A Long Journey Worthwhile as Bonnie Canter Claims Second Level AA Championship at US Dressage Finals

Saturday, November 13, 2021
Posted by Yellow Horse Marketing for the US Dressage Finals


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As a regular competitor to the US Dressage Finals, Bonnie Canter has grown relatively used to the 1000-plus mile drive to Kentucky from her home in Hockley, Texas (Region 9). But the trip always feels easier when going home with fancy awards, and once again Canter will carry a championship sash home as she and her five-year-old Hanoverian gelding Vitali scored 70.556% to top the Second Level Adult Amateur Championship.

Photo - Bonnie Canter and Vitali claim the Second Level Adult Amateur Championship at the 2021 US Dressage Finals.  (Susan J. Stickle)

“He is the most cheerful horse I have ever ridden in my life,” Canter explained. “We were looking online for a youngster last summer and saw him listed in Germany. He’s little (only 15.1 hands) and that’s just what I like. Of course we couldn’t travel there because of COVID, so we bought him sight unseen based on videos. I hate to pass on something that is perfect, but you never know – they get off the trailer and you say ‘oh boy I hope I like him.’  It could go so bad but it’s turned out so well.”

Despite his young age, Canter reported that “Rudie” handled not only the demands of Second Level but also the intense atmosphere of the Finals with flying colors. “I did worry a little about coming here because the young ones are a bit emotional and you don’t want a bad experience to set them back,” Canter admitted. “But he’s just been so steady, and full of happiness and wonder – it’s a great feeling. We’re also riding at First Level here but we started doing Second because he seemed a little bored, and I think he’s actually better at Second. He’s getting his balance and really coming along.”

Tarjan and Serenade Take Second Straight Finals Title in Grand Prix Adult Amateur Championship

When Alice Tarjan of Oldwick, N.J. (Region 1) left the ring in the Grand Prix Adult Amateur Championship with Donatella M, the pair had set a mark of 72.935% which shot right to the top of the leaderboard. It turns out the only person Tarjan had to beat was herself as she returned to the Alltech Arena two hours later with her nine-year-old Hanoverian mare Serenade MF (Sir Donnerhall x Duet MF by Don Principe, bred in the U.S. by Maryanna Haymon) and promptly took over the lead with 74.928%  for the win. This victory came right on the heels of the prior day’s win in the Intermediate II Adult Amateur division.

“Serenade has had a fantastic year and I have to give her so much credit,” said a proud Tarjan. “Every time we go in the ring she is so reliable. She’s only eight years old and there’s still a lot of stuff that is a bit hard for her, but she still answers all the questions of the Grand Prix and does it consistently. You ask her to piaffe and she piaffes. You ask her to do a change or a pirouette and she does a change and a pirouette. She’s just easy that way. For yesterday’s class we had to deal with the rough weather outside, and today I didn’t even have a chance to school in the Alltech – but no matter where we are, she just marches down center line and never questions it.”

Tarjan laughs that if there is a “least likely to succeed in Grand Prix dressage” award, Serenade may be the winner. “Her barn name is ‘Shrimp’ because she’s so little. She’s pretty but not tall and is built downhill,” she said. “It’s kind of crazy because you walk through the barn and there’s all these big, massive body-builder type horses, and then there’s Shrimp who looks like a children’s hunter. You tack her up and she just hangs her head on the ground and is so relaxed and quiet. She’s not the one you would pick out to be doing this, but she gets the job done every single time and I trust her to do anything.”

Tarjan Strikes Again in Fourth Level Adult Amateur Championship

Not long after completing her Grand Prix sweep Alice Tarjan returned to the ring, this time aboard her talented six-year-old Oldenburg mare Summersby II where the pair cruised to victory in the Fourth Level Adult Amateur Championship with a unanimous win under all three judges for 73.056%.

“I’m really excited about this horse for the future, even though she’s young and green and still makes some mistakes. But she’s honest about it,” Tarjan explained. “Fourth Level is a lot of test for her, but I think it’s a good thing to kind of push your boundaries a little bit and see what your horse’s answers are, and she is definitely coming up with the right answers. She’s at the age where things develop quickly; for example, even this summer she could easily get distracted by what was going on around her. But now just a couple of months later she’s more focused in those situations and can come up with better answers to the questions I ask. Plus it gives me a much better understanding about where this is going to go in a year or two.”

Tarjan explained why she feels that the long trip to the Finals is worthwhile for both her seasoned mounts as well as youngsters. “It is a huge horse show and I think ring time here is so good to get the horses exposure. There aren’t many places in the country where you can get a horse show of this size and atmosphere, that is so well run and at a fantastic facility where the footing is this good. These kinds of experiences are invaluable for the horses, and for me as a rider they give me a better idea about the horse I have underneath me.”

Watch archived streaming videos of Championship classes on the USEF Network HERE. Championship competition resumes Saturday – 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 USEF Network. 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.