Lexington, Ky. – Nov. 11, 2018 – On the final day of competition, riders took to the ring bright and early to vie for this year’s title of US Dressage Finals Third Level Freestyle Adult Amateur champion. Numerous horse and rider combinations danced to their choreographed freestyle music to impress the judges, but it was Tricia Earley of Fort Worth, Texas, and her 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding, San Angelo, who scored 71.856 percent to claim the championship.
Earley, a small animal veterinarian for over 20 years, had always dreamed of riding horses as a child but never had the opportunity. However, when her daughter requested riding lessons, Earley jumped at the idea and took her first lesson at the age of 40. She started competing in beginner novice eventing trials but quickly realized the sport was not for her. She decided to focus solely on dressage and find a horse that she could progress with. She tagged along with on her friend’s horse shopping trip to Sweden last year and fell in love with San Angelo, who she fondly calls Sammy.
Showing throughout Region 9, Earley was successful and qualified for the regional championships in Texas. She explained that her decision to travel to the US Dressage Finals this November was last minute, but one that she was happy to have made for the new experience she has gained. The pair’s winning freestyle featured catchy orchestral music covering songs from Ed Sheeran, Walk the Moon and Imagine Dragons, which fit the gelding’s personality well.
Taking home the reserve championship was Judith Nordstrom of Springfield, Illinois, and Esteban. Nordstrom found the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding in Wellington, Florida, in 2016 after he was imported from the Netherlands. A full-time ultrasound technician by profession, Nordstrom competed and qualified in Region 4 this year to make it to the finals. She enjoyed riding Esteban to the theme music of Maverick, a TV show popular in the 1950s, to earn a score of 68.844 percent.
Sara Stone of Lake in the Hills, Illinois, rounded out the top three finishers in the championship with her 7-year-old American Warmblood gelding Gotham, earning a score of 68.278 percent.
Results: Third Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Championship
Rider / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Tricia Earley / San Angelo / Tricia Earley / 71.856
2. Judith Nordstrom / Esteban / Judith Nordstrom / 68.844
3. Sara Stone / Gotham / Sara Stone / 68.278
4. Carol Lippa / Bella Mondo / Carol Lippa / 67.756
5. Alexandra Krossen / Don Perignon / Heather Mason / 67.567
6. Kendall Brookhart / Rianna / Kendall Brookhart / 67.322
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Tricia Earley – Third Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Champion
On her ride:
“It was a long haul [from Texas] but I’m happy to be here. We were in the Alltech [Arena] today. It was quite an atmosphere in there. It is a lovely place and my first time riding in that arena. It was a lot of fun being in that arena. Personally, the highlight was we had a little spook before we went in but we got it together. I was very proud of him for how came back to me after the bobble. We were worried about his halfpasses, but it was like he was listening to the music. He did very well.”
On preparing for the US Dressage Finals:
“The nice thing is ignorance is bliss. I’ve never been in an arena like that at all. To be quite honest, I only started doing dressage a few years ago. Last year I had not even heard about the US Dressage Finals. This is all very new for me and I didn’t know what to expect. A friend gave me advice because suddenly I was very nervous schooling in there with wonderful riders and the atmosphere was electric. She told me, ‘Take a second and look around — you are in the Alltech Arena.’ And I did and suddenly everything changes when you realize how lucky I am to do be here. It was really calming.”
On her riding background:
“I just started riding as an adult. I always wanted to as an child but never could. When my daughter asked to take horseback riding lessons, I said, ‘Can I come and learn too?’ I started at the age of 40 with my very first lesson of how to put a saddle on. I tried eventing and competed beginner novice for a few years. I quickly realized that that was not the sport for me at all and never would be. I found it terrifying but I loved the dressage portion of it. A couple years ago I thought to myself, ‘Why am I trying to do something I am clearly not cut out for?’ So I started in dressage and I have loved every minute of it.”
On her horse:
“I’ve only had San Angelo for about a year. I went to Sweden with a friend who was looking, but when she tried him, I thought I would really love a horse just like that. His eye was so kind and he was constantly trying to figure out what the rider was asking and do his best. I thought ‘That’s the horse I’d love to have one day.’ Shortly after that I found myself needing a horse and found he was still on the market. I bought him without ever having ridden him. There was something about his year and it was meant to be. He got here almost exactly one year ago.”
On her freestyle:
“I wanted music to be recognizable, modern and fun, but I also wanted it to be lovely because he is a very elegant mover. My husband actually found the music. It’s a group called ‘Simply 3’ and they do cover music to popular songs but they use strings. It fit his personality.”
On deciding to compete at the US Dressage Finals:
“Actually it was a last minute decision because we were doing well and qualified for regionals. Of course, I had never been to regionals so we tried that. My coach informed me that we qualified for Finals. It seemed like a daunting task and very intimidating. I had no idea what to expect. You never know when you will have an opportunity again and we thought we would try. You just never know. I’m so glad we tried. It’s been a wonderful experience. Sammy travelled well and my husband has been the best show husband ever. You know you are lucky when your husband is walking your horse in 20-degree weather.
Judith Nordstrom – Third Level Freestyle Adult Amateur Reserve Champion
On her performance:
“I was a little nervous before the ride but when I got on I had a really calming feeling, like he was with me from the start. I think he calmed my nerves and hopefully I helped him too. It was the first time we competed in that setting as well and it was overwhelming. I felt pretty good going in. We had a bobble going into the canter, which sometimes happens because he gets anxious, but he came right back. One of the highlights I think for us was after that we did an extended canter straight for the judge.”
On riding in the Alltech Arena:
“It’s hard to prepare for that venue. I was lucky to receive an award a few years ago in [the Alltech Arena] but we didn’t make it around [during the awards]. We’ve come a long way!”
“We have come a long way. He was a lot more energetic than what I have ridden before. It was a steep learning curve.”