Wayne, IL -Lamplight Equestrian Center is hosting the youth divisions of the 2015 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions presented by The Dutta Corp., and all competitors but those in the Pony division took their first trips down centerline Friday. Chase Hickok, Kerrigan Gluch and Mickayla Frederick picked up blue ribbons to begin their championship bids on a positive note.
Hickok and Sagacious HF earned the top score of 67.186 percent in the FEI Young Rider Grand Prix 16-25 test, part of the USEF Young Adult "Brentina Cup" Dressage National Championship presented by Dressage Today. The pair traveled to Europe over the summer to train and compete, and Hickok returned to the U.S. with renewed determination after witnessing such high levels of talent and professionalism abroad.
"They are deadly serious, and that's something I really took to heart," she said. "It was definitely eye opening and very motivating."
Hickok leases Sagacious HF from Al Guden of Hyperion Farm. Sagacious was the 2007 Pan American Games team gold and individual silver medalist with Lauren Sammis. In 2013, Caroline Roffman rode him to second place finishes in the Under 25 Grand Prix and Freestyle at the CDIO Aachen, and Hickok began leasing him in spring 2014. Sierra Keasler, who finished second in Friday's class with 66.465 percent, leases her partner Lux Stensvang from Roffman."I think we both owe Caroline Roffman a big thank you," Hickok said. "[Sierra and I] are very intertwined."
Keasler is in her first year at Grand Prix and picked up the ride on Lux Stensvang while Roffman was competing in Europe during summer 2014. "Having the opportunity to ride such an amazing horse is out of this world," Keasler said. "I am so thankful and lucky. I have been a working student, so I haven't competed that much - this was a very big jump for me."
Kerrigan Gluch, like Keasler, is a working student whose labors are leading to success at the Festival of Champions. Gluch's longtime working relationship with Hampton Green Farm brought her together with Vaquero HGF, and she is now making a run for the AGCO/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship with the PRE stallion. She won Friday's FEI Young Rider Team test with a 69.298 percent.
"I thought my test felt the best it has ever felt in the show ring," Gluch said. "I thought about everything we talked about yesterday and in the warm-up this morning, and I went in the ring and did what I was supposed to do."
The U.S.-bred Vaquero HGF was brought along in Spain, where he competed successfully in young horse classes. Gluch traveled to Spain to work with him for several weeks before he returned to the U.S. in fall 2014.
"It was a smooth process getting to know him, and he was trained beautifully," Gluch said. "He is very correct, and he has a good temperament." She added, "Lamplight is a beautiful facility, and the horses seem to love it here."
Junior rider Mickayla Frederick first competed at Lamplight in 2011, when she placed sixth in the 13 & under division of the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals. After earning that result, she became driven to learn more and improve her riding, and it paid off when she won the 14-18 division of the 2013 USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals in Estes Park, Colorado.
Now, Frederick is making her return to Lamplight and taking aim at the AGCO/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship. She began the division with a score of 70.315 to take the win in Thursday morning's FEI Junior Team test on Wrainier Q, her partner of three years whom she co-owns with her grandfather.
"I absolutely love the facility here; it is so beautiful and well-kept," Frederick said. "I would like to give a huge thank you to [U.S. Dressage Youth Coach] George Williams for giving his time. He's helped a lot throughout the show. He is so available for all the youth riders here, and it is a great opportunity. I'm extremely grateful to have someone like him be willing to help us all."