The beautiful show grounds at the historic Lamplight Equestrian Center, St Charles, Illinois, are bustling with dressage horses and riders from across the country. Many of the future dressage stars in the United States will be on display over the next several days: running alongside the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Championships are the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals as well as youth divisions from the Festival of Champions.
The Festival of Champions divisions featured at Lamplight are the USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship, the AGCO/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship, the AGCO/USEF Young Rider Dressage National Championship and the USEF Young Adult "Brentina Cup" Dressage National Championship presented by Dressage Today. Horses competing in those championships will be inspected on Thursday evening.
Competitors at Lamplight are enjoying the top-notch footing, scenic show grounds and thoughtful amenities that make the facility convenient and comfortable for riders and horses alike.
"The facility is great," said Michele Sizemore of Sherborn, Massachusetts, who is competing the 4-year-old Galactic Sky and the 5-year-old Falesto D. "The horses both came and settled in really well. The rings are great. I have a really hot 4-year old, and he just loves it here."
Brittany Burson is making her national championship debut with Jazz Dance in the Developing Prix St. Georges Championship. Lamplight is a hometown facility for Burson, who lives in nearby St. Charles, Illinois.
"I am just thrilled to be here in this amazing company," she said. "I come here for all the dressage shows, and Lamplight put on such a fantastic show season. I love the footing; it's fantastic, and they keep it so immaculate."
Traveling in from Huntsville, Alabama, is Debbie Hill, who will compete Boccaccio IOF in the Developing Horse Prix St. Georges and Heartsong in the 4-year-old division. Hill had to take much of 2014 off while battling breast cancer, so she is excited to have made such a successful return to competition.
"I am just thrilled to be back showing and competing and to have qualified to be here after 2014 was not too good to me," Hill said. "I've been to Lamplight several times for Young and Developing Horse Championships, and it is a beautiful facility. The landscaping, the footing, the people: it is a top-notch facility. And we really love the new bathroom trucks that they put in - we really appreciate that!"
She added, "Everybody, I think, feels the same way. We are all happy to be here and hope to do our best. I feel proud to ride here."
Jim Koford of Raleigh, North Carolina, sees the Young and Developing Horse Championships as a great opportunity for his up-and-coming horses. He is competing Doctor Wendell MF in the Developing Horse Prix St. Georges and Air Marshall in the Developing Horse Grand Prix.
"This is the first season at this level for both horses, so it is a terrific experience," he said. "This will be Doctor Wendell's biggest competition to date, and it will be fun to see how he stacks up against the other horses here. Air Marshal is 10 but very green, so I really want a happy performance that is relatively clean. I am not putting any pressure on. The facility is so super and beautiful, with gardens everywhere, and it is great fun."
Four-year-olds will be first to go down centerline Thursday morning when the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse National Championships kick off, followed by 5-year-olds and Developing Prix St. Georges horses. Six-year-olds and Developing Grand Prix horses will have their first tests Friday, when Festival of Champions divisions also begin.
For start times and results, visit http://www.foxvillage.com. For more information about Lamplight Equestrian Center, visit http://www.lamplightequestriancenter.com/.