Lexington, Ky. - Nov. 23, 2016 - After a stellar year competing across the Midwest and earning the USDF Breeder of the Year award, Leatherdale Farms made the long trek to the Kentucky Horse Park to compete at the prestigious US Dressage Finals, presented by Adequan. The talented Leatherdale Farm horses claimed two national championships and two reserve championships in Lexington. All five horses are homebreds by Louise Leatherdale's stallions including Damsey FRH, His Highness and E.H. Herzensdeib.
Rider Mike Suchanek, coach Alison Sader Larson and the Minnesota farm's performance horse manager, Jessi Lash, teamed up to present the horses in top form and conclude their stand out competition season.
In the large Intermediate 1 Open Championship Suchanek was the final rider down centerline. He saved the best for last with Hero L (His Highness-Waterlily L, Wolkenstein II) as the top spot went to the 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding with a score of 71.798 percent. Suchanek and Hero L qualified at the Region 4 Championships in Mason City, Iowa, where they earned the Prix St. Georges champion and Intermediate 1 champion.
A bobble down the first centerline in the Alltech Arena did not damper Suchanek's quiet confidence with Hero L.
"I thought, 'You have to pick him up and come together for this. You need to move forward, look ahead and you will get better,'" Suchanek explained. "I focused on my riding and my horse, and I was very proud of his ability to finish the test like he did. The pirouettes really came together for this test."
Having already earned the Intermediate I Open title, Suchanek and Hero L added the Prix St. Georges Open reserve championship honors to their resume.
"I have a special connection with Hero because he was the first horse I started as a 3-year-old when I began training for the Leatherdales," Suchanek said. "I'm so proud of him. It's been amazing to work our way up to the FEI levels together. We have built a strong bond over the years."
The five-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Hannigan L (E.H. Herzensdieb-Pia Colada, Pik L) lead the victory lap around the Alltech Arena after winning the Second Level Open Championship with a 70.163 percent. The pair had the only performance to break the 70 percent barrier in the class.
"Hannigan was initially a little excited in the warm-up with the musical freestyles taking place in another ring, but he settled and the ride went perfectly," Suchanek explained. "He likes to perform and I had a lot of fun out there. The Second Level work comes easy for him. He has the gaits and the stature to pull it off. His canter work is very good and he's very well balanced. I couldn't have been more pleased with him."
The bustling environment at the US Dressage Finals can pose a challenge for even the most seasoned competitors, but Leatherdale Farms' young horses remained undaunted. In the First Level Open Championship, Suchanek rode three horses to top ten finishes. The 5-year-old Hanoverian mare, Duchess L (Damsey-De La Rosa, De Niro), completed a beautiful test and claimed the reserve championship with a 73.627 percent.
"I am very proud of Duchess," Suchanek said. "I started her last year after I returned from US Dressage Finals, so this was her first year showing. She was uphill and powerful in her mediums today. She was very supple throughout the entire test and more confident today in the show ring. Duchess is such a sweet mare and I can't wait to see how her future progresses."
Fighting Chance L (First Dance-EM Helia, Hohenstein), a 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding placed fifth with a 71.912 percent, and the 5-year-old Hanoverian mare Delta L (Damsey-Weltbekanna L, Weltbekannt) finished seventh with a 69.902 percent.
"It is quite an achievement to have three of our horses in the top 10 at the national championships, especially since the two 5-year-olds are competing for the first time this year," Suchanek explained. "I love these youngsters! They really showed off their talents for me this week. I'm so happy to have this success for Louise Leatherdale."
In the Training Level Open Championship, the young mares continued to thrive and show off their talents to the judging panel. Duchess L placed fourth with a 73.561 percent and Delta L placed 10th with a 70.985 percent.
"I had no idea we could top our success from US Dressage Finals last year, but Team Leatherdale certainly did!" Leatherdale Farms' Performance Horse Manager, Jessi Lash, explained. "From our top placings at the Markel/USEF Young & Developing Young Horse Championships and Region 4 Championships to earning multiple USDF Year-End Awards, winning two national championships and two reserve championships here at Finals have been the icing to the cake.
"There is so much talent wrapped up in Mike [Suchanek] and Alison [Sader Larson]," Lash continued. "The Leatherdales have bred top quality athletes and Louise supports our team every step of the way. We are all very proud to bring home wins for her."