Endel Ots & Kings Pleasure Making Markel/USEF History for Zen Elite - From Dream to Team:

Friday, August 19, 2022
Posted by Mary Phelps


Kings Pleasure 2.Joanna Jodkojpeg copy.jpeg

Clarity of intent is a Zen principle and is applicable to the art of dressage, it insures all the pieces – horse, owner rider and dream – come together.

Photo: Endel Ots and Zen Elite Equestrian Center’s King’s Pleasure set sights on the new FEI Seven Year Old Division at the 2022 Markel/USEF National Young and Developing Horse Championships. ©Joanna Jodko

Just ask Heidi Humphries of Southwest Ranches, Florida, owner and visionary behind the Zen Elite Equestrian Center, who will be on hand to cheer on her stallion, Kings Pleasure at the 2022 Markel/USEF National Young and Developing Horse Championships next week.

A Year of Firsts

This is a year of firsts. Not only is it Zen Elite Equestrian Center’s first time at the Markel/USEF National Young and Developing Horse Championships with the KWPN black stallion  (Dark Pleasure x Johnson), Kings Pleasure, it is also the first year that the Seven-Year-Old Young Horse Division has been offered at the USEF Markel/USEF National Young and Developing Horse Championships at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions which will be hosted August 24-28th at the Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois.

Over A Decade Of Wins

For Kings Pleasure’s rider and trainer, Endel Ots competing at the Markel/USEF National Young and Developing Horse Championships is far from a first, in fact in the past decade Ots has enjoyed seven victory passes in the coveted Festival of Champions cooler with a tricolored ribbon streaming from his victorious mount’s bridle.

Humphries says, “I get goose bumps every time they dance together. Endel and King are truly a joy to watch and I couldn’t be more proud. Watching the connection develop between them has been one of the most exciting aspects of getting to this point. We have had steps forward and back but the journey has been amazing. Endel is an absolutely beautiful rider and King is such a special, talented stallion. It feels good to know that such high level judges are taking notice.”

Leading the Way

“It is exciting to have Zen Elite’s own stallion leading the way,” Humphries says. “We have some incredible talent at our facility. It would be great to see a few of our horses representing the United States in the 2024 Olympics. A dream? Yes! But Kings Pleasure was just a dream too.”

The Zen Equine Equestrian Center, just southwest of Fort Lauderdale, is an awe-inspiring state of the art facility complete with a 20,000-sq. ft. insulated covered arena, two spacious outdoor rings, and fully equipped rehabilitation/spa/gym center for horses and humans. From cascading waterfalls in the lounge, to spiritual stone statues amid inviting gardens, Zen Elite combines focus and tranquility in a formula that appears to be working.

Ots has been riding Kings Pleasure since the stallion’s arrival in the US last year and considered competing in last season’s Six-Year-Old Young Horse Championship, but rider and owner opted to put more time into developing the handsome new dressage prospect. When the Seven-Year-Old division was added to the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage National Championships, Ots recommended they aim Kings Pleasure for this year’s U.S.Dressage Festival of Champions.

“Heidi has been one of the best owners I’ve ever ridden for. There is never any pressure to go to a show. She is excited about the long journey with the horse and the development of the animal. It’s a dream come true,” explained Ots.

Long Time Contender

What is no dream is how Ots has clinched Markel/USEF National titles or reserves in nearly every division and feels it is essential to have developing young horse programs. “When you go to the Young Horse Championships it shows you where you are -- among your peers -- in the development of your horse. You’re with the best 15 horses in your age group. This is the first year they have had Seven-Year-Olds division. It is a real transitional period for developing horses to CDI’s, international shows, etc. You are not only judged on the horse’s gaits, but also the technical movements are scored. It is a combination of expectations.”

“I’ve been fortunate to qualify before and it’s always nice to go in from a top-ranked position,” he adds, “but everyone who qualifies is a contender. That’s really evident at the Young Horse Championships. If you’ve made it there, you’re already a winner. For horse owners, it gives them a taste of the future. What international competition feels like, with team coaches and the same pressure on riders, horses, and grooms to make sure everything peaks at just the right time.”

Inaugural Markel/USEF Seven-Year-Old Class 

Intuitively following the right path for Kings Pleasure has led Zen Elite to a historic moment in U.S. dressage. There has never been a Markel/USEF Seven-Year-Old National Champion before, nor a Zen Elite horse in contention, until now. “This was the goal, and we did it! We wouldn’t miss attending Lamplight,” Humphries says. “But it is only the beginning. With all the talented young riders and horses at Zen Elite, I believe we will have multiple competitors at this level and beyond. Our plan is to continue to have horse and rider teams at all levels of competition, from local schooling shows up to international events.

“You can’t get to international levels if you don’t start with the basics, right?” she asks. “Most importantly, we plan to continue to enjoy the journey and appreciate every day we can be surrounded by our wonderful four-legged friends.”