June 10—Gladstone, N.J.
Brandi Roenick and Pretty Lady continued their winning ways on Sunday at the USEF Dressage Festival of Champions, topping the Young Rider Individual test (72.42%) to take home the National Young Riders Championship over Mackinzie Pooley on Brigadier (71.44%) and Genay Vaughn on Donarweiss GGF (68.47%).
After winning the Young Rider Team test on Saturday, Roenick kept things the same with Pretty Lady, despite the warmer weather. In fact, the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare felt even more energetic.
“Today I felt that I had a lot more power in my trot work, and she was more engaged and wanting to do more than yesterday,” said Roenick. “Yesterday I was just blown away with my ride, but today she was giving so much more than she did on Saturday, so I have no complaints.”
Although Roenick and Pretty Lady have competed at Gladstone before (they won the reserve young rider championship last year), this year’s win was extra special for the 17-year-old from Scottsdale, Ariz. “It’s really a great feeling because I got her as a baby, and I trained her myself with my mom,” she said. “Just getting to this point and being able to know that I achieved this from taking her [from the beginning] to learning single flying changes is truly a great feeling. It makes me feel successful not only as a rider, but makes me look at her and say, ‘Oh my God, you’re such a breathtaking horse, and you’re so giving.’ ”
Roenick hasn't decided if she’ll take Pretty Lady or her new ride, Weltino’s Magic, to this year’s North American Junior and Young Rider Championships. In the meantime, the homeschooled rising senior is starting to think about college. In addition to riding, she’s interested in cosmetology. “It’s just a fun hobby to do when I’m not riding. I love doing people’s makeup, and I’m a really artsy person, so it’s pretty fun,” she said. “I might go to college for that or psychology, because who knows what [riding] will occupy in my life.”
Mackinzie Pooley and Brigadier picked up reserve honors and became the only young rider besides Roenick to break into the 70s. The 19-year-old from Coto De Caza, Calif. has only had the ride on Brigadier (Batido—Lady Deco) for a few months since retiring her young riders mount Jonkara. The bay gelding is an experienced competitor, previously showing with Pooley’s trainer David Wightman at the FEI levels.
“I warmed him up a little less today, and he was just very, very good. He had the go that he didn’t have yesterday,” she said. “His owner [Deena Smith] was very generous and gave me the ride on him and let me learn on him a bit since I was used to riding the same horse for so long,” she said.
This year has been a big change for Pooley, a sophomore at the University of San Diego, where she’s studying business. “It’s a big jump, and I’ve only had him for seven months, and I’m a full time college student. It’s amazing for me to even be sitting here,” she said. “I start class at 7:45 in the morning until 12 then I drive an hour to the barn, I ride until 4, then I drive an hour back and I have my class from 6-9. It’s a big day every day, but I have Fridays off next semester so I’m stoked!”
Genay Vaughn was thrilled with Starr Vaughn Equestrian Inc.’s Donarweiss GGF. “He’s a really good boy. He was a lot more uphill and really going today. We had a good test,” she said.
Vaughn got the ride on the 11-year-old Hanoverian stallion (De Niro—SPS Highlight) last October from Hilltop Farm. “Chris Hickey trained him since he was a baby,” Vaughn said. “Someone recommended him for me since I’m really small. Chris let me try him, and we fit perfectly. It just happened.”
Vaughn also finished in sixth place in the championship with her second ride Waranja.
Dream Becomes Reality
Junior rider Ayden Uhlir had a plan for her ride on Sjapoer coming into the second day of the USEF Dressage Festival of Champions. “After my test yesterday, I felt like the judges wanted more impulsion and cadence in the ride, and I really started to go for it in the extensions [today],” she said.
That change helped her clinch the USEF National Junior championship with a 71.23 percent over Rebecca Cohen on Downtown (69.50%) and Ariel Thomas on Montfleury (67.65%). “I feel like the dream that I was having yesterday is kind of the reality today,” she said.
Uhlir has had the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Contango—Jenia) for a year and a half, but she got her start in horses on the Arabian show circuit. “Before Sjapoer, I had a 12-year-old Arab I was competing," she said. "We won some national titles doing breed shows and dressage. He’s my other boy.”
The 17-year-old hopes to compete at Prix St. Georges in the fall with Sjapoer and “getting a 2300 on my SATs is my long term goal.”
But first, Uhlir is taking a vacation. She’s good friends with Roenick, and their mothers promised them a trip to the Bahamas if they both won their championship classes.
Cohen rode a consistent test to finish as the reserve champion aboard Downtown (Delmar L—Jade). “Daddy” came through the weekend after a bout with colic and only a couple of rides. “He has such a big heart,” said Cohen, 16. “I don’t even know how to explain this. I’m still kind of in shock right now, but maybe it’ll sink in later, but I’m not so sure!"
Thomas came to the Festival of Champions with a very different background than most juniors. While her mother is a dressage trainer, her father trains and competes reining horses, and Thomas grew up riding reining horses.
In only her sixth dressage show ever, the 17-year-old from Briones, Calif., finished third with Montfleury (Montmartre—Ronja). “He’s been a really good boy, and he’s really reliable,” she said.
The Westphalian gelding competed with young rider Grace Goodby, and when the opportunity to ride him came up, Thomas jumped on it. “I haven’t completely given up on reining, but it’s on the backburner right now,” she said. “I’d like to stay with dressage and do another year of juniors, but 'Monty' is 19, so we’ll see where we can go from here.”
Two Different Rides
Barbara “Bebe” Davis stayed on top of the second day of competition at the National Pony Rider championships, taking first place with Poldy 10 (70.34%) and second with Bohdjon (67.56%) over Caroline Fernalld on Orrwood Madison Bay (63.56%).
Poldy 10, a 16-year-old German Riding Pony (Platello—Loni), came to Davis with quite a lot of experience. He competed in the European Pony Championships in 2010 with another rider before Davis bought him last August.
He’s a bit of a different ride than Bohdjon for the 14-year-old. “He’s a little bit bigger, and it takes a little bit more strength. With Bohdjan it’s a little more finesse, but with Poldy you need different skills; a little more leg, a tiny bit more hand,” she said.
Bohdjon (Princs Baccarat KR6—Papanga) had a relaxed ride in his second test despite a piercing alarm that went off during his test from the nearby golf course warning of an approaching thunderstorm. “The fog horn didn’t distract us, which was great; that was a big deal. The fog horn would have done it last year,” she said. “This year 'Bobo' was more relaxed, and I was more relaxed. I was thinking throughout my ride and really riding instead of show riding.”
Davis has ridden ponies for much of her dressage career. “I asked my parents for a pony for Christmas, and I’ve never stopped riding ponies. I have a horse, but he feels kind of boring compared to the ponies!” she joked. “When you do well on a pony, you really know you’ve done well because they’re such little jerks sometimes! You really end up appreciating it a lot.
“I feel like in the ponies, everyone is friendly with each other because it’s such a small group. It’s really great to meet someone who does what you do,” she continued.
Third-placed winner Fernalld agreed with Davis. “Ponies are this great step to becoming a better rider and becoming more of what we all aim for. It’s this one little step that will lead us all to excellence. Ponies are extremely fun and one step that we all love taking,” she said.
The 13-year-old had a consistent test on Orrwood Madison Bay (Thunderbay—Jellico Fancy Affair), a Morgan that came to the then-6-year-old Fernalld as a western pleasure horse. “We taught her dressage, and she kind of went, ‘Oh, this is cool!’ ” she said.
While the mare was a bit too much for Fernalld in the beginning, her sister Victoria took over and “taught her where she stood and what she should be doing. Then I got back on, and ever since, we’ve been a great team,” she said.
Even though both sisters compete in dressage, Caroline said there’s no competition between the two of them. “It’s really cool because I can see what levels I’ll be doing in a couple of years and cheer her on, but it’s not competitive because we don’t compete at the same level. I’m super-competitive, so if we were, I’d want to beat her!” she said.