By Amber Heintzberger For

The USEF/Markel Young Horse Dressage Championships for six-year-olds had a grand finale when two California riders, David Wightman on Brigadier and David Blake on Catapult, tied for first place on two American bred horses with a final score of 7.956.

“This is the best thing that could happen for the sport,” said Wightman of that fact that both horses were bred in the United States. “It gives everybody an inspiration to ride American-bred horses and feel that they can succeed with them.”

Both horses were also awarded the Born in the USA award, sponsored by DreamTime Farm of Lexington, KY.

Wightman was the first to ride, and the Oldenburg gelding Brigadier (Batido – Lady Deco by Art Deco) owned by Deena Smith of Lenexa, KS and bred by Paige Hinds-Athan showed off the exceptional gaits that earned him a trip to the World Breeders Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany earlier this year.

Judge Jayne Ayers commented, “This is an exciting horse and he was nicely presented.” She and Axel Steiner awarded Brigadier an 8.8 for his trot, which she described as having a “clocklike steady tempo.”

Wightman explained that Brigadier has had a whirlwind summer traveling between Kansas, California and Germany, but that with a little downtime at his owner’s farm before the championship he has held up well under pressure. “The first day here was our best ride ever,” he said. “Today I rode the trot a little more relaxed and improved even more.”

He was sure to mention, “I couldn’t have gone to Verden or come here to Kentucky without the help and support of my wife Kathleen (Raine).”

Five-Year-Old Champion is Up To Date

Jan Brons and Up To Date (Flemmingh – Ola by Argus), a bay Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Pieter Ruig of Shelther Island Heights, NY won the championship for five year olds with a final score of 8.54, well ahead of Jessica Rizzi on Therese Elton’s Gisele (Welt Hit I O – Ellie by Uniform), a bright chestnut Oldenburg mare bred by Joerg Kasselmann in Germany, whose final score totaled 8.04.

Up To Date was purchased by Ruig as a foal from VDL Stud in the Netherlands and Brons has trained him since he was started under saddle. Brons’ professionalism was evident in his clean test, which the judges noted. The big bay horse also compliments Brons’ tall frame. He commented, “Obviously it’s easier for me to have a horse and help it than if I was younger and didn’t have as much mileage. For me the commentary helps me know what they like or don’t like, but there’s only so much you can do to improve on the horse’s gaits. It’s a snapshot of what’s happening that day.”

Brons liked that the preliminary test counted for 40% of the final score and that the final test counted for 60%. “Of course young horses may be tense on the first day so it gives you a second chance to show them off. I am fortunate that my horse is very consistent and businesslike.”

Rizzi won the preliminary test on Friday but today Gisele showed quite a bit of tension. Judge Lilo Fore commented, “She had difficulties in some movements but her medium trot is fabulous; she’s a lovely horse and you’ll go a long way with her.”

Rizzi has recently joined Tina Konyot’s barn in Connecticut and will spend the winter with Konyot in Wellington . “I am looking forward to having Tina introduce me to the movements in the six-year-old tests!” Rizzi said with a smile.