Wayne, Ill. – Aug. 24, 2019 – Returning for the final stage of the USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions were 13 horse-and-rider combinations. Endel Ots and Lucky Strike, who led the division after dominating performances in the Prix St. Georges and Intermediate I earlier in the week, went three-for-three by winning Saturday’s Intermediate Freestyle and ultimately, the champion tricolor.
Ots and Lucky Strike, a 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Max Ots, performed their freestyle in the Kay Arena that featured music from the tv show ‘Mad Men’ as well as Frank Sinatra classics. The test was a real crowd pleaser, and earned the combination a score of 74.81%, three points higher than any of the other competitors. Their freestyle score, combined with their Prix St. Georges score of 74.5% and Intermediate I score of 73.853%, helped them finish with a total of 74.255% to take home the championship.
Last year, Ots and Lucky Strike were named the Markel/USEF Developing Prix St. Georges Dressage National Champions, and this year they stepped up to the Intermediaire I Championship following a year of successes, including being named to the U.S. Dressage Team for the Pan American Games.
Rebecca Rigdon and La Fariah, a 10-year-old Rhinelander mare owned by Rigdon and David Blake, claimed the reserve championship with a total score of 71.476%. Rigdon and La Fariah danced to music from ‘Claudio’ to earn a score of 73.85% in the freestyle, and prior to Saturday they earned a 70.294% in the Prix St. Georges and a 71.735% in the Intermediate I. Rigdon was invited to compete at the championships on a wild card after an injury following a qualifier for the Pan American Games earlier this year, and she was delighted that she and La Fariah were able to take home such a high placing after being out of the show ring since February.
Finishing in third place was Sara Hassler aboard Leslie Malone’s Harmony’s Boitano, a 13-year-old KWPN gelding. The pair earned a score of 72.005%, and combined with their Prix St. Georges score of 71.206% and their Intermediate I score of 69.088%, they earned a total of 70.373%. Hassler and Harmony’s Boitano rode in their first CDI competition in Florida together earlier this year, and she expressed how special it was to place so well in the division not long after the gelding came back from a suspensory injury, performing back at the top of his game again.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Endel Ots – Prix St. Georges for the USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Champion
On being a back-to-back champion:
“It has been wonderful! It is a great way to end a year that has been going super well and it really means a lot. My dad lives close by and to have him come by here and be able to see it. This has been great to come here for the four, five and six-year-olds and now the developing divisions. It has been wonderful and really a dream come true.”
On Lucky Strike’s withdrawing from the Pan American Games:
“I am pretty good at setting a boundary of feeling sorry for myself for a little bit of time but then I like to focus on goals, what’s next and where to do. It really helps me to not look backwards. Right when it happened I wanted to make sure he was okay, that there was nothing serious in there and that is was only superficial. I was very thankful for that. I tried to set clear goals and have a plan A to focus on and go for. It helps me to not look backwards because I can’t change anything that happened, I can only look forward and try to go for the next thing. I really try to be tunnel vision in that aspect. I was feeling pretty bad for 24 hours but I was like, ‘Okay, back to work’ to look for the next thing. I love Lamplight and I love coming here to see all of my friends from all over. It is a great experience.
Rebecca Rigdon – Prix St. Georges for the USEF Intermediaire Dressage Reserve National Champion
On her improvement:
“It is absolutely fantastic. Coming in here as a wild card from an injury after the qualifier for the Pan Am team was really hard – it felt like things were done for the year. I am so grateful to USEF for the opportunity. I could not be happier with her as well. She has grown up considerably in the last couple of years.”
On her freestyle:
“She has her own more upbeat freestyle but under the circumstances it was a bit last minute and I confess, I have never ridden that freestyle before for the very same reason of focusing on the Prix St George and the I1 so that the Freestyle is such a bonus. The choreography is very easy and I wanted to do that on purpose since she hasn’t shown since last February. I wanted to make it an easy experience for her and get her as relaxed as possible. I was super happy with her, she was really good.”
Sara Hassler – Prix St. Georges for the USEF Intermediaire Dressage National Championship third place
On being at the U.S. Festival of Champions:
“It is such an honor — look who I am sitting next to, it is pretty amazing! This horse and I did our first CDI in Wellington this year and he is only a year-and-a-half back from a terrible injury he had for quite a few years so his victory was getting here. It was huge. It is such an honor to have a horse like that to learn from and to allow me to ride with such incredible people that inspire me everyday! I honestly did not expect to come here and have this happen so I am just so grateful to his owner, she was so amazing to give me this opportunity. It is a once in a lifetime for me so I am extremely grateful.”
On her freestyle:
“I actually made the freestyle myself, choreography and music. I had never ridden it before and I actually did the last minute tweaks on it on the way down here in the truck while my dad drove so I am really glad it went okay! It was a really cool experience because this is actually my third freestyle I have ever ridden in my life so it was really fun and challenging. There were a few errors and I definitely could have done a lot better but I am still extremely happy that it went the way it did. Nothing glitched and it sounded like a real freestyle so I am excited about that.”
On her horses injury:
“He had two suspensory surgeries in the same leg and he also had a back injury at the same time. He ended up going to CSU in Colorado for about a year for healing. This Florida was his first season back, he was rehabbing all summer so its been a long ride and his owner was suggested to put him in a field to let him be done but she said that this horse is an opportunity for somebody and I am so grateful to be the one to do it.”
Results: USEF Intermediaire I Dressage National Championship
Rider / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Endel Ots / Lucky Strike / Max Ots / 74.5 / 73.853 / 74.810 / 74.255
2. Rebecca Rigdon / La Fariah / Rebecca Rigdon / 70.294 / 71.735 / 73.850 / 71.476
3. Sara Hassler / Harmony’s Boitano / Leslie Malone / 71.206 / 69.088 / 72.005 / 70.373
4. Anna Marek / Einstein JP / Anna Marek / 69.353 / 71.088 / 70.080 / 70.243
5. Katie Johnson / Paxton / Kylee Lourie / 68.735 / 70.824 / 71.9 / 70.15
6. Kristina Harrison / Finley / Kristina Harrison / 70.324 / 68.647 / 71.090 / 69.684