Wayne, IL - Three horses made the trip from Leatherdale Farms' Minnesota base to the Markel/USEF Young and Developing Horse Dressage National Championships at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois, Aug. 19-23, and all three returned home with top 10 finishes in the country's premier event for young dressage horses.
In his Young Horse Championships debut, rider Mike Suchanek showed that he and the Leatherdale Farms entries fit right in among the United States' foremost up-and-coming combinations. He and two horses by the Leatherdale stallion First Dance placed well in the 6-year-old championship, with the Hanoverian gelding Fighting Chance L (out of EM Helia by Hohenstein) taking fifth place and the Hanoverian mare Fleur de Lis L (out of EM De La Rosa by De Niro) finishing eighth overall.
Comments from the panels of judges assessing the horses on the two competition days highlighted Fighting Chance L's elegance, his confidence in the lateral work, and his clear tempo and cadence throughout the trot work. Gary Rockwell, speaking for the panel of judges for Friday's preliminary test, said the horse showed good talent and energy and remarked on his potential for the future.
Judges noted Fleur de Lis L's lovely attitude and type, praising her steadiness throughout the test and her uphill balance.
Suchanek also rode Dublin L, a Hanoverian gelding, to ninth place in the 4-year-old championship. Dublin L is by the Leatherdale stallion Damsey, who competed internationally for the German team over the summer, and out of EM Wibranda by Wolkenstein II. Judges highlighted Dublin L's lovely, consistent contact and rhythmic, balanced canter, noting that he was nicely trained and showed good potential.
"As a first time competitor at the Championships, I didn't know quite what to expect," Suchanek said. "The horses there were some of the best in the country, ridden by some of the best in the country, and I was proud to be one of those lucky enough to compete there with three talented and beautiful horses bred by the Leatherdales. When the judges said the horses were very correctly trained, that impressed me very much. I felt a lot of pride in my work at that moment."
Suchanek said he was very happy with the horses' performances and felt they approached it like any other show despite the increased atmosphere and pressure of a championship event. "I try to leave any nerves in the barn so my horses find confidence in me in the show ring," he explained.
United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) coaches were on hand at the championships to provide training sessions and give advice to riders, and Suchanek appreciated the opportunity to meet and work with USEF Dressage Young Horse Coach Christine Traurig.
"Christine Traurig was so nice and very helpful," Suchanek said. "Her coaching was right in line with what Alison [Sader Larson] was teaching me at home, so we didn't need to make any huge changes at such an important show. I look forward to her help in the future as the Leatherdales have a barn full of quality young horses."
With the Young Horse Championships complete, Suchanek and the Leatherdale horses will now be aiming for the Great American/USDF Region 4 Dressage Championships Oct. 9-11 in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. Suchanek has qualified horses at every level from Training Level through Prix St. Georges.
"I want to thank Doug and Louise Leatherdale for breeding such brilliant young horses and for their generosity in giving me the help and support to learn as much about dressage as I can," Suchanek said. "Without their amazing breeding program, I wouldn't have made it to the Young Horse Championships."
He added, "I'd like to thank Alison Sader Larson, who has taught me so much about dressage and helped me develop as a rider. She is such a great coach with her accomplished background and her skillful eye. I am also grateful to Jessi Lash, our performance horse manager at Leatherdale Farms in Minnesota, and everyone on our team for their support."
For more information, log onto www.leatherdalefarms.com