2007 Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championships

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Stacey Meier



Lexington, KY – For the sixth consecutive year, horses and riders from across the country have come to the Kentucky Horse Park to compete for the 2007 Markel/United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) National Young Horse Dressage Championship presented by Collecting Gaits Farm along with the inaugural USEF National Developing Horse Dressage Championship sponsored by the Dutta Corporation and Performance Sales International.


With the Young Horse Dressage program, the focus is to promote the importance of selective breeding and correct training of horses throughout the country while encouraging riders, trainers and breeders of young horses in dressage competition. The purpose of this program is to identify and recognize horses that have the potential to compete at international competitions (FEI level).



The first day was a qualifying day for the Young Horse championship which included the five and six-year-old preliminary test. Christopher Hickey and Cabana Boy led the five-year-olds in the Young Horse preliminary test with a score of 8.36. Owned by Hilltop Farm, Inc., Cabana Boy is a bay Hanoverian gelding (Contucci x Britania by Bordeaux; bred in the U.S. by Doug and Shannon Langer). "This was a superb presentation." said Hilda Gurney in the comments for the judging panel, which is a unique aspect to the Young Horse Championships. "This horse showed what we are looking for in these Young Horse classes - that he can be an FEI horse for the future.




Jason Canton and Grandioso had the top score of 8.32 in the six-year-old Young Horse preliminary test. Grandioso is a dark bay Westfalen gelding (Grosso Z x Popocatepetel by Palisandergrund bred in Germany by Willi Hillebrecht) and is owned by his rider Canton.


"You are a lucky man to have this wonderful horse." stated Gurney after Canton's ride. Canton who has been in Europe training and competing for the last few years, has made a triumphant return to resume his work as trainer for Collecting Gaits Farm in Alpharetta, Georgia.



Kicking off the day with the four-year-old optional warm-up class, Willy Arts and Waterloo SE* had the top score of 8.14. Waterloo SE* is a black Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Sigi Belz-Fry and DG Bar Ranch (OO Seven x Showbiz by Jazz; bred in the U.S. by Sigi Blez-Fry).


New this year is the Markel/USEF National Developing Horse Dressage Championship. This new addition was inspired by a popular German championship to recognize up and coming dressage horses and riders. This championship helps to provide a step between the Young Horse ranks and the High Performance at the Prix St. Georges/Intermediaire I level.

Saturday’s schedule includes the crowning of the four-year-old championship along with the five and six-year-old consolation class and a qualifying test for the Developing Horse championship. The show will continue through Sunday, September 16.

Waterloo Se and Willy Arts Are 2007 Winners in for Four-Year-Old Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championships
By Lynndee Kemmet for Dressagedaily.com



Waterloo Se, with California’s Willy Arts aboard, is the 2007 Champion in the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Championship for Four-Year-Old Horses. The Championships are being held at the Kentucky Horse Park. The Dutch Warmblood gelding, owned by DG Bar Ranch and Siegi Belz-Fry, earned an overall score of 8.62 in Saturday’s championship class.


Judges had nothing but good things to say about Waterloo Se (00 Seven – Showbiz by Jazz) during competition at the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Championships, held September 14-16. The gelding was bred by Belz-Fry. The panel of three judges included Anne Gribbons, Marianne Ludwig and Natalie Lamping.



Speaking for the judges, Gribbons said they “were certainly impressed.” The judges credited Arts for his good riding, which highlighted Waterloo Se’s own natural ability. “The trot had a very clear rhythm and an unusual balance for such a young horse. And in the lengthenings, he kept his tempo. He had a lot of air time and a lot of power showing up without speeding up or losing his rhythm,” Gribbons said. Waterloo Se was given an 8.5 for the trot.


For the walk, he received an 8.6, but the canter was the judges’ favorite gait of all. “The canter we liked even better. It’s balanced, uphill and with very smooth transitions. We give an 8.7 for the canter,” Gribbons said. They reserved their highest score – an 8.8 – for overall general impression saying that Waterloo Se “was nicely presented and looks like he’s very well up to snuff for the job.”



Willy Arts Basks in the Joy of Victory



Ask Willy Arts how he feels about riding Waterloo Se to the Four-Year-old Championship win in the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Championships and he’ll note that “winning always feels good.” But he’s especially proud of the young gelding’s performance, considering that the championship competition was only Waterloo Se’s fourth show.


“He’s green, but I had a very good ride,” Arts said. “He’s a long way from home so you don’t know how he’ll travel. That’s always a big part of it. But he traveled well and he competed like he was at home.”

California is a long way from Lexington, Kentucky, but Arts said it was worth the trip, partly because he had three horses qualify for the Championships and brought all three. But, he also believes in the Young Horse program. “We’ve always been involved in the young horses -- in breeding and promoting them. DG Bar has long sponsored programs for young Dutch Warmbloods and this one for the young horses is super. This is the only way to select young horses at an early age and to promote them, especially in this big country.”

Arts said the championships were a great experience for Waterloo Se, who didn’t seem the least bit bothered by the activity around the competition ring, which included a hunter/jumper competition nearby. “He’s just a very relaxed horse with a lot of scope in his gaits and he’s very focused.”


Locals Kathy Priest and Reliance Take Second in Markel/USEF Young Horse Championship for Four-Year-Old Horses




Although Arts traveled across the country to compete in Four-Year-Old competition at the USEF/Markel Young Horse Dressage Championships, reserve champions Kathy Priest and Reliance traveled around the corner. Priest is based in Versailles, Kentucky. Reliance (Rohdiamant – Gesstine by Classiker) is owned by Priest. The Oldenburg gelding, bred in Germany by Oliver Kotschofsky, earned an overall score of 8.16.


“I’m really happy with him. With a four-year-old, you never know what’s going to happen when you get into this kind of electric atmosphere. But, he was really well-behaved and real attentive and that bodes well for the future,” Priest said of her rising young star. She also had much praise for the Young Horse program. “It’s a great program. We need to keep developing and bringing along good horses in this country because we can do it here just as well as Europe.”



The panel of judges expressed a bit of jealousy upon seeing Reliance, telling Priest that “this is certainly the kind of horse that we’d all like to have. He looks like he’s really capable of doing the kind of work that we expect of him for dressage in the future.” They awarded Reliance with an 8.3 for a trot that showed “good articulation of the joints.” His walk scored a 7.8 and his canter an 8.8.


Reliance scored an 8.0 for submission with Gribbons saying that “he was very obedient. He sort of gave us the eye sometimes, but he didn’t do anything about it and he kept the lid on and was very good and in front of your leg.” The gelding scored an 8.4 for general impression.

Saturday was an overall good day for Priest because with Ronaldo she won the Six-Year-Old Consolation class, which earned her the right to compete in Sunday’s Six-Year-Old Championship competition.



Elegant River Side Lady Takes Third with Debbie Hill in the Markel/USEF Young Horse Championship for Four-Year-Old Horses



A mare that judges called “soft and supple” was the third-place finisher in the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Championship for Four-Year-Old Horses. River Side Lady, owned by Robbie Rice of Knoxville, Tennessee is a Hanoverian mare (Royal Diamond – Déjà vu by Donnerhall) bred in Germany by BG Schroeder & Hanken.


Ridden by Debbie Hill, River Side Lady made riding look easy, judges said. “We really enjoyed it,” Gribbons said. “She has an elastic and ground-gaining trot and good hind legs and she uses her entire body and that’s a nice thing to see. She sped up slightly in her first lengthening, but then she became a little more balanced.” For that, River Side Lady was awarded with a 7.9 for the trot. The walk, which Gribbons said was a walk “like Marilyn Monroe” scored an 8.6.

The problem gait was the canter. There judges noted that River Side Lady is a tad downhill and “fights herself a little bit.” But they were optimistic that progress could be made. “This is the weak gait and the one you need to work on to help her with her balance in order to make her front leg more elastic,” Gribbons said. River Side Lady received a 7.0 for her canter. The mare’s score for submissiveness was 8.3 and an 8.0 for general impression. Her overall score was 7.96.


Michelle Gibson and Don Angelo Earn a Blue in Developing Horse Dressage National Championship Competition




In the Developing Horse National Dressage Championship competition sponsored by the Dutta Corporation and Performance Sales International, taking place alongside the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Championship competition, Michelle Gibson and Don Angelo earned the blue in Saturday’s competition with a score of 69.899. The seven-year-old Oldenburg stallion (Don Larino – Elektina by Rubinstein I) was bred in Germany by Hartmut Janssen and is owned by Diamante Farms in Wellington, Florida.


Gibson was thrilled with the win. “I’m very excited,” she said. “He was a good boy. A little bit distracted, but there was a lot going on. There were ponies in the competition across the road. Normally he’s super at the shows, not paying attention to anything, but he was definitely distracted by the other show.”

Still, Gibson said the stallion “listened to me and we had really beautiful changes.” Gibson and Don Angelo have been together for less than two years and eventually hope to work their way to the CDI Grand Prix. But they’re happy for the Developing Horse program because it serves as a stepping stone without an undue amount of pressure on young horses. “It’s important to have something in between the six-year-olds and the national championships. This program is a great opportunity for riders to get their horses out and to get them experience but without the pressure of national championships.”


Cabana Boy and Grandioso are 2007 Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Champions
By Lynndee Kemmet for Dressagedaily.com




Hilltop Farm’s Cabana Boy, with Christopher Hickey aboard, and Grandioso, owned and ridden by Jason Canton, are this year’s Five-Year-Old and Six-Year-Old National Young Horse Dressage champions. Cabana Boy earned the Five-Year-Old championship title and Grandioso the Six-Year-Old title following Sunday’s finale class at the 2007 Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championships held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.


Hickey came with high expectations for the young Hanoverian gelding under his tutelage that had just returned from the 2007 World Championships for Young Dressage Horses in Verden, Germany. Canton came with no expectations. “I came here expecting nothing and just hoping for the best. My plan was to ride the horse as best I could,” Canton said. “I’ve always had a feeling he’s a very special horse and he proved it today.”

Cabana Boy, owned by Hilltop Farm of Maryland and bred by Dough and Shannon Langer of Wisconsin, was a clear favorite coming into the Five-Year-Old competition. And he didn’t disappoint the judges. Speaking for the panel of judges that included Hilda Gurney, Natalie Lamping and Marianne Ludwig, Gurney said, “Our general impression, of course, is that he has super talent for collection and for the FEI.” Cabana Boy received an overall score of 8.480 after two days of competition.



Judges felt that Cabana Boy (Contucci – Britania by Bordeaux) could have shown a better walk, particularly one in which he “used his whole body.” And they felt the canter needed a more open frame and less changing of the frame throughout the canter. Nevertheless, the gelding received an 8.8 for his canter. For the walk, he earned a 7.8.


It was the trot that judges loved the most. “The volume of collection and extension you ask is very impressive. You ask a lot and you get a lot and we were impressed,” Gurney said. “The trot has wonderful impulsion and a really powerful behind. Not a toe touched the ground. We would like to see a little bit more consistency and rhythm in the medium trot and lengthening. There was a little bit of loss of balance there. The nice half-halt and lateral work in the trot was still very impressive, so we give you an 8.8.”


Next Stop for Christopher Hickey and Cabana Boy is Dressage at Devon




Following their win at the Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championships, Christopher Hickey and Cabana Boy are off to Dressage at Devon where they’ll be competing in the classes for Five-Year-Old horses and those for horses bred in the U.S. “We’re very proud that this horse was born and bred in the U.S.A.,” Hickey said. Cabana Boy was sired by a Hilltop Farm stallion but the breeders were Wisconsis breeders Doug and Shannon Langer.


Hickey only took over the ride on Cabana Boy this past spring and the two had a break from one another while Hickey was in Brazil competing at the Pan American Games. Hickey said the separation did impact their performance at Verden and he felt the difference this week at the national young horse competition. Although Cabana Boy was well-schooled by other trainers at Hilltop Farm during Hickey’s time in Brazil, it was still a different ride for the horse. “I wasn’t riding the horse and he was on somebody else’s aids. He was worked well and I’m lucky to have a staff at Hilltop that’s highly capable to keep the horse going, but it’s still got to be on one person’s aids.”

Hickey felt that he and Cabana Boy were more in sync for the Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championships. He thanks Hilltop farm owner Jane MacElree for her support and said he couldn’t have been more pleased with Cabana Boy. “This horse is very capable. He has three really good gaits and he has a wonderful attitude.” Hickey’s strategy in the Championships was to show the judges what they wanted to see. “I knew the judges liked him, but of course you need to show that the horse can be steady. He wasn’t quite as steady in the contact today as he was on Friday, but he is able to sit in the canter and show good collection. The ability for collection and extension is what these tests are about. So, I’ve trained a lot on that and I’m happy that it paid off.”


Jason Canton is Thrilled with his Six-Year-Old Champion in the Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championship




A “fabulous feeling” is how Jason Canton described his win in the Six-Year-Old competition at the Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championship with Grandioso. “It’s been a long year and a lot of hard work getting to this point.” The Westfalen gelding was bought by Canton, of Alpharetta, Georgia, in Germany when he was a five-year-old.


Canton is the trainer at Collecting Gaits Farm and gave much credit to farm owners Jeff and Shereen Fuqua for their support. “I’ve work for Collecting Gaits since January and they’re fantastic people to work for and to ride for. They were very instrumental in getting me here. They sponsored me to go to Germany last May for six weeks showing and training with Susana Meisner. They’re just wonderful.”



Grandioso (Grosso Z – Popocatepetel by Palisandergrund) was bred in Germany by Willi Hillebrecht. Canton said the gelding is “very sweet. He’s a big horse, but he’s like a volcano ready to erupt. And yet, you can ride him around easy out in the fields. He’s just got great character, super to train. He just needs strength. He’s a very big horse, a powerful mover but his body has to develop.”


The judges certainly liked the horse. Speaking for the judges’ panel, Marianne Ludwig said, “As I heard Hilda say yesterday, you are a lucky man. Super impressive horse.



Super gaits. Very impressive trot. Very impressive medium and extended trots.” For that the judges awarded Grandioso with an 8.8. The walk received an 8.0 and judges admitted to being picky when saying they’d like a bit more of a ground-covering walk.


Judges said the canter “was super to watch” although it lost a bit of collection when Grandioso got away from Canton.

Still, the canter scored an 8.4. Other scores were an 8.3 for submission and an 8.4 for general impression. Grandioso’s final score was 8.368. Canton said future plans are to compete Grandioso at the USEF levels while he strengthens and then move him into the Developing Horse competition.


Michelle Gibson and Don Angelo Hold on to First Place to Become 2007 USEF National Developing Horse Dressage Champions Sponsored by Performance Sales International and the J.Tim Dutta Corporation




Michelle Gibson and Don Angelo finished Saturday’s USEF National Developing Horse Dressage competition, in first place and never gave up that position. They finished up the second and final day of competition with another first place win to become the 2007 USEF National Developing Horse champions. Gibson echoed the familiar sentiment on winning when she said that “winning is always good.”


She gave much credit to Don Angelo (Don Larino – Elektina by Rubinstein I) and expressed tremendous pride in the young stallion’s performance. “He’s only seven years old and he’s not experienced in the ring. He’s a beautiful horse. He’s fun to ride. What more can you ask for,” she said. He also improved from the previous day when the action of a nearby hunter/jumper show distracted the gelding. “He was much better today,” she said.

Knowing that he might be distracted again, however, didn’t cause her to change her strategy for Sunday’s final leg of competition. “I have the same game plan every time I go in and that’s to ride the best test I can ride, the cleanest, trying to make things better than they were the day before,” Gibson said.



Don Angelo is a seven-year-old Oldenburg stallion bred in Germany by Hartmut Janssen and owned by Diamante Farms of Wellington, Florida (shown here with Terry Kane). Gibson said she and Don Angelo may try the Intermediaire level this winter season, but ultimately, she’ll be handing over the reins to young rider Devon Kane.


“With every horse, you train them as far as they can go. You do with them as much as they can do. When his training gets to a certain point, then Devon Kane will start riding him. He’s really for her. My riding him is part of him getting experience and getting the training. I’m enjoying it and having a great time in the meantime.”

The USEF National Developing Horse Dressage Championship was created to provide a step for 7- to 9-year-old horses between the Young Horse ranks and High Performance at the Prix St. Georges/Intermediaire I level. This inaugural championship attracted 14 entries from around the country, some traveling to Kentucky from as far away as California and Washington in order to compete for the title of National Developing Horse Dressage Champion.

Dr. Ulf Möller of Performance Sales International and Tim Dutta of the Dutta Corporation were both in attendance and were pleased to see the high quality of the horse and rider combinations in the championship, some of whom had competed previously in the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Program and who were the first to make this important step towards a future in the High Performance arena.

“This new program is revolutionary in our country in order to identify and develop our future U.S. Team horses,” notes Tim Dutta of the Dutta Corporation. “We are proud to support this program and look forward to its continued growth.”


Shawna Harding and Come On III are 2007 Reserve Champions in National Developing Horse Dressage Championships




Shawna Harding and Come On III are this year’s reserve champions in the National Developing Horse Dressage Championships, sponsored by the Dutta Corporation and Performance Sales International. Harding owns Come On III (Comeback II – Canna by Lantaan), an eight-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding bred in Denmark by Kiove-Morgensen.


Harding bought Come On III in Denmark when he was five. While there, she qualified him for the Six-Year-Old championship. And because she owns him, she has no pressure to move him along quickly. “He’s still very young in his mind. He just needs more time to keep himself composed on a consistent basis. But, there are no time constraints and no pressure. I just love him and will take my time,” Harding said.

A nearby hunter/jumper show, along with plants in the ring, distracted Come On III a bit in the first day of competition, which impacted Harding’s overall placing in the competition. But she didn’t mind the reserve championship in the least. Ahead of her were the champions Michelle Gibson and Don Angelo. “Being second to Michelle is an honor,” Harding said. “We’re good friends and we work together in Florida so she’s been a really good support for me.”

Finishing in third overall was another Young Horse graduate, the 8-year-old dark bay Hanoverian stallion Don Principe (Donnerhall – Papagena by Prince Thatch, bred in Germany by Adelheid Bruenig). Don Principe is owned by Maryanna Haymon and was ridden to an overall score of 66.919% by James Koford.