A total of 168 combinations are set to compete at the 2022 U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions during a week packed with exciting competition at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, ILL.
The Festival of Champion features classes for young and developing horses, as well as the national championships for children, juniors, young riders, Under 25 and senior small and big tour riders. In additional, the para dressage rider also celebrate their national championships this week.
The first day of a weeklong of competition began on 22 August 2022 with jogs for the para dressage and small tour horses, followed by the first of three tests for each division.
Graves Surfaces at the top with Sensation HW
Fourteen combinations competed in the Prix St. Georges Test in their first test of the U.S. Intermediaire I (Small Tour) Championship. Laura Graves and SenSation HW won the class with an impressive score of 75.117%.
Graves (Geneva, Fla.) and Carol and Scott McPhee’s 2013 Westphalian gelding (by Sunday x Dancier) wowed the judges with a smooth, flowing test to hold the top spot on the leaderboard in a talented division. The pair has been developing a partnership since 2020, and the hard work was on display in the arena.
“He is such a supple horse. We had a couple small mistakes. I was really happy with his canter pirouettes. His trot half-passes are always beautiful because of his suppleness,” said Graves. “Overall, I think it was a pretty tidy, very clean test. Hopefully it was able to show his power, but also trying to show a little relaxation too. He’s got a super walk. We had a little mistake in one of the walk pirouettes. But in general, he does everything really well. A lot of highlights for this horse. The overall picture is exciting.”
Sensation is familiar with the Lamplight show grounds. Developed as a youngster by American professional Michael Bragdell, SenSation HW was 7th at the 2017 U.S. Young Horse Championships, won the title as a 5-year old in 2018 and reclaimed the title as a 6-year old in 2019. At the end of 2019, SenSation HW also won the USDF Third Level Open Championship.
In 2020 he moved to Laura Graves' barn, who took two years to mould the horse to her hand before their international show debut in Wellington in March 2022. Their premier did not go as planned as the pair withdrew from the Prix St. Georges. Three weeks later they successfully rode down the centerline at the CDI Ocala to place second in the PSG with 72.353%.
"I was super thrilled with my horse," Graves commented. "He was obviously shown here at lot as a young horse. I didn’t really know what to expect. He has kind of caught me by surprise with his experience at a couple venues being more than I bargained for, just with the tension catching up with him. So, being here on familiar territory, I wasn’t really sure what I would have, but he has been amazing."
She continued, "I reached this point in my career with Verdades where we finished a test and it finally stopped feeling so daunting, and I had that feeling today. When I finished my final centerline, I was like, ‘We could go again.' It just felt nice. And when the judges really appreciate that, that’s when I really feel confident in the work I’ve done."
Wagman in her Wake
Nick Wagman (San Diego, Calif.) and Heatcliff, Beverly Gepfer’s 2012 KWPN gelding (by Florencio x Olivi), were second with a score of 73.529%, following in the wake of Graves and Sensation HW.
Wagman has been slowly getting "Cliff" ready at small tour level with a select number of international starts at the CDI's in Thermal, CA, in 2021 and 2022
Emily Miles and Leslie Waterman's 8-year old Hanoverian stallion Daily Show (by Danciano de Malleret x Stockholm) finished third with a score of 71.646%. This pair represented the U.S.A at the 2019 World Young Horse Championships in Ermelo, where they were 24th in the 5-year old consolation finals. This spring they made their CDI debut at small tour level in Katy, Texas, booking a triple victory.
Text USEF Press Release, edited by Eurodressage - Photos © Sue Stickle and US Equestrian
Scores: 2022 U.S Dressage Championships