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Chris Hickey and Stenagers Wyatt Earp Crowned Developing Horse PSG Championship

Sunday, August 23, 2020
Posted by Kathleen Landwehr and Leslie Potter
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US DRESSAGE FESTIVAL OF CHAMPIONS   |   HIGH PERFORMANCE DRESSAGE   |   PURINA MILLS - FEEDS GREATNESS

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Closing out Saturday’s competition, 15 combinations in the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Dressage National Championship completed the USEF Developing Horse Prix St. Georges Test before a panel of three judges.

Christopher Hickey (Wellington, Fla.) and Cecelia Stewart’s Danish Warmblood gelding, Stenagers Wyatt Earp, repeated their win from earlier in the week, earning a score of 71.958% to win the class and the National Champion title.

“He was a little more electric [today],” said Hickey. “When he gets really electric and tight, he can be hiking his hind legs up and being a little crazy-legged, and there was a little bit of that. He is a horse that gets hot, and for a grand prix horse, to still be going at the end of a test, you need to have a horse that’s got some spice, so I really love that about him.”

Jennifer Wetterau (Mission Viejo, Calif.) had a spooky moment in her test with her own KWPN, Hartog, but the talented pair still scored a 70.042%, which was good enough to earn fourth place in the class and a Reserve National Champion title for the division.

“I’m thrilled!” said Wetterau. “This is our third time here. I think I was the only amateur in the class, so it’s a lot of hard work. I’ve had [Hartog] since he was coming four. He kind of looked like a Great Dane puppy when I bought him and to see how he’s kind of growing into his body and getting more balanced in stronger. I’m just really excited. He’s such a good boy and really tries hard. I just want to do him justice and be able to show everyone what he’s capable of.”

From the Mixed Zone:

Tell us about your horse.

Jennifer Wetterau: “I bought him with Sarah Lockman, who’s been my coach for the last five years. So she’s been with us throughout the journey along with Scott Hassler, and then Lee Tubman has been an integral part of our training and it’s just really started to come together.”

What about him stood out to you?

Wetterau: “It’s funny, it was the first day I was in Holland and I sat on him, the second horse. I got off and I made an offer and that was it. He just, there’s a certain go-y feeling he gives you. He has this internal energy but he also has such a good mind. He really wants to try for you. If anything, I have to tell him, ‘Hey, it’s OK, take it down a notch.’ Sometimes he just tries so hard. It’s a lot of fun. I jump him once a month. I take him on trail rides, we’ve gone to the beach, he’s really an all-around horse that I also can take out in the ring and he can be a competitive dressage horse. So he’s been really a kind of special horse in my life.”

What happened when he spooked on the diagonal?

Wetterau: “Here I’m saying he’s the most reliable horse. I like hot horses. He’s not really that hot. If anything I want him to be hotter and what’s funny is the only thing he has spooked at since I bought him is a motorcycle. And a motorcycle backfired in the middle of our second trot, and I was like, ‘Of course it’s going to happen!’ But you know, when he was four, it would have been lucky if I stayed in the arena, and now for him to come right back in the corner and do a halt-reinback right after that, I was so proud of him because he was genuinely just scared and he came right back and said, ‘Yes ma’am, let’s keep going.’ That’s all I could ask of him. Not our best test today, but I think there were still highlights and moments and this was our fourth PSG ever so he’s really, he’s got a long ways to go.”

What do you do professionally? How do you balance work and horses?

Wetterau: “I’m in a medical sales industry. I’ve been in training, I’m going into a digital marketing role shortly. My passion and my other business is called Dressage Horse Source and it’s in dressage development and sales, I do it with Sarah, and I’ve done that for four years, it’ll potentially be a full time thing in the future, but right now I kind of dabble in both. My role is remote, so I get to work from the barn and bring my laptop to the barn, so I’m there six days a week. It’s pretty perfect. I had to find a career where I can make horses honestly my priority, so it’s really hard I know a lot of amateurs don’t have the luxury of remote roles. With COVID a lot of those roles are becoming more remote. But since I graduated from college I’ve always picked remote roles so I can focus on my riding.”

Did you get to show much this year before? How was your experience here this week?

Wetterau: “I didn’t. I’m in California and he was just coming into his first season at PSG and I wanted to feel really confident so the shows I’d planned on for April and May were canceled so we showed our first show in June. One in June, two in July, to practice for this. So it was a condensed season but we were really lucky in California to still have enough competitions that were qualifiers. I’m very grateful for the people that put those together. This experience, even with the new protocols we have to have, was, I mean it’s really amazing. First of all, we have a great community of Californians here and dressage riders from the West Coast. So it’s a lot of fun to all be here and it’s quite a journey for us. We flew the horses and it’s a big investment of time and funds to get here so we put a lot into this and it’s fun to see other people that motivated. They did an amazing job organizing this championship. I can’t ask for much more as far as keeping everyone safe and making sure everyone is sticking to the rules but we’re still able to enjoy rides. It didn’t completely take away from the experience of enjoying the competition. It was a really, really enjoyable week. Definitely glad we came.”

Tell us about your ride today and how it compared to your earlier ride with this horse.

Hickey: “He was a little more electric. My warmup perhaps was a little too long. I maybe could have shortened that. But he still, even with little bobbles, he overtook me in one of the pirouettes and he overtook me in a canter half-pass, so there were a couple of mistakes. When he gets really electric and tight he can be hiking his hind legs up and being a little crazy-legged, and there was a little bit of that, a moment here and there. So he wasn’t quite as relaxed today in the ring as he was the first day, but he is a horse that gets hot. For a grand prix horse, to still be going at the end of a test, you need to have a horse that’s got some spice so I really love that about him. He and I still have to get familiar with each other in this kind of venue. I haven’t ridden in this kind of venue, this championship-feeling ring and arena, and I’ve been taking my time with him and doing national shows and just having him be relaxed and calm. I think that’s important for this horse.”

Tell us about your experiences with the Young Horse and Developing Program in here at Festival of Champions?

Hickey: “Today I came out of the ring and I heard my scores and I got a little teary because it made me think of Cabana Boy. Cabana Boy was really special to me, there was only one Cabana Boy in so many ways. This horse has more quality than Cabana Boy, but Cabana Boy was very, very special to me. And at that time was special for Hilltop.

“I’ve had a lot of horses come from my program whether I rode them or I taught other people, I’ve had lots of students that have come in the four- five- and six-year-old and developing, and I think that [USEF Dressage] programs continue to get better and better. The coaches are fantastic. We’re lucky to have such educated and passionate coaches in our sport and I hope that other people realize how lucky we are that those people care so much, because without the coaches and without the USEF staff who work so hard to make this happen. Between the sponsors [Markel] and the horse owners, it really does take a village to get here and you do well and it makes all the difference, because there are certainly plenty of low spots in this industry and in this sport, so when you have a high note it helps bring you through the low spots.”

Any other thoughts?

Hickey: “I’ve been working with Anne Gribbons. I would not be successful with this horse today if not for Anne.”

Keep up with the 2020 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions on USA Dressage Facebook and Instagram featuring Instagram Stories. Use #USADressage and #FestivalofChampions.