Heavy Rain Causes Cancelation of Final Day of US National Championships

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As a joke, this fish from the Beijing Olympics was placed beside the dressage arena at the US National Championships. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
As a joke, this fish from the Beijing Olympics Eventing cross country course was placed beside the dressage arena at the US National Championships. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

GLADSTONE, New Jersey, USA, June 21–The final day of the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Championship was canceled because of continuing rain Sunday. The Grand Prix and Intermediaire I championships were decided after only two of the three scheduled tests.

Leslie Morse of Beverly Hills, California, was the national grand prix champion for the second time with Tip Top, while Pierre St. Jacques of Anthony, Florida, was reserve champion with his 2003 Pan American Games mount, Lucky Tiger. They had ridden the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle but not the Special that was delayed from Friday because of rain.

Katherine Bateson-Chandler of Wellington, Florida was the Intermediaire I champion with the nine-year-old Hanoverian mare Dea II and also placed third with the 11-year-old Dutch warmblood Rutherford. Jan Brons, also of Wellington, was reserve champion with Teutobod. They rode the Prix St. Georges and the Intermediaire I, but not the Intermediaire Freestyle. Both riders were foreign-born, Bateson-Chandler was British and Brons was Dutch and became American citizens in recent years.

The decision to cancel the show was made during the first championship of the day, Juniors, and was made solely by the judging panel with no consultation with riders or owners who had flown their horses from across the United States to the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation headquarters an hour from New York City. The rain stopped immediately following the decision.

The cancelation provoked strong criticism from the acting U.S. Chef d’Equipe, Jessica Ransehousen.

“I told the judges that conditions were not dangerous,” she said.

“These are the national championships and not a time to be faint hearted.

“We need riders to get used to all kinds of conditions. We want riders who are good and strong hearted who want to ride for us internationally.”

Janet Foy, president of the five-member ground jury, said the decision to cancel the championships was unanimous by the judges.

“It’s not bad footing,” she said. “I don’t know of any footing that could withstand this kind of rain. Our first priority is the safety and welfare of the horses. The (Young Riders) did a great job, but it was deep and slippery and there were still a lot of puddles.”

Leslie Morse was crowned USEF National Grand Prix Champion for the fifth time, the second time with Tip Top.

Leslie Morse and Tip Top in the Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Leslie Morse and Tip Top in the Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Morse and her 15-year-old Swedish Warmblood stallion put on a dominating performance in the Grand Prix on Friday on a score of 72.00 per cent to win the first leg. The pair tried out a new Freestyle on Saturday and scored 74.250 per cent for second place.

“It feels great to be National Champion. Tip Top did a fabulous job. I’m very excited.”

She said she leaves for Europe, including the CDI5* Exquis World Dressage Masters in Hickstead, England, and the “timing is excellent to help us move forward.”

The final ranking was determined after the two legs of the competition, as only two of the three legs were completed. Morse was the only rider to score over 70 per cent in both tests.

“I was a bit disappointed,” said Morse about not riding the third test. “I was looking forward to the Special and to doing better today than yesterday. But the decision was extremely wise.”

Pierre St Jacques and Lucky Tiger were second on the strength of their Grand Prix score of 68.596 per cent, and were reserve champions.  St. Jacques has taken his time producing the 14-year-old Danish gelding at the Grand Prix level, and his patience was vindicated this weekend.

The Grand Prix Freestyle was won by Adrienne Lyle, only a year from being a developing rider in the Brentina Cup.

Adrienne Lyle and Wizard in the Grand Prix Freestyle. © SusanJStickle.com
Adrienne Lyle and Wizard in the Grand Prix Freestyle. © SusanJStickle.com

Lyle and Wizard posted a score of 74.950 per cent in the rain-soaked musical feestyle to beat Morse with Lauren Sammis and Sagacious HF in third place with 72.450 per cent.

Lyle surprised a few (including herself) by ending on top of the leader board with Wizard.

“Basically, he’s a giant chicken with water,” said Lyle after sloshing through the puddles in the arena. “He was a little backed off yesterday with the rain so this morning I went and played in the puddles.”

The 27-year-old rider from Ketchum, Idaho, rode Wizard in a freestyle that everyone enjoyed.

“I’m so excited,” she said about the 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding. “It is only my second time ever riding this freestyle. He was a lot more confident today and he handled the atmosphere. I’m very proud of him.”

Lyle rode to a medley of country music including John Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy and the always popular: Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.

“I’m a country fan, that’s all I listen to,” said Lyle. “We’re from Idaho, I’m allowed to do country. I thought it was youthful and fun.”

She plans to go with Wizard and Felix to Europe for the first time later this year to face different competitors and to show the horses to European judges and spectators before trying for a place on the U.S. team for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

Pierre St. Jacques and Lucky Tiger in the Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Pierre St. Jacques and Lucky Tiger in the Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“I don’t have a sponsor,” said St Jacques. “This is a one man show, so I’m not going to Europe. My goal is Devon, it has been all year. I am going to work on getting Tiger stronger – there is a lot more horse in there, so that’s my goal. Europe isn’t a big part of my plan right now.”

St Jacques was disappointed to not ride the final leg of the competition but felt that the Ground Jury had a tough choice to make.

“I’m a competitor,” said St Jacques. “I go out there to compete, it’s not my decision – but I think it was a wise decision.”

The Intermediaire I Championship was decided by Friday’s Prix St. Georges and Saturday’s Intermediaire I test.

Bateson-Chandler said: “I would have liked to have done it. I was really excited and I love my music. So I’m disappointed but I trust the management. I believe she would have been good.”

Her winning scores of 73.105 per cent in the Prix St. Georges and 74.579 per cent in the Intermediaire I meant that Bateson-Chandler claimed her first National Championship. She was also third with Rutherford.

“I was all geared up to do it,” said Jan Brons. “It was that close.”

Kassandra Barteau, the 21-year-old Young Rider claimed her third consecutive National Championship.

Kasandra Barteau and GP Raymeister. © 2009 SusanJStickle.com
Kasandra Barteau and GP Raymeister. © 2009 SusanJStickle.com

Despite the downpour, the Young Riders completed their competition as they were the only class to go on Sunday morning.

Riding GP Raymeister, Barteau’s score of 72.368 per cent in the Young Rider Individual Test was almost three percentage points better than Caroline Roffman and Accent Aigu FRH.

“I’m really, really proud of him,” said Barteau about the 9-year-old stallion owned by Ginna Frantz. “He was super today, super steady and was with me. I thought it flowed together nicely. He was a little timid with the puddles.”

She was emotional about the result.

“I was crying during the national anthem,” she said. “It means a lot.”

Meagan Davis was third today in the Individual Test with a score of 69.984 per cent but her overall percentage was high enough to make her reserve champion with Bentley.

“I’m so excited to be here after only riding Bentley for seven months,” said Davis about her relationship with the 16-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding. “He was such a good boy and I am so proud of him. Bentley is a really incredible horse.”