Sunday, Apr. 21, 2024

Romeo Rules At Great American/USDF Region 6 Championships

Tanja Hennes has big goals in mind for next year after her adult amateur success.

When Tanja Hennes traveled to the Netherlands two years ago looking for a dressage prospect, an unlikely horse caught her eye.
“He was very Thoroughbredy looking.


Tanja Hennes has big goals in mind for next year after her adult amateur success.

When Tanja Hennes traveled to the Netherlands two years ago looking for a dressage prospect, an unlikely horse caught her eye.
“He was very Thoroughbredy looking.

He didn’t have much of a neck. He wasn’t very appealing, but when I got on him, it was like putting on an old shoe,” Hennes said of Romeo. “We just thought he was a diamond in the rough.”

Fast forward two years, and Hennes and Romeo topped the adult amateur Prix St. Georges (66.75%) and the adult amateur Intermediaire I (61.87%) at the Great American/USDF Region 6 Championships, held during the Northwest Dressage Championship, Sept. 28-30 in Auburn, Wash.

Romeo had only competed through second level when Hennes bought him, but when trainer Gwen Blake asked the following spring what level she wanted to enter, Hennes got bold.

“I looked at her and said, ‘I’m not wearing the short coat. We’re going to go for Prix St. Georges.’ I did one fourth level ride, and moved right up. That was my decision, and she didn’t know if we were ready, but she backed me up. After our first show, she realized it was going to be OK,” Hennes said.

The quick success was all the more remarkable since Hennes, 35, was just returning to riding and showing after taking four years off to recover from a hip injury and to have a son.

Hennes didn’t adjust to the lack of horses in her life very well. “Toward the end there, I thought I was going to go insane. When I realized I was making soap, I knew I had gone over the edge and needed to start riding again,” she said.

Hennes, of Gig Harbor, Wash., has been riding dressage since she was 15, though she evented a bit in her youth. She had a Grand Prix horse, Darius, but lost him in 2000 to founder. After losing him, she traveled to Germany for a job, but her hip injury brought her home, and then she endured her reluctant vacation from riding.

Romeo, 10, has been worth the wait, however.

“Romeo is a powerful horse. He’s got an air of arrogance about him. His changes are expressive and big, and he’s got beautiful pirouettes,”

Hennes said. “He comes in the ring and says, ‘Look at me,’ and I think that appeals to the judges.”

Hennes hopes to show Romeo at Grand Prix next year, and he’s got a mission to accomplish.

“I only need one more score for my [U.S. Dressage Federation] gold medal, thanks to Darius, and I’d really like to do it on a horse I trained up to Grand Prix myself,” Hennes said.

Next year will also mark a transition for Hennes. She’s leaving behind her amateur status and has begun riding horses for Blake. “I think it’s important that I help out a little bit. I’ve been spoiled rotten, and I’m grateful,” she said.

Mitras Splashes To Wins

Gail Redinger knows all about bringing horses up the ranks. She bought Mitras as a 3-year-old three years ago and has brought him along. They claimed the open second level (73.57%) and open third level (69.30%) championships.

“He has amazing movement. He’s got so much swing and rhythm and elasticity,” Redinger said.


Friends of Redinger’s bred Mitras (Bütow—Moet, Martini), and she also has his older half-brother, Mojavee, who competed at fourth level and Prix St. Georges at the championships.

And while Mitras captured Redinger’s heart instantly, he wasn’t the easiest of pro-jects. “He was challenging. He was really spooky, and he’d bolt and not stop,” she said.

“The winter he turned 4, he tossed me a few times. I broke bones. I just took a lot of extra time to ease his mind, and he’s been very much worth it. Now, he’s reliable. He’s still looky, but he holds his ground. And he’s extremely reliable at the shows.”

That newfound maturity helped at the Region 6 Championships, since a rain-soaked showgrounds provided plenty of opportunities for spooking.

“It never stopped raining, and the arenas had lakes in them. In his first test, he didn’t think he could move in the water. We didn’t even place. He was spooking at the puddles,” said Redinger.

“So, the next morning, I took him up to the track, and I schooled him up there. I took him through every mud puddle I could find. And we went into that test, and he was fantastic. He won every class he did after that.”

Redinger, a professional, rides out of her farm in Sand Point, Idaho.

“It’s a little remote, and it’s challenging to do dressage, but we have a covered arena and we just do it,” she said. “We stay home in the winter, and we just tuck in and do it.”

Redinger, who celebrated her 51st birthday at the Region 6 Championships, used to event, but 10 years ago, a Thoroughbred named Optimistic helped her switch disciplines.

“He really wasn’t enjoying eventing. I decided to start taking him to dressage shows, and he moved up a level every year until he was at Grand Prix,” Redinger said.

She earned her gold medal in 2004 on “Opie”, and at 17, he finished third at Grand Prix in the Region 6 Championships.

“He has a hard time competing with the warmbloods, but he’s been doing the Grand Prix for five years now and he’s fun,” she said.

With Honors Graduates

Chelsea Pederson, 19, bought H.S. With Honors, or “Baxter,” four years ago with big plans. She wanted the Hungarian Warmblood, then 4, to be her future Young Riders mount.

And now, after claiming the Region 6 Championship blues at junior/young rider third level (65.23%), junior/young rider fourth level (65.97%) and in the third level freestyle (70.62%), Pederson said next year might finally see the realization of that dream.

“When I bought him, it was a long shot, and the goal has been getting closer and closer. I’m more than ready for next year,” she said.

“He was just broke when I bought him”, she added. “I’ve brought him along myself, and he’s been wonderful; he’s the best horse I could have asked for. He’s got a great mind, and he takes everything in stride and remembers everything I teach him.”


Baxter, by H.S. Wistar out of a Thorough-bred mare, has helped Pederson mature as a rider. “He’s taught me to be patient. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself, but he lets me know when I’m getting too uptight. He’s taught me to relax and be patient,” she said.

Her favorite test of the weekend was her third level freestyle. “This is my first season of doing freestyles, so that was my third freestyle ever. I wanted to get a few under my belt before having to do them next year for Young Riders,” she said.

Karen Robinson helped her design the test, set to upbeat, jazzy tunes, including a song from Aladdin.

“The first time I did it, it was a little nerve-wracking. And he was a little shaken up by the music. But once we both calmed down, I really enjoyed it,” Pederson said.

Pederson, of Gig Harbor, Wash., is in classes at Tacoma Community College, and hopes to transfer to the University of Washington next year. She balances her mornings in class with afternoons as a working
student for trainer Erin Jorgensen. She’s contemplating a career as a rider and trainer, so she’s riding and teaching as much as possible.

“I’m trying to get my feet wet in all directions,” she said.

Pederson rode a client’s 5-year-old, Viva Le Golde, to second place in the junior/young rider training level Region 6 Championship.

Dan O’Brien Knows It All

Paige Romney tried to learn dressage on her pony Wiseguy, but “it didn’t work very well. I didn’t have any experience, and neither did he, so we didn’t do very well,” she said. “And I wanted to really compete and do

So, she traveled to Germany in 2005 with trainers Jennifer Schrader Williams and Gwen Blake and found Dan O’Brien, a 14.2-hand phenomenon.

“He’s awesome. He’s a great schoolmaster. He’s taught me all the way from training level to third level. He’s taught me leg yields, half-pass, flying changes, pretty much everything,” she said.

And at the Region 6 Championships, she and “Dan” won junior/young rider second level (66.42%) and placed second in junior/young rider first level (68.28%). Romney also placed second in the dressage seat medal, 13 and under.

The regional championships were a huge goal for Romney.

“I really wanted to do well,” she said. “Dan has great halts and extensions. In our second level test, we got our first 9 for a halt, and then at first level, we got a 9 for our trot lengthening.”

Romney, 12, also events Dan, and they won the beginner novice division at the Young Riders Benefit Horse Trials (Wash.) in August.

“It’s really fun, and it’s given me a really strong leg and a lot more confidence,” she said of the cross training.

Romney, of Bellevue, Wash., hopes she’ll wait to outgrow Dan until after they move up to third and fourth level, but she knows he’ll have a home with their family forever. He lives at their farm along with two young horses owned by her mother.

Molly Sorge




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