Lexington, Ky.—Nov. 12
Mariah Crumbaker spends her days as a family physician delivering babies, caring for 95-year-olds and helping everyone in between.
With a busy job and a 9-month-old and 5-year-old of her own, it was an incredible feat for her simply to make it from her home in Kansas to the U.S. Dressage Finals.
And when she got the lead the victory lap Friday in the adult amateur Intermediaire I championship aboard Baroncelli (69.75%), she couldn’t have been happier.
“Such a hard work ethic” she said of the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Oscar—Vogue). “That horse just goes and goes and will work harder than even I want to work. That’s why I love him so much. He has a heart of gold. He’s a horse that never gives up. He’s the perfect horse for me, and I’m the perfect rider for him. Not everyone fits, but he’s fit me well, and I’ve fit him well.”
Crumbaker came to Finals two years ago at Prix St. Georges. She lives in her hometown of Beloit, Kansas, “in the middle of nowhere. A town of 3,500 people.”
She grew up riding and showing Quarter Horses in reining and learned about dressage to improve her horses before diving in to the sport fully.
Crumbaker said she trains at home alone most of the time and will do Google Duo lessons with trainer Melissa Allen, who moved from Kansas to North Carolina recently. Her mother Rebecca Crumbaker is also her eyes on the ground.
“We’re kind of the hodgepodge group of not the typical one you watch coming to a dressage show, with two kids and grandma,” she said with a laugh.
Julia McDonald’s last trip to Finals two years ago ended with a 10th place ribbon in the open third level freestyle championship. This year she improved on her performance by taking the win with Lehndorff Van De Vogelzang, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Quaterback—Dolce Vita VD Vogelzang) with a 76.27%.
“Yesterday’s warm-up class was a little bit spooky. Today I was a little worried. He was super. After the first halt, I knew that the test was going to be good,” she said Friday of her ride to Banners’ “Someone To You.” “It just humbles me that I get to compete against all these professionals and to do as well as I did. It’s crazy to me.”
The 17-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan, got a chance to compete at the Adequan North American Youth Championships (Michigan) this year with “Lenny.”
“He probably has the biggest personality I’ve ever seen in a horse. He’s super goofy. He always wants someone by him playing with him.”
It took Fie Studnitz Andersen two years to find her next mount after she had to retire her “heart horse” due to an injury and then EPM.
Finally, in August 2020 she found Equito’s Fürsten Hit in Europe at a jumper barn, and he’s become a great partner despite his young age.
“I just felt like he said something. There’s a little extra in there,” she said.
The gelding wasn’t even in the U.S. a week before he contracted Lyme Disease and needed treatment, but he’s been on the rise ever since.
The 5-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Fürsten-Look—German Classic), carried Andersen to the open training level championship (76.83%) Friday.
“With the weather change he’s a little up now, and there was some tension creeping into the test, but when he had the option to be a good boy or be a bad boy, he decided that he was listening to me,” said Andersen, 46, Sherborn, Massachussetts, of her test during cold winds Friday. “Even when he got a little tense I could get him back. He was really good. I’m very proud of him.”
Originally from Denmark, Andersen has been in the U.S. since 2001 and enjoys training and breeding young horses. She’s hoping to keep “Funi” in the barn the develop.
“Two weeks ago he decided that engagement is kind of fun, so he’s starting to offer it here and there,” she said. “It almost feels like an FEI horse for a few steps. He can’t hold it because he’s not strong enough. He definitely gives the feeling. We started talking about small quick steps, and he gives me the feeling that he will have the sit for piaffe. It feels like it’s in there. For now, he’s a keeper.”
Of the 20-strong field of open Grand Prix competitors, only Heather Mason and RTF Lincoln scored above 70 percent, earning a 70.39% to win the championship.
Mason bought the now 16-year-old gelding Oldenburg-Holsteiner of unrecorded breeding as a foal. He was bred by Cornell University (New York).
She then sold him to Meredith Whaley and helped train the pair. When Whaley needed hip surgery five years ago, she gave the gelding to Mason to ride.
She and “Lincoln” were open Intermediaire II champions at Finals in 2019 and won it again Thursday.
Mason, Lebanon, New Jersey, said Lincoln gets hotter as the show goes on, and he lit up in front of the crowd in the Alltech Arena.
“This is big,” she said. “He’s a proven Grand Prix horse now, finally. Hopefully we’ll be back next year. Sometimes in the ring he can be so hot he won’t let me use my legs, but he let me ride him today,” she said. “He’s pretty consistent because he knows this test a little better. He was more confident through it.”
Now that Mason owns Lincoln, she’s made a few management changes to help with his temperament.
“I think I’ve got him pretty well figured out now. He longes every day at the shows, and it has to be within a few hours of his ride time. If you longe him too many hours before you get hot Lincoln again! Three to four hours seems to be ideal. He’s out all night, which seems to keep the energy under control.”
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