Nick Wagman and Don John Continue A Record Year Winning U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions’ Grand Prix

Wayne, Ill. – Aug. 22, 2019 –As one of the highlights of the competition, riders and their mounts cantered down centerline in the Kay Arena for the Grand Prix on the second day of competition at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions. Leading the way by a solid four points was Nick Wagman and Don John, a pair that have shared an exciting journey leading up to the championships in Wayne, Illinois.

Nick Wagman and Don John

Wagman and Don John, the undeniable leaders of the Grand Prix, earned a score of 72.630% to claim the top spot in the class. The 11-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Beverly Gepfer has been under the care of Wagman since 2016, developing a close bond with him that rarely leaves room for any surprises in their test. As they enter the arena however, Don John caught Wagman off guard, strutting in with much more excitement than he had previously shown in the warm-up. Making up some points lost in the electric energy of the beginning moments, Wagman was overall pleased with the test, highlighting their piaffe-passage and transitions as some of their best to date.

Nick Wagman and Don John

Together, Wagman and ‘DJ’ have had a record year leading up to the championships. Normally based out of Rancho Santa Fe, California, the duo traveled to the Netherlands earlier in the summer to compete in two Nations Cups for the U.S. Wagman described the experience as an honor, returning to the States with international experience and a new found confidence. Continuing on their high, Wagman and DJ were then asked to participate in the 2019 Pan American Games training camp as an alternate for the U.S. Dressage Team. Unfortunately, the gelding came down with a respiratory infection on his flight back home from Europe, forcing Wagman to decline the opportunity for the safety and concern of his horse. The decision was a difficult one to make but Wagman feels honored to have been offered the opportunity, though disappointed he could not step up for the team to replace Endel Ots when he had to withdraw Lucky Strike.

Anna Marek and Dee Clair

Anna Marek followed in second place in the Grand Prix, earning a 68.63% from the judges after a clean performance on Diane Morrison’s Dee Clair. The 11-year-old mare has been a partner to Marek since she was three-years-old and Marek has developed ‘Clair’ through the ranks. With a 10-month-old son watching on, Marek was reminiscent of the days she used to spend at Lamplight Equestrian Center as a child.

Riding the 16-year-old Danish Warmblood Millione to a score of 68.543% was Jennifer Schrader-Williams. Their test trailed Marek’s by less than .1 of a point, resulting in a third place finish for the Millione Partners, LLC gelding. Schrader-Williams has had the ride on Millione since 2017 and has competed him in CDI’s all over their homestate of California.

Jennifer Schrader-Williams and Millione

The division for the USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship will continue Friday, Aug. 23 with the Grand Prix Special and the Grand Prix Freestyle will conclude the division Sunday, Sunday, Aug. 25.

For results and starting times, visit Foxvillage.
Live streaming will be available on the USEF Network.
Full competition schedule, click here.

Results: FEI Grand Prix
Rider / Horse / Owner / Total Score
1. Nick Wagman / Don John / Beverly Gepfer / 72.630
2. Anna Marek / Dee Clair / Diane Morrison / 68.630
3. Jennifer Schrader-Williams / Millione / Millione Partners, LLC / 68.543
4. James Koford / Adiah HP / Sherry Koella / 67.913


Nick Wagman – FEI Grand Prix winner

On his test:
“When I went in the ring he surprised me because he was on fire and it caught me a little off guard, so the first part of our test was definitely not our normal start but he settled in nicely. Once we found our rhythm again it felt really nice and I could ride the way I wanted to so I was pleased. He really caught me off guard when I went around the outside of the ring. It was just not his typical reaction to the environment so it caught us both off guard and took us a few movement to get into the swing of things. Once we walked and were able to both take a deep breath I think the piaffe passage and transitions were some of our best to date. I haven’t seen the video yet but the pirouettes felt really nice, and my changes. I think the canter work was probably my strongest part of the test, but then I must say the piaffe passage was good too, so I think that is what ended up helping us recover from the shaky start.”

Nick Wagman and Don John

On his year leading up to this:
“We went to Europe and competed in two Nations Cups, which was just an honor to be a part of the team, and we did well and learned a tremendous amount being in new territory. That was really a good confidence builder for us. Then we came back and were named as an alternate for the Pan American games which was another big compliment. DJ got a respiratory infection on the way home from Europe so he didn’t have the greatest flight home and it took us a little while to recover from that, which was tricky with the Pan American games coming up and was the reason we opted not to go to the training camp. He was fine but I didn’t think it was fair to him to put him on a flight right after the one we had just been on. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, had we been there we could have filled in but at the last minute it was just impossible. The team still did great and it was exciting to watch everyone there. Now, we are here and trying to stay in the ring and improve and trying to get better and better. This is one of the shows that is like a European show in terms of the set up, the environment and the quality so I wanted to be here to keep it moving.”

On being an alternate for the Pan Ams:
“They asked me to be a part of the training camp, which is a week too, but he was just finishing his round of antibiotics and it made me worried to put him through the stress of a flight. I don’t think anybody anticipated Endel’s horse getting hurt on the trip to the airport, it was just so last minute and unfortunate circumstances. We did right by the horse because it would have been a lot of extra stress and pressure for him to travel that way. For the sake of the team, had we been there we might have been able to fill in but we did what we thought was best for the horse”

Anna Marek – FEI Grand Prix second place

On her test:
“I have to say I was really excited to have a clean ride. With Clair, we always work on the piaffe-passage, trying to get it a little bit more in place, and getting through a clean test with a big canter. I was really happy with how everything went, she did everything I told her to.”

Anna Marek and Dee Clair

On her partnership with Dee Clair:
“I have known her and have been riding her since she was three years old. She is owned by Diane Morrison now, who bought her when she was four and then sent her back to me for training in her four and five year old year. I have kind of ridden her and shown her ever since she was five for Diane and we have gone up the levels with her and now we are here – with the help of my coach, Anne. It has been a really fun journey with her.”

On being at Lamplight Equestrian Center:
“This is my first year competing at the Festival of Champions. We qualified with her last year but I was pregnant. I love it here. I am actually from Michigan so when I was a kid I used to show here a lot doing regionals but I have never been here for [Festival of Champions] – I have been here for the young horse [championships] though.”

On being a new mom and riding:
“Thank god I have my husband and my mom because they let me hit the ground running. I rode for a very long time while I was pregnant. I really only took five weeks off and my mom has been helping me so that I can take him to the barn with me — she watches him and I train the horses then take him home. My mom, my husband and [my son] James, come to the shows with me so it is kind of like a family affair. My husband wasn’t [a horse person] but he is now! James is 10 months now and he loves the animals. When he comes I will set him on the horses and he will pet them – it is cool!”

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