The USEF Dressage Festival of Champions presented by the Dutta Corp showcased a variety of dressage championships and among those was the The Dutta Corp/USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championships. The top riders in those classes determined which eight riders would head over to Europe.
The riders and horses named to this “short list” include (and this is the order they finished in the Championship):
1. Steffen Peters (San Diego, Calif.) and Four Winds Farm's Legolas 92
Legolas 92 is a 2002 Westphalian gelding.
2. Laura Graves (Geneva, Fla.) and her own Verdades
Verdades is a 2002 Dutch Warmblood gelding.
3. Jan Ebeling (Moorpark, Calif.) and Beth Meyer, Ann Romney, and Amy Ebeling's Rafalca
Rafalca is a 1997 Oldenburg mare.
4. Adrienne Lyle (Ketchum, Idaho) and Peggy Thomas' Wizard
Wizard is a 1999 Oldenburg gelding.
5. Tina Konyot (Palm City, Fla.) and her own Calecto V
Calecto V is a 1998 Danish Warmblood stallion.
6. Caroline Roffman (Wellington, Fla.) and her own Her Highness O
Her Highness O is a 2003 Hanoverian mare.
7. Shelly Francis (Loxahatchee, Fla.) and Patricia Stempel's Doktor
Doktor is a 2003 Oldenburg gelding.
8. Lisa Wilcox (Loxahatchee, Fla.) and Betty Wells' Denzello
Denzello is a 2003 Hanoverian gelding.
From those eight riders will be selected the final team of four riders who will represent the US at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games to be held August 23-September 7 in Normandy, France.
Having Steffen Peters lead the way was no surprise to those of us who have watched him in action over the years. He’s led many a team and himself to an Olympic medal and he was a double Bronze Medal winner at the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games. Not only did he lead in the FEI Grand Prix but he also took the honors earlier in the day in the FEI Intermediate 1 championship with Rosamunde.
His leading score in the Grand Prix was on Legolas 92.
It was a perfect day for the grand finale of the championships held at the USEF Headquarters in Gladstone, NJ. Not a cloud in the sky and just enough of a breeze to make the day totally comfortable for horses, riders, officials and spectators.
With just over two months before the Games take place in Normandy these riders will begin a European tour to help the decision-makers decide who among the eight should be the final ones to represent the U.S. team in France.
The power of the music throughout the day was one of the things that stood out in my mind. No matter what the material it appeared that every person selected the strongest part of each of the music they chose save for the parts where there horses did their walk.
And it appeared that the horses were feeling the beat along with the riders and the audience as their footfalls fell in place with the cadence of each piece.
A perfect example was Caroline Roffman and Her Highness O whose theme was strong and powerful but the words were even more potent – “I’ve got my eye on the tiger and you’re going to hear me roar.”
That’s exactly what these horses did one after the other. Comparing their performance to years past it was clear that dressage in the United States has clearly improved by leaps and bounds.
Most of the music had no words but were powerful instrumentals making use of a wide assortment of instruments.
Chatting with the riders
After the 8 riders were named and presented with their awards, a press conference was held where they each took turns talking about their rides and their horses.
Tina, who was on the London Olympic team in 2012 (along with Steffen, Adrienne and Jan) was pleased with her stallion noting, “I’m thrilled. He’s an older stallion and sometimes it takes a little longer to remind him that we are still at the game. He has really been consistent.”
Laura really surprised everyone with her first time appearance and reserve champion finish. “I’m a rookie so I think I better take some advice,” she quipped but did add that she knows her horse very well. “He’s exhausted after this.”
What she was referring to was the three days of intense competition that took its toll on all the horses but also gave them a chance to see what they would be up against at the Games.
Both Laura, who is only 26, and her horse have no experience in Europe, so this will be a big learning curve but she’s thrilled to have made it this far.
“It is nice to have younger people on the scene. That is important for our riding,” commented Tina and many of the other riders echoed this comment.
Like the other riders, Lisa was thrilled. “Denzello and I started Grand Prix in July last year. This was the third time he’d ever done this freestyle. For him to go in there and give me the round that he did, I am so proud of the development from Thursday over Saturday to Sunday.”
Denzello had also never done a three day show. “He is pooped. We have a lot of conditioning to do. I didn’t want to peak here. My prayer was please God get me in the top 12. The plan to send the top 8 was perfect because it gives the novice horses a chance to develop over there. I am excited to be a part of it and thrilled with my horse,” she concluded.
The overall winner and multi-time Olympic medalist Steffen was reserved but clearly happy. There was a time when warming up Legolas was not easy. “He can easily get keyed up.”
However, this time he was calmer and so Steffen remarked that he was “thrilled that I don’t have to compromise so much in the warm-up. I am finally at the point where we can school a little bit more often. He’s in a very good place from here to go to Europe.”
Caroline also hasn’t been riding Her Highness O for very long in Grand Prix. In fact they just started last July. “Today she was tired and she showed that by trying too hard and making mistakes.” Despite those mistakes her overall test was good enough to put her among these coveted eight riders.
Adrienne, was quick to comment, “I am thrilled to be in the top four. I am thrilled with my little wizard. It’s been really fun. I think the camaraderie between everyone here has been really fantastic.”
Jan, who had been standing in second place before the freestyle was clearly disappointed because that means he will have to compete in both the shows in Europe whereas Steffen and Laura can choose one of the two if they want. Those Mandatory Outings include CDI4* Fritzens in Fritzens, Austria, July 4-7, and CDIO5* Aachen in Aachen, Germany, July 15-20.
Despite this he was still pleased. “I couldn’t be happier with my horse. I think she went really well today. I think this whole weekend was really super. She’s proven again that I can really depend on her. I think she’s shown that the whole show season. I think she’s gotten better every time. At her age I am just concerned; I was hoping that I could stay in the top two. I was hoping that I could avoid having to do two shows.”
Like everyone else Shelly was also happy with her horse. “He just keeps getting better and stronger. I think he is going to keep improving. He is just 11. I am happy with him. I love showing in Europe.”
Tim Dutta, whose company is the title sponsor also took part in the conversation. Dutta Corporation is the one who transports the horses and these 8 riders are some of his clients. His wife Susan is a rider so it is truly a family affair.
“Both Susie and I love the sport. Horses are a passion of ours. I’m just happy I can give back. So long as the business continues to grow I’ll continue to give back. This is what I do and it is a great fit for us. In the meantime it is a nice way to thank the customers that I am not only taking from them but I am giving back. We will continue to support as long as business allows.”
They are flying on Wednesday evening, January 18, on KLM flight 644. “We hope it will be an uneventful journey,” commented Tim. “So, by the weekend they will be ready to work.”
The riders and probably their horses (who don’t know it quite yet) are looking forward to what lies ahead as they all do their best to be named to the final team of four who will represent the United States at this year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
For more information about the Festival visit http://www.usefconnect.com/festival/.