Showstopping Half Sisters Rule the Night in US Dressage Finals Grand Prix Freestyle Open Championship

Lexington, Ky. – Nov. 9, 2019 – The Alltech Arena saw a field of 12 horse-and-rider combinations for Saturday evening’s highlight event, the US Dressage Finals Grand Prix Freestyle Open Championship. Jim Koford and crowd favorite Adiah HP arrived ready to defend their title in the division, and they would ultimately prove themselves unbeatable once again, adding a third consecutive freestyle championship to their rapidly growing list of career wins. Adding to the suspense of the evening, Adiah HP’s half-sister, Vashti, was also entered in the class with Kristin Wasemiller-Knutson, who wanted to give the colorful mare a run for her money.

Jim Koford and Adiah HP

Going third in the order of go, Koford rode his showstopper mount Adiah HP(Nico–Marije Ant), a 12-year-old Friesian Cross mare, to the tune of Pirates of the Caribbean for their freestyle, captivating the audience and racking up points for their degree of difficulty and interpretation of their music. Also being awarded several scores of 8 for their piaffe and passage work, tempi changes and entrance, they finished with a total score of 75.108%.

Bred by Sherry Koella of Dandridge, Tennessee, the unconventional mare with an eye-catching presence has a long resume of wins against many of the countries top warmbloods. The pair claimed the Grand Prix Open Championship for the second consecutive year on Friday afternoon, and also won the Grand Prix Freestyle Open Championship in both 2017 and 2018.

Riding into the ring for her freestyle later in the order of go and ultimately earning the reserve champion ribbon was Kristin Wasemiller-Knutson of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, aboard her own mare Vashti (Nico—Thekia). Though they have little physical resemblance,the 10-year-old mare is the younger half-sister to Adiah HP as they are both by the imported Friesian/Dutch Warmblood stallion Nico. Performing in perfect timing with catchy music from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Wasemiller-Knutson got everyone within earshot in the festive spirit, their steps right on beat with the music. Their musicality and challenging choreography, which included double pirouettes and one-handed piaffe and passage helped them creep up the leaderboard into second place just behind the mare’s half sister with a score of 72.358%.

Kristin Wasemiller-Knutson and Vashti

Finishing in third place was Michael Bragdell of Colora, Maryland, and Qredit Hilltop (Quarterback–Dream Rubina, Dream of Glory), an 11-year-old Oldenburg stallion. The combination was awarded a total score of 72.25% for their pop medley freestyle.

Michael Bragdell and Qredit Hilltop

Grand Prix Freestyle Open Championship
Rider / Horse / Total Score
1. Jim Koford / Adiah HP / 75.108
2. Kristin Wasemiller-Knutson / Vashti / 72.358
3. Michael Bragdell / Qredit Hilltop / 72.25
4. Heather Mason / RTF Lincoln / 72.2
5. Nora Batchelder / Wganster Girl / 70.267
6. Abraham Pugh / Elfenperfekt / 69.442


Jim Koford – Grand Prix Freestyle Open champion

Jim Koford and Adiah HP

On his win:
“It’s amazing. It’s such a privilege to ride her [Adiah HP.] This is such an amazing competition and I love being a part of it.”

On his ride:
“We had a couple bobbles tonight but she just goes in the ring and is on fire. The crowd was behind her. It all worked out in the end. It’s funny because I finished and was like ‘oh I handed it to someone else,’ but at the end of the day she goes in there, lights up and just goes for it. She loves the music and she loves the crowd. She really is quite a performer. When I was warming up, she was trying to get in the ring before it was time. It’s so funny to have a horse who really enjoys going in the show ring. It’s so rare and special. When we take her back to the barn it just humbles me because I guess I’m daddy protective, she is just everything that is good in life. She is kind, sweet and altruistic. It’s just so fun to be part of her life and her journey.”

On competing alongside Adiah HP’s sister Vashti:
“That was exciting. Their sire has produced so many Grand Prix horses. He had a short breeding career because he died in a fire, but it’s just amazing to see the talent he produced.”

Kristin Wasemiller-Knutson – Grand Prix Freestyle Open reserve champion

Kristin Wasemiller-Knutson and Vashti

On her ride:
“I’m super proud of her tonight. We came back from a not so great ride the night before, so I could not have been more pleased with her. We ended up getting pretty much all of our movements clean. There are always improvements to be made but I could not have been more pleased with how we were right on with the music. I did the choreography and music myself. It’s a brand new freestyle that I put together three weeks ago. I wanted to do something Christmasy, and this was pretty much my only chance to do that. I was thrilled it came together.”

On competing with Adiah HP, Vashti’s sister:
“It was so much fun. We talked about it for years just jokingly. Adiah has such a huge following and with Jim they are such crowd pleasers. It was the little sister coming in to fill some big shoes, so we have been in constant contact. Jim will come occasionally to Oklahoma to give clinics, and is always giving me pointers and tips on how to improve. It’s been a really positive rivalry and pushing each other forward.”

On her future plans:
“I am not quite sure yet. I think we will take some time off once we go home. I would like to do some CDIs in the spring and would love to get to the Florida circuit at some point. I have two kids so it’s a little tricky balancing the family life. I’m playing with maybe doing a breeding with her, I would like to do it at least once at some point.”

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