Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Second Consecutive Regional Championship for Stanford Dressage

Stanford's dressage team headed to UC Davis for a doubleheader show on February 16 and 17, the last show weekend of the regular season. After a competitive pair of shows and a race to the finish for regional points, the team emerged with its second consecutive regional championship for IDA Region U. After tying with Cal Poly for the championship in 2012 (and after a tiebreaker that did not go in Stanford's favor), the successful weekend and regular season means that Stanford Dressage will make its first trip to IDA Nationals in April.

After the riders drew their team of horses (called "sheep" in homage to Davis' agricultural focus) on Saturday, senior Kristen Malinak started Stanford's day off on the right foot, earning a 70.7% on the 22 year-old Arab Bailey to land her firmly in first place in a large and competitive division. Freshman Maria Filsinger, competing as an individual in First Level, rode the colorful Ohelo to a respectable second place behind Malinak with a 69.2%.

Freshman Maria Filsinger and Ohelo at First Level

Senior and team captain Patrick Freeman rode beautifully on what turned out to be a very challenging ride in the Upper Training division for a fourth place finish. Next up was multi-talented sophomore Tori Greenen (who also rides for Stanford's IHSA hunt seat team) in Lower Training. Greenen put in a solid ride on a somewhat reluctant mount to finish in second place in her division.

Sophomore Tori Greenen in Upper Training

Finishing the day in style was graduate student Monika Huss, who again showed that any horse can become a dressage horse by giving the Western-trained Sassi the ride of her life to finish with a strong second place in Intro. At the end of the day, Stanford finished in first place, maintaining its lead for the regional championship.

Sunday brought a tougher day to the Stanford team, but not for Malinak, who proved her ability to ride any mount -- regardless of size -- by earning a solid third place at First Level aboard Butterscotch. Filsinger rode the aptly named Fire to an energetic fifth place finish in that division. 

Senior Kristen Malinak and Butterscotch showing some stretchy trot

Freeman again suffered somewhat from the short end of the draw stick, but managed again to ride with tact and empathy on a challenging horse to finish in fourth -- and earning a well-deserved 8 for his rider score.

Senior and team captain Patrick Freeman shows the working trot for the judge

Unfortunately for Greenen, some confusion with the IDA rules led to a withdrawal from her Lower Training ride. However, her ride on the feisty Johnny was well executed, and examination of her test showed many 7's and 6.5's. To close up the day in customary excellence was Huss, who rode Raiza to a strong second place finish in Intro. At the end of the day, Stanford finished in a respectable fourth place. 

Graduate student Monika Huss and Raiza showing off their walk-trot skills

However challenging the results on Sunday, the regional point race -- or the summation of each team and individual's performance over their four best shows of the five this season -- left Stanford in the lead as regional champions of Region U. Furthermore, senior Kristen Malinak ended the year as First Level regional champion, and graduate student Monika Huss earned the title of regional Intro champion as well. The team now turns to training for the IDA National Dressage Championships in late April, where it is eager to represent the Cardinal at its first-ever dressage Nationals appearance.

Champions of Region U: Greenen, Huss, Coach Rachel Williamson, Malinak, and Freeman (from left to right)