Loxahatchee, FL – USDF Gold, Silver, and Bronze medalist Heidi Degele has always set lofty goals for herself and her dressage mounts, and is now seeing those goals achieved with her ten-year-old American Warmblood gelding Lakota HD. Degele and Lakota HD have officially received their invitation to compete in the Grand Prix Developing Horse division of the 2015 Markel/USEF Developing Horse Dressage National Championships at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois on August 19-23.
The partnership between Degele and Lakota dates back to the gelding’s arrival at her facility just outside of Wellington, Florida as a ‘barely broke’ three-year-old. Degele states, “I've trained him from his first time going down center line in Training Level all the way to the Grand Prix.”
This past season, Degele consistently earned high scores in the Intermediare II and Developing Grand Prix classes. Recently, Degele and Lakota won High Point of U.S. bred horses at White Fences Equestrian Center in Loxahatchee, Florida, with a score of 73.16 percent in the Intermediare II. The pair’s hard work and impressive results paid off in receiving the official invitation to compete at the Young Horse National Championships. Degele competed at the Young Horse Championships with Lakota in 2013 at the Developing Prix St Georges level, and she is overjoyed to return this year at the Grand Prix level. The competition is part of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF)'s initiative to recognize up-and-coming dressage talent for High Performance— not only in riders, but also in their equine partners.
Degele was thrilled when her official USEF invitation arrived in the mail. “It was one of the greatest feelings ever, really a dream come true!” For Degele, one of the best parts of her success is sharing the achievement with Lakota. “Lakota HD is all heart— he may not be bred like most of his competition, but he wants it. He wants to do well just as bad as I do! He can be really silly in the barn or in the warm-up, often times squealing when he is excited. Yet when it comes to the center line, it’s ‘Game On!’”
Degele credits other top trainers for their help in her journey bringing Lakota up through the levels. “I've worked with Lars Peterson since the start, and he truly helped me 'make’ this horse. I have also had the privilege of riding at a clinic with Steffen Peters, who actually rode Lakota.” Patrick Burssens and Hubertus Schmidt have also helped to polish Lakota’s Grand Prix movements. Degele has most recently been training with Danish Olympian Bent Jensen, who she states has done a tremendous job— especially with the challenging one tempi lead changes.
Always full of personality, Lakota is a true performer. “Once the braids go in, he can't stand himself— jumping around on the crossties, crossing his legs, pawing, whatever it takes for us to get him in the trailer as soon as possible and into the arena,” smiles Degele. “He has made me cry a few times this season. Tears have run down my face at the shows, not because I was sad, but because I was so proud of him. There are so many other horses I've ridden throughout my career that may have had twice the gaits, athletic ability, and superior bloodlines than he has, but I have never ridden a horse with as much will and heart.”
With the Young Horse Championships quickly approaching, Degele plans to continue her training routine that she developed during her three years in Germany riding with Olympic Gold Medalist Hubertus Schmidt. “Lately, Bent Jensen has been helping me at the shows and that has been great! Lakota loves him, and Bent allows me to keep my program.” Degele states that as long as she remains calm, cool, and focused in the ring, then the rest is easy.
Degele owns and operates HeidiDressage LLC, and is focused on continuing up to the FEI level and competing in the CDIs with Lakota and her 9 year-old KWPN gelding, Benson HD. Degele is also concentrated on growing her training and sales business of upper level dressage horses. She thanks her sponsors Custom Saddlery, Dressage Sport Boots (DSB), Cavalor, and Premier Equestrian for their continued support. For more information on Heidi Degele, please visit www.heidi-dressage.com.