The Eastern States Dressage and Combined Training Association (ESDCTA) held their 2017 championships on Oct. 7 at the Horse Park of New Jersey, with a total of 79 entries.

Trainer Eliza Puttkamer Banks, of Jackson, N.J. who trains out of Bright Meadows Farm, in Millstone, won the Division 3 First Level Adult championship on Toque. Toque is a 6-year-old Canadian Cheval (Canadream Kelbeck YouandMe) bred by MJ Proulx of Canadream Farm in Ontario. “He is the same horse I took to Devon in 2015 and 2016 as the first Canadian Cheval ever to compete there,” said Banks.

Banks  bought him as a young horse and trained him in a way that capitalized on his brave, strong and kind nature and his unique athleticism. “He is a joy to have around and is one of the sweetest, snuggliest horses I have ever owned,” said Banks. “He competed in the young horse classes last year and was consistently placing in Materiale classes with respectable scores that reflect his quality. I am looking forward to bringing him up through the levels at an appropriate pace and showing a horse that is both a quality dressage horse and a true family horse that we enjoy keeping at home at my own farm.”

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Banks was also pleased to show at the Championships with 9-year-old daughter, Paige, who placed fourth in the Walk/Trot/Canter (WTC) Division Intro C/training 1. Paige rode her first championship, and rides tests from memory after just starting cantering in classes this year. “I was so proud to be there showing my own horse, and helping her, and watching her grow and challenge herself, and then have her see Toque win and see the hard work pay off,” said Banks.

Beth Niebling’s dressage journey began when she was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, and she and her pony Pocket Change decided to make a shift from jumpers to dressage. They won the Division 1 WTC Adult championship. The 9-year-old Welsh/Thoroughbred mare and Niebling joined Touch of Class farm to train with Barbara Ebner, an  "S" Judge and FEI trainer. “We needed a solid foundation in dressage and Barbara was the answer. This is not an easy sport and Penny is not an easy pony,” said to Niebling, of Point Pleasant, N.J. “Barbara knows this because I also have her do training rides for me when I am either away or we just simply get stuck. Penny and I had no idea we would be in the dressage arena in only a few short months — in fact, two months after my surgery.”

Ebner selected a few schooling shows and off they went, learning and growing from each judge and venue. “If Penny allows — always a negotiation with a pony mare — and with Barbara’s guidance, I would love to compete in our first recognized show this next dressage season. I would also like to work towards qualifying to compete even at the lowest level in the National Dressage Pony Cup finals held in Kentucky,” she said.

Niebling knows patience is the key word in dressage. “I figure for my 50th Birthday it sounds like a great bench mark even though it’s just two years away. Most of all I am enjoying the journey,” she said.

Champions in the FEI Test of Choice were Beth Sproule Hansen, of Warwick, N.Y., and her Oldenburg gelding Liberty. Hansen got him as green 4-year-old, and Liberty just started the Grand Prix this year. The championships were his fourth time in the ring at that level. “I'm beyond thrilled at how well he performed the test. He had great energy and was wonderfully focused on me,” she said.

Her goal for him now is to have him be a solid, well trained Grand Prix horse, sound and happy to do his job. Hansen, a trainer, was asked about her teaching philosophy. “When working with students I work, of course, to make sure the basics are solid and understood, by horse and rider. I also focus on making sure the student understands the root of a problem and the best way to school the horse for the best results,” she replied.


Melissa Reese, of Eatontown, N.J., was champion in Division 3, Second Level, with Esprit de la Rue, an 8-year-old Dutch mare by Rousseau. “I got her when she was five years old and had just been started under saddle. Last year I took her to her first shows, and we were Training Level Reserve Champions at the 2016 ESDCTA Championships. This season we qualified at First and Second Level,” she said. “Next year, I plan to show her at Third Level, and my future goals are to continue bringing her up the levels with the help of my trainer, Jaime Dancer. Ultimately, I hope that Esprit de la Rue will be my next FEI horse.”

Karen Dushnick, of Manasquan and Lucy were ESDCTA senior rider, Intro level Champions. “Lucy is a Dutch Harness and Belgian Cross and, I believe, possesses the best of both breeds,” said Dushnick. “She has a calm demeanor and I am honored to play a part in her life.”

Their goals are to keep learning.  “Lucy and I have been gifted with Guilene Mallard, Good Times Farm, Freehold, as our trainer. She has a way of pushing me past what I did not think possible to accomplish at my age.”  

Mallard noted that Dushnick has been riding all her life and has owned a few horses with her for several years. “I found her Lucy and am so grateful to have paired them up. Lucy is the safest horse around,” she said, noting the mare was previously a Second Level horse owned and trained by Bonnie Halka, of Millstone.

Barbara Brogan, of Woolwich, competed at the dressage championships on two of her horses, Lyell and Whispering Ash. Ellie (Lyell) and (Whispering) Ash both competed in the Junior First Level Division taking home champion and reserve champion. Ellie also placed fourth in the freestyle division, and Ash won the junior equitation class.

“Ellie was the first horse I got when I was 10, and I have been riding her for over five years now. We have competed from Intro Level up to Second Level in dressage and up to novice in eventing with each of us gaining experience every time,” said Brogan.

Her goals with Ellie are to get her U.S. Dressage Federation bronze medal and see how far they can go together in dressage. “I have been riding Ash for the past three years and have taken him from his first show, where he jumped out of the ring, to competing competitively at First Level with hopes to move up. My goals with Ash are to take him into the FEI levels and reach his full potential,” she said. Brogan has trained with Cara and Alexis Tozour for the past two years. “They have helped me improve my riding and have helped in training Ellie and Ash significantly,” according to Brogan. The ESDCTA dressage championships were a great experience for Brogan, as this was her first time in the competition. “The environment was very friendly and inviting, and I would like to come back next year,” she said.

Karin Worm, owner and trainer at Jersey Palms Farm, Jackson, N.J., earned two championships at the show. Safir 7S, the Training Level Champion, is a 4-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Sir Gregory that she bought as a yearling. “He is now under saddle for nine months and has won a couple of Materiale classes earlier in the year,” she said.

Freestyle champion Bellissario JP, also known as "Berny the Bavarian" is a 7-year-old imported from Germany last February directly from his breeder. “He went to his first show ever in April and has taken every new challenge in stride. Turns out he can dance... I love riding freestyles. I put together my own freestyles. Since both horses have nice gaits and are very trainable, I hope they will continue to move up the levels for me,” said Worm.

For complete results and more information about the ESDCTA see

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