She’s literally been driving across the country for four days, but Morgan Barrows of Monroe, WA, wasn’t going to let a little distance stop her from attending this week’s US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® where she will join nearly 400 other competitors representing all nine United States Dressage Federation (USDF) regions in head-to-head competition for national titles across 30 different Open and Adult Amateur divisions.
Barrows knew what she was in for when she loaded her partner San Corazon on the trailer, since the pair made the same trek to Lexington, KY, in 2014. Then the pair’s long journey proved worthwhile, as Barrows and Janice Davis’ Oldenburg gelding earned both the Second Level Open and Second Level Freestyle Championships. “We had so much fun two years ago and we did really well, so we definitely wanted to come back,” she explained.
“Coming to the Finals was such a great experience for us all the way around. The Kentucky Horse Park is incredible, the people are amazing, and being a part of that atmosphere with athletes from all around the country and meeting new people was really special. Now we’ve successfully moved up to the small tour and hope to go out there and do our best once again. We’ll be hoping to keep him feeling fresh despite the long trip, but he’s such a professional and I anticipate he’ll feel as comfortable with the environment in Kentucky as he was last time.”
Barrows hails from Region 6, which implemented a new travel grant system this year whereby riders who qualified for the Finals could apply for financial assistance. “Our regional director Carolynn Bunch worked to get it started, and it’s really helped us with some of the costs. Every little bit helps,” said Barrows. “I love competing on the national stage, but being from the Northwest it does mean that we have to travel to be able to do that, and having some funding assistance really helps. I think it’s a great idea and I hope it grows both in our region and for other regions around the country.”
Since she is also participating on the Region 6 Team in the Second Annual Regions Cup Team Competition, Barrows will get a chance to show her regional pride (read more and see all regions’ team members here). Each regional team consists of three horse/rider combinations from various levels vying with competitors from across the country for special awards and bragging rights. “I think it’s a great way to show our pride and encourage regional spirit,” Barrows noted.
“Interestingly, I don’t even know the other two people on our Region 6 team, so this way we get a chance to meet new people not only from around the country but also from within our own region. And then when a region does well, it can really boost interest and excitement for everyone, and we can show people back home how we proudly represented our region and thank them for supporting us.”
She may not be hitting the road for four days, but it’s still been a long haul to the Finals for Marge Savage of Jacksonville Beach, FL. As she prepares to travel 12 hours from the Atlantic coast to Kentucky for her very first US Dressage Finals experience, it’s a trip Savage wasn’t sure she’d ever get to make. “From the minute USDF announced they were creating the Finals, I thought it was a great idea,” she explained. “It’s always been a goal for me, and several of my friends have been (some of them every single year), and they loved it. I think it’s the top event that adult amateurs like me can reach for.”
After qualifying for the inaugural Finals in 2013, Savage chose to stay home due to health concerns with her Oldenburg mare Willow’s Dream. A year later, Savage underwent rotator cuff surgery, and the day she was given clearance to ride again by her doctor, her beloved mare suffered from a severe colic episode. “She went to the hospital and they had to do surgery and remove nine feet of her colon, and then she developed a heart murmur from the ordeal which she still has to deal with,” Savage explained. “It was a very long road, but we did it and got ‘back in the saddle’, only to finish dead last in our 2015 Regional Championship classes. So I wasn’t sure this was ever going to happen.”
But the tenacious pair never gave up. At this year’s Great American/USDF Region 3 Championship show, they claimed top placings to finally punch their ticket to Kentucky to compete in the First Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship. “With everything that we’ve been through, this was the year to do it – I wanted to experience this now in case we never got the chance again,” said Savage. “I don’t think most riders get many opportunities like this, so I’m taking advantage of it. It’s a big honor and I feel so proud to be going. I’m riding in a national championship this weekend – it doesn’t get any better than that!”
Due to the large number of entries this year, championship action begins at the US Dressage Finals on Thursday, November 10 when the first round of national titles will be presented in the Alltech Arena. For a truly unforgettable championship experience, limited VIP seating in the Alltech Arena is still available for purchase (to learn more, click here). For those dressage fans unable to attend the Finals in person, the popular USEF Network will feature live online streaming of select classes from the Alltech Arena on their website, www.usefnetwork.com. Coverage begins Thursday, November 10 at 2pm ET (see the entire live streaming schedule here).
To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review entry lists, purchase tickets to special events, and sign up to receive news and updates, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.