All in a Morning’s Work: Martin Kuhn and Ronin Win Two National Championship Titles at US Dressage Finals

Lexington, Ky. – Nov. 9, 2019 – Kicking off the third day of competition in the outdoor arenas, US Dressage Finals veteran Martin Kuhn of New Berlin, Illinois, braved the cold to ride his mount Ronin (Romanov Blue Hor–Something Royal, Sir Donnerhall I) to not one but two championship wins within a span of 30 minutes.

Martin Kuhn and Ronin

Bred in the U.S. by Marcia Boeing, the dark bay gelding won the 2018 Training Level Open Championship and the First Level Open Freestyle Championship with Kuhn. Most recently, before making this year’s trip to the Kentucky Horse Park, the pair brought home three GAIG/USDF Region 4 championship ribbons in the First Level Open, Second Level Open and Second Level Freestyle Championship divisions.

Kickstarting the day in the Second Level Open Freestyle Championship, Kuhn and Ronin, a 6-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by his wife Kathryn Fleming-Kuhn, were the first combination in the Murphy Arena. Braving the sub-30 degree weather, Ronin made quite a positive impression with the judges during his freestyle performance featuring Bastille’s ‘Pompeii’. With balanced simple changes and an expressive test, they received a 76%. Though fellow competitors tried their best to overcome the score, Ronin maintained his early lead throughout the remainder of the class to take his first win of the day.

Martin Kuhn and Ronin

After they laid down an unbeatable freestyle score, Kuhn and Ronin rode down to the Stonelea Arena to wow the new judging panel to score 77.13% in the First Level Open Championship. Judges rewarded the youngster for his elastic gaits and springy cadence throughout the test. Looking back on their partnership, Kuhn was quick to give his wife credit for her eye selecting Ronin as only a weanling. Though the couple originally did not have the financial opportunity to purchase him as a weanling, one of their students, Debra Klamen bought him for herself. However, earlier this year, the Kuhn traded Ronin with one of their own horses who was a better fit for the student, thus ensuring Ronin and Kuhn could continue developing up the levels.

Making the trip from Nokesville, Virgina, Donna Gatchell placed second in the Second Level Open Freestyle Championship on Margaret Groom’s Reflection (Ridley–Royal Beauty) with a score of 72.556%. The 6-year-old Weser-Ems oversized pony mare danced to a medley from Piano Guys with music designed by Debbie Marriot. Rounding out the top three was Jennifer Roth of Pataskala, Ohio, on her 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Hashtag TOP (Negro—Urania) with a 72.111%.

Donna Gatchell and Reflection

Finishing with the reserve in the First Level Open Championship, Jenna Upchurch of Chesterfield, Missouri, rode Dante Divino (Dante Weltino—Force Majeure, Furst Romancier) to a score of 74.954%. Upchurch, who rides with Kuhn at their home base and even put together his freestyle music, was excited both of them qualified for the finals and have the opportunity to compete in the same division. With the 6-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Upchurch nailed a consistent test and rode nice lengthenings that she explained had been a tricky area for them in training.

Jenna Upchurch and Dante Divino

Allison Cyprus of Magnolia, Texas, and Die Schnelle (Diamo Gold—Laetitia), a 4-year-old Westphalian mare owned by Ashlee Watts, took home third place in the First Level Open Championship with a score of 73.333%.

Second Level Freestyle Open Championship
Rider / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Martin Kuhn / Ronin / Kathryn Fleming-Kuhn / 76
2. Donna Gatchell / Reflection / Margaret Groom / 72.556
3. Jennifer Roth / Hashtag TOP / Jennifer Roth / 72.111
4. Kimberly Litwinczak / Fortissimo / Kimberly Litwinczak / 70.478
5. Reese Koffler-Stanfield / Marques WEC / Pamela McKee / 68.711
6. Emilee Spinelli / Zeppelin / Jeffery Murtha / 68.700

First Level Open Championship
Rider / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Martin Kuhn / Ronin / Martin Kuhn / 77.13
2. Jenna Upchurch / Dante Divino / Jenna Upchurch / 74.954
3. Allison Cyprus / Die Schnelle / Ashlee Watts / 73.333
4. Kristina Harrison / Juilliard DG / Emily Murray/ 72.546
5. Brianna Zwilling / For Dea Bella / Sally Miller / 72.407
6. Jennifer Roth / Hashtag TOP / Jennifer Roth / 71.713


Martin Kuhn – Second Level Freestyle Open Champion & First Level Open Champion

On his busy morning:
“It was about a half an hour between my rides so it was a little tight. The brisk air gave him a little extra juice so he was fun. He continues to be a real delight to train and work with. He’s the most talented young horse I’ve had to bring along. It’s a pleasure to work with him.”

Martin Kuhn and Ronin

On Ronin:
“He’s an amazing athlete, possibly the most talented young horse I’ve ever sat on. I’ve had the privilege to work with lots of horses who have ability, are willing and fun to ride, but on top of that, Ronin is easily the most athletic and elastic horse I’ve ever ridden. [As for his future] he will tell me when and what he is ready for.”

On his student, Jenna Upchurch, placing second:
“It was literally the happiest point of my day knowing she came in right behind us. I was told that one of the judges placed her first above me. Jenna was also the person who put my freestyle all together.”

Donna Gatchell – Second Level Freestyle Open Reserve Champion

On her performance:
“I was pretty happy with my ride today. It was very cold this morning and she was quite spooky when I first went in the ring. I had to ride my first few movements quite conservatively but then she relaxed. I felt we were on the music and overall I was happy with the ride.”

Donna Gatchell and Reflection

On Reflection:
“She’s 14.3 hh so she is considered an oversized pony. Kudos to ponies! I have one other pony in training in my barn that is actually here with his owner this weekend — he’s a German Riding Pony stallion. But she’s the only pony that I am riding and competing this year. I just love her. She is very willing and has a wonderful character. I’m excited for our future together.”

Jenna Upchurch – First Level Open Reserve Champion

On competing against her trainer, Martin Kuhn:
“We’ve competed against each other a couple of times. It’s fun to compete against him here. There is no one else I’d rather come second to. We’ve actually been working on his lengthenings a lot because they are a little weak. Today they were so even so even though they weren’t as expressive, I was really happy with them.”

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