Gladstone, New Jersey – She may be heading home to Florida with the 2014 USEF Young Adult Brentina Cup championship but for Kati Dagge, the experience and the new friends she made during her week at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions presented by The Dutta Corporation are just as important. “Having the opportunity to be around and compete with such an amazing caliber of horses and riders was fabulous. I made many new, good friends,” Kati said. “We spent a week at Gladstone and usually at shows you don’t have enough time to spend with the other riders. And your parents don’t often have time to meet the parents of other young riders. This was unique and both my mom and I made many new friends.” Kati, 22, claimed clear victory in the Brentina Cup competition by earning first-place finishes in both legs of the competition. Judge Janet Foy definitely noticed Dagge as a quality rider deserving of the honor, but she also noticed her boots.
Wearing gorgeous red boots during the first veterinary inspection, Dagge, wore a pair of blue boots of her own design working together with one of her sponsors, Alex's Boots. "Janet Foy mentioned she liked my boots." commented Dagge when complimented on the beautiful blue calf skin leather boots she wore during her test and on her way to the press conference. Foy obviously liked more than her boots, as the judges' panel awarded Dagge Thursday’s Brentina Cup competition with a score of 64.667 percent and Saturday’s FEI Young Adult U-25 Grand Prix with a score of 64.140 percent. Her partner in the competition was Dream of Love, a 16.2 hand, 13-year-old Oldenburg owned by Kati’s mother, Birgitt. “Lover” was bought by the Dagges as a five-year-old in Germany and then imported to Bonita Springs, Florida where the Dagges operate a small family boarding and training facility called Dagge Dressage.
“We’re a small, quiet family operation,” Kati said. She and her mother do the training and most of the barn work but her brother Chris also helps. “He doesn’t ride,” Kati said, “but he’s our go-to guy when things break, like fences. And he helps take care of the barn when we travel to horse shows.” The family has a five-stall horse trailer and Kati said when she and her mother go to shows they take most all their horses. “It’s like we move in for the show and then move out when it’s over.”
Birgitt Dagge is a native of Germany and it was there that she had her formation as a trainer and rider. Kati was born in Germany and lived there until the family moved to America when she was five. Kati is thus bi-lingual and has used that as an advantage in her “other” career in business. She has degrees in both finance and international business from Stetson University and works for an international realty company. “It’s the perfect job for me because it gives me flexible hours so that I can train and show,” Kati said.
Kati started taking college classes while in high school, which made it possible for her to complete a five-year college program within three years. “I was in my high school classes in the morning and then took college classes at night. That left the afternoons free to ride and train,” said this USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold medalist.
Kati gives much credit for her success to her mother, who is not just her parent, but one of her best friends. “My mom and I are such good friends. When people see us at shows they tell us we are more like sisters. We do get along great and one of the reasons I love being at our barn is because I get to spend time with my mom. She is the one who has supported me all the way and made all of this possible.” Mother and daughter are both competitive about showing but Kati said they also both share a great interest in developing horses. Kati said she started her show career with young horses like Dream of Love because they didn’t have the budget to buy a schoolmaster. But Kati said not having a schoolmaster made her realize how much more rewarding it is to develop her own horses.
“It’s nice to see the results of your training when you go to a competition. I’m at the barn seven days a week and the horses are all like my little projects.” Sometimes the Dagges sell horses they have developed in order to finance the next group of horses. Another benefit of bringing along young horses is that Kati said it has taught her about the training process. “I like learning to train and develop horses myself so that I can produce the next one and don’t always need to rely on someone else.”
That said, Kati does get help from others. In addition to her mother, she has had opportunities to clinic with many leading trainers through the Young Riders program. She also works regularly with Marilyn Heath, a leading U.S. dressage judge and with Franziska Seidl, a leading Swiss rider who recently relocated to Florida.
With her success at Gladstone, Kati is now focusing on the USDF Regional Championships and on developing Dream of Love for Grand Prix competition. Between her careers in international business and dressage, she will be very busy. Combined, Kati and her mother have quite a few horses that will be keeping them busy this year. Kati had an eight-year-old that is showing Third Level this year and her mother has three currently competing. When Kati was in college she would drive home with Dream of Love to train with her mother on weekends but sometimes she’d have to go to horse shows alone. “I was very appreciative of the fact that I was able to take Lover to college with me so I could continue riding and showing,” Kati said. “But it’s better being back home where I can train and show with my mom all the time.”
What Kati also really appreciates from her experience at Gladstone is everything that sponsors did to make the event happen. “I think the sponsors really need to be thanked. They made the event possible,” Kati said. In addition to Alex's Boots, while competing this weekend Kati also got support from International Riding Helmets, which provided her with a new helmet during the competition. “I really want to thank these sponsors. People don’t often realize how important they are, especially for young riders getting help from the bigger companies that are involved in the sport is so important.”