Wayne, Ill. – Aug. 24, 2019 – The final class of the day at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions, the Grand Prix 16-25 Freestyle for the USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Championship, took place in the Kay Arena at Lamplight Equestrian Center, drawing a crowd of spectators eager to watch horse-and-athletes dance to their freestyle routines. In the end, it was Claire Manhard who earned the total highest score of the championship with her mount Wilfonia to be named the new 2019 ‘Brentina Cup’ champion.
Manhard and Wilfonia, her own 16-year-old KWPN mare, made the journey from Cardiff, California, to compete in the championships along with her barn friend Anna Buffini and their trainer, Olympian Guenter Seidel. Although Manhard also competed in the Brentina Cup last year, she did not feel that she and Wilfonia were quite prepared to perform to the best of their ability. She reflected on all the progress that they have made as a pair in the last year, and thanked Seidel and Buffini for helping support her every step of the way to ultimately become the 2019 champion.
Manhard rode to a freestyle routine that her brother, a professional DJ, helped her produce with a techno vibe. Her final centerline in the piaffe and passage, with a beat that matched almost perfectly to her mount’s step, had the whole audience clapping to the rhythm. The judges awarded Manhard and Wilfonia a score of 68.45% for their freestyle, and combined with their Intermediate II score of 68.912% and their Grand Prix 16-25 score of 67.564%, they finished with an average of 68.236% to secure the win.
Buffini of San Diego, California, rode her own Wilton II to the reserve championship title to a selection of 80s music. Buffini was crowned the Brentina Cup champion in 2016 with her now-retired mount Sunday Boy, as well as the reserve championship with Wilton II the same year. She was happy to return with Wilton after he had been out of training for a period of time and take home such a high placing. Her Intermediate II score of 68.738%, her Grand Prix 16-25 score of 66.59% and her freestyle score of 71.525% helped her earn a 68.189% overall average for the reserve.
Hope Cooper on Concord, Massachusetts, rode Mary Mansfield’s Hot Chocolate W into third place following the freestyle class. Cooper and Hot Chocolate W, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding, danced to a freestyle routine put together by Karen Robinson that featured her favorite song, Vivir Mi Vida by Marc Anthony. Her Intermediate II score of 67.824%, Grand Prix 16-25 score of 67.103% and freestyle score of 68.81% gave her an overall average of 67.647% to take third place.
Results: USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Championship
Rider / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Claire Manhard / Wilfonia / Claire Manhard / 68.912 / 67.564 / 68.450 / 68.236
2. Anna Buffini / Wilton II / Anna Buffini / 68.738 / 66.59 / 71.525 / 68.189
3. Hope Cooper / Hot Chocolate W / Mary Mansfield / 67.824 / 67.103 / 68.810 / 67.647
4. Lauren Asher / West Side / 63.618 / 69.026 / 67.575 / 66.645
5. Kerrigan Gluch / Vaquero HGF / Hampton Green Farm / 68.706 / 63.923 / 67.860 / 66.427
6. Anna Weniger / Don Derrick / Dawn Weniger / 67.588 / 65.282 / 65.10 / 66.177
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Claire Manhard – USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage National Champion
On being a national champion:
“It is incredible and I am so surprised. It is amazing to see how far I have come in a year. When I was here last year I felt all over the place, and this year I felt like I really knew what I was doing. It is crazy to be considered a national champion, I am so grateful for that experience and title. To be riding with great people like Hope and Anna is crazy and so cool.”
On her test:
“We have actually never ridden to this music until today because we just ended up not having enough time to do it. My brother [John Manhard], who is a DJ, made the music and I helped him put it together. He gave his opinion on the bpm and all the technical stuff while I said ‘I want a passage to this beat and this for the ones’ so he really helped me with that. I think it went pretty well considered we haven’t ridden through that music. It was super fun. I love the last centerline – I thought it was a really upbeat dance house kind of centerline – I loved it.”
On where she is headed next:
“I think Anna and I are both going to try the Grand Prix for a little. My mare is 16 so I am going to try it for as long as possible because this is my last year in U25 now – that was my last U25 test actually. I am going to take a stab at the Open Grand Prix.”
Anna Buffini – USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage reserve champion
On being reserve champion:
“It is incredible to be able to come back and to be riding Wilton, period. In 2017 he became pretty wild, unrideable and dangerous. He was in a field and retired for what was supposed to be forever. Guenter [Seidel] has been incredible in his teaching so we started him back and he has come back better than ever. To be able to come back and not just ride but be second is incredible. You look back on some things and think ‘If I could have done a couple things better then I could have done better.’ But being here is just a win and there is no one I would rather be second to than Claire. We train together everyday, get our nails done, we do everything together. I see how hard she works and we push each other to make each other better under Guenter’s incredible training. To be back here and second with a horse I thought I would never ride again is a dream come true.”
On her test:
“I love old school music so that is why I went with the 80s. I was actually able to record me singing Hallelujah for my walk music, which was so fun. Horses and music are my two passions so to have them together is amazing. The trot music was some fun 80s music that Marie Manoski helped me put together. I always want to make freestyles entertaining for the people and judges. I think it is just more conducive in getting people to come and getting more eyes on the sport. Anything we can do to push the sport out there and make it more entertaining for people who don’t know dressage or know what is happening is always a good idea.”
On where she is headed next:
“I think we will do as many Grand Prixs as we can but I think he is nearing the end of his career and given me all he can. I can’t ask much more as he is at the peak of his career to come back from what he had. He has never done the Grand Prix so we are going to try a couple of those and then thankfully I have another top horse coming along that I am really excited about. He will tell me when he is done so then he will get to live in a field somewhere.”
Hope Cooper – USEF Young Adult ‘Brentina Cup’ Dressage third place
On being third:
“I still feel very new to this and Chocolate is very new at this too. With my mom, Jane Karol, and Juan Matute’s help it has been amazing to work through the season to get to where we are. I am also surprised [to be here]! Chocolate is an incredibly generous partner to dance with but again, he is super new to this so whenever I can get in the ring I am so proud of him. It is just so incredible to be sitting next to two of the most amazing U25 riders. It is an honor.”
On her test:
“My favorite song ever is Vivir Mi Vida by Mark Anthony and I talked to Karen Robinson who created the freestyle about loving the song. Hot Chocolate is sort of a spicy horse and I wanted to accentuate that in him and I thought that song does that. His owner, Mary Mansfield, who is an amazing person and I am so lucky that she lets me ride her horse, loves Spanish music and Marc Anthony so it was a good fit!”
On where she is headed next:
“Chocolate is 14 and I will be 23 this year so we hopefully have a few more years left but you never know with horses. I hope we have two more years left. Sadly, I had to scratch my other horse Don Diamond after the first day because of a long history of medical issues that he has had but with really amazing vet care he is totally fine, he just didn’t feel quite like himself. I am hoping to be sitting in Claire or Anna’s spot next year with one of those two. My mom has also generously given me the ride on her Grand Prix horse Sunshine so I will be doing the U25 with her next year too.”