Wayne, Ill. – Aug. 22, 2020 – To wrap up the evening in the Young & Developing Horse arena, competitors in the Markel/USEF Developing Prix St. Georges Dressage National Championship returned to the arena for their final test. Keeping a hold of his lead from Thursday’s test, Christopher Hickey and Stenagers Wyatt Earp, owned by Cecelia Stewart rode away with the win.
Hickey and the 8-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding were awarded a score of 72.55% in their first test, worth 40% of their overall score for the championship. Bred by May-Birtt Chaistensen, Stenagers Wyatt Earp (Wilkens–Stenagers Santana, Sandro Hit) competed as a 6-year-old at the Longines FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Dressage Championships in Ermelo before being purchased by Stewart in October 2018. Though he typically trains with Anne Gribbons, Christine Traurig has been Hickey’s eyes on the ground this week.
“Today my horse was hotter, he was a little more electric,” Hickey explained. “My warm-up perhaps was a little too long, I could have shortened that so we had a few bobbles. He overtook me in one of the pirouettes and in a canter half-pass so there were a couple of mistakes. When he gets really electric and tight he can hike his hind legs up and be a little crazy-legged. There was a little bit of that, just a moment here and there so he wasn’t quite as relaxed today in the ring as he was the first day. He is a horse that gets hot and for a Grand Prix horse to be still going at the end of the test you need to have a horse that’s got some spice in it on its own. I really love that about him.
“He and I still have to get familiar with one another in this kind of venue with this championship feeling,” Hickey continued. “I have been taking my time with him and doing national shows, just having him be relaxed and calm. I think that’s really important for this horse. My coach Anne Gribbons wasn’t able to be here today and I know I would not be successful with this horse today if it wasn’t for Anne.”
Hickey detailed how special it is to have another talented young horse with such amazing quality and a promising future to continue along with in the Developing Horse Program. He also admitted that the experience of winning the championship reminded him of his previous partner Cabana Boy. Hickey and the 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Hilltop Farm won the division in 2010, but he was sadly euthanized after suffering a catastrophic injury in turnout a year later.
“Today when I came out of the ring and heard my scores, I got a little teary because it made me think of Cabana Boy,” he said. “Cabana Boy was really special to me — there is only one Cabana Boy in so many ways. This horse has more quality than Cabana Boy, but Cabana Boy was special to me and was special for Hilltop at that time.
“I think our programs [in the US] continue to get better and better. The coaches are fantastic, we are lucky to have such educated and passionate coaches in our sport and I hope that other people realize how lucky we are that these people care so much. Without the coaches and without the USEF staff who work so hard to make this happen, and the sponsors like Markel, who our horses are insured with, it really takes a village to get here. When you do well it makes all the difference. There are certainly plenty of low spots in this industry and this sport so when you have a high note it helps bring you through the low spots.”
Jennifer Wetterau and her own Hartog, an 8-year-old KWPN gelding (Apache–Bartoga, Scandic), also held their second place to take home the reserve championship. Scoring a 71.814% in the Preliminary test, their score of 70.042% in the Final Test was enough to give them an overall percentage of 70.751%.
“I am thrilled,” Wetterau said. “This is our third time here and I think I was the only amateur in the class. It’s been a lot of hard work. I have had him since he was coming four-years-old when I bought him with Sarah Lockman, who has been my coach the last five years. She has been with us for the journey along with Scott Hassler, and Lee Tubman has been an integral part of our training. It’s just really started to come together. He was gangly and looked like a Great Dane puppy when I bought him, so to see how he is growing into his body and getting more balanced and strong makes me really excited. He is such a good boy and tries really hard so I want to do him justice and show everyone what he is capable of.”
Due to the pandemic taking many pre-planned shows off her list, she was only able to attend a few qualifiers in California to prepare prior to the championship. Wetterau explained what a great experience the championship week has been despite the circumstances being far from normal, and noted how encouraging it was to have a group of West Coast riders attend as well.
“He is just coming into his first season of Prix St. Georges and I wanted to feel really confident,” she said. “The shows we planned on for April and May were cancelled so we attended our first show in June. It was a condensed season but we are really lucky in California to have enough shows that were qualifiers. This experience, even with the new protocols we have to have, is still really amazing. We have a great community of Californians here and it’s a lot of fun to all be here, it’s quite a journey for us! We flew the horses, which is a big investment of time and funds to get here, so we put a lot into this and it’s fun to see other people just as motivated. They did an amazing job organizing this championship, you can’t ask for much more as far as keeping everyone safe and making sure everyone is sticking to the rules.”
As an adult amateur, Wetterau balances her career with her passion for dressage by working remotely, enabling her to devote as much time to her horses as possible and continue to work towards her goals.
“I am in the medical sales industry and I am actually going into a digital marketing role shortly,” she explained. “My passion and my other business is called Dressage Horse Source, and it’s in dressage development and sales. I do it with Sarah [Lockwood] and I have done that for about four years. Since my role right now is remote, I get to bring my laptop to the barn and work from there. I am there six days a week, it’s pretty perfect. I had to find a career where I could make horses my priority. It’s really hard, I know a lot of amateurs don’t have the luxury of remote roles but with COVID, a lot of those roles are becoming more remote. Since I graduated college I have always picked a remote role so I can focus on my riding.”
Finishing in third place overall was Lindsey Holleger and Jennifer Vanover’s MW Ave Maria, a 7-year-old Oldenburg mare (Voice—Fiderline, Adertanz), with a total of 70.363%.
Competition will resume on Aug. 23 at 8 a.m. with the Six-Year-Old Final test.
Results: Markel/USEF Developing Prix St. Georges Dressage National Championship
Rider / Horse / Owner / Preliminary Test (40%) / Final Test (60%) / Total Score
1. Christopher Hickey / Stenagers Wyatt Earp / Cecelia Stewart / 72.255 / 71.958 / 72.077
2. Jennifer Wetterau / Hartog / Jennifer Wetterau / 71.814 / 70.042 / 70.751
3. Lindsey Holleger / MW Ave Maria / Jennifer Vanover / 69.471 / 70.958 / 70.363
4. Karen Lipp / Infinity / Karen Lipp / 69.951 / 69.667 / 69.781
5. Nicholia Clarke / Sir Amour / Schuttler Stables LLC / 69.363 / 70.042 / 69.77
6. Nora Batchelder / Fashion Week / Nora Batchelder / 69.51 / 69.708 / 69.629
Learn more about PS Dressage’s Markel/USEF Young & Developing Horse National Championship Sponsor, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation: Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation is the nation’s leading source of private funding for equine medical research benefiting all breeds of horses. Since 1983, Grayson-Jockey Club has individually provided more than $29.1 million to fund 384 projects at 45 universities in North America and overseas.