Excitement continues to sweep across the country as the final round of United States Dressage Federation (USDF) Regional Championship competitions have concluded and riders are submitting final entries for the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, which will be held November 5-8, 2015 at the legendary Kentucky Horse Park. Don't miss your chance to be a part of this incredible Finals experience - as a reminder to all qualified competitors who earned an invitation to participate and have Nominated, the closing date for entries is this Thursday, October 22nd.
Dr. Ashlee Watts of College Station, Texas (Region 9) is one of the many riders who wasted no time in submitting her entries for the Finals. She will drive for more than 15 hours to compete at the Finals with her seven-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Hampton in the Adult Amateur Training and First Level championship divisions. "I'm a relative newcomer to dressage, but I think it will be so much fun to make this journey to the Finals for the first time," said Watts, whose equestrian background also includes competing in jumpers and Quarter Horse all-around events. "I've heard from others who have been to the Finals that it's so exciting and well-organized with an atmosphere and a facility that can't be beat, so even though it's a long trip I feel like there's really no reason for me not to go and take advantage of this opportunity."
As a busy equine orthopedic surgeon at Texas A&M University, Dr. Watts has been to Lexington on numerous occasions visiting the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) headquarters as well as the world-renowned Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, but this will be her first trip for personal reasons. "It's the tremendous support of my colleagues and family that make it possible for me to go do this," said Watts. "My horse is amazing, he's a ton of fun to ride and show and he seems proud every time we go in the ring. I'm so excited to bring him to Kentucky."
Also submitting her entries is High Performance rider Lauren Sprieser of Marshall, Va. who will be returning to Lexington for her third straight Finals after qualifying via the Great American/USDF Region 1 Championships last weekend in Virginia. This year, Sprieser will compete with her 14-year-old Westfalen mare Ellegria in the Open Grand Prix and Open Grand Prix Freestyle, as well as in the Open Prix St. Georges and Intermediate I Championships with the nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding Stratocaster. Even though she's a regular exhibitor in CDI competition as well as having participated in the USEF Festival of Champions, Sprieser believes the Finals provide a unique competitive experience for both horses and riders. "It's a big show feeling that we don't get to see and experience in too many places outside of Europe," she explained. "It has a lot of prestige and finesse while at the same time being fun and homey – an event that everyone can enjoy. It's also so meticulously run by an all-star team of management, officials, staff and volunteers all working together, and it creates such an outstanding event."
In addition to competing, both Watts and Sprieser look forward to soaking up the entire "Finals experience" that sets this event apart from any other show in the country. "My mom will be coming with me for the week, and my husband may fly in for the weekend," said Watts. "We're making a full vacation out of it, and so we hope to do some touristy things while we're there." Some of those activities may include one of several local tours offered by USDF in conjunction with Bluegrass Tours, visits to some of central Kentucky's famous Thoroughbred breeding farms, distilleries, and local attractions, as well as touring the incredible on-site museums and exhibits of the 1200-acre Kentucky Horse Park (more information on these tours can be found here).
In the Alltech Arena, the wildly-popular Finals trade fair will be open daily for visitors to get a head start on holiday shopping, and a special Competitor Buffet complete with a live Bluegrass band will get the party started on Friday night. "The competitors' party is always one of my favorite events during the Finals because it gives me a chance to catch up with so many people I don't usually get to see," noted Sprieser. "I have friends from across the country, and this is an opportunity where everyone seems to come together and we all have a chance to catch up." Sprieser will go on to compete during the special Saturday dinner and evening performances where she and Ellegria will show off their 80's-themed Grand Prix freestyle in front of a packed crowd in the Alltech Arena, and the best seats in the house to take in all the action will be in the full-service VIP area on the main concourse, which was expanded last year to meet the overwhelming demand (individual and table reservations are now being accepted - click here for more information).
Of particular note, this Thursday's closing date also applies to entries for USDF Dressage in the Bluegrass, a USEF/USDF-licensed open dressage competition held in conjunction with the Finals. While Finals exhibitors like Watts and Sprieser may choose to utilize these classes as warm-up opportunities for their championship rides, Dressage in the Bluegrass is open to all competitors, giving them a chance to be a part of the incredible atmosphere of the Finals and experience the magic for themselves.
Remember, for all qualified competitors who earned an invitation to participate and have Nominated, the closing date for entries is this Thursday, October 22nd. Don't wait - submit your entry today! To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® to be held November 5-8, 2015, download competition information, submit an entry for the Finals or USDF Dressage in the Bluegrass, or order special event tickets or VIP packages, visit the official event website at www.usdressagefinals.com.