Prior to their winning ride in the Five-Year-Old division at this year’s Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championship, Florida-based Caroline Roffman and Bon Chance had only competed in two other shows this year – the two qualifiers they needed to earn an invite to the national championship at Lamplight Equestrian Center.
“I believe that ‘less is more’ as they say,” Roffman said. “I think it s important not to over show them unless there is something you need to work through. I want MoTo (Bon Chance) to think of showing as fun because I think that if you can keep it fun and not have the horse in the ring every day and out showing all the time, it’s much better.” Clearly, that strategy paid off for Roffman and Bon Chance, who took the national win with a score of 85.80. The pair had followed the same strategy last year in the Four-Year-Old competition and they earned the title of reserve national champions.
Roffman’s greatest fear coming into the National Young Horse Dressage competition was that her lucky streak would run out. “I was super excited about the championships because he had been training so well at home,” she said. “He can be hot and electric and not always with me, but he was so good coming into this that I was scared the good luck streak might change.” She best described her mood arriving at Lamplight as “cautiously optimistic.”
Roffman’s success with Bon Chance these past two years may have helped set her dressage career on a young horse pathway. She has worked with a number of top trainers, including Lars Petersen, but has done most of the riding and training of Bon Chance herself and she has discovered a real joy in watching young horses develop. “I would love to get more involved in young horse development because I get a lot of pleasure out of it. I’d like to be here every year with a young horse. I really believe in this Young Horse program,” Roffman said.
From Lamplight, Roffman headed to Gladstone for the National Dressage Championships, but Bon Chance, bred in Germany by Virginia-based Marefield Meadows, headed home for a mini-vacation. What is nice about him, Roffman said, is that he is “really smart and easy to train.” Watch for this pair next year in the Six-Year-Old competition.
Two other big winners at Lamplight this past weekend were DG Brendo and Rigo. DG Brendo (Florencio x Sierra Siren by Volckmar), bred in the U.S. by Lukes Bianko and owned by Tony and Betty Degroot’s DG Bar Ranch in California, took the Four-Year-Old championship with rider Willy Arts and a score of 8.46. Rigo, a nine-year-old black Hanoverian gelding (Rotspun x Winnepeg H by Weltmeyer) bred in Germany by H. Martfeld and owned by Tonya Rowe, won the USEF National Developing Horse Championship with rider Shawna Harding and an overall score of 71.697.
The weekend competition was not without its challenges. The biggest was a Saturday thunderstorm that knocked down trees, including landing branches in the stabling. But riders who competed had nothing but praise for the show management and the championship competition itself. “I thought the show was incredibly well done and impeccably organized. The Lamplight Equestrian Center provided a world class facility to host such a large event. Despite the torrential down pours the footing stayed very good throughout the competition. This is my third time competing at the Young Horse National Championships and I thought it was the strongest field of horses, by far,” said Rick Rockefeller-Silva.
Rockefeller-Silva placed third in the Four-Year-Old Championship with the Oldenburg stallion Sakramenter and a score of 81.80 and cited the many benefits of the Young Horse Dressage Championships. “This competition is incredibly important in several respects. It's a platform for American breeders to showcase the extremely high quality animals they are producing here in the U.S. It also allows riders with very talented young horses the chance to gain national-level experience with a support system in place. Scott Hassler is an extremely positive and knowledgeable coach,” he said. “I think an important thing to remember about this national championship and national program, is that these tests, combined with the support structure of the USEF young horse team, are designed to allow talented young horses to progress correctly up the levels through a systematic approach and these young horses are our future team horses!”