Lexington, KY – November 13, 2014 – Two young horses bred and owned by Doug and Louise Leatherdale of Leatherdale Farms made a big impression at the US Dressage Finals, held Nov. 6-9 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Mike Suchanek rode Fleur de Lis L and Hero L to top placings in the horses’ first major championship outing.
Fleur de Lis L, a 5-year-old Hanoverian mare (First Dance-EM De La Rosa, De Niro), captured the reserve championship in the highly competitive Training Level Open division with a score of 74.667 percent. The championship class, held on Friday, brought together 18 of the top Training Level horses from around the country.
For her great effort in Kentucky, Fleur de Lis L won the US Dressage Finals High Score Breed Award for an American Hanoverian competing at the national levels in the Open division. Another highlight of the show was the mare’s outstanding score of 77.800 percent in a non-championship Training Level Test 3 class.
“She comes out with a winning attitude and wants to show herself off,” Suchanek said. “She’s a pretty simple, straightforward mare, and she keeps progressing. I was very pleased with how she performed here.”
Fleur de Lis L inherited several of the outstanding traits of her sire, Leatherdale stallion First Dance, who stands at Hengststation Jens Meyer in Dorum, Germany. Her eagerness to work and rideability have helped her succeed at a young age.
“I’ve been so impressed with all of the First Dance babies on the farm,” Jessi Lash, performance horse manager at Leatherdale Farms’ Minnesota facility, said. “They’re very smart and really uncomplicated, talented and willing. We’d like more of those!”
Also performing well at the US Dressage Finals was Hero L, a 7-year-old Hanoverian gelding (His Highness-Waterlily L, Wolkenstein II). He scored 71.882 percent for a strong fourth place finish in the First Level Open Championship and earned a respectable 70.133 percent to take ninth place in the Training Level Open Championship. While in Kentucky, he also won a large Training Level Test 3 warm-up class with a score of 72.800 percent.
Hero L’s success at the US Dressage Finals was made all the more impressive by his minimal experience in the show ring: the Finals were just the third show of his career. In an atmosphere that put many more seasoned horses on edge, Hero L stepped up to the challenge with no trouble.
“He’s got the good His Highness brain,” Lash said. “There’s not much that surprises him. Like his sire, he is smart, willing and talented.”
Hero L earned his name by overcoming a challenging start to life. His dam rejected him, but with a Belgian draft nurse mare giving him plenty of love, he matured into a promising young horse.
He competed in his first show in August 2014 somewhat by chance – Lash had an extra spot on the trailer and decided to bring him along to see how he would do in his first outing off the farm. He rewarded his connections by earning two scores over 83 percent at Training Level and First Level and qualifying for the Great American/USDF Region 4 Championships, where he earned his ticket to Kentucky for the Finals.
“He learns quickly,” noted Suchanek, who has brought Hero L along since the gelding was 3. “He’s grown so fast that his body is just catching up to his mind. This is only the third show for him, but it just fell into place.”
Competing either horse at the US Dressage Finals seemed unlikely at first given that Suchanek’s wife had a baby just four weeks ago.
“We were absolutely not going to come here – Mike had some other things on his schedule,” Lash laughed. “But the night before he competed at Regionals, I thought, ‘I’ll just nominate them, just in case.’ And then I thought, ‘I’ll just declare, just in case.’ Like Mike said, it’s fun to win! Let’s keep going!”
Suchanek said they decided it was worth the trip to give the horses experience as well as show them off for their owners.
“The Leatherdales have been really pleased and happy with their progress,” Suchanek said. “I’m very honored to be here and thankful for the opportunity from Doug and Louise Leatherdale to show their horses.”