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Don't Miss This Great Show in 2013. The Largest Dressage Show in USA in 2012. A Look Back at NEDA Fall Festival 2012 - A Well Run Event

An auspicious start to day one tested the experienced staff of the New England Dressage Association out of the gate in the Young Horse Championships when a handler took a nasty fall while leading a foal. Taking place at the HITS showgrounds in Saugerties, New York last September 13-16, a facility which as most of you know is of major size, there was some distance to cover. But the medics arrived quickly. The technical delegate (TD) Francis Verbeek also promptly arrived on the scene and while the medics took care of transport to the local hospital for the sporthorse handler, Francis headed off to the office for an accident report form. Where guess what? SHE also took a spill.

As she entered the office she tripped on the step and went flying. The office staff were quick to advise her to stay put, and she was understandably nervous to get up without help because she had just recovered from hip surgery. Medics were called yet again. The TD was sat down carefully in a chair. Thankfully Francis was apparently O.K. though a bit shaken up. With true British grit she soon bravely announced that she was ready to gather her forms and head back to the ring. I can tell you as a fellow Brit I wanted to find her a strong cup of tea with sugar first. Needless to say two of us insisted that we help her down the stairs to her golf cart - no need for a third accident to happen. And this was the start of the show. Well, best get those hiccups out of the way. The handler was back on the grounds by the afternoon wearing a knee brace and was understandably very frustrated not to be able to handle his clients horses for that big day. But everyone mucked in to cover the handling and hopefully he has now made a full recovery.

Beth Jenkins, who has worked tirelessly for this organization for many years now, was darting about in her golf cart, attending to the details like the pro she is known to be. Centerline Events ran the office smoothly and Debra Carr-Kirk headed up an army of very diligent and educated volunteers. While extremely professional announcements were heard in Ring 1 from the wonderful Cyndi Kurth, an experienced CDI level announcer in both dressage and also FEI Eventing, I managed to capture her in this photo in a moment of quiet, she grinned with surprise and wagged her finger telling me off - but too late. The shot is the shot, and she looks lovely doesn't she?

Talking of photos that day - I would like to give a shout out to the iconic Carole MacDonald who was working as one of the Official Photographer Team members. We worked alongside each other for several hours at the Young Horse ring - and both agreed that folks really need to pay attention and remember to smile WHEN they are posing for the picture and the photographer is talking to them. As she said to me, " It's their day, their moment, and I can't get them to smile." Oh well - we also captured some of the more boisterous moments during the day - which is always easy with young horses about - and Carole was extremely generous sharing her knowledge of photography with me. A true professional that lady.

The Breed Show Sweepstakes were closely contested - and it was great to see the incredible young talent on the floor. Renowned breeder Kathy Hickerson won Colts/Geldings/Stalions with Harpo MG. Leading up to this Championship Final, the lovely colt MW Feinermark handily won the 2 year old class. Owned by local Catskill breeder Jen Vanover of Maplewood Farms. Jen and her team were thrilled with his 86.7% score from judges Janet Foy and William Solyntjes. There was some very good handling by some professionals like the Portuguese Phil Silva (the show after this he started wearing protective head gear, very sensible) and amateurs alike. Elizabeth Hotchkiss won out with her also Dutch horse Royal Dancer in the Fillies/Mares. Grand Champion here went to an Oldenburg though, the stallion Rocazino owned by Wie Studnitz Anderson. The German and Dutch bloodlines always seem to shine through. Having been a breeder of both myself, starting out with Hanoverians and then switching to Dutch, I must confess a certain bias as a reporter, particularly enjoy watching the young horses go!

There were the usual array of competition riding classes at all levels. Cesar Parra with his Dutch gelding Van the Man, owned by Michael Davis took home the CDI Grand Prix class with 69.745%. Congrats to him. He later remarked," The weather was terrific, the show management did a great job organizing such a big show, and the volunteers were fantastic and friendly. All in all a great weekend."

Cesar was right - it was and they were. There was camaraderie everywhere. The judges sat down and enjoyed some chat time in the shade of the big VIP tent where Karin Swanfeldt and our publisher Paul Alvin-Smith of Horse in a Kilt Media Inc., enjoyed a laugh and a glass of wine after a long day. He insisted! The competitors enjoyed after parties courtesy of Hof Mendenhall on Friday (Linda is a ham for the camera, here she is!) and Trilogy and dressageclinic.com on Saturday.

As riders have to ATTEND at a show at this level to collect their awards, where horses were not taken in the ring for the ceremony - some riders took their own victory gallop. Very amusing and a fun end to the day.

And being at HITS, if you were tired of watching dressage there were the jumping finals to watch. Who says dressage people don't like jumping. Lots of ambience with all the kids (and adults) cycling about. Which is a healthy way to traverse the showgrounds. Kids popped up to the vendors tents on horseback (well ponies, but you get the idea). There was a buzz!

Several of the competitors I spoke with had good things to report. They varied from experienced professionals like Lars Petersen to amateurs who had never been to an event of this size and level. Lars, who I first had the pleasure in meeting in Denmark at Blue Hors over fifteen years ago (gosh I feel old) and always manage to catch up with at NEDA, won the CDI Grand Prix Special. Everyone felt the show was well organized, and with 1544 rides that is a lot of work. Many mentioned the improved stabling, the addition of more room for the young horses and the improved footing. As the largest dressage show held in the country in 2012, it is even more amazing when you know that it is still run almost entirely by volunteers.

So if you get the chance, take a trot down to HITS and see the show this year. It takes place September 19th-22nd, 2013 and NEDA alone will have the grounds as Marshall & Sterling HITS on the Hudson conclude the week before. Even better, get out there competing for your chance to shine in the spotlight.

For anyone from the Catskill regions and environs if you are competing there this year, give me a heads up and I'll give you contact info so Catskill Horse can give you some coverage. While there are always disappointments as everyone can't be a winner, the spirit of the competition and team work between horse, rider and trainers and the myriad of 'others' that stand loyally in the wings are well worth watching. As for that army of volunteers, seriously folks. Hats Off! Or maybe I should say, "A tip of the Hat, as the NEDA magazine is appropriately called.

Please note: Anyone wishing for a copy of any of the photos seen here, please contact me at Nikki@NikkiAlvinSmithStudio.com - I'd be more than happy to supply them to you for free for use as you like for photo credit. Please respect our copyright by asking! Thanks.

For anyone from the Catskill regions and environs - if you are competing at the Fall Festival this year, feel free to contact me and I'll give you contact info so Catskill Horse can give you some personal coverage at the event this year. We love hearing from our local riders and horse breeders.