Wayne, Ill.—Aug. 22
Fourteen U.S. Equestrian Federation national champions will be crowned this weekend at the U.S. Dressage Festival Of Champions and Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse National Dressage Championships, so it’s been a busy first two days at the picturesque Lamplight Equestrian Center.
Read on to hear from some of today’s leaders!
Nick Wagman made his return to the Festival Of Champions a winning one, taking the lead in the Grand Prix championship on Beverly Gepfer’s Don John, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Johnson—Lindalie, Goodtimes).
“When I went in the ring he surprised me because he was on fire, and it kind of caught me off guard,” said Wagman, who scored a 72.63 percent. “The first part of my test was definitely not our normal start, but he settled in nicely, and once we found our rhythm again it felt really nice, and I could ride the way I wanted to.
“Once we walked and we could both take a deep breath, I think the piaffe and passage transitions were some of our best to date,” he continued. “The pirouettes felt really nice and the changes. I think the canter work was probably the strongest part of the test.”
Competing at Lamplight is always like a homecoming for Endel Ots, who rode Lucky Strike to the win in the Intermediaire I class today with a 73.85 percent.
Ots and Lucky Strike, a 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Lord Laurie—Heidi, His Highness) were meant to compete for the U.S. at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, last month, but the gelding was injured in the trailer on the way to the plane when the butt bar of the trailer broke. The gelding had superficial lacerations that required stitches, so Ots was unable to make his team debut. After a couple of weeks of recuperation, Ots felt he was well enough to travel from Wellington, Florida, to the Festival of Champions.
“I lived up here for almost a decade, so I see a lot of friends from when I showed here. It’s really fun,” he said. “My teammates from the Pan Ams were here, and I have a great picture of them watching the test. Sarah Lockman texted me and said she couldn’t make it but was watching on the live stream. It’s just really nice to have all your friends and close colleagues around.
“I was very happy with this test,” said Ots, who also won yesterday’s Prix St. Georges test and is the returning Developing Prix St. Georges champion with the gelding. “It was a clean test, and he was very with me today. I was really happy with his effort. After the stuff that happened a couple of weeks ago we haven’t really been drilling test things. We’ve kept everything very light to make sure he feels the best he can. That was a goal all three days—to have clean, nice rides, and he did that yesterday and did that today.”
Riding the experienced Bonnaroo, a 10-year-old German Riding Pony mare (FS Don’t Worry—Buttercup, Otoe’s Code), Lucienne Bacon took home the blue ribbon in the pony team test this morning, scoring a 68.81 percent.
She’s been partnered with “Bonnie” for 2 ½ years. “Through this year we’ve been really working on being a team in the arena and taking what we have in the warm-up into the competition arena,” said Bacon, who trains with Hillary Martin. “To be able to go in and just feel her with me and know that she trusts what I’m saying is just incredible.”
Bonnaroo enjoys donuts at home in California, but she has opinions. “She’s a lot like me,” said Bacon. “I think we both have a very strong opinion about everything. She can be mareish, but I think she tries to hide her affections sometimes. But it’s definitely there.”
Lauren Asher’s based in the Netherlands for the summer competing and training, but she decided to bring Select Equine International’s West Side, a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Florett AS—Marina, Equador) to the Festival of Champions to compete in the Brentina Cup Under-25 division, and they’re leading the pack on a score of 69.02 percent.
Yesterday they finished 10th on a much lower score, so Asher was excited to have a cleaner test.
“The test went so much better today,” she said. “I had a lot of highlights, and I was super happy with the piaffe and passage work. Yesterday he was looking a bit and super spooky, but to come back from that and have the ride I had today, I’m thrilled.”
For full results, click here.
For the schedule, click here.
USEF is live streaming the event, and tests are available on-demand here.