Wayne, IL – August 26, 2016 – Endel Ots and the Hanoverian gelding Lucky Strike (Lord Laurie-Heidi, His Highness) are no strangers to young horse championships. In 2015, the pair was selected to represent the United States at the FEI World Dressage Championships in Verden, Germany, where they finished 11th in the 5-Year-Old Final.
After returning home to Wellington, Florida, with international experience, Ots focused on his next goal: competing at the 2016 FEI World Dressage Championships in Ermelo, Netherlands, and the Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse National Championships in Wayne, Illinois. After a whirlwind season, he can cross both accomplishments off his check list.
In July, Ots and Lucky Strike, who he co-owns with his father, Max Ots, competed in Ermelo, but he was less than thrilled with his results. Endel Ots explained how he wanted to refocus on the U.S. Championships at Lamplight Equestrian Center to redeem himself for Lucky Strike.
“I wasn’t happy with how I rode in Europe and I learned to not try so hard!” Ots laughed. “When I was over there I tried too hard and pushed a little too hard. If I try too hard or go even bigger, it gets in his way and it doesn’t work very harmoniously. In this sport, you can want it a little too much, and I wanted it a little too much instead of letting him show himself off.”
On Thursday, Aug. 26, at the Lamplight Equestrian Center, Ots and Lucky Strike impressed the judges in their 6-year-old Preliminary Test, and they came away with a win on a score of 8.64. One judge commented that it was the best test she has seen him ride on Lucky Strike, and they rewarded him with submission and prospective scores of 9.0.
“I was so happy and I let him show everyone what type of horse he is,” Ots said. “He is such a good boy and he really tried for me. He knows his job and really likes his work. The only thing I would change would be in the medium walk, because I could have ridden it more forward and I was being conservative.”
Coming in second place was Cesar Parra on his Westphalian gelding Don Cesar with a score of 8.28. Don Cesar earned a top placing in last year’s 5-year-old championship with Katie Riley.
“I couldn’t ask for more, he gave me everything,” Parra said. “He is an amazing horse and I love him. Normally he is a little bit on the hot side, so the walk can sometimes be an issue, but today he got an 8.8 for the walk, so I was thrilled.”
Michael Bragdell and Sternlicht Hilltop rounded out the top three with a score of 7.98. The Hanoverian stallion was bred in the United States and Bragdell started to ride him as a 3-year-old when Hilltop Farms purchased him.
“I was really happy with how he was in the ring,” Bragdell said. “He was pretty confident in the ring, and the more I went along, the more I risked it. He has that charisma and presence, and it comes out in his gaits. I love the balance of his canter and the judges rewarded that.”
Developing Grand Prix Division
Holger Bechtloff came away with a win after his Intermediare II, which is the first test for the Developing Grand Prix Division, on Peggy Mill’s 9-year-old KWPN gelding Clapton JP (UB40-Liana, Ramiro Z). The duo earned a score of 65.351 percent.
“He definitely went nicely forward, especially in the extensions. All week, I’ve had the one tempis down, like in my sleep, and of course that was the movement we lost completely,” Bechtloff laughed. “I will spend more concentration on that on Sunday [for the final], but I’m not going to push, and I’ll work with what I have.”
Bechtloff resides in Wellington, Florida, year round, and Clapton JP has had success throughout his career in the young horse pipeline. For the past six years he has competed at the national championship every year, including here at the Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse National Championships and the US Dressage Finals.
“[The young horse program] is very insightful,” Bechtloff explained. “With all my young horses, even the ones I don’t compete here, I like to keep them in their year in their development, and how you prepare their training.”
Jane Karol placed second with a score of 64.167 percent on her 9-year-old Oldenburg mare Sunshine Tour. She purchased the chestnut mare as a 4-year-old, and the pair was the reserve national champion in the 6-year-old division three years ago. Karol thought the highlights of her test was their passage and trot half-pass, which she attributes to her lessons with Scott Hassler over the past few years.
“Sunshine is a very sensitive horse, but I felt like she was right with me,” Karol said. “I had a canter out of the piaffe that was my fault because I put my leg back too far. She was waiting and listening, but my aids were not quite exact enough. I want to improve the transition going into my extended work. Because she is so sensitive she gets a little tight and I created too much tension, and I’d like to work on keeping that more supple and fluid, but powerful.”
After earning a score of 63.684 percent, Noel Williams and Melissa Mulchahey’s 10-year-old Westphalian gelding Sir Velo placed third. Williams had not competed at these championships for 10 years, but Sir Velo had competed as a 4- and 5-year-old with her father, George Williams.
“He’s a super horse!” Williams said. “I was really happy with the trot work. The piaffe could have been more active but it’s one of the areas where he is green and needs more guidance in the ring. I was happy with how it stayed fairly consistent.”
Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse National Championship Results
6-Year-Old Preliminary Test
1. Endel Ots/Lucky Strike/8.64
2. Cesar Parra/Don Cesar/8.28
3. Michael Bragdell/Sternlicht Hilltop/7.98
4. Daniela Banner/Leviana/7.28
5. David Wightman/Silberpfeil/7.22
6. Angela Jackson/Figaro H/7.22
7. Nicholia Clarke/Fling/7.14
8. Jana Wagner/Willow/6.94
1. Holger Bechtloff/Clapton JP/65.351
2. Jane Karol/Sunshine Tour/64.167
3. Noel Williams/Sir Velo/63.684
4. Petra Warlimont/Highschool MCF/62.061
5. Debbie Hill/Showdown/61.272
6. Abraham Pugh/Elfenperfekt/59.535
7. Jim Koford/Doctor Wendell MF/58.789
8. Pam Aide/Don De Niro/54.737