Wayne, IL- Alice Tarjan swept the top two spots in the first class of the Championships. In Thursday morning's 4-year-old test, she rode Tiko to first place with a score of 7.86 and Donatella M to second place with a score of 7.84.
Tiko, a Danish Warmblood mare by Temptation and out of a mare by Akinos, has been with Tarjan since December. Tarjan said she is "super laidback" and easy to work with, while Donatella M, an Oldenburg mare (Furstenball-Dorina, Jazz Time) bred in Germany by Marne Martin-Tucker, is a bit hotter. "They both have good basic gaits and they're rideable," she said of her 4-year-olds. "It's nice to be able to get on your horse and hack it around and not worry about getting killed."
Highlights for Tiko included a mark of 8.5 for the canter and 8 for the overall impression. Gary Rockwell, speaking for the panel of judges, said that Tiko's canter had great balance and ground cover and the judges felt he was "confident in the connection and shows good basics."The panel also had plenty of praise for Donatella M, with Rockwell noting, "It's an ideal type for international dressage and has a wonderful future."
Tarjan, an amateur rider from Frenchtown, New Jersey, is juggling four horses in three divisions at the Championships. Along with the two 4-year-olds, she's competing Candescent in the 5-year-old division and Elfenfeuer in the Developing Horse Grand Prix, and she said she was grateful to her grooms for playing an essential role at the busy event. She feels the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Program is helpful not only for the horses but also for many of the riders.
"Lamplight is gorgeous; I love coming here," she said. "It's a beautiful show grounds, and I don't think it gets any better than this. At the Championships, it is always a lot of fun to watch the other horses and riders. Christine [Traurig, USEF Dressage Young Horse Coach] is here coaching us, and I like her a lot. She's a real straight shooter. She's tough but gives it to you like it is, so I appreciate it."
Taking third in the class of 13 were Vanessa Gesierich-Voltman and Gladstone, owned by Sharon Wheatley of Macatawa, Wisconsin. Gladstone, a KWPN gelding (Uphill-La Belle, Londonderry) bred in the Netherlands by De Dalhoeve, scored a 7.6 in the 4-year-old test with particular highlights in the trot and canter. "I enjoy being here, and it is great to see such quality horses and riders," Gesierich-Voltman said. "It is very motivating and very inspiring."
The 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds and Developing Prix St. Georges horses return Saturday afternoon for their final tests. Six-year-olds and Developing Grand Prix horses make their first trips down centerline Friday, and their divisions wrap up Sunday.