Lexington, Ky. – Nov. 8, 2019 – Friday’s highlight event, the US Dressage Finals Grand Prix Open Championship, saw a field of 11 competitors ride down centerline. Though Michael Bragdell put down a solid test with a score of 68.37% aboard Hilltop Farm Inc.’s Qredit Hilltop to take the early lead, reigning champion, Jim Koford, was ready to lay down the gauntlet. Claiming back to back wins in the division, Koford rode away with the national title with a 69.058%.
Koford and Sherry Koella’s Adiah HP (Nico–Marije Ant), a 12-year-old Friesian Cross mare, are known for their eye-catching presence and bringing the house down. Since winning the 2017 Grand Prix Open Freestyle Championship and the 2018 Grand Prix Open and Grand Prix Freestyle Championships, they have continued gaining fans wherever they compete. They had an action-packed season this year, traveling to Wayne, Illinois, for the U.S. Festival of Champions at the Lamplight Equestrian Center, before earning top three finishes at the Dressage at Devon CDI-W. Most recently they won both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Freestyle at the GAIG/USDF Region 1 Championships before they were invited to perform a dressage demonstration at the Washington International Horse Show in Washington, D.C.. Although Koford was worried that Adiah HP may be slightly tired by the time they made it to the finals in Kentucky, he was once again pleasantly surprised by her superstar attitude, never letting her fans down and giving them a good show.
Bragdell of Colora, Maryland, and Qredit Hilltop (Quarterback–Dream Rubina, Dream of Glory), an 11-year-old Oldenburg stallion, have been on a long journey together, as their partnership began when Qredit was just a yearling showing at Dressage at Devon. They began their winning ways early, taking home the grand champion yearling title that year and have been steadily progressing and growing together since that time. Bragdell was excited to put all of the pieces of their Grand Prix training together and have a harmonious ride that helped them land the reserve championship.
Completing the top three, Heather Mason of Lebanon, New Jersey, rode her own 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding RTF Lincoln to a score of 68.08%. Mason and RTF Lincoln claimed the Intermediate II Open Championship on Thursday, and are looking to add more championship honors to their resume in Saturday’s Grand Prix Freestyle Open Championship that will take place in the Alltech Arena beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Once again, dressage enthusiasts around the world can follow the action from the US Dressage Finals via live-streaming on the USEF Network at www.usef.org/network, with coverage continuing Saturday, November 9 in the Alltech Arena. See the entire live streaming schedule HERE.
US Dressage Finals Grand Prix Open Championship
Rider / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Jim Koford / Adiah HP / Sherry Koella / 69.058
2. Michael Bragdell / Qredit Hilltop / Hilltop Farm Inc. / 68.37
3. Heather Mason / RTF Lincoln / Heather Mason / 68.08
4. Abraham Pugh / Elfenperfekt / Alice Drayer / 66.232
5. Nora Batchelder / Wgangster Girl / Sally Seaver / 66.014
6. Emily Sorensen / Excalibur / Delight Willing / 63.732
Jim Koford – Grand Prix Open champion
On their Grand Prix performance:
“I am beyond psyched. I thought I would be passing the torch to Michael [Bragdell] or Heather [Mason] but I am really proud of her. She’s had a really challenging fall. We did a lot of traveling to shows and I thought she would be a little tired. What’s so amazing and fun and I’m so grateful for is that we used to do [the Grand Prix] a little bit on adrenaline. My heart would be beating and her heart would be beating and we would ride up to the bat and swing wildly. Now, this year, I feel we know what we are doing and she really understands the exercises and she has confidence in the ring. It’s showing off. I feel like we threw some silly points away but the things that I really wanted to work on, like the pirouettes, one-tempies and the piaffe-passage, were really solid. I was fist-pumped psyched.”
On their recent demonstration at the Washington International Horse Show:
“That was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done as a dressage rider. The logistics were crazy. Adiah and her owner landed in Washington, DC, like they had landed on Hollywood Boulevard. I was practically in an anxiety attack the entire time. She went into Washington with the 20,000 seat stadium and the spotlights and she was like ‘I got this.’ She blows me away.”
Micahel Bragdell – Grand Prix Open reserve champion
On Qredit Hilltop:
“We go back quite a bit — I started him under saddle. It’s been a fun journey. You learn as you go and now that he is a Grand Prix horse I think it’s a different way of training. Now you are just working on tweaking little things rather than trying to learn more things.”
On preparing for the finals:
“We did regionals then [Dressage at] Devon], which was his first CDI. I was actually quite happy with it. I felt he was ready to make that step up, so we did!”
On his ride:
“I am able to ride him in a better balance now. I think that has changed a lot, and more and more he tries for me in the ring. I had a little bobble in the zig zag unfortunately, a little miscount on that part. But I was quite pleased with the test.”