Wayne, Ill. – Two new national champions were crowned at the 2022 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions. Ella Fruchterman and Holts Le’Mans took home the Adequan®/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship title, while M.K. Connatser rode Donau Hit to the win in the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 13 & Under title. Several divisions completed their first tests to start their own journey to national championship honors.
USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship
Five pint-sized equines and youth athletes made up the USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship. Maryn Geck and Whinny won the FEI Pony Rider Team Test with a score of 67.571%. Geck (West Linn, Ore.) and Laura Geck’s 2004 Welsh Pony mare had a quality test in their first appearance at Festival of Champions to take the lead in the overall standings.
“It was really good,” said Geck. “That was probably one of the best tests I’ve done especially on the team test. I was really proud of her, especially some of the half-passes and the simple changes. We have been working on those for a really long time. I think everything in general was really good. We have been working really hard to get there.”
M.K. Connatser (Dallas, Texas) and Blitz und Donner, Linda Graves’s 2011 German Riding Pony gelding, were second with a score of 65.713%. Finley Peterson (Woodstock, Vt.) and Mystic Max, her 2006 German Riding Pony gelding, finished third on a score of 65.095%.
The USEF Pony Rider National Championship finishes Saturday with the FEI Pony Rider Individual Test.
From the Mixed Zone:
Talk about your partnership with your pony.
Geck: “I have had her since I was eight or nine, and I’m 12 [now]. The pony and I are really close. I love her a lot. She is really sweet. She can be a little sassy at times because she is a pony. My mom rode her for a while but now that I have her back, I have been working [with her] for two years. Last year I did First Level and Training [Level]. Now, I’m really proud of her for how far we came. She is a really good pony in general.
What is your pony like in the barn?
Geck: “She loves food. The first time you walk up to her [at the barn], she nickers at you to give her something.”
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, his and Marcella Parra’s 2016 Danish Warmblood gelding, impressed the judges to win the FEI Six-Year-Old Preliminary Test. After finishing third in last year’s five-year-old championship, Møllegårdens Fashion demonstrated his development in the past year with Parra (Whitehouse Station, N.J.) in the irons to earn a score of 8.42.
“He is very strong, but I think he is a horse who is built for Grand Prix,” said Parra of “Fashi.” “He has amazing hind legs. He is very good in the contact, he is very honest, and he is very powerful.”
Rebecca Rigdon (Cardiff by the Sea, Calif.) and Lionvell VE, Lauren Fisher’s 2016 KWPN gelding, were second with a score of 8.24. Alice Tarjan (Oldwick, N.J.) and Gjenganger, her 2016 Danish Warmblood mare, were third with a score of 7.94.
The Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old Dressage National Championship ends Sunday with the FEI Six-Year-Old Final Test.
From the Mixed Zone:
How long have you had this horse?
Parra: “I bought him when he was two and a half. Basically as a present that I gave to my wife, so he belongs to her and she’s the boss.”
What is he like in the barn?
Parra: “He is a goofball. He really is. He has a lot of hair. He has two full manes on each side and his forelock. He is like the dude in the barn.”
What is he like to ride?
Parra: “Amazing. A lot of power. It’s like you are going on a jet. But he is super, super, super kind. His back is super supple. He is a goofball, so sometimes he thinks it is funny to do a little buck and it is very powerful. But it is fun. Really, really a lot of fun to ride.”
Adequan®/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship
Twelve combinations returned for the second of two tests to determine the winner of the Adequan®/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship. After scoring 70.440% in the FEI Junior Individual Test to win the class, Ella Fruchterman and Holts Le’Mans collected the title with an overall score of 70.245%. Fruchterman (West Lakeland, Minn.) and her and Todd Fruchterman’s 2011 Danish Warmblood gelding have had an exciting month of August, being triple-gold medalists at the FEI North American Youth Championships.
“Right now, I’m on cloud nine, especially coming off of [the FEI North American Youth Championships],” said Fruchterman. “I really wasn’t expecting this, so I’m just feeling overwhelmed with the support of my parents, my trainer Angela Jackson, and my friends, who have been so helpful and so supportive this week and coming off of [NAYC]. I’m just really glad to have had fun yesterday and today. I had a lot of fun, then I became the National Champion, so that was the cherry on top.”
Madison Sumner (Wellington, Fla.) and Briar, her and Wayne Sumner’s 2007 KWPN gelding, scored 68.725% in the test and 69.463% overall for the Reserve Champion title. Josephine Hinnemann (Murrieta, Calif.) and Copa Cabana MRF, Natalie Hamilton-Hinnemann’s 2009 Hanoverian gelding, collected scores of 69.313% in the test and 69.176% overall for third place.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your tests.
Fruchterman: “Overall, I think it was a fairly balanced. I don’t think there were too many highs or lows. I was very focused on riding a clean test. I think some of the highlights were his trot work. I tried to keep more cadence and engagement in it today. His canter work I wanted to keep very uphill by keeping his ears up, nose out, and overall, I think we were very successful in that.”
Sumner: “I was really happy with my test. I had a couple bobbles. I was really happy with the movements of the test because it is a little trickier for Briar. I was really happy with it.”
Hinnemann: “I think throughout these last few shows, including NAYC, it was just consistently getting better. And today was one of our best tests that we have had, so I was really happy with it.
Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Dressage National Championship
Nine combinations competed in the first of two tests in the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Dressage National Championship. Alice Tarjan and Jane won the FEI Intermediate II Test in a talented class. Tarjan (Oldwick, N.J.) and her 2014 KWPN mare had a solid performance to earn a score of 71.813%.
“I’m really happy with the horse,” said Tarjan. “We’ve got the twos and the ones. It probably wasn’t very good, but we got what counts, which was kind of a miracle given what the warmups have been. She’s really green. She’s 8.”
Claire Darnell (Mt. Vernon, Wash.) and Harrold S, her 2012 KWPN gelding, were second with a score of 70.980%. Marcus Orlob (Annandale, N.J.) and Spirit of Joy, Jeanette Pinard’s 2014 Westphalian gelding, were third with a score of 69.166%.
The Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Dressage National Championship concludes Sunday with the USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Test.
From the Mixed Zone:
Talk about your test with this horse today.
Tarjan: “It’s interesting, they say some horses are good horses for the young horse program and some horses aren’t. This is a good example of a horse who I didn’t think that was the best route for her, so she really hasn’t shown hardly at all until this year. She’s 8 doing I-2. It’s the first away show she’s ever been to. I showed her a little bit down in Florida, she did the futures stars challenge, and the goal is to do the developing grand prix this year, so the horse just really needs ring exposure and experience.”
How long has she been in your program?
Tarjan: “I got her as a three-year-old.”
What is she like in the barn?
Tarjan: “She’s the sweetest horse. Everybody loves her. She’s super sweet.”
Horseware Ireland/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship
Nine combinations rode their first test in the Horseware Ireland/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship. After standing on the podium three times at the NAYC, Ellanor Boehning and Sir Junior took top honors in the FEI Young Rider Team Test. Boehning (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) and her and Ann Boehning’s 2011 Hanoverian gelding had a lovely test to score 70.000%.
“He used to be pretty timid with people, but he has gotten to the point where he is becoming the snuggle bug of the barn,” Boehning said of Sir Junior. “He is super gentle now. Before, he would kind of hide in the back of the stall and now we are seeing his real personality come out. He comes to the front [of the stall], he nickers when you walk in. He is just such a good boy.”
Averi Allen (Pleasant Hill, Mo.) and Superman, Jonni Allen’s 2013 Hanoverian gelding, were second with a score of 69.804%. Sydney Lipar (The Woodlands, Texas) and Zerragamo, Denise Lipar’s 2012 Westphalian gelding, finished third with a score of 69.118%.
The Horseware Ireland/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship ends on Sunday with the FEI Young Rider Individual Test.
From the Mixed Zone:
Tell us about your test.
Boehning: “In the warmup today, I just tired to power him up a little bit. At NAYC, which we just came from and we were triple podium, so now I feel like we have kind of proven ourselves a bit. I can really push him going into the ring now and see what other gears he has. So, through our test, I really just pushed him forward, which gave us a lot more fluidity and balance in his trot work and canter work and I was super happy. Overall, I think we just took more risk and it is nice to see that it paid off.”
Have you been to Festival of Champions before?
Boehning: “In 2018, we were the Pony Rider Champion with my pony Kabam. Even before that in 2017 I did the Children division with Kabam. Last year, I was here for dressage seat equitation, and then this year for Young Riders.”
USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals 13 & Under
Eleven talented youth athletes came prepared to demonstrate their equitation in the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals 13 & Under division. The judges observed the combinations perform rail work and a pattern before declaring the winners. M.K. Connatser, riding Donau Hit and trained by Allison Stai, took home top honors with a score of 86.000%. Connatser (Dallas, Texas) expertly piloted her 2003 Hanoverian gelding in the championship, which she thinks is an important one to have as a goal.
“I think it is a very important division because all of the other divisions we ride in judge the horse,” said Connatser. “You get a bunch of feedback for your horse. Other than from your trainers, you don’t get as much feedback. So, it is great to get feedback from someone who doesn’t watch you ride every day and hasn’t been training you for years. You get an opinion on anything, so you can take those different tips or they word it differently.”
Korey Denny, trained by Amy Denny, and Hemingway KW scored 85.000% to finished second. Autumn Vavrick (Oxford, Mich.), trained by Laurie Moore, and Dante, her 2007 Hanoverian gelding, scored 80.000%.
From the Mixed Zone:
Did you expect to get these results in today’s class?
Connatser: “Crazy! It is very exciting. It is shocking I did not [expect to do this well]. I had high expectations for myself because I know my horse can do it and he has taught me a lot. But I did not expect to win.”
Denny: “I came in just wanting to be in the top five. I always wanted to be in the top three, but it was kind of a high expectation for myself, but it is still very crazy that I got in the top three.”
Vavrick: “I was just really happy to be at the finals. I was excited. I was always hoping to be in the top three, but I just wanted to have fun.
Tell us about your horse.
Connatser: “My horse is Donau Hit. We call him ‘Donny.’ He is by Diamond Hit. He is wonderful. He has taught me so much. Before him, I had only shown Intro Level. I went straight to do Children’s, Dressage Seat Medal, and I earned my [USDF] bronze medal in the first year of owning him, so he was a blessing. I ride with Rocking M Stables in Dallas, Texas, and I’m actually the third junior/young rider to win the dressage seat medal at our barn. My trainer is Allison Stai, and our head trainer is Yvonne Kusserow.”
Markel/USEF Young Horse Seven-Year-Old Dressage National Championship
Fifteen combinations rode the first of two tests in the Markel/USEF Young Horse Seven-Year-Old Dressage National Championship. Endel Ots and King’s Pleasure won the FEI Seven-Year-Old Preliminary Test in a first step toward winning the inaugural championship. Ots (Wellington, Fla.) and Heidi Humphries’s 2015 KWPN stallion earned a score of 7.85.
“It was really good. I gave more gas in that ring than in the warmup, just saving it a little bit and then I really wanted to go for it and show everybody how great a mover he is,” said Ots. “He is such an honest, really with you horse. Being a stallion, he is a puppy dog. You can have a five-year-old lead him, but then he fights for you in the ring in a really nice way.”
Amanda Perkowski (Wellington, Fla.) and Sonata MF, Next Level Performance Center Inc.’s 2015 Hanoverian mare, were second with a score of 7.58. Olivia LaGoy-Weltz (Haymarket, Va.) and Fade to Black, Mary Anne McPhail’s 2015 Hanoverian mare, finished third with a score of 7.51.
The Markel/USEF Young Horse Seven-Year-Old Dressage National Championship concludes Sunday with the FEI Seven-Year-Old Final Test.
From the Mixed Zone:
How long have you been riding this horse?
Ots: “I have had him for a year. The owner is Heidi Humphries of Zen Elite Equestrian, which I ride for. She had purchased him as a five, coming six-year-old, and she is such a wonderful owner because she wanted me to do the six-year-old [division] last year. I really wanted to, but I said, ‘You know, it is just not really ready yet. If you could just trust me and just give it a little bit of time. I really think seven-year-olds will be a good plan for him.’ She has been a dream. Honestly, everything that I have asked her to do for the horse, she has done.”
Competition continues Saturday at 8 a.m. CT in the Markel Arena with the USEF Four-Year-Old Test of the Markel/USEF Young Horse Four-Year-Old Dressage National Championship, while the Grand Prix Arena starts at 8:15 a.m. CT with the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle of the USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship.
Watch the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions live stream this week on USEF Network.