For the last two years, Callie Jones of Region 2 has competed with her nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding Don Philippo (Dancier x Wildnight by Warkant) at top FEI Junior and Young Rider competitions, including the North American Junior & Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) and the USEF Festival of Champions.
And at just 19 years old, Jones had to draw upon all of that experience to successfully top a field full of adults and professionals and win the Fourth Level Freestyle Open Championship with 74.078%. “I think it was the best freestyle we’ve ever done – it was so consistent and flowing and he was with me the whole time. I even cried at the end because I was so happy,” said Jones, a college sophomore in Henderson, Ky.
“I tried to keep the choreography relatively simple and have really solid rides, and I think that’s what really helped me,” Jones continued. “’Phil’ and I have been together for about a year and a half, but I feel like we bonded immediately and I love this horse with everything I have. He’s not an easy horse to ride, but it just seems like we ‘get’ each other. We give each other confidence and he’s always there for me. These Finals are a big show for someone young like me, and being here is exciting and such an honor.”
Heather Mason of Lebanon, N.J. (Region 8) and 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding RTF Lincoln followed up on their previous day’s Fourth Level Open Championship win to claim reserve freestyle honors at this level on a score of 72.767%. “He was a bit spooky going around the outside of the ring, but he was great once we started,” said Mason. “His changes were great and he got his pirouettes – he’s just a happy horse.”
But Mason wasn’t done quite yet – she also added the First Level Freestyle Open Championship to her roster of successes from the 2017 US Dressage Finals. Riding Anne St. Martin’s five-year-old Canadian Warmblood gelding Enlighteningh (Polansky x Flemmingo 777 by Flemmingh), Mason scored 73.467% for yet another national title.
“I thought he was super today – he was more relaxed, we were right with the music and he rode really well,” Mason explained. “This is a freestyle I got about 15 years ago, and it’s tried and true and has worked well with various horses I’ve had over the years. It has a high degree of difficulty with a change of lead through trot to counter canter, and it suited this horse. He belongs to a client for whom I recommended that she buy this horse sight unseen, and she did. He’s recovered from colic surgery about two years ago and the owner became pregnant this year, so I have the ride for now. Hopefully she’ll have him back here herself in the adult amateur division next year, where I think she’ll do really well.”
Earning their second reserve championship title of the weekend with 70.989% was Martin Kuhn of New Berlin, Ill. (representing Region 4) and Washburn SW, a five-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Wolkentanz II x Opal by Opus) owned and bred by Kuhn’s wife, Kathryn. “Washburn seems to love his music – my wife picked it out, and the first time I heard it I said ‘no way’ but it grew on me. Everyone seems to like it and it works for him,” said Kuhn. “I would like to mention that he is our ‘second-born’ and we were looking for a name for him. A very dear friend of ours provided the name, and she wanted to be here but due to some unfortunate reasons could not come. So I wanted her to know that our thoughts are with her.”
More information including final results, photo galleries, and news archives from the 2017 US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® are available on the official event website www.usdressagefinals.com. Video on-demand from select championship performances is also available on the USEF Network at www.usefnetwork.com.