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Mariah Crumbaker and Baroncelli trotted to victory in the Intermediate I Adult Amateur division in the Rolex Arena at the 2021 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. Photo by Susan J. Stickle.
Across eight rings of championship competition at the Kentucky Horse Park, horses and riders from across the country shared the excitement and camaraderie of coming together in one incredible venue to vie for national titles on the second day of the 2021 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, being held November 11-14 in Lexington, Ky.
Consistency is Key for Crumbaker in Intermediate I Adult Amateur Championship
Due to a sharp increase in entry numbers and the resulting addition of two more competition rings, for the first time in the eight-year history of the US Dressage Finals riders trotted down centerline in the huge Rolex Arena, a site made legendary by the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games and the annual Kentucky Three-Day Event. But even with the impressive atmosphere made even more intense by blustery November winds, the elegant pair of Mariah Crumbaker of Region 4 and her 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Baroncelli (Oscar x Vogue by Cabochon) kept their cool to ride to the top of the leaderboard over 30 rivals in the Intermediate I Adult Amateur Championship with a top score of 69.755%.
“Of course with the excitement of that arena – the horses feel it and we feel it, plus things were blowing around in the wind – but for me it was actually exhilarating to have that little extra chill,” Crumbaker explained. “Baroncelli had just one little moment of being startled but we held it together. You've got to just keep going and keep riding through it because every point counts, so I think our consistency is what may have made the difference. This is my second time at the Finals, and when you drive into the Kentucky Horse Park it's just such a grand feeling. You get to compete with so many different people from all over the country and the whole thing is just such an exhilarating experience.”
When she's not in the saddle, Crumbaker works as a family physician in her small town of Beloit, Kansas, which only has about 3,500 residents. “I do everything from delivering babies to caring for seniors in their 90's,” she explained. “I have a great family who supports me, otherwise I wouldn't be able to do all of this. I came here to the Finals with my two kids ages 9 months and 5 years as well as my 65-year-old mother, while my husband is at home holding down the fort. Plus my coach Melissa Allen does virtual coaching with me via Google Duo all the way from North Carolina. We may be a bit of a hodgepodge group but we're also a great team.”
Kohmann and Five Star Wow the Crowd in Intermediate I Open Championship
As soon as Kevin Kohmann of Wellington, Fla. and the stunning 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Five Star (Amazing Start x U-Padoeska PB by Jazz) entered the Alltech Arena for the Intermediate I Open Championship, onlookers knew they were in for a treat. After the bell was rung, the pair did not disappoint as they presented a breathtaking ride from start to finish on their way to easily winning the class with an impressive score of 74.069%, a unanimous victory under all three judges in a class of nearly 30 combinations representing some of the best in the country.
Watch their winning ride HERE, and watch the entire class on-demand from the USEF Network HERE.
“He makes it look easy. He's one of those horses where you go from the warm-up to the competition ring and nothing changes, and even though he's never seen an environment like this, I had every confidence that he was going to be amazing,” Kohmann said. “Even though he's an active breeding stallion, his temperament is so incredible that his adult amateur owner rode him last month at this level and scored almost 70%. He just absorbs everything like a sponge and is the most rideable horse I've ever known.”
Kohmann explained that Five Star was Reserve Champion as a six-year-old at the FEI World Breeding Championships in 2016, and was consequently purchased by current owner Olga Hartsock (Equitas LLC). Upon arrival in the USA he ended up next door to Kohmann in quarantine, and fate brought them together. The pair took advantage of their qualification at the 2020 Region 3 Championships to come to this year's Finals, which was a new experience for Kohmann for more than one reason. “I just became an American citizen in April and I couldn't be more proud to be here,” he explained. “I've been to the Finals before but only as a coach for my students, so this was my first time actually riding down centerline. I think this will be Five Star's last big outing at the small tour level and now he's ready to look towards Grand Prix.”
Junior Rider Tops the Field in Third Level Open Freestyle Championship
Junior rider Julia McDonald claimed the Third Level Open Freestyle Championship at the 2021 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. Photo by Susan J. Stickle.
A huge field of 32 competitors fought for top honors in the Murphy Ring as the weekend's first freestyle championship was awarded for the Third Level Open division. Facing down a tough field where the majority of riders were seasoned adult professionals, 17-year-old Julia McDonald from Byron Center, Mich. (Region 2) entered the ring aboard Lehndorff Van Vogelzang (Quaterback x Dolce Vita VD Vogelzang by De Niro) as just the third exhibitor in the order. Five hours later when the final ride's scores came in, her mark of 76.278% still stood atop the leaderboard.
“I am just over the moon and am so humbled to compete against all these professionals and still do so well,” McDonald exclaimed. Perhaps she shouldn't have been so surprised by her success – even though the partnership with her 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding is only 18 months old, the pair already have a showing at the FEI North American Youth Championships and the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions under their belts.
But a rough start to their Finals experience left McDonald wondering what was in the cards for their championship class. “We did a warm-up class yesterday and he was very spooky from the wind, so I was hoping it would not happen again today but he was very good,” she noted. “I think my favorite parts of my freestyle were my half passes and my extended canter, which I love to do at the end because it really goes with the music.”
Tarjan and Serenade Take Second Straight Finals Title in Grand Prix Adult Amateur Championship
When Alice Tarjan of Oldwick, N.J. (Region 1) left the ring in the Grand Prix Adult Amateur Championship with Donatella M, the pair had set a mark of 72.935% which shot right to the top of the leaderboard. It turns out the only person Tarjan had to beat was herself as she returned to the Alltech Arena two hours later with her nine-year-old Hanoverian mare Serenade MF (Sir Donnerhall x Duet MF by Don Principe, bred in the U.S. by Maryanna Haymon) and promptly took over the lead with 74.928% for the win. This victory came right on the heels of the prior day's win in the Intermediate II Adult Amateur division.
“Serenade has had a fantastic year and I have to give her so much credit,” said a proud Tarjan. “Every time we go in the ring she is so reliable. She's only eight years old and there's still a lot of stuff that is a bit hard for her, but she still answers all the questions of the Grand Prix and does it consistently. You ask her to piaffe and she piaffes. You ask her to do a change or a pirouette and she does a change and a pirouette. She's just easy that way. For yesterday's class we had to deal with the rough weather outside, and today I didn't even have a chance to school in the Alltech – but no matter where we are, she just marches down center line and never questions it.”
Tarjan laughs that if there is a “least likely to succeed in Grand Prix dressage” award, Serenade may be the winner. “Her barn name is ‘Shrimp' because she's so little. She's pretty but not tall and is built downhill,” she said. “It's kind of crazy because you walk through the barn and there's all these big, massive body-builder type horses, and then there's Shrimp who looks like a children's hunter. You tack her up and she just hangs her head on the ground and is so relaxed and quiet. She's not the one you would pick out to be doing this, but she gets the job done every single time and I trust her to do anything.”
Tarjan Strikes Again in Fourth Level Adult Amateur Championship
Not long after completing her Grand Prix sweep Alice Tarjan returned to the ring, this time aboard her talented six-year-old Oldenburg mare Summersby II where the pair cruised to victory in the Fourth Level Adult Amateur Championship with a unanimous win under all three judges for 73.056%.
“I'm really excited about this horse for the future, even though she's young and green and still makes some mistakes. But she's honest about it,” Tarjan explained. “Fourth Level is a lot of test for her, but I think it's a good thing to kind of push your boundaries a little bit and see what your horse's answers are, and she is definitely coming up with the right answers. She's at the age where things develop quickly; for example, even this summer she could easily get distracted by what was going on around her. But now just a couple of months later she's more focused in those situations and can come up with better answers to the questions I ask. Plus it gives me a much better understanding about where this is going to go in a year or two.”
Tarjan explained why she feels that the long trip to the Finals is worthwhile for both her seasoned mounts as well as youngsters. “It is a huge horse show and I think ring time here is so good to get the horses exposure. There aren't many places in the country where you can get a horse show of this size and atmosphere, that is so well run and at a fantastic facility where the footing is this good. These kinds of experiences are invaluable for the horses, and for me as a rider they give me a better idea about the horse I have underneath me.”
Bonnie Canter and Vitali claim the Second Level Adult Amateur Championship at the 2021 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. Photo by Susan J. Stickle.
A Long Journey Worthwhile as Canter Claims Second Level Adult Amateur Championship
As a regular competitor to the US Dressage Finals, Bonnie Canter has grown relatively used to the 1000-plus mile drive to Kentucky from her home in Hockley, Texas (Region 9). But the trip always feels easier when going home with fancy awards, and once again Canter will carry a championship sash home as she and her five-year-old Hanoverian gelding Vitali scored 70.556% to top the Second Level Adult Amateur Championship.
Watch their winning ride on YouTube HERE.
“He is the most cheerful horse I have ever ridden in my life,” Canter explained. “We were looking online for a youngster last summer and saw him listed in Germany. He's little (only 15.1 hands) and that's just what I like. Of course we couldn't travel there because of COVID, so we bought him sight unseen based on videos. I hate to pass on something that is perfect, but you never know – they get off the trailer and you say ‘oh boy I hope I like him.' It could go so bad but it's turned out so well.”
Despite his young age, Canter reported that “Rudie” handled not only the demands of Second Level but also the intense atmosphere of the Finals with flying colors. “I did worry a little about coming here because the young ones are a bit emotional and you don't want a bad experience to set them back,” Canter admitted. “But he's just been so steady, and full of happiness and wonder – it's a great feeling. We're also riding at First Level here but we started doing Second because he seemed a little bored, and I think he's actually better at Second. He's getting his balance and really coming along.”
Equito's Fürsten Hit Rises to the Occasion in Training Level Open Championship
Like Bonnie Canter, when Fie Studnitz Anderson of Sherborn, Mass. (Region 8) purchased the young Oldenburg gelding Equito's Fürsten Hit (Fursten-Look x German Classic by Sir Donnerhall I), the decision was based solely off the advice of a video and the trusted word of a friend. But that gamble paid off as the combination took top honors in the Training Level Open Championship with a score of 76.839%.
“I got him in August of last year in the middle of the pandemic, after a really good friend of mine in Germany found him,” Anderson remembered. “He is a jumper rider but has a really good eye for dressage horses, so he shared a video and I went out on a limb and got the horse. I was so nervous wondering what I'd actually get, and even after he got here it took me months to believe that this was the right horse. But he is amazing!”
Even though her mount is only five years old, Anderson was delighted to see how he handled the atmosphere and pressure of Finals competition. “It was definitely brisk out there and yes we had some moments of tension, but even when I thought things would go the wrong way with the wind gusting, he still found it in him to come back and listen to me. I am super proud of him. I really believe this horse is special and at first I thought this might be too much of a trip for him, but he has just stepped to the plate and shown me he wants to do this.”
Mason and RTF Lincoln Now Two-For-Two at Finals in Winning Grand Prix Open Championship Title
Heather Mason and RTF Lincoln capture their first Grand Prix Open Championship at the 2021 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. Photo by Susan J. Stickle
After quite a few years together, Heather Mason of Lebanon, N.J. (Region 8) finally feels like she's figured out her 16-year-old Oldenburg/Holsteiner gelding RTF Lincoln, and that perseverance paid off with the pair's second straight victory of the week, this time in the evening performance of the Grand Prix Open Championship as the only combination out of 21 entries to break the 70% barrier with a top score of 70.399%.
“Our plan of having yesterday's Intermediate II test as a confidence-building warm-up worked perfectly,” Mason explained. “Lincoln was definitely comfortable in there today and still had plenty of energy. He knows the Grand Prix test a little better than the Intermediate II so he was quite happy during the test. It's his first Grand Prix win here at the Finals and I feel like he's finally proven himself at the level.
“He's tricky temperament-wise but I think I've got him figured out now,” Mason added. “His management is carefully orchestrated and he gets longed every day at a certain time. He always looks like the quietest horse in the barn but the minute you get on he's dynamite.”
Watch archived streaming videos of Championship classes on the USEF Network HERE. Championship competition resumes Saturday – follow the action through updates on the USDF Facebook page and the US Dressage Finals website, as well as watch live online streaming on the USEF Network. To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review day sheets and results, and read daily news releases, visit the official event website at http://www.usdressagefinals.com.