent timing on his part because he can actually be quite opinionated so getting a big submission score of him is a really big deal and I am so grateful to him.

Rigdon: “He is much, much, much stronger. He has grown three inches. He has put on a lot of weight, a lot of muscle. I am super, super happy with him. He is the most honest, sweet, whatever you want. He is as good as you ride him; there is no in between. He is a really neat horse.”

Marcus Orlob: “I was actually quite happy. I was surprised with more energy in the test than in the warm-up. I guess it worked out fine because I had no expectations really. This is his fifth competition; he is only a little bit over a year under saddle. In Florida, I said maybe let’s try the five-year-old [division]. He got qualifying scores so I thought, “Okay, let’s give it a shot,’ so whatever happens here I am happy. He is a really good horse.”

Merita Hagren: “I was super happy with my horse. She is a very sweet five-year-old. She helped me out a little bit and did a really good job. She almost tried a little too hard and we had an extra flying change there, and we don’t do that yet [at this level]. But I am very happy, such a sweet horse and so relaxed.”

Maureen Sterling: “It is my first experience being here at Lamplight so I think today was about getting rid of my jitters and his [jitters]. He is a very spooky horse and he is very, very playful, [but] he offers me a lot.”


Keep up with the 2019 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions on USA Dressage Facebook where you can find winning rides and daily photo galleries, USEF Network Twitter, and USEF Network Instagram featuring Instagram Stories. Use #USADressage and #FestivalofChampions.?