Gladstone, N.J.—June 14
The future of dressage was on display as the junior, young rider and Brentina Cup divisions all came to a close at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions.
Anna Buffini, 20, and her 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Sundayboy emerged as champions of the AGCO/USEF Young Rider division, adding a win in today’s Individual test to her blue ribbon from the Team test to take the tricolor.
“Today was just a dream,” Buffini said. She credited her trainer, Sandy Gardner, and Guenter Seidel, who used to compete Sundayboy, for encouraging her to finish the show strong.
“They were just like, ‘It’s not over ‘til it’s over; nothing’s a given,’ ” said Buffini, Escondido, Calif. “And I had to just sit down and ride. He was there for me every step of the way today. Whatever I asked him for he gave to me; he was just with me a 100 percent.
“It was just one of those dream days where you’re thinking the same thoughts, you’re feeling the same things, you’re just one,” Buffini continued. “He gave me his heart, and I’m so proud of him. We left it all in the arena, and that’s what we went in there to do.”
The judges were not the only ones showing appreciation for Buffini—she also received the 1st annual Anita Owen Perpetual Junior/Young Rider Trophy for Outstanding Sportsmanship. Fellow young rider and third-placed finisher Devon Wycoff, 20, nominated Buffini for the award.
“My motto in showing has always been: ‘Be the person you wouldn’t mind losing to.’ And both of these girls actually exemplify that,” said Wycoff, referring to Buffini and second-placed finisher Cassidy Gallman. “The sportsmanship in the barn, we’re such a team. One night I locked my keys in my car, and I couldn’t make it back for night check, and I frantically messaged them and said, ‘Please, please, please, can you check on my horse? I’m so sorry,’ and they were like, ‘Don’t be, girl, we’re all a team! We got it.’
“I’m thrilled that [Buffini] got it,” Wycoff continued. “I don’t mind losing to either of these two, because when they act like that, when they have such sportsmanship, we all win.”
Topping the USEF Young Adult “Brentina Cup” division was Katrin “Kati” Dagge, 22, and the 13-year-old Oldenburg stallion Dream Of Love. The flashy pair put in the strongest tests on both days of Brentina Cup competition to take the overall championship.
“This is my first season doing the Grand Prix with my horse, and I kind of brought him up the levels,” Dagge said, whose mother purchased him when he was 4. “It’s been a learning curve the whole way, having to figure out the different steps it takes to get to Grand Prix.”
Dagge was grateful for the opportunity to use the Brentina Cup division as a stepping stone between the small and large tour, as she found the difference between the two levels to be quite significant.
“I feel like Prix St. Georges was half way, and then this was a completely different world,” Dagge said of the transition to Grand Prix. “I’ve really learned so much this season.”
The youngest competitors to ride today were in the AGCO/USEF Junior division, with 17-year-old Cassie Schmidt taking top honors aboard Velasquer over Barbara “Bebe” Davis on Rotano.
“Everything just fell into place,” Schmidt said of her ride aboard the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. “I thought we improved a lot from yesterday, so it felt just really good.”
Winning a championship at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions has been something Schmidt, 17, Aledo, Texas, has had in her sights for quite a while.
“I couldn’t be happier. I mean it’s been just a dream of mine,” she said. “I’m on Cloud 9. It’s such an honor just to be here, and then to win is just, competing against the best in the country, it's unreal.”
"I can't tell you how proud I’ve been through this whole competition of all of the kids," said U.S. Chef d'Equipe Robert Dover. "They’re the best in the country. They’ve risen to the occasion beautifully. We have more and more kids now who are excelling in every division. We’re showing we’re on the rise with more young riders, juniors and pony riders who are learning where the bar is and how to excel. That bodes well for the future for the United States that our youth division is getting stronger. In the next six months you’ll see an even stronger youth program that will rival the finest youth programs of the world for these kids."
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