Grand Prix Special – Alice Tarjan and Serenade MF Win Again

The HITS Chicago Lamplight showgrounds buzzed all day with spectacular competition in both rings for the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions. Overnight and early morning rains made for wet conditions, but the footing held up extremely well without a puddle in sight. Luckily for everyone involved, the rain stopped as the Grand Prix Special competition began. Again, 12 combinations went down centerline. They were broken into two groups. First to go were the bottom six from Wednesday’s Grand Prix followed by the top six from yesterday’s competition.

Grand Prix Special

The Grand Prix Special had a repeat performance, with Alice Tarjan and her own Serenade MF (9-year-old Hanoverian, Sir Donnerhall x Duet MF) claiming victory. Their winning score was 73.467%. “I was really pretty pleased with the trot tour,” said Tarjan about her ride. “I think the piaffe improved over yesterday, so that was good; I missed both sets of ones, so that’s a little disappointing. It’s hard to get everything on the same test the same day.”

Alice Tarjan and Serenade MF win the Grand Prix Special. Photo by Susan J. Stickle.

This is the first year Serenade MF has shown at the CDI level, and she just got back from her initial trip to Europe. “I think it’s a drastic improvement over where it was last year, so I’m really pleased about that,” said Tarjan. “This horse did basically all the tricks in the Grand Prix by the end of her five-year-old year. But trying to get the balance and get her to stay on the hind legs and get the connection better in the bridle is now what we’re working on.

“And it’s way better than it was. There’s still a lot of work to be done to finish it up. I think in another year it’s gonna be even that much better.”

Katie Duerrhammer and Paxton had a much-improved test over yesterday to finish second with a 71.680%, the only other score to break the 70% mark. The 11-year-old Westfalian gelding is by Dante Weltino OLD out of Desiree, by Don Marco 3 and owned by Kylee Lourie.

In a bit of a surprise, third place went to breeder/owner Alice Drayer’s 16-year-old Trakehner stallion Elfenperfekt (Peron x Elfentraum, by Zauberklang). After a tenth-place finish in the Grand Prix, rider Abraham Pugh put the stallion through a clean test to score 68.041%.

The horses and riders will have one more chance to show their stuff in Saturday’s Grand Prix Freestyle.

USEF 4-Year-Old Horse Test

In the USEF 4-Year-Old Test, the class of the field was Betsy Juliano LLC’s Fürst Dream, a Hanoverian stallion by Fürstenball OLD out of Bella Lucia, by Benetton Dream FRH. Ridden by Adrienne Lyle, with 10s for General Impression and Submission, he was the clear winner with an overall percentage of 95.200%. 

Adrienne Lyle and Fürst Dream win Thursday’s USEF 4-Year-Old Test with a 95.200%. Photo by Susan J. Stickle.

“I was incredibly proud of him today,” said Lyle. “This is like a big venue. There’s a lot going on for a four-year-old. We’ve done very limited showing. And he handled everything just super well. He really was focused. He was right there with me, and he’s just got such an incredible brain, this horse, which is something I really like besides obviously his talent, and he’s got lovely gaits. But he’s really got a super brain, especially for a stallion.”

Lyle has been riding the lovely stallion for about a year and a half. “We found him in the two-year-old stallion auctions in Germany. Bought him out of that and then competed just lightly.”

Second was Alice Tarjan’s own chestnut Oldenburg mare, Ice Princess (Asgard’s Ibiza out of Darling Eden, by Don Schufro). She scored a 9 for her Canter and a 9.2 for General Impression. Her final score was 89.400%.

Michael Bragdell rode Leslie Waterman’s Oldenburg stallion Sir Real, by Sir Donnerhall I out of Fürstin Florentina B, by Fürst Heinrich to a third-place finish. His score was 84.000% with his highest marks coming from the Walk with a 9 and General Impression with an 8.5.

About the competition and the quality of young horses in the United States, Lyle admitted to previously not having focused on the young horse division. However, she’s enjoyed participating and learning more about them. “It’s grown so much here in the U.S.,” she said. “The quality of these horses here now is, I think, really improved, and it’s really exciting to see.”

FEI 5-Year-Old Preliminary Test

Those talented young horses continued in the FEI 5-Year-Old Preliminary Test, and once again it was Adrienne Lyle riding the clear winner. This time it was Valor, a Westphalian gelding owned by Kylee Lourie. He is by Vitalis out of Fürstenkind, by Fürstenball. He received a 10 for his canter, as well as a 9.8 for Perspective (potential as a dressage horse and ability to collect and take weight) and 9.5 for Submission. The overall percentage was 92.600%.

Valor, ridden by Adrienne Lyle, received a 10 for his canter and won the FEI5-Year-Old Preliminary Test. Photo by Stephanie J. Ruff.

Lyle had nothing but praise for her partner. “He was really phenomenal today. I mean, I honestly don’t think I could have asked him to do much better than what he did. He is fun in the ring. He’s so light to the aids, soft in the contact that you could just sit there and try to stay out of his way. And he really lets you navigate him through all the different questions in there.”

Taking second in the class was MW Fürstencharmant (Fürstenball x MW Weiss Schwarz, by Sir Donnerhall I), a black colt owned by Jennifer Vanover and ridden by Lindsey Holleger. His overall score was 89.6%. He received a 9.5 for Perspective, and 9’s for Walk, Canter and Submission.

The Oldenburg gelding MSJ For VIPs (Foundation x VIP, by Vivaldi) finished third with an 86.8%. Ridden by Rebecca Rigdon, he is owned by Lauren Fisher. His best mark was a 9 for Perspective.

FEI Intermediate I Freestyle

The last class of the day in the Lamplight Grand Prix Arena was the FEI Intermediate I Freestyle, which would also crown the Intermediate Champion. A crowd gathered all around the arena to watch the popular event.

Second to last to ride down centerline was Laura Graves and SenSation HW, a 9-year-old Westphalian gelding by Sunday NRW out of Donata, by Dancier and owned by Kathy Priest. They put together a lovely test to take the lead at 76.005%. 

It was good enough until the last rider of the day, Emily Miles, rode down centerline with the Hanoverian stallion Daily Show (8-year-old by Danciano out of Schwedenlady, by Stockholm). They put on a great show and won the class with a 77.300% for Daily Show’s owner Leslie Waterman.

Emily Miles and Daily Show win the FEI Intermediate I Freestyle with a 77.300%. Photo by Susan J. Stickle.

“He’s just really coming into his own,” Miles said of her mount. “I think that he’s only gonna get better. I hate to say that and put pressure on him, but like he, as a young horse was gawky a little bit, and he has just matured and to be able to ride that freestyle tonight and put pedal to metal and say, ‘Come on, buddy. Let’s do this.’ And he was like, ‘Cool. Let’s do it.’ That’s an amazing feeling.

“It’s a really special freestyle for me,” she continued, “because it’s WakeUp’s (her star horse that passed away unexpectedly last year) freestyle, and the music is the music that I got my first dance with my husband. There’s a lot wrapped up in that freestyle. The first time I rode it I pretty much broke down and cried the entire test and it was terrible. So, I’m very proud that I did not do that today.  But he lived up to that, and I’m sure Wake Up is looking down here and thankful tonight. So that’s really special to me.”

USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship

With wins in the FEI Prix St. Georges Test and the FEI Intermediate I Test, the second in the Freestyle was enough to earn Graves and Sensation HW the Championship at the Intermediate level. She hopes, however, that this is only the beginning. 

“These are hopefully horses in this division who can look forward to Paris (site of the 2024 Summer Olympics). And so, I think that for me, with that being my goal, to look around and hopefully you see some teammates. It’s really exciting.”

Laura Graves and Sensation HW were the USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Champions. Photo by Stephanie J. Ruff.

How to Follow the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions

Competition continues through Sunday, August 28. You can find the complete schedule here.

U.S. Equestrian members will be able to watch the live stream here.

Get the live scores here.

For more information on the location, HITS Chicago at Lamplight Equestrian Center, click here.

Thank you to the sponsor of Dressage Today’s coverage of the 2022 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions, Vita Flex.






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