Marquette freshman wins national championship in dressage
By: Warren Mayes
Upchurch, 14, won multiple national titles.
“I started riding dressage about three years ago at Herbst Farms in Farmington, with trainer Andy Amsden,” Upchurch said.
Dressage means “training or to train” and it is mainly pattern work performed on the flat (groundwork).
“We do movements such as circles, lengthening strides and serpentine,” Upchurch said.
Upchurch competed on three horses in the 13 and under division, including her 20-year-old purebred Arabian gelding, Takhosabi (Tahko).
Astride Takhosabi, Upchurch won the National Champion First Level Dressage, and Top Ten First Level Dressage and Second Level Dressage
Upchurch also competed on Alada Motion, who is owned by Libby and Mindi Montgomery, of Fredericktown, Mo. Astride Alada Motion, she won National Champion First Level Dressage, National Reserve Champion Training Level Dressage and Top Ten Hunt Seat Equitation.
On Latest Buck, who is owned by Patricia Moore, Upchurch finished Top Ten Training and First Level Dressage as well as Top Ten in Hippology.
Her wins did not come easily.
“For the year leading up to the 2012 Youth National Show, I rode every day for an hour on my horse, and closer to the show I had three lessons a week with my trainer on my horse and the other two,” Upchurch said. “The training necessary for showing dressage is practicing your movements and getting the horse’s muscle built up to be able to perform the movements to the best of their abilities. We worked on different moves everyday over multiple exercises.
“The horse must be able to perform these movements in harmony with the rider while having impulsion, being submissive, and having freedom and regularity in their gaits.”
You have to be completely in synch with your horse. Anything from knowing how your horse rides in one arena verses another, and how much you can push them before they break are all important. Having harmony with the horse is one thing we receive a score for.”
Upchurch qualified for the national event through two different shows – one in Lake St. Louis and a regional show in Springfield, Ill.
“For dressage you have to earn either a first place, second place or two scores over a certain score to qualify for each division,” Upchurch said.
Her performance gained her admission to the nationals.
“We traveled to Albuquerque (N.M.) and spent 12 days preparing and finally competing,” Upchurch said. “I competed in the 13 and under division in Training Level, First Level and Second Level Dressage along with Hunt Seat Equitation.”
She had good success, too.
“I placed Reserve Champion on Alada Motion and fourth on Latest Buck in Training Level,” Upchurch said. “In First Level, I won two championships, one on Takhosabi in Junior Owner to Ride and one on Alada Motion. I also placed third on Latest Buck and fifth on Takhosabi in one First Level Test. In second level, I took fourth place on Takhosabi, and it was my first year in second level.
“In Hunt Seat Equitation, which is judged solely on the rider’s position, I placed fourth overall, but placed first, fourth, and 10th on the judges cards.”
Being able to compete at the national show was important to Upchurch.
“It was a great experience for me,” Upchurch said. “Showing at this high of a level has taught me to be dedicated to what I do and do it with all my heart. It was my third nationals, but so far the best.
“I won my first championship for me and Takho, which was great since it could be his last nationals. He is a very old horse to show at this high of a level. It was also my first time placing in Hunt Seat Equitation, which was great for me.”
The future for Upchurch in dressage is up for grabs, but she does have some big goals.
“My plans are undecided, but over the next four years in high school I hope to go up the levels in dressage and get to Fourth Level by my senior year,” Upchurch said. “Of course, I would always hope to keep competing and some day show in the World Equestrian Games and other prestigious equestrian events.
“Also my 2-year-old Alejandro (half Arabian/half Fresian gelding) will start on the flat in the fall of 2013,” Upchurch said. “He will be my next dressage horse, and I plan to go very far with him in the dressage world.”