Wayne, Ill. – Aug. 26, 2022 – To wrap up the afternoon of competition at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions, young athletes took to the Grand Prix Arena at Lamplight Equestrian Center to prove their equitation expertise in the USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 13 & Under. A total of ten horse-and-rider combinations entered the ring to be judged on their position, effectiveness and accuracy while riding, being tested at all three gaits as well as through a pattern of the judges’ choosing. After much deliberation, it was M.K. Connatser riding Donau HIT who was awarded the gold medal with a score of 86%. 

M.K. Connatser and Donau HIT
M.K. Connatser and Donau HIT

The USEF Dressage Seat Medal program, which promotes building a strong foundation in equitation, is a positive and exciting way for young riders to focus on their riding development without the horse’s quality playing a factor in the results. The finals feature two divisions — a 13 & Under division and a 14-18 division. The riders are first assessed in groups during the finals, being asked to perform various gaits on demand. The riders are then asked to perform a test pattern in the dressage arena that the judges have designed.

The pattern, which asked riders to perform various transitions and leg yields from both sides, challenged the young riders to prove their ability to adjust their horses and ride accurately within the arena. Connatser, who is trained by Allison Stai in Dallas, Texas, rode Donau HIT seamlessly around the track, impressing the panel of judges throughout both sections of the class to take the win with 86%. 

Korey Denny and Hemingway KW
Korey Denny and Hemingway KW

Korey Denny on Hemingway KW, who is trained by Amy Denny, secured the silver medal with a score of 85%. Autumn Vavrick on Dante, trained by Laurie Moore, earned the bronze medal with a score of 80% to round out the podium. All three pairs will also compete in the USEF Children Dressage National Championship, which kicks off Saturday.

Autumn Vavrick and Dante
Autumn Vavrick and Dante

The U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions will resume Saturday, Aug. 27, with the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle for the USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship. The USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 14-18 will take place Sunday afternoon.


USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 13 & Under 

Place / Rider / Horse / Score
1. M.K. Connatser / Donau HIT / 86
2. Korey Denny / Hemingway KW / 85
3. Autumn Vavrick / Dante / 80
4. Caroline O’Brien / Unforgettable / 78
5. Virginia Woodcock / The Safari Party / 77
6. Sage Chacon / Apfelkorn / 75
7. Sophie Rutherford / Twist of Fate / 70
8. Nori Benck / Spikeweiser / 69
9. Audrey Panno / Tide Creek Fergus / 65
10. Lily Gilbertson-Lutkus / Farley 4 / 64


M.K. Connatser – USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 13 & Under Gold Medalist

On being a National Champion:
“It feels crazy. I’m going to have to pinch myself. I had somewhat high expectations for myself because I know my horse can do it and he has taught me a lot but I did not expect to win.”

On Donau Hit:
“My horse’s name is Donau Hit but we call him Donnie. He’s 19 years-old. He’s wonderful and has taught me so much. Before him, I had only shown intro level and then I went straight to do Children’s and dressage seat medal, then earned my bronze medal in the first year of owning him so he was such a blessing. I ride with the barn Rocking M Stables in Dallas, Texas. I’m actually the third junior/young rider to win the dressage seat medal at our barn. My trainer is Allison Stai.”

M.K. Connatser and Donau HIT
M.K. Connatser and Donau HIT

On her trainer’s tips:
“For me, I tend to look down a lot and fidget with my hands. My legs also tend to get frozen on the side, I’m a little too stiff so I need to loosen up a bit. My new thing is that when I look down, I hunch my back over so I’ve worked on keeping my shoulders back. They always have really great tips and examples and I’ve learned so much with them.”

On the class:
“I think this class is important because all the other divisions that we ride in judge the horse and we get a bunch of feedback on our horse but, other than your trainers, you don’t get as much feedback. It’s great to get feedback from someone who doesn’t watch you ride everyday and hasn’t been training you for years. You just get kind of an opinion on anything so you can take those different tips that may be worded differently.”

M.K. Connatser and Donau HIT
M.K. Connatser and Donau HIT

On riding Donnie in the class:
“To be perfectly honest, I chose Donnie because I’ve known him longer and Blitz, he can be a little edgy at times. I haven’t quite learned how to handle that yet in a group. At home it’s much easier but in a show ring I can get tense and Donnie can help me learn to contain myself a little better.”

On the pattern:
“I thought, going into the pattern ‘Oh boy,’ because Donnie is like a 50/50 toss up with the leg yield. Sometimes he’s perfect and other times he wants to tilt his head and bend his neck  a little too much and I lean one way or the other. I thought that at the beginning of the pattern, the first leg yield was not great and the canter transition was a little too explosive but other than that I thought it was very good.”

Korey Denny – USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 13 & Under Silver Medalist

On her plan:
“I came in wanting to be in the top five. I obviously wanted to be in the top three but it was kind of a high expectation for myself.”

On the pattern:
“Going into the pattern, I was just like ‘Just stay straight. Just make him go straight,’ because he’s the same [as Donnie]. He’ll either like to go out or he’ll actually be straight. After the first leg yield, it was ok, he tilted a little. The canter was good but I was scared he wasn’t going to trot because in the warm up we were having trouble with that. So once he trotted I was like ‘Ok, we’re halfway through. Let’s do this again.’ He then did it again and I was pretty happy with it.”

Autumn Vavrick – USEF Dressage Seat Medal Final 13 & Under Bronze Medalist

On her plan:
“I was just really happy to be at the finals and I’m just really excited. I was hoping to be in the top three but I really just wanted to have fun.”

On the pattern:
“I thought it went pretty smoothly. I was glad that they chose that pattern just because I thought it was a better one for my horse. It’s honestly all kind of a blur right now but I think it went pretty good.”


Taylor Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. Taylor Harris works with their clients to ensure they are equipped with the insurance coverage that’s right for each individual case. THIS places all policies with the highest rated and most secure insurance carriers, which are also selected for their prompt and reliable claims settlement. Taylor Harris is dedicated to providing insurance protection for all personal and professional equestrian related risk. The THIS team of lifelong equestrians is always available to answer questions as their goal is to deliver peace of mind for their clients. For further details visit www.taylorharris.com or call 1.800.291.4774.


Subscribe & Join

Phelps Media Group

Founded in 2002 by Olympian Mason Phelps, Jr., PMG specializes in sports branding, public relations, event coverage, media strategy, web design and social media.

All photography may only be used in conjunction with a related press release. We do not sell our email lists or share our lists with other companies or individuals.



Subscribe & Join