Casey Blum of Lincoln, Neb. (Region 4) has a lot going on in her life: newly engaged, she also recently graduated from college and will soon be moving to a new state to embark on a career as a sales representative for an equine feed company. But the 22-year-old made time to come to Lexington for her very first US Dressage Finals, and the effort paid off when she rode her eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Eschaton (Sir Sinclair x Melisande by Carpaccio, bred in the U.S. by Linda J. Smith) to a unanimous win under all three judges in the Second Level Adult Amateur Championship with 70.894%.
“It’s such a beautiful place and you couldn’t pick a better time of year with all the fall colors – it’s a great backdrop for such a perfect show,” she explained. “Even though it was cold, I think it actually worked to our advantage. We took the comments from yesterday’s warm-up test to heart, and my horse felt easy to move forward and was right there with me the whole ride. I’ve had him since he was a yearling and he’s been a blast to bring along. This has been the first year that I really feel like he’s a ‘grown-up’, and he’s certainly made me the person and the rider I am today.”
Region 9’s roster of winners continued to expand as veterinarian and equine orthopedic surgeon Ashlee Watts of College Station, Texas rode her nine-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Hampton (Blue Hors Hotline x Madigan L by Maraton) to reserve honors with 68.618%. The talented pair have previously claimed Training and First Level Adult Amateur titles at the Finals in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and now continue their success at Second Level. “He was a little wild in the warmup but he was perfect in the test,” Watts explained. “As he’s matured, he’s really become a show horse who seems to love his job and knows when it’s time to go to work.”
A field of 27 horse/rider combinations battled for the win in the Intermediate I Open Championship, but it was Heather Blitz of Wellington, Fla. (Region 3) who ultimately emerged victorious as she rode her promising eight-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Praestemarkens Quatero (Quaterback x Rohvia Hojris by Rohdiamant) to a top score of 70.877%. “These Finals have the same type of atmosphere as the indoor shows in Europe, and it’s right here in the States,” said Blitz. “This is the biggest thing my horse has done to date, and I’m super pleased with him. He’s a trouper who keeps learning and developing more and more all the time, so I’m very excited about him. I’ve taken some extra time bringing him along – he has a strong personality and is a passionate horse, and that works in my favor as long as he really understands his job. Today we had a supple, flowing and confident test and I was very proud with how he handled the atmosphere here in the Alltech Arena.”
Finishing in reserve was hometown girl Kathy Priest of Versailles, Ky. (Region 2) riding her nine-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Fredensdals Zig Zag (Blue Hors Zack x Kristiansminders Elektra by Don Schufro) to 69.912%. “It was fun – he felt really good in there, and he likes a big atmosphere,” Priest noted. “He was a little behind in his training when I imported him but he had great presence and was a really nice ride, so the biggest thing we’ve worked on is developing his strength. He’s very confident in the ring and is a real trier who always wants to please you.”
Competition resumes today at 8:00am ET with 12 additional championship divisions – 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 at this link. 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