On Thursday, Aug. 26, at the Lamplight Equestrian Center, Ots and Lucky Strike impressed the judges in their 6-year-old Preliminary Test, and they came away with a win on a score of 8.64. One judge commented that it was the best test she has seen him ride on Lucky Strike, and they rewarded him with submission and prospective scores of 9.0.
Endel Ots and the Hanoverian gelding Lucky Strike (Lord Laurie-Heidi, His Highness) are no strangers to young horse championships. In 2015, the pair was selected to represent the United States at the FEI World Dressage Championships in Verden, Germany. After returning home to Wellington, Florida, with international experience, Ots focused on his next goal: competing at the 2016 FEI World Dressage Championships in Ermelo, Netherlands, and the Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse National Championships in Wayne, Illinois. After a whirlwind season, he can cross both accomplishments off his check list.
In July, Ots and Lucky Strike, who he co-owns with his father, Max Ots, competed in Ermelo, but he was less than thrilled with his results. Endel Ots explained how he wanted to refocus on the U.S. Championships at Lamplight Equestrian Center to redeem himself for Lucky Strike.
"I wasn't happy with how I rode in Europe and I learned to not try so hard!" Ots laughed. "When I was over there I tried too hard and pushed a little too hard. If I try too hard or go even bigger, it gets in his way and it doesn't work very harmoniously. In this sport, you can want it a little too much, and I wanted it a little too much instead of letting him show himself off."
"I was so happy and I let him show everyone what type of horse he is," Ots said. "He is such a good boy and he really tried for me. He knows his job and really likes his work. The only thing I would change would be in the medium walk, because I could have ridden it more forward and I was being conservative."
Coming in second place was Cesar Parra on his Westphalian gelding Don Cesar with a score of 8.28. Don Cesar earned a top placing in last year's 5-year-old championship with Katie Riley.
"I couldn't ask for more, he gave me everything," Parra said. "He is an amazing horse and I love him. Normally he is a little bit on the hot side, so the walk can sometimes be an issue, but today he got an 8.8 for the walk, so I was thrilled."
Michael Bragdell and Sternlicht Hilltop rounded out the top three with a score of 7.98. The Hanoverian stallion was bred in the United States and Bragdell started to ride him as a 3-year-old when Hilltop Farms purchased him.
"I was really happy with how he was in the ring," Bragdell said. "He was pretty confident in the ring, and the more I went along, the more I risked it. He has that charisma and presence, and it comes out in his gaits. I love the balance of his canter and the judges rewarded that."
Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse National Championship Results
6-Year-Old Preliminary Test
1. Endel Ots/Lucky Strike/8.64
2. Cesar Parra/Don Cesar/8.28
3. Michael Bragdell/Sternlicht Hilltop/7.98
4. Daniela Banner/Leviana/7.28
5. David Wightman/Silberpfeil/7.22
6. Angela Jackson/Figaro H/7.22
7. Nicholia Clarke/Fling/7.14
8. Jana Wagner/Willow/6.94