Wayne, Ill.—Aug. 25
Despite her extensive competitive resumé, Sabine Schut-Kery came into the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions without visions of grandeur, so when her victory with and Gorgeous Latino in the Markel/USEF Young Horse National Championship for 7-year-olds was announced, she got a little teary-eyed.
“I was just super happy, but I didn’t come in here to win, so it was a surprise. I always get pretty emotional,” explained Schut-Kery.
“I’m pretty much speechless. He was amazing,” she added. “I could not have asked for more. There were a couple of bobbles, but he’s young and that’s not a big deal to me. He had a lot of energy, he was really with me, and that’s one of the most important things I look for. And it really felt like a partnership in the ring. Sometimes you can have them in the warmup and then the ring is different.”
Unlike in regular dressage tests, judges give verbal feedback to riders after the final salute in young horse classes. Even for a seasoned competitor like Schut-Kery, these idiosyncrasies of different dressage classes can escape one’s memory. Entirely preoccupied with rewarding “Hex” for his stellar performance, she began to walk the Dutch Warmblood stallion (Glock’s Toto Jr.—Blackmanda, Hexagon’s Rubiquil) back to the barn when the ground jury and muffled giggles of the crowd stopped her.
“Sabine, don’t you want to hear what we have to say? We want you!” joked Micheal Osinski, a member of the ground jury, calling after her over the loudspeaker as she exited the arena.
Jokes aside, Osinski and the rest of the ground jury were spot on with their substantive commentary, Schut-Kery said afterward. “They were amazing. I’m really grateful to have such high quality judges,” she said.
“Thank you for a lovely presentation,” remarked Osinski at the conclusion of Schut-Kery’s test. “We saw a nice and connected horse, ridden naturally and properly. He knows how to use his hind end well. In some of the changes, there are issues of confidence, but we find potential. These issues with the changes and little issues of balance, we know you’ll take care of them in due time.”
Hex, owned by Sandy Mancini, and Schut-Kery have been partners for two years. The stallion was a gift from Mancini’s husband, and Schut-Kery got the ride when his previous rider, Jamie Shortz, got pregnant.
Hex and Schut-Kery made headlines last year when they were selected to represent the U.S. at the FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championships for Young Horses in Ermelo, the Netherlands. The pair, based in Napa Valley, California, held their own against some of Europe’s most competitive athletes and young horses, finishing fourth in their 6-year-old preliminary class with an 83.40%.
If today was any indication, the positive direction of his training is continuing, according to Schut-Kery. Hex has never scored below 72% in any of his competitive starts, but as a stallion, his career options are hardly limited to high performance.
In the immediate future, the stallion will get a break and be put in one of California’s rare green pastures. What comes after will be up to him.
“We take it step by step. At that age, it’s hard to say what he’ll do next,” she said. “Step by step, but no pushing. I always take into consideration the feedback of the horse, how he feels.”
The highest technical score of both days went to Ali Potasky, whose combined performances on Wednesday and today earned her and Courtney Lau’s Lord Hennessy the reserve championship title.
“ ‘Hennessy’s’ very big and kind of a heavy guy, so he’s been struggling a little with the heat,” Potasky said. “But the fact that he came out today, maybe he didn’t have quite as much energy as he did the first day, but he stayed 100 percent with me and the training showed. I think I had no bobbles. It was an obedient, willing test. And that is always what is important to me.”
The Dutch Warmblood (Hennessy—Dadina K, Santano) and Potasky have been a team since he was 3 years old after she and coach Kathy Priest found him in Europe. Soon thereafter, Lau—a client of Potasky and Priest’s—bought him. Together, the three of them brought the gelding up the levels. Potasky is the assistant trainer at Priest’s Woodspring Farm, based out of Versailles, Kentucky.
Potasky’s reserve championship title came after a particularly long day for the Kentucky native, which included two top-five finishes in the Markel/USEF Developing Grand Prix National Championship. She and Inxs (pronounced “in excess”) (Everdale—Whinca, Harmony’s Rousseau) took third with a 68.04%, while her other mount Irintha (Everdale—Zwyrintha, Tenerife VDL) trailed by only half a percentage point with a 67.50%.
Rounding out the podium in the 7-year-old class, Rebecca Rigdon rode Lauren Fisher’s Lionell VE (Negro—Zwyrintha, Tenerife VDL) to a cumulative score of 74.72% and a third-place finish.
“Today was the best ride I’ve had with him in the arena. I knew that I was going to have to push the gaits in order to be on the heels of anyone here technically, ahem,” said Rigdon, while affectionately gesturing to Schut-Kery. “He showed up and I could not be happier.”