Exciting head-to-head dressage competition got underway on Thursday at the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® in Lexington, KY, November 6 - 9, 2014. Nearly four hundred Adult Amateur and Open riders from Training Level to Grand Prix have come to the Kentucky Horse Park in their quests for national championship honors, and many of them made their final preparations today by competing in one of the multitude of open and warm-up USDF Dressage in the Bluegrass classes. With an increase of more than 100 entries from last year, event organizers including manager Lloyd Landkamer have worked overtime in an effort to ensure a truly special competition experience for exhibitors who have come to Lexington from across the country. "The first day has gone great," said Landkamer.
"We learned so much from last year's show, and were able to make improvements based on feedback we received from competitors to make this event even better. I think everyone went home last year having had such a positive experience at the inaugural Finals, and this directly contributed to the impressive increase in our entry numbers. It makes for a tight schedule, but the whole organizing team has come together to make it happen."
Kicking off today's competition was Pam Heglund aboard her Westfalen mare Letizia, who were the very first pair to canter down centerline in the Alltech Arena. Their solid performance was ultimately good enough to earn second place in their Open/AA Prix St. Georges warm-up class. Traveling from Ada, Mich. for her first Finals, Heglund was overwhelmed with her experience so far. "I'm almost speechless. I'm just so honored to be here and to be able to share this with my family and friends," said Heglund. "They've done such an incredible job with the setup and the organization of the show, the Alltech Arena is so beautiful yet inviting for the horses, and the footing is amazing. I was super excited to march in the ring first! We had a clean test which was as smooth as it could be. It was a great way to start, and I was so happy and proud of my horse." Heglund and Letizia now look forward to returning to the Alltech Arena on Saturday afternoon for the Fourth Level Adult Amateur Freestyle Championship.
Thrilled to be back at the US Dressage Finals for the second year in a row is Amanda Wille of Richmond, Va. with her pinto Irish Warmblood gelding Mason. In 2013, this eye-catching pair competed at the inaugural Finals at First Level and now return to take on the competition in the Second Level Adult Amateur Championship. "I was delighted to come back because the facility and the staff are great, and the best of the best in the nation are here. It's such a huge accomplishment to make it, and so far it's just as awesome as it was last year," explained Wille. She and Mason won their warm-up class today, topping the field in the Second Level Test 3 Open/AA in the outdoor Murphy Ring. In addition to tomorrow's Championship ride, they have also entered two Third Level open classes in the USDF Dressage in the Bluegrass portion of the competition in order to earn additional experience in a championship atmosphere. "The outdoor arenas are beautiful, the footing is phenomenal out there and they have a great championship feel. There's nothing better than going across the diagonal in medium trot and seeing your name on the scoreboard. It's all a great experience and you're competing with the best, so why not take advantage of as much ring time as possible."
Wrapping up a busy first day, exhibitors enjoyed a Competitor Welcome Party and Trade Fair Kick-Off on the concourse of the Alltech Arena. Competition resumes Friday at 8:00am ET as the first of the Finals championship classes get underway. Follow the action through updates on the USDF Facebook page and the US Dressage Finals website, as well as watch live online streaming on the popular USEF Network (http://www.usefnetwork.com). To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review day sheets and results, and read daily news releases, visit the official event website at http://www.usdressagefinals.com.