Wayne, Ill.—Aug. 24
In the face of sweltering temperatures and stiff competition in the Neue Schule/USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship, Christian Simonson and Son Of A Lady kept their cool today to earn the national championship title with a score of 73.26%.
“Winning this championship means a lot,” Simonson, 20, Ventura, California, said. “I didn’t realize that [my coach Adrienne Lyle] had won this championship back in the day, so that makes it even more special.
“But I think this whole week has been special,” he added. “This whole journey to qualify for the Pan Ams [Chile] has been totally new for me and a whole new level of pressure that I didn’t know if I was going to be good enough for. I’ve learned how to handle pressure through this process.”
Though Simonson and “Sonny” took top honors in Monday and Tuesday’s classes, ultimately securing the championship, they finished second in Thursday’s on a score of 74.01%.
Charlotte Jorst clinched the victory in today’s I-1 freestyle with her 10-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Zhaplin Langholt (Zonik—Sonia Langholt, Stedinger), earning 75.61%.
“I have only done that freestyle once before, but ‘Zhaplin’ had a blast,” said Jorst, 59, Reno, Nevada. “I have had him since he was 5, so everything he knows I’ve taught him. It’s such a fun experience for me. In the beginning, he was so nervous and neurotic, and [he used to] spin and do all kinds of fun things with me. And now he’s such a sweetheart. Every time he goes in the ring, he tries his best.”
Like Jorst, Simonson ventured into unfamiliar territory in his freestyle.
“My freestyle was actually a brand new one. I had never practiced it before. With the weather and the circumstances, we just had to wing it.” he said. “He was tired; he’s been pushing it all week, and it has some choreography that is more difficult than what I’m used to. But all in all, it’s been a good day.”
In only a year and a half of knowing each other, Simonson and Christina Morgan and Clifton Simonson’s 12-year-old Danish Warmblood (Soreldo—Western Lady, Welt Hit II) Sonny have accumulated quite a long list of competitive accomplishments. After earning top placings this winter on the Wellington dressage circuit, Christian and Sonny were selected to go to across the pond on the 2023 European Young Rider Team, where they did some of their best tests. Most recently, the pair was shortlisted for the Pan American Games that will be held this October in Santiago.
Their arc together surprised even Christian, he said.
“This was never his game plan actually. He was supposed to be a U25 horse for me, and he’s just become the wonder horse that could for me, and we’ve gone all over the world together now,” he said. “And now I’ve gone from the Young Riders to the small tour competing with the adults. He’s just an incredible horse, always going. Even on days like today, he’s like ‘OK dad, I’m going to try my hardest.’ ”
Putting in harmonious tests this week was crucial for Christian as a Pan Am hopeful; all shortlisted athletes are required to compete in observation events before Sep. 10, and the selectors were watching the small tour at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions carefully. According to the U.S. Equestrian Federation, the final team is to be announced in mid-September.
If he was to be selected, Christian—who turns 21 on Saturday—would be one of the youngest athletes ever selected to represent the United States on a senior team.
“It is up to the selectors, and we’ll see how it goes, but my horses were in really good form this weekend. ‘Hopeful’ would be the word I’d use,” he said of his team prospects.
No stranger to the spotlight, Christian has become a household name in the youth divisions of American dressage. Still, the transition to professional-level competition can be daunting even for the most seasoned competitors. He credits his successful transition to Olympian Lyle.
“I think she puts me in situations where I need to grow and go with the adults,” he said. “And in training, we require a level of excellence in ourselves. I think that’s why I was able to go from the Young Riders to senior competition, because of her and her training.
“I really think the biggest part of this weekend has been Adrienne,” he added. “She’s eight months pregnant, and it’s been over a 100 degrees today and yesterday, and she’s been out here coaching. It’s so inspiring.”
Iverson On Track For Brentina Cup Repeat
Quinn Iverson, another student of Lyle’s, topped the FEI Grand Prix 16-25 test today with a score of 67.40% aboard Beckham 19, Billie Davidson’s 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Benetton Dream FRH — Davinia, Don Davidoff 2). It was their second win in as many classes, putting them on track to repeat their 2022 victory in the Brentina Cup championship.
In the Developing Prix St. Georges class, Iverson and Gremlin 41, an 8-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Grey Flanell—Daytona, Hardenberg Donnerschwee) also owned by Davidson, missed out on the top spot by 0.2 percentage points, coming in behind Tokyo Olympian Sabine Schut-Kery on Sonnenberg’s Jersey, Sonnenberg Farm’s 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion (Vivaldi—Kebalia, Olympic Ferro).
“Both boys were incredible, even with this heat,” Iverson said. “Especially Gremlin 41, in the Developing Prix St. Georges, he just amazed me. He was just incredible. He just got in there and was right with me every single step of the way. I’ve had both of them for about two years. Griffin took a little longer to figure out, but with Adrienne’s help we got it, and he’s becoming such an amazing partner. I just couldn’t ask for more.”
See complete results here.