"I anticipated that competing in the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® was going to be an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it absolutely was. The thrill of competing on that national stage was a strong pull for me to travel all that way, and it exceeded my wildest dreams. I would love to go back!"
Adult amateur rider and full-time mom Krista Nordgren echoed what so many dressage competitors have experienced attending the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. Now that the first four United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Regional Championships have concluded with almost 850 competitors already declared for the Finals from USDF Regions 2, 6, 7, and 8, excitement and anticipation are running high as the first round of Finals invitations have now been distributed to qualified horse/rider combinations.
Nordgren first made the 1,000-mile trek from her home in South Portland, Maine to the Kentucky Horse Park for the inaugural Finals in 2013 where she claimed the Reserve Championship in the Adult Amateur Prix St. Georges division. Now she and her Danish Warmblood gelding Schando have progressed to the Intermediate II level, and last weekend they claimed the Region 8 Adult Amateur title in Saugerties, N.Y. to secure an invitation to return to Lexington and pursue another championship on November 5-8, 2015.
"Ever since our first trip two years ago, I guess you could say I'm a bit of a US Dressage Finals ‘evangelist' because I'm such a huge fan of the event," laughed Nordgren. "The show staff and volunteers make you feel like a champion for being there, and I don't think any showgrounds compares to the magnificent atmosphere of the Kentucky Horse Park. My horse is 19 this year so that's a factor in deciding about the trip, but I'm part of an enthusiastic group of competitors up here in Maine so we're all actively working on arrangements. This could be my last chance for an experience like this with Schando, so if we do make it, I'll be savoring every moment."
With so many competitors like Nordgren now beginning to plan their journeys to Kentucky from across the country, USDF has unveiled a new Transportation Resources webpage which includes links to horse transportation vendors, as well as a Horse Transport Share Forum where competitors can connect with others in their areas to organize group transportation. As part of ongoing efforts for the Finals to be the most exhibitor-friendly competition possible, USDF created the Horse Transport Share Forum to assist in what can be a daunting process in arranging transportation for horses to and from Lexington. For more information, visit this link: http://www.usdf.org/usdressagefinals/competitors/forum.asp.
In addition to returning competitors like Nordgren, this year's Finals will also welcome a multitude of first-timers such as Lori Tormoehlen of Sand Creek, Mich. Aboard Horses Unlimited's Zweibrucker mare Gracefull Rendition HU, Tormoehlen claimed top honors for Third Level Freestyle at the Great American/USDF Region 2 Championships in Grass Lake, Mich., and now she can't wait to come to Kentucky and show off a performance that will be near and dear to her heart.
"I have always wanted to do a freestyle and this is my first year riding one. The music we ended up with is so beautiful and suits this horse perfectly, and our canter music of ‘Over the Rainbow' connects me to my mom who passed away a few years ago, so it's pretty emotional," said Tormoehlen. "I haven't yet been to the Finals as a competitor or spectator, so I am thrilled to participate this year! The opportunity to compete in a competition of this level does not happen by accident, and like so many other riders with a goal like this, I've worked very hard to get myself and my horse here and I take none of it for granted. I realize I am so fortunate and I may not get this opportunity again in my life, so I can't wait to go!"
Despite traveling the farthest for the opportunity to compete in Kentucky, West Coast riders from Regions 6 and 7 have enjoyed great success at the Finals and Elizabeth Landers of Agoura Hills, Calif. hopes to join that growing roster of champions. After big wins during last week's USDF Region 7 Championship in Rancho Murieta, Calif., Landers is ready to hit the road for her first Finals experience. She'll be bringing her own Hanoverian gelding His Highness Crusador to compete at Open Third Level and the Freestyle, as well as her Oldenburg mare and former show jumping partner Liberty for First Level Freestyle.
"I'm still waiting for someone to pinch me - It's a dream come true and such a joy for me to be able to compete these two very special horses," said Landers, who added that qualifying for the Finals was her "number one goal" for the year. "It's a long way and I know it will be an expensive trip, but one way or another, I'm going to figure out a way to get there. I think that this national competition is invaluable for the development of the sport, and I truly believe that in ten years we will look back and see that these early years of the Finals were the beginning of what will be the most important event to happen to the sport in this country. I'm just so very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it."
USDF Regional Championships continue in Regions 3, 4 and 9 on October 8-11, with Regions 1 and 5 closing out the qualifying calendar on October 15-18. There's still time for competitors in these regions to declare for a chance to come to Kentucky – click HERE to find out how to complete a free declaration. To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, declare and nominate for the Finals, and sign up to receive news and updates, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.