Gladstone to hold 2017 dressage championships

By Nancy Jaffer
November 15, 2016

The historic Gladstone headquarters of the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation will be hosting the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s FEI dressage championships May 18-21 2017, bringing them back to New Jersey after a two-year absence.

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Steffen Peters on Legolas and Laura Graves with Verdades at the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation in Gladstone for the 2014 Dressage Festival of Champions. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

Although the foundation does not bid for events, the USEF requested that the organization’s facility host the title meet. A search for a show organizer to handle the mechanics of the championships is under way.

The competition will include the Grand Prix, Intermediare I and Brentina Cup (for young adults). All of the country’s other dressage championships, including children, juniors, young riders and ponies, are going to Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Ill., during August.

“I think it’s absolutely fabulous,” Elisabeth Williams, chairman of the USEF’s high-performance dressage committee, said of having the championships being able to utilize the headquarters facility.

“Gladstone is Gladstone. Maybe for us old timers, it means a little bit more even than for others. I’m really glad we can do it there, and glad we can do it at that time of year, because then (the riders) can make it to the (summer) competitions in Europe where they need to be.”

Many people have asked when Gladstone would again host the championships, so it’s welcome news that they are returning. The three championships were held in Kentucky in 2015 and cancelled for October this year, after a change of the scheduled venue in California and lack of interest following the big push to the Rio Olympics.

Competitors will be happy to once again be in a place that has so much meaning for the sport.

“That’s awesome,” exclaimed Pan American Games team gold medalist Kim Herslow, who runs Upper Creek Farm in Stockton.

“I’m excited about it coming back to the team.” noted Kim, whose Rosmarin (known as Reno) is back in work after an operation in January. She is not sure when she will resume competing him, but commented, “depending on Reno, we’ll see how it all goes. I hope we can be there. I’ll definitely be there to watch if I’m not riding, because it’s just such a great place to be and see championships happen.”

Bonnie Jenkins, the foundation’s executive director, observed, “There couldn’t be a more perfect venue for this particular championship and we are well-suited for high-end championships that are not hundreds and hundreds of horses. This is ideally suited to that, and we can make it really special.”

The last time the championships were held in Gladstone, when they included the selection trials for the 2014 World Equestrian Games, Laura Graves emerged there as a star with Verades. After the memorable performance in Gladstone that really put her on the map, she went on to have the best U.S. performances at both the WEG and the 2016 Olympics, where she clinched the team bronze medal.

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Laura Graves and Verdades at the 2014 WEG selection trials in Gladstone. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

The championships will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the foundation’s building, a stable constructed by James Cox Brady in 1917 on his massive estate along the lines of Downton Abbey. A number of special activities are planned, so as Bonnie said, “it all fits together.”

Championships usually are awarded for a three-year run, but it was considered important to nail down 2017 before thinking about the other years. Bonnie said the foundation would like to host in 2018 and 2019 as well, though that is yet to be determined.

“I’m just very happy we have next year set and that gives us a little bit of breathing room to figure it out for the next couple of years,” Elisabeth said.

The dressage championships originally were part of the Festival of Champions, a multi-discipline show that began at what was then the home of the USET, before formation of the USEF in 2003, when the USET became a foundation with the responsibility of raising funds for international competition.

The foundation is looking for contributions and sponsors to help with staging the championships. Go to www.uset.org for more information.

May will be a big month for the Garden State, with the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event being held at the Horse Park of New Jersey the weekend before the dressage championships.

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