A sold-out crowd gathered at the Alltech Arena Friday evening for the popular "Taste of the Bluegrass" dinner, official welcome ceremony and evening festivities. The highlight of the night was the Grand Prix Open Championship, where the father-daughter team of Michael and Gwen Poulin kept the top honors all in the family. Olympian Michael Poulin of DeLeon Springs, Fla. posted what at first appeared might be the winning score of the night with 68.400% aboard Pineland Farms, Inc.’s Dutch Warmblood gelding Thor M (Mirakel x Debora by Westvoorn).
But the pair’s time atop the leaderboard was short-lived as Poulin’s daughter Gwen promptly rode into the ring and surpassed her father’s mark aboard William, a Dutch Warmblood gelding (Sir Sinclair x Kennedy) owned by Belinda Nairn-Wertman. For their efforts, the pair earned 68.533% and were presented with the newly-dedicated Veronica Holt Perpetual Trophy, presented by USDF Region 5 and Friends. Holt’s daughter Sally Hayes was on hand to award the trophy to Gwen. “He was on fire, it was just awesome,” said Gwen of her mount.
“About two and a half years ago Belinda called me and asked if I’d take the horse on. I never turn down an opportunity because you never know how it can turn out and what you can learn from it. We really clicked – he’s very sensitive and emotional, so I’ve taken my time with him so that he wouldn’t feel too much pressure. And now he offers everything to me, and it makes my heart so happy that I can’t help but grin from ear to ear.”
Despite being a fierce competitor, her father was gracious in defeat. “I’m so proud of her, she hung in there and fought for it. It was beautiful, and it means more to me for her to win,” said Michael, who noted that he has been fighting a battle with Lyme disease. He also spoke highly of his mount. “Thor is a kind horse, but at the same time he’s really hot, so it’s a big feat for this horse to even be here doing this. I really like him and I like riding him. You’ve got to have something to keep your motor going.”
Follow the action through updates on the USDF Facebook page and the US Dressage Finals website, as well as watch live online streaming on the popular USEF Network. To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review day sheets and results, and read daily news releases, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.