FEI-Level Dressage Championships Return to Gladstone

U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation will host three USEF national dressage championships in May 2017.

Credit: Nancy Jaffer Steffen Peters took the title on Legolas at the 2014 U.S. Equestrian Federation’s National Grand Prix Championships in Gladstone, while Laura Graves was reserve on Verdades.

After a two-year absence, the iconic Gladstone, New Jersey headquarters of the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation once again will be the scene of three U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) national dressage championships May 18-21 2017.

The foundation offered to host the competition at the request of the USEF, though an organizer who will handle the nuts and bolts of the show has yet to be named. The deadline for qualifying is May 1.

The Gladstone competition will include the Grand Prix, Intermediare I and Brentina Cup, presented by Dressage Today. All of the USEF’s other annual dressage championships, including children, juniors, Young Riders and ponies, are going to Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois, Aug. 24-27. They will be run in conjunction with the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage National Championships (for Four-, Five- and Six-Year-Olds), the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Dressage National Championships (Prix St. Georges and Grand Prix divisions) and the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Finals (13 and Under and 14-18 divisions). Qualifying for those competitions ends July 31.

The decision to go back to Gladstone, scene of so many memorable championships, is an exciting one.

“I think it’s absolutely fabulous,” Elisabeth Williams, chairman of the USEF’s high-performance dressage committee, said of the championships utilizing the headquarters’ facility.

“Gladstone is Gladstone. Maybe for us old timers, it means a little bit more even than for others. I’m really glad we can do it there, and glad we can do it at that time of year, because then (the riders) can make it to the (summer) competitions in Europe where they need to be.”

Many people have asked when Gladstone would again host the three championships. They were held in Kentucky in 2015 and cancelled for October 2016, after a change of the scheduled venue in California and lack of interest following the big push to the Rio Olympics.

Bonnie Jenkins, the foundation’s executive director, observed, “There couldn’t be a more perfect venue for this particular championship and we are well-suited for high-end championships that are not hundreds and hundreds of horses. This is ideally suited to that, and we can make it really special.”

Credit: Nancy Jaffer

The last time the championships were held in Gladstone, when they included the selection trials for the 2014 World Equestrian Games, Laura Graves emerged there as a star with Verdades. After the memorable performance in Gladstone that really put her on the map, she went on to have the best U.S. performances at both the WEG and the 2016 Olympics, where she clinched the team bronze medal.

Over the years, championships at Gladstone have featured such memorable horse/rider competitions as Carol Lavell and Gifted, Rocher and George Williams, Debbie McDonald and Brentina and Steffen Peters with Ravel.

The championships will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the foundation’s building, a stable constructed by James Cox Brady in 1917 on his massive estate. A number of special activities are planned, so as Jenkins said, “it all fits together.”

Championships usually are awarded for a three-year run, but it was considered important to nail down 2017 before thinking about the other years. Jenkins said the foundation would like to host in 2018 and 2019 as well.

 “I’m just very happy we have next year set and that gives us a little bit of breathing room to figure it out for the next couple of years,” Williams said.

The dressage championships at Gladstone originally were part of the Festival of Champions, a multi-discipline show that began at what was then the home of the USET, before formation of the USEF in 2003, when the USET became a foundation with the responsibility of raising funds for international competition. Over the years, the championships have included trials for the Pan American Games and Olympics, as well as the WEG.

The foundation is looking for contributions and sponsors to help with staging the championships. Visit www.uset.org for more information.