After winning her third championship in two days at the 2023 U.S. Dressage Finals in Lexington, Kentucky, Heather Mason waited among her fellow ribboned competitors in the warm-up ring, preparing for her victory lap. She’d just landed first in the open Grand Prix championship with a 69.20% on her longtime partner, RTF Lincoln.
“Heather, I’m so surprised that you won,” rider Kymberly Pullen, who’d taken seventh in the division, joked to Mason in a deadpan.
The other riders laughed at the sentiment: There’s simply no shock when Mason wins—and certainly not when she wins on “Lincoln.” The decorated duo has made a name for themselves as formidable competitors, and their place in the ribbons gives a sense of deja vu.
But this year on Lincoln, her wins mean a little more. Mason says this will be her last year competing the 18-year-old Oldenburg-Holsteiner gelding, a hot horse whose strengths and quirks keep the trainer on her toes. He’s a bit of a contradiction: a horse who goes easily in a snaffle, but with a spinning spook so quick that Mason installed custom knee blocks to keep her in the saddle.
Mason knows her horse well enough to admit that there are some things she can’t predict. Rather than try to anticipate what will set off his quirks, she knows to be ready for them.
“I’ve ridden this horse a long time,” she said, following her win on Friday. “He could start dead quiet and ramp up, or he could start hot and then calm down. There’s just no guessing. I just have to be ready to ride eight variations at all times. I have eight Grand Prix horses in one!”
Mason says she’s ready to give more focus to her youngsters, and Lincoln will always have a place on her farm in Lebanon, New Jersey. He’s been a one-person horse for so long (she guesses the last time another rider sat on him was more than five years ago), she’s not sure exactly what his future holds. She’ll consider letting him drop down a level with another rider, but it will have to be the right match.
“He’ll make his decision, because he always does,” Mason said.
Mason also brought along two young horses to the Finals this weekend who have landed in the top three in every championship they’ve entered. On Friday in the third level freestyle open championship, Mason finished first on Shmoky Quartz with a 71.99% and second on Manuskript SCF with a 71.78%.
Anartz Chanca Defends Adult Amateur Grand Prix Title By A Hair
Anartz Chanca and his 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Dazzle (Danone—Londonberry), returned to Lexington to defend their adult amateur Grand Prix title. On Friday, the pair did just that, nosing ahead of Rebecca Lord and Demetrius by just 0.036%.
Chanca and his wife, Marta Renilla, are based at her family’s fam, Woodlands Equestrian Club in Tomball, Texas.
“It’s a long trip from Texas but we did everything possible to make it happen,” Chanca said. “It was challenging with the logistics, but we love this show. The horses love it too, especially with the cooler weather. They seem to know that it’s Finals, and they really go for it.”
Chanca said that the atmosphere of big indoor arena lit a fire in Dazzle, and the rider leveraged the horse’s enthusiasm to his advantage.
“He was excited to see everything [in the Alltech Arena], but that’s a good thing, as you get that extra energy.”
On Saturday, Chanca will ride Dazzle in the adult amateur Grand Prix freestyle.
The Chronicle will be on site at the U.S. Dressage Finals, bringing you gorgeous photos, interviews and more. Make sure to follow along at www.coth.com and on Facebook, and Instagram @Chronofhorse. For full analysis and coverage from the horse show be sure to check out the Dec. 18 issue of the magazine.