Wayne, Ill. – It was a day filled with national championship award ceremonies at the 2022 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions. Six titles were claimed by the country’s top dressage combinations following an excellent display of riding and talent.
Markel/USEF Young Horse Four-Year-Old Dressage National Championship
Twelve combinations returned to the Markel Arena to determine the Markel/USEF Young Horse Four-Year-Old Dressage National Championship. Adrienne Lyle and Fürst Dream continued their winning ways by topping the USEF Four-Year-Old Horse Test with a score of 9.14. Lyle (Wellington, Fla.) and Betsy Juliano, LLC’s 2018 Hanoverian stallion put in a beautiful performance to earn scores of 9.5 for the trot, 8.6 for the walk, 9.2 for the canter, 9 for submissiveness, and 9.4 for general impression. Their impressive scores throughout the competition clinched the National Champion title with an overall score of 9.292.
“I was really thrilled with him today. He was still full of energy today, which I was happy to see,” said Lyle. “He was quite frisky today in the warmup and a little bit going around outside. But then he really focused when we went down centerline. I thought I had him even a bit better balanced and more packaged than the first day and he's just really rideable. He has such incredible suppleness, especially for a four-year-old. He just feels like every part of him moves, and I love that feeling. For me, suppleness is kind of my most important thing that I look for in a young horse. And he's got an amazing brain.”
Alice Tarjan (Oldwick, N.J.) and Ice Princess, her 2018 Oldenburg mare, earned a score of 9.00 in the USEF Four-Year-Old Horse Test and finished with Reserve Champion honors on an overall score of 8.976. Alyssa Doverspike Burkett (Murrieta, Calif.) and For Edition, 2018 Westphalian gelding owned by Doverspike Burkett, Kimberly Pribble, and David Wightman, scored 8.90 in the USEF Four-Year-Old Horse Test and were third overall with a score of 8.604.
From the Mixed Zone:
Talk about how you prepared for this event coming shortly after the ECCO FEI World Championships.
Lyle: “I definitely could not have done it without my amazing assistant, Quinn Iverson, who had, between my horses and Katie [Duerrhammer]'s horses, 25 horses under her care this summer. And my amazing team of grooms who also help ride a little bit at home, so I can be focused on something like the World Championships knowing that 100% the horses were in good hands. They were kept in light work, kept a little fitness, but really they had a little bit easier time when I'm gone in Europe. But the fact that I was able to come home, I was home for four days and get on them and get them ready for this is just a testament to what an amazing job Quinn does with them.”
Talk about the ownership support that you have with program.
Lyle: “I think it's absolutely incredible. For me, what I find joy in is developing the horses from a young age and the whole process of training. So, to have owners that are on that same mindset is really exciting. They have to be willing to be in it for the long haul. They're buying these young horses, knowing they're not going to be doing something for a while, at least not something at the top level. But I think they share the excitement and the training process, and that's what makes it work for everybody.”
Can you talk about your four-year-old and how she’s done at this show?
Tarjan: “I’m super excited about that horse. I think it’s going to be a fantastic grand prix horse. I bought it as a yearling from my friend over in Denmark. She’s not an amateur horse, I would say. She’s super honest, but she’s hot and so she can overboil really easily, so it’s taken her a little while to gain confidence and just the basic contact and that type of thing in the movement, but I think for the future that’s going to be a fantastic horse.
Talk about how your test went today.
Doverspike Burkett: “Today, it was really just important that we came in and he was relaxed. He was a little bit spooky the first day, some sound spookiness, so we took him in there this morning and just walked him and just wanted to show off his gaits and his—a really big quality about him is he can be so steady, so that was something we really wanted to showcase today.”
USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship
Twelve combinations started the day of competition in the Grand Prix Arena, riding the third and final test of the USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship. Alice Tarjan and Serenade MF led from start to finish to collect the National Champion title with an overall score of 74.176%. Tarjan (Oldwick, N.J.) and her 2013 Hanoverian mare’s freestyle earned a score of 76.985% to win the class and secure the overall title.
“It is the second time I have ridden through the freestyle,” said Tarjan. “I didn’t practice any of the lines until yesterday. But, I think overall, the quality is getting a lot better so it is exciting for what the future holds.”
Katie Duerrhammer (Greenwood Village, Colo.) and Paxton, Kylee Lourie’s 2011 Westphalian gelding, finished second with a score of 74.980% in the freestyle and took home Reserve Champion honors with an overall score of 70.597%. Emily Miles (Paola, Kan.) and Java Dulce, Leslie Waterman’s 2011 Danish Warmblood gelding, were third in the freestyle with a score of 72.384% and third overall with a score of 69.036%.
From the Mixed Zone:
How did Serenade MF progress through her tests this week?
Tarjan: “Keeping that hind leg underneath her and the balance uphill was a bit of a struggle, especially in the past years, so that’s getting better overall. With the energy, she kind of wants to be a show hunter, especially this year with trying to keep her in front of my leg and I could really ride her up in front of me.
“Over the week, she actually got hotter and hotter. I get on her and it’s like, ‘Whoa. This is a way different horse than what I’m used to riding.’ You almost have to turn it down now. It is exciting to finally have her breaking through that barrier. She has definitely heated up this week, which is a lot different than last year. [The energy] would sort of wear of by the end of the week, but now, I have to try and hold it back a little bit and keep it easy.”
Tell us about your musical freestyles.
Duerrhammer: “I was really, really proud of him today. He performed his ‘uncle’s’ (Quartett, who went to Herning) freestyle to qualify. We ran it really fast at Whites Fences to get a score.
“Terry Gallo made this one for me. I wanted the music to be fun and something people would know and wouldn’t overpower him. I feel like he is a very powerful horse, but he is very light-footed. So, something that could bring and showcase his power but also show how elegant he can be. Terry was very patient because I couldn’t really articulate what I really wanted and she worked and worked and worked and worked until we really found the pieces that worked for him. I think some horses say, ‘This is my music.’ And other horses you really got to really figure out what you want to showcase with them. He had not done this freestyle before, and he is not usually the most flexible in his plan in mind, and I was very proud of him. He tried very hard to accomplish everything in there. We had some mistakes, but he really stayed with me and really like the music, so that was really fun.”
Miles: “Erin Boltik did this freestyle. She calls me her ‘PITA’ because same idea [as Duerrhammer]. We would find something that would match the passage and was super fun, but that went with nothing else. It was really tough. I rode a different freestyle that she put together for me at the beginning of the year but I didn’t like it very much. She put this one together for me. It’s hard because I watched the video, , but I have never ridden it before [in competition]. I was actually super happy with how we hit our marks, knew where we were with the music, and it was a clean freestyle.”
Adequan®/USEF Young Adult Brentina Cup Dressage National Championship
The talented field of five combinations rode the third and final test of the Adequan®/USEF Young Adult Brentina Cup Dressage National Championship. Quinn Iverson and Beckham 19 started the week at the top of the leaderboard and never relinquished their position, finishing as the National Champion on an overall score of 69.543%. Iverson (Wellington, Fla.) and Bille Davidson’s 2009 Hanoverian gelding punctuated their overall win with a blue ribbon in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle, scoring 72.845%.
“I’m a little speechless at the moment,” said Iverson. “My trainer [Adrienne Lyle] has been gone all summer in Europe, so I have been on my own. Thankfully we picked up right where we left t off. I’m very happy she was here.”
Callie Rose O’Connell (Wilmington, Mass.) and Eaton Unitechno, Ruling Cortes, LLC’s 2009 KWPN gelding, finished second in the freestyle with a score of 70.870% and collected Reserve Champion honors with an overall score of 68.408%. Callie Jones (Henderson, Ky.) and Don Philippo, her 2008 Hanoverian gelding, were third in the freestyle on a score of 70.390% and third overall on as score of 67.177%.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your freestyles.
Iverson: “I have to give a big thanks to Susie Dutta, who let me use her freestyle because I don’t have one yet for this horse. It was amazing. He was such a good boy. He was there for me every step of the way and I am free happy with it.
O’Connell: “I was a huge Queen fan, so we went with the Queen theme. We thought it was very fitting. We call Eaton a little popstar or rockstar in the barn, so we thought that music would fit him well. It pumps him up. Maybe a little too much today but it was a lot of fun.
Jones: “Cynthia Collins made this freestyle for me. It is actually my Young Rider freestyle, then I used it for the small tour, and now the Grand Prix. It is a really special freestyle to me. I love the music, and I think ‘Phil’ really likes the music too.”
USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship
The five youth athletes and their ponies rode their second test to determine the winning pair of the USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship. M.K. Connatser and Blitz und Donner had a quality ride in the FEI Pony Rider Individual Test to win the class with a score of 66.981%. Connatser (Dallas, Texas) and Linda Graves’s 2011 German Riding Pony gelding moved into the top spot in the overall standings to win the National Champion title with a score of 66.347%.
“Crazy. Crazy. I did not expect this at all,” said Connatser, who won her second title this week after winning the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 13 & Under division on Friday. “I am so happy that it happened, but I did not come in here thinking anything other than top half [of the division]. But I'm very, very happy and very grateful to Linda Graves, who has allowed me to ride this pony; my trainers, Allison Stai and Yvonne Kusserow; my parents; and my friends. It's been a wonderful experience with this pony and with all of them.”
Maryn Geck (West Linn, Ore.) and Whinny, Laura Geck’s 2004 Welsh Pony mare, scored 64.274% in the FEI Pony Rider Individual Test and were the Reserve Champions with an overall score of 65.922%. Finley Peterson (Woodstock, Vt.) and Mystic Max, her 2006 German Riding Pony gelding, scored 65.314% in the FEI Pony Rider Individual Test and finished third overall with a score of 65.204%.
From the Mixed Zone:
What do you like about riding ponies and doing the Pony Rider division?
Connatser: “First of all, I'm the right size for it, so I still can. And I love riding them because they teach you a lot. Even though everyone thinks little ponies are so calm, they're not. They're quite onery and they’ve taught me a lot. Most of my time in riding them has taught me a lot of stuff, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. So, I love this division that we still get to keep the ponies in the U.S. especially because we don't have a lot of [the classes] and so we get to represent them. Every other division is about horses, so it's great to represent them and show them off as well.
Geck: “I'm obviously the right size for it. I've been riding ponies for all my life, and they've definitely taught me pretty much everything I know. And they're just a really good breed. And I love them with all my heart. They can be a little sassy, but they definitely have a kind heart. I just love like the pony division and everything about it, and all the people in it are really kind.
Peterson: “Like they said, I'm definitely the perfect size for it. I just love them so much. They're just they teach you a lot of new things that you would not necessarily learn on a horse. They're definitely a little sassy, but they really try their hearts out and they're just really great.”
Markel/USEF Young Horse Five-Year-Old Dressage National Championship
Fourteen combinations returned to the ring to ride the FEI Five-Year-Old Final Test of the Markel/USEF Young Horse Five-Year-Old Dressage National Championship. Adrienne Lyle put in another excellent ride on Valor to score 9.24 in the class, earning scores of 8.4 for the trot, 8.5 for the walk, 10 for the canter, 9.5 for submission, and 9.8 for general impression. Lyle (Wellington, Fla.) and Kylee Lourie’s 2017 Westphalian gelding secured the National Champion title with an overall score of 9.248.
“He was super again in the ring today,” said Lyle. “There was a little bit more atmosphere, even more people, and more electricity. But he put his head down and went right to work. He's so rideable and such a kind, giving horse. And I think that's what I enjoy the most about him.”
Alice Tarjan (Oldwick, N.J.) and Ierland’s Eden, her 2017 Oldenburg mare, won the FEI Five-Year-Old Final Test with a score of 9.24 and collected the Reserve Champion title with an overall score of 8.848. Lindsey Holleger (Middletown, N.Y.) and MW Fürstencharmant, Jennifer Vanover’s 2017 Oldenburg stallion, were third in the FEI Five-Year-Old Final Test with a score of 8.68 and third overall with a score of 8.792.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your horse’s background.
Lyle: “He's owned by Kylee Lourie, who supports Katie Duerrhammer and owns the horse that she just was at the World Championships on, so we all just kind of hustled back here for this [event]. We bought him off a video. He had just turned three and had just been started under saddle off a video from Germany. He has been with us since then, and he's just been really fun to develop. This is my first year ever doing the young horse classes or the championships, so I'm learning a lot as I go as well and I’m very happy to be here.
Lindsey and Alice, talk about how your horse progressed since being in the four-year-old division last year.
Holleger: “I think my horse’s canter has changed a lot. And really the trot, too. But he's just gotten more engagement and just matured a lot in the last six months. They change so much when they are young, and it's cool to see them progress.”
Tarjan: “I think the balances start to shift from the USEF Four-Year-Old Test to the FEI Five-Year-Old Tests, so it is coming along.”
USEF Children Dressage National Championship
Twelve combinations rode the first of two tests in the USEF Children Dressage National Championship. Virginia Woodcock and The Safari Party won the FEI Children Team Test on a score of 78.750%. Woodcock (Atlanta, Ga.) and the 2009 North American Sport Pony gelding owned by her, Elizabeth and Richard Woodcock had a harmonious test to earn top marks from the judges.
“I was I was really happy with his walk work,” said Woodcock of the highlights in her test. “That can sometimes be a bit iffy. But he was really working with me through there. And then I also felt like the canter loops were really nice.”
Autumn Vavrick (Oxford, Mich.) and Dante, her 2007 Hanoverian gelding, finished second with a score of 77.800%. Bennett McWhorter (Baton Rouge, La.) and Fortoula, his 2002 Trakehner mare, were third with a score of 76.725%.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your test.
Woodcock: “He started great in the warmup. Sometimes he can be a little opinionated. He has his pony side in him. But he was really nice and forward over the back. So, I was really excited going into my test and feeling pretty confident, which I've found throughout the years is super important with horses because if they don't trust you, then the whole test is not going to work out.
“So, I went in and I just listen for his breathing and I was like, ‘I can do this.’ And just kind of collected myself and went down that centerline. And I always tell my parents that there’s a kind of silence and peace that you get right when you salute. And I felt that so really happy with my ride.”
Tell us about your horse.
Woodcock: “His name is ‘Fari.’ He's a very, very sweet little guy. He has his moments. He picks and chooses his people and I'm very lucky to be one of those people.”
How long have you been riding him?
Woodcock: “I had him for two years now. And when we got him, he was eventing and he was just doing Training Level [dressage]. My trainer Anneliese Vogt-Harber has been so amazing helping me work through the levels. He is the first horse I've owned, so it's been a great journey with him.”
Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Dressage National Championship
Ten combinations completed their final test in the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Dressage National Championship with the USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Test. Olivia LaGoy-Weltz and Johnny Be Goode delivered another strong performance to win the class with a score of 72.333%. LaGoy-Weltz (Haymarket, Va.) and Fritz and Claudine Kundrun’s 2014 KWPN gelding’s scores this week clinched the National Champion title on an overall score of 73.223%.
“He's still new to me, and we're still learning a lot together. He's still quite young, and he needs quite a few miles,” said LaGoy-Weltz. “But I was really pleased with how he stuck with me and did everything I asked and handled everything despite being hot. So, you can't ask for more than that. I feel like this is such a great place to develop horses. USEF does a great job and really gives it a championship atmosphere. So, it's been really awesome experience to bring a horse like him along and bring him here and start to get to know him.”
Martin Kuhn (New Berlin, Ill.) and Ronin, his and Kathryn Fleming-Kuhn’s 2013 Hanoverian gelding, were second in the USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Test with a score of 71.333% and took home Reserve Champion honors with an overall score of 71.211%. Jackie Ahl-Eckhaus (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) and Jett MVS, her 2014 KWPN gelding, were third in the USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Test with a score of 69.666% and third overall with a score of 68.642%.
From the Mixed Zone:
How long have you been riding this horse?
LaGoy-Weltz: “Since December. I think we've done a handful of shows. We qualified in two shows to come here. He is owned by Fritz and Claudine Kundrun, and so they just asked me to start riding him in December. They had all discussed it and Ali [Brock] is a good friend of mine and also helps coach me along with Debbie McDonald. When the horse needed a change of rider, they thought that it would be a good fit to put him in training with me. So. I'm the lucky girl who got to ride him.”
Ahl-Eckhaus: “I bred him. I foaled him at my house. And I kept him in the beginning because he was really little. The saddle would slide up the withers when he was four. But there was something about him. That’s how he got the name Jet. He used to spark around and he thought he ran the farm.
Kuhn: “My wife found him as a foal and had our eye on him. We had a student who was interested in him and bought him, so we've had him from the beginning.”
What do you like about Festival of Champions?
Ahl-Eckhaus: “The exciting thing is making it here. Just getting on the list and being able to come is just wow.”
Kuhn: “Being in this show, this ring with these riders and these amazing horses is a privilege. And to do it here so close to home and in such a beautiful facility is really a tremendous blessing.”
The top three combinations in all of the Young Horse and Developing Horse divisions will have their names added to a lottery to win a custom saddle from N2 Saddlery. Saturday’s top three athletes from the Markel/USEF Young Horse Four-Year-Old Dressage National Championship, Markel/USEF Young Horse Five-Year-Old Dressage National Championship, and Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Dressage National Championship had their names added into the lottery. On Sunday, the top three athletes from the Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old Dressage National Championship, Markel/USEF Young Horse Seven-Year-Old Dressage National Championship, and Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Dressage National Championship will have their names added into the lottery, and the winner will be selected at the conclusion of the event.
USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Champions M.K. Connatser and Blitz und Donner won the EquiFit Best Presented Award.
USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship competitors Shannon Stevens and Ferrari won the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation Best Turned Out Award.
Competition concludes Sunday at 8 a.m. CT in the Markel Arena with the FEI Six-Year-Old Final Test of the Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old Dressage National Championship, while the Grand Prix Arena starts at 8:30 a.m. CT with the FEI Children Individual Test of the USEF Children Dressage National Championship.
Watch the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions live stream this week on USEF Network.