US Dressage Festival of Champions Wraps Up on the Final Day

Monday, August 24, 2020
Posted by Kathleen Landwehr and Leslie Potter



The final day of the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions closed out a successful week of competition. With restrictions on spectators on the grounds and mandates in effect for mask-wearing and social distancing, the scene at HITS Chicago at Lamplight Equestrian Center looked a bit different from prior years. However, trainers and riders were glad to have the opportunity to get their horses in the competition arena, and the quality of horses and riding throughout the week showed that competitors had been diligently doing their homework.

Photo - Marcus Orlob and Spirit of Joy. (

Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old Dressage National Championships
Sunday’s schedule kicked off with the FEI Six-Year-Old Final Test for the Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old Dressage National Championship. Thirteen combinations entered the arena for their second test before the four-judge panel. For the second time this week, the judges were most impressed by Marcus Orlob (Annandale, N.J.) and Spirit of Joy’s performance. The dark bay Westphalian gelding earned high marks across the board to win the class and the National Champion title.

“I had a good lead, so I didn’t have to put so much pressure on the horse,” said Orlob. “I rode a little bit more conservatively than the first day, but I knew, going around the ring, that the horse was with me and I had a feeling I could pull off a clean test. And it was pretty much clean, so I was very happy with him. He was actually a little bit more rideable than the first day.”

Jennifer Schrader-Williams (Olympia, Wash.) took home the Reserve Champion title with Joppe Partners, LLC’s KWPN gelding, Joppe K.

“When I was going around the outside, the cheers went off for Marcus right before me and my youngster isn’t used to hearing that, so he got a little excited,” said Schrader-Williams. “But I thought he came back together quite nicely. He went down centerline to put in a pretty mistake-free test.

“There were moments of tension today,” Schrader-Williams continued. “I would really like to make him just a little bit softer in the contact, but he is such a willing, athletic horse and I thought he gave a really nice performance. He tried very hard to keep his focus in the electric environment today.”

From the Mixed Zone:

Does Spirit of Joy improve as the show goes on or get tired?

Orlob: “For sure not tired. He's not the type who gets tired. I think the more he sees the ring, the more confidence he gets. I think he improves each day a little bit more.”

What do you have planned next for him?

Orlob: “I don’t have anything planned yet. The question is, if I make the jump into the small tour CDI over there for the Festival or do the Developing Prix St. Georges over here, so I’m not sure what direction I will go with him.”

What did you think of the judges’ marks today?

Orlob: “I think they were very fair, because I rode a little more conservative and at times I felt I had the neck a little bit shorter, which they commented on, but overall I think it was a totally fair score.”

How does it feel to be going home with a top placing?

Orlob: “It feels good because I came in 2015, I got the red blanket in the Developing Horse Grand Prix, and yesterday I got the red blanket in the [Young Horse Four-Year-Old division], so now I have finally a blue one and it feels great.”

How did you feel about the judges’ comments?

Jennifer Schrader-Williams: “I always find them very helpful. I was a little surprised on the walk score, but there was some tension in there so for sure there’s always going to be pieces that we want to make better. I always try to bring it back to myself, what can I do to help the horse be more confident, more relaxed, more out to the contact, and sometimes he just gets a little bit tight, so I’m going to just help him with that over the off season this winter.”

Tell us about your support system.

Schrader-Williams: “I really have such a special team of not only owners, but folks who stay home and groom and take care of our sale horses at home. I got a great picture this morning of a five-year-old and my husband sending me FaceTime photos of them watching our ride this morning. It just makes it special. I’ve been really trying to keep all of the owners, all of the horses that I have, several of them have multiple owners, so I try to really keep them connected and enjoying the experience since they couldn’t come this time. And just really appreciative for USEF doing all that they do with the live scoring and the live videos. It has made it an enjoyable experience for them as well.”

What’s next on your schedule?

Schrader-Williams: “I want to really continue to develop Joppe. He’s extremely talented. We want to see how far he can go and keep him loving what he’s doing. He’s a very joyful horse and we’ll head to Florida in December. We plan to take six or seven this time so we’re really trying to make that a consistent winter option, so we’ll keep developing him, and I’ve got some really nice young ones coming up behind him as well.”

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