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USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Champions – Alice Tarjan and Serenade MF

Saturday at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions at HITS Chicago at Lamplight Equestrian Center brought the finales of many divisions, including the Grand Prix. Music filled the Lamplight Grand Prix Arena for the popular Freestyle.

Grand Prix Freestyle

Alice Tarjan and Serenade MF. Photo by Stephanie J. Ruff

As she had twice already, Alice Tarjan and her own Serenade MF (9-year-old Hanoverian, by Sir Donnerhall out of Duet MF) claimed the victory. Their winning score was 76.985%. Because of their European competition schedule, Tarjan has been unable to focus on her freestyle. As a result, she was “just happy we got through it.”

The show itself was the second time she rode through the freestyle. “And we hadn’t practiced any of the lines until yesterday. So, it was a little bit of a mess in there, but like overall, the quality has gotten better so I’m excited for what the future holds.”

Kylee Lourie’s Paxton (11-year-old Westphalian gelding by Dante Weltino out of Desiree), whose rider Katie Duerrhammer has described as hot and sensitive, continued to look more and more comfortable in the arena and put in an excellent text to finish second with a 74.980%. 

“I was really proud of him today,” said Duerrhammer about Paxton. “He tried very hard to accomplish everything in there, and we had some mistakes, but he really stayed with me and actually really liked the music. So, it was really fun.”

Third in the freestyle was Java Dulce, ridden by Emily Miles. Leslie Waterman owns the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Jazz out of JJ Dolche Gabbana, by Deemster.

Miles admitted to not riding her freestyle before. “I watched the video, watched the video, but I’d never ridden it before, and I was actually super happy with how we hit our marks and knew where we were with the music. It was a clean freestyle. We had a couple moments where it was like, ‘OK, I’m ahead now. What do I do?’ But we got it. And so, a little wavery moments, but I’ve never ridden him to such big music and such an atmosphere. And he was very hot, but he did not have a meltdown or anything. So, I was, again, really proud of him. Just so thankful for [owner] Leslie [Waterman] letting me take him and go and do.”

Grand Prix Champion

The top three finishers were also the top three overall. Tarjan and Serenade MF were crowned Grand Prix Champions while Duerrhammer and Paxton were Reserve Champions.

Three trips down centerline and three wins for Serenade MF (also known as “Shrimp” around the barn.) Tarjan credits an improvement in overall balance as one key. In addition, the mare has been more forward this week than she had been in the past. Tarjan mentioned keeping her in front of the leg as one of her challenges. 

USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Champions – Alice Tarjan and Serenade MF. Photo by Susan J. Stickle

“She wants to be a show hunter,” Alice said. “But I say over the week, actually, she was starting to get hotter and hotter. It’s like I get on her and it’s ‘Whoa, this is like a way different horse than I ever used to ride.’ Like almost you have to tone it down now. So that’s exciting. I think that we’re finally breaking through that barrier with her.”

Grand Prix Reserve Champion

Duerrhammer credits her recent trip to Europe as a learning experience for bringing along a young Grand Prix horse. “To be able to go over there and watch actually a lot of these top people that have young Grand Prix horses for me was very inspiring for Pax [Paxton] because I feel like sometimes, I’m like, ‘OK, I have to make it look perfect all the time.’

“And to see these riders out there being like, ‘No, we’ve got to, like, get it done.’ And you’ve got to give these horses confidence and work on these little things. That was really inspiring to me to watch how they school these young Grand Prix horses and give them confidence and give them direction. And for me to take that onto Pax is really helpful.”

Markel/USEF Four-Year-Old Horse Champion

In a repeat performance from Thursday, Betsy Juliano LLC’s Fürst Dream, a Hanoverian stallion by Fürstenball OLD out of Bella Lucia, by Benetton Dream FRH, won today’s USEF Four-Year-Old Horse Test with Adrienne Lyle. Today’s winning score was only slightly lower at 91.400. With a combined score of 92.920%, he was the clear champion.

Adrienne Lyle and Fürst Dream. Photo by Susan J. Stickle

“I was really thrilled with him today,” said Lyle. “He was still full of energy today, which I was happy to see. We didn’t work him at all yesterday. We just tack walked around the venue. He’s so young, I didn’t want to push him. And so, he was quite frisky today in the warmup and a little bit going around the outside, but then he really focused when we went down centerline. I thought I had him even maybe a bit better balanced and more packaged than the first day.

“And he’s just really ridable. He has such an incredible suppleness, especially for a four-year-old. Every part of him moves, and I love that feeling. For me, the suppleness is my most important thing that I look for in a young horse. And he’s got an amazing brain.”

Second today, and reserve champion, was Tarjan’s chestnut Oldenburg mare Ice Princess (Asgard’s Ibiza out of Darling Eden, by Don Schufro). Today she scored better than Thursday with a 90% and a two-day combined score of 89.760.

One horse to note was Vholt ridden by Martin Kuhn and owned by Kathryn Fleming-Kuhn. He finished sixth overall with a score of 81.520. Bred by Maurine Swanson, the Oldenburg gelding by Vitalis 4 out of Rhiddle was the only horse in the 4-year-old class to be bred in the United States. 

Markel/USEF Five-Year-Old Horse Champion

In the FEI Five-Year-Old Final test, it was a tie between Tarjan and her own Ierland’s Eden (an Oldenburg mare by Ireland out of Lace Eden, by Krack C) and Adrienne Lyle with Valor (by Vitalis out of Fürstenkind, by Fürstenball), a Westphalian gelding owned by Kylee Lourie. They both finished with an impressive 92.400% with Tarjan winning the tiebreaker, which was the submission score, to give her the edge in the class. The mare was fiery today, and Tarjan was “happy I stayed on.”

Adrienne Lyle and Valor. Photo by Susan J. Stickle

Third today, and third overall, was MW Fürstencharmant (by Fürstenball out of MW Weiss Schwarz, by Sir Donnerhall I), a black colt owned by Jennifer Vanover and ridden by Lindsey Holleger. His score in the class was 86.800%. Of note, he was one of two horses in the Five-Year-Old class bred in the United States.

But with a combined score of 92.480%, Valor was the Five-Year-Old Champion. “He was super again in the ring today,” said Lyle. “There is a little bit more atmosphere, even more people I think, and more electricity. But he put his head down right to work, and he’s so rideable and such a kind, giving horse. And I think that’s what I enjoy the most about him.”

With Lyle just returning from the World Championships in Europe, she credited her assistant trainer Quinn Iverson, who won the Adequan®/USEF Young Adult Brentina Cup National Championship, and all the grooms for keeping the two young champions, among some 25 horses, going so well. Lyle had only a short time in Colorado before bringing the horses to the competition.

Brentina Cup Champion and Reserve

Champion – Quinn Iverson – Beckham 19 (2009 Hanoverian gelding, by Benetton Dream FRH out of Davinia, by Don Davidoff 2) owned by Bille Davidson

Reserve Champion – Callie Rose O’Connell – Eaton Unitechno (2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding, by Wynton out of Ziolita H, by San Remo 92) owned by Ruling Cortes LLC

Developing Prix St. Georges Champion and Reserve

Champion – Olivia LaGoy-Weltz – Johnny Be Goode (2014 Dutch Warmblood gelding, by Glock’s Dream Boy N.O.P. out of Brinkhof’s Amazing Grace, by Tietse 428) owned by Fritz Kundrun

Reserve Champion – Martin Kuhn – Ronin (2013 Hanoverian gelding, by Glock’s Romanov out of Something Royal, by Sir Donnerhall I) owned by Kathryn Fleming-Kuhn

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

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

U.S. Equestrian members can watch the live stream here.

Get the live scores and results 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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