Monday, August 30, 2021

USEF: Impressive Achievements Conclude 2021 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions

by Kathleen Landwehr, US Equestrian Communications Department | Aug 29, 2021, 7:31 PM EST

Wayne, Ill. – The U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions came to a close on Sunday with the final national championship titles of the weekend. Five divisions performed their respective tests in hopes of taking home top honors. It was an exciting day of competition to conclude a week full of talented athletes and horses from across the country.   


USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship


Alice Tarjan and Candescent (

Twelve combinations rode the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle to determine the winners of the USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship. Alice Tarjan stamped her place atop the overall leaderboard, claiming the top two spots with Candescent and Donatella M. Tarjan (Oldwick. N.J.) and Candescent, her 2010 Hanoverian mare, won the class with a score of 77.165% and finished with an overall score of 73.434%. Tarjan and Donatella M, her 2011 Oldenburg mare, earned reserve-champion honors with an overall score of 71.975%. Tarjan is a member of the Kundrun USEF Dressage Development Program with both horses.


“I was really pleased. I thought it was clean and that I stayed with the music, so that was a good thing,” Tarjan said of her freestyle with Candescent. “I lost a lot of the self-carriage I think. It’s hard; you prep these horses for so many tests, and they’re all different lines. And I guess in a perfect world, the horse follows your aids and doesn’t matter what line you ride it on, and maybe it messes me up mentally, and I don’t know if it messes her up, but to try to keep the self-carriage through the whole test with different lines is still a challenge.”


Katie Johnson (Greenwood Village, Colo.) and Quartett, Kylee Lourie’s 2008 Brandenburg gelding, were third overall with a score of 68.620%. Johnson received the Patsy Albers Award, which is presented to the highest-placing rider in the Grand Prix division who represented the U.S. at the FEI North American Youth Championships. The award provides financial support for continuing education and training of its recipient.


Overall Results

From the Mixed Zone:


Tell us about your freestyle:


Johnson: “I was really, really happy with it. It’s the last day of a really long, hot weekend, and he tried so hard and put his best foot forward. It’s a brand-new freestyle for us made by Terry Gallo. It rides so wonderfully and really showcases his good things. I was really happy with it. We made some mistakes, but there are still things to work on for the future.”


What is your horse’s background?


Johnson: “We bought him almost two years ago. He actually is the amateur horse for the owner of the farm. She graciously told me if we could finish him to Grand Prix in November that I could show him. His first and my first official Grand Prix were in December, then our first official CDIs were in January. He just keeps trying and trying, and he has a heart that is so big. We went to France for the Compiègne Nations Cup team. Unfortunately, we couldn’t compete there because of EHV stuff, but we still got to compete at Achleiten in Austria, which was a wonderful show and a really good first experience. This is the end to a very, very unplanned and very exciting year.”


What’s next with your horse?


Tarjan (on Candescent): “We’ve done two CDIs, and now we’re going to Aachen.”


Johnson: “We are going home and going to give him a good break. He deserves a nice, easy month, and I think his owner is going to ride him some and enjoy him. Then, we will just kind of play next season by ear.”


Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old Dressage National Championship


Madeleine Bendfeldt and Sonata MF (

Fourteen combinations competed in the FEI Six-Year-Old Final Test of the Markel/USEF Young Horse Six-Year-Old Dressage National Championship. Madeleine Bendfeldt of Germany (Davie, Fla.) and Sonata MF had a solid test to take home the national title. Bendfeldt (Davie, Fla.) and Pegasus Equestrian Davies, Inc.’s Hanoverian mare (Sir Donnerhall I x Em Duet MF, Don Principe) earned an overall score of 8.148 as well as the Highest U.S. Bred Award.


“It feels amazing and unexpected,” said Bendfeldt of the win. “I am super satisfied with the test. It was fine. Of course you always have something that you’d like to do better, but the mare was really good and I had a nice feeling, so I am super happy.”


David Blake (Cardiff by the Sea, Calif.) and Delilah, Leslie Allbright’s Hanoverian mare (Dr Watson x Warina, Wolkenstein II), won the class with a score of 8.120 and earned reserve champion honors with an overall score of 8.024. Alice Tarjan and Summersby II, her Oldenburg mare (Sezuan x Summer Night, Sandro Hit) were third with an overall score of 7.912.


Overall Results

From the Mixed Zone:


Talk about your horse.


Bendfeldt: “Sonata is quite uncomplicated. I think that her favorite thing to do is eating, that is more important than anything else. You know when she is comfortable because she will stretch before you put the saddle on. She is a funny personality. Here she felt nice and comfortable, and the week was fine!


“She is pretty even all of the time. There are not really ups and downs with her. It’s the same without being boring.”


Blake: “I found her in Germany when she was two-and-a-half and just broke, and I sat on her for a second and she trotted and so I said, ‘If she canters, I’ll take her!’ The seller said ‘No, she hasn’t cantered yet,’ but I cantered her a couple of strides and I decided I would take her.


“The horse peaked this weekend. She’s been slow to develop, a little immature, and now, all of a sudden, she got here and said, ‘Alright, I’ll take care of the rest.’ She’s a great horse with a lot of feeling, and very fun.” 


Tarjan: “I bought Summersby as a foal, and she competed here as a four- and five-year-old, and to have her finish third today is awesome. She’ll probably stay home next year and prepare for the Developing Horse Grand Prix.” 


What do you like about working with young horses?


Bendfeldt: “I like working with the young horses more than the older horses. It’s more exciting for me. You have something new—a new way to train, a new discovery about the horse, everyday it’s exciting. It’s exciting to train young horses and educate them yourself.”   


USEF Children Dressage National Championship


Tessa Geven and Sir Frederico (

Twelve combinations closed out the USEF Children Dressage National Championship by riding the FEI Children Individual Test. After winning the USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Championship earlier in the week, Tessa Geven claimed another national champion title. Geven (Cataula, Ga.) piloted Sir Frederico, Carden Burdette’s 2007 Hanoverian gelding, to her second major win of the week, finishing with an overall score of 74.787%.


“It’s, again, exciting,” said of her second title. “It’s been very, very busy this whole week because we have been taking care of them all.”


Sienna Rowe (Urbanna, Va.) and D’Agostino, Christian Garweg’s 2013 Hanoverian gelding, collected reserve-champion honors with an overall score of 74.309%. Maren Elise Fouché-Hanson (Colbert, Ga.) and Estremadura MVH, her 2009 KWPN mare, were third with a score of 73.531%.


Overall Results

From the Mixed Zone:  


Talk about your horse.


Geven: “Frederico is owned by Carden Burdette. I would like to thank her for letting me ride her horse. He is very good. He can get sometimes a little lazy in the ring, especially without a whip, but he can also get too hot. He is very sweet. He likes to get a fancy sometimes. He gets very fancy up front and not as nice in the hind, so it is not necessarily correct.


“He loves food. He is super gentle. I don’t spend as much time with him since he is not mine. But I wish I could spend more time with him. He’s super sweet.


Rowe: “He is part blind, so he has had that for about two years now. He’s eight, and he is definitely a character. He is super sweet and he loves food. He would do anything for it. He loves to be pet for anything.


Fouché-Hanson: “She is such a sweet mare. She does actually not act mareish at all. Her favorite thing is actually neck scratches. That’s her favorite thing in the world, but she is the sweetest mare ever. Once you earn her trust, she will do anything for you.”


Talk about your test.


Rowe: “It was pretty good. It was way calmer than yesterday. He wasn’t as pull-y as yesterday, so that was really good.”


Fouché-Hanson: “The test today was amazing. I am so proud of ‘Z’. This is her third show ever in her life. I got her from Dressage 4 Kids. She was with the Steiners when we got her. Her owner was Jeannie Marin, and she decided to donate her to Dressage 4 Kids because she was going back to vet school. I’m so proud of [Z]. She has so much impressed me. It was just a wonderful day.”


What are your plans for the future?


Geven: “Maybe do Juniors and Young Riders on Frederico. That is the only thing we have in mind right now.”


Rowe: “I would like to try the Children division again. Hopefully do somewhat decent at that. And not as strong, keep some control, but it was pretty good.”


Fouché-Hanson: “We are hoping to do Juniors since I am aging out of Children’s sadly this year. Our goals are to do Juniors and hopefully bring her up the levels soon after that. If we weren’t to do Juniors, maybe we would move up the levels. But I’m hoping for Juniors next year if we do qualify.”


Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Dressage National Championship


Alice Tarjan and Serenade MF (

Twelve combinations competed in the USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Test to determine the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Dressage National Championship title winner. For the second time on Sunday, Alice Tarjan claimed the top two spots in a national championship. Tarjan and Serenade MF, her 2013 Hanoverian mare (Sir Donnerhall x Duet MF, Don Principe), won the class with a score of 75.833%, took the national champion title with an overall score of 75.519%, and the won Highest U.S. Bred Horse Award. Tarjan and Harvest, her 2012 KWPN stallion (Connaisseur x Naomi, Ulft), were the reserve champions with an overall score of 71.689% Tarjan is a member of the Kundrun USEF Dressage Development Program with both horses.


“I am pretty happy,” Tarjan said of her test with Serenade MF. “There are a lot of things that we could improve upon, but that horse just goes out every time and does the job, and I don’t know what more you could ask for.”


Emily Miles (Paola, Kan.) and Java Dulce, Leslie Waterman’s 2011 Danish Warmblood gelding (Jazz x JJ Dolche Gabbana, Deemster), were third with a score of 71.241%.


Endel Ots (Wellington, Fla.) and RS Damon, Jessica Friedrich’s Wurttemberger gelding (Don Diamond I x Marzurka H, HPM Meeteur), won the Best Presented Horse at the Horse Inspection presented by Grayson-Jockey Research Club Foundation. It is awarded to the best presented horse at the horse inspection. The ground jury considers condition, grooming, and interaction with the judges.


Overall Results

From the Mixed Zone:


Alice, what are your thoughts on such a successful weekend?


Tarjan: “The whole thing has been so surreal. I’ve been busy all week just riding, so I haven’t had time to process anything yet. It’s just been jumping from horse to horse, making sure I remember the test, and know how to ride each horse for each test. Riding the young horses is a little different, I don’t bother to visualize a test, and maybe that’s a mistake, but I just get on and take them around. It’s been different having a bunch of young horses.” 


Talk about your horses.


Tarjan: “‘Shrimp’ just goes in and does her job. Harvest is a little more sensitive, and a little greener in the movements. He had several mistakes today. I think the quality is good, but it’s very much developing still.”


Miles: “I was so proud of Java. He came in ranked 15th, so we weren’t even sure if we were going to make it for a while, and I was joking that it would be a fun class to watch, but I had no expectations. I knew that he was getting better consistently throughout the season, and he had that last year off. He’s gotten more solid. I’m super proud of him. I hope he keeps getting better and going on.” 


USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals – 14-18


Kasey Denny and Hemingway KW (

Ten youth athletes showed off their equitation in 14-18 division of the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals. The final began with group rail work followed by individually performed patterns. Kasey Denny (Williston, Fla.) claimed top honors in her fifth appearance aboard Hemingway KW, Amy Denny’s 2012 Dutch Warmblood gelding, with a score of 87.000%. She trains with Amy Denny.


“We just moved in March, so we had a really hectic summer. I came up here more nervous than usual, so this was a surprise,” Denny said of her win. “I’m very pleased and happy. I have placed in the top two each time I’ve competed here, so it’s been a good time coming here each year.” 


Trinity Schatzel (Eagle, Idaho) earned reserve-champion honors with Spörky De Luxe, her 2013 Hanoverian gelding, scoring 86.000%. She trains with Sarah Filiger. Marin Roth (Bloomington, Ill.) placed third with Erin Meadows Jägermeister, her 2014 Zweibrucker gelding, with a score of 84.00%. She trains with Lorna Donahue and Maureen White.


From the Mixed Zone:


How did you prepare for the final?


Denny: “I do a ton of no stirrup work before I come here.


“It was a struggle moving up [to a horse], my pony did so much for me. He was a great equitation horse, that was his thing, and Ollie is still getting used to it. He is only nine, so he is still a baby with some things, but he’s awesome. 


“I just tried to keep him as relaxed as possible today. I know that when he is by himself in the grand prix ring he gets uptight, so we just went and did the best we could.”


Schatzel: “A lot of relaxation and getting my horse as supple as possible because he gets distracted a lot, so there was a lot of staying with me and staying on my aids.” 


Roth: “Pretty much we’ve just been making him look the best he can, and making sure my equitation stayed in a good place, because usually if he does well I am all over the place, and vice versa. So we just focused on putting it all together.”


Watch the on-demand footage from the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions on USEF Network.




Keep up with the 2021 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions on USA Dressage Facebook and Instagram where you can find winning rides and daily photo galleries, USEF Network Twitter, and USA Dressage Instagram featuring Instagram Stories. Use #USADressage and #FestivalofChampions.

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