First Titles Awarded at Inaugural US Dressage Finals

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Heather Mason celebrating one of her two US Dressage Finals titles.© 2013
Heather Mason celebrating one of her two US Dressage Finals titles. © 2013

LEXINGTON, Kentucky, Nov. 8–For the first time in almost three decades, national titles for adult amateur and open dressage riders from Training Level to Grand Prix were awarded Friday at the inaugural US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Emily Wagner of La Cygne, Kansas topped 20 other competitors in the Intermediate I Open Championship aboard her U.S.-bred American Warmblood stallion Wake Up (Wagnis x Macho)  with a score of 72.412 per cent.

“It was a thrill to ride in that ring today,” she said.  “This venue is just amazing for this event.”

Just a month ago the pair were here for the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions where they placed third overall in the Intermediaire I.  Although she debated making another 10-hour trip to Lexington, “I wanted to support it, and I think everyone should want to be here. The Regional Championships have always been our biggest event of the year, but now with the Finals I think it’s fun to be able to showcase all the hard work that everyone’s done throughout the year and then bring it together for a national event. I think that’s important for the sport.”

No one had more success than Heather Mason of Tewsbury, New Jersey on the first day of championship action.

Heather rode her eight-year-old U.S.-bred Dutch Warmblood gelding Zar (Iroko x Actueel) to the Intermediate I Open Reserve Championship with 70.219 per cent.

Later in the day, she claimed the Third Level Open Championship aboard the Hanoverian gelding Romantico SF (Romancero H x Wenzel I) on a score of 72.821 per cent and also took the reserve title on 70.299 per cent with Lincoln, an eight-year-old Oldenburg gelding.

Heather recalled riding in the then-American Horse Shows Association (predecessor of the U.S. Equestrian Federation) national championships in Kansas City in 1984, and “I’ve been waiting for them to come back ever since.”

“I think the organizers here have done an excellent job making this feel like a national championship–it feels like a really big deal to be here.”

Debbie Hill brought six horses to the Finals from Gurley, Alabama and her weekend got off to a winning start with a score of 76.339 per cent to take the Training Level Open Championship with Floretienne, an Oldenburg gelding (Florestan x Jazz). Jennifer Conour of Carmel, Indiana rode Daisy Van Wittenstein P to reserve honors with 74.800 per cent.

Second Level adult amateurs was won by Rachael Hicks of Prospect, Kentucky on her Rhinelander stallion Don Cartier (Don Schufro x Cartier) with a score of 72.976 per cent. Erin Laurent of Morristown, New Jersey on Whasabi placed second on 67.103 per cent.

The Intermediate I Adult Amateur Championship went to Heather Mendiburu of Wantage, New Jersey who returned to riding What Happens after six months off as she was pregnant with her fifth child just in time to qualify for the Finals and scored 69.518 per cent.

“I came to Kentucky to see the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010,” she said, “and it’s surreal to be here now showing in the same place. It’s a great honor to be here.”  Sheryl Ross’s long trip home to Menlo Park, California will be a happy one as she was reserve champion on the Danish Warmblood gelding Lancaster on a score of 66.930 per cent.

“It’s been a long journey, literally and figuratively, to be here,” she said. “But it’s a been wonderful experience. I would make the trip again in a heartbeat.”

Adult amateurs competed at Fourth Level, with less than one percentage point separating the top two spots–Stephanie McNutt of Mechanicsville, Maryland was the winner on her American-bred Oldenburg mare Con Dia (Contucci x Cor Noir) with 67.833 per cent while second place went to Patricia Fannin of Eads, Tennessee on Roxy Royale on 67.083 per cent.

The Grand Prix adult amateur championships was won by Jennifer Huber of Wellington, Florida on her Dutch Warmblood gelding Vito (Jazz x Wellington) on a  score of 65.355 per cent with Janne Rumbough of Palm Beach, Florida on her gray PRE gelding Junior reserve on 62.163 per cent.

The Grand Prix Open Championship went to James Koford and Rhett, a U.S.-bred Dutch Warmblood gelding [R. Johnson x Hendo] with a score of 67.128 per cent while Anna Whit Watkins of Moody, Texas and Oublette took the reserve title with 66.312 per cent.