EN’s Year in Review: Top Five Pairs in Dressage for 2016

Welcome to our Top Five of 2016 series! Like last year, this series will highlight the top five horses and riders in each phase at the Advanced, three-star and four-star levels from 2016.

While we often recognize greatness over all three phases in our sport, we should also strive to recognize strength in each phase. This series aims to give that recognition and highlight horses and riders who have had particularly strong years in one phase or another.

Today’s Top Five will highlight the horses that had the five lowest dressage averages in 2016. To be considered for EN’s top five, the horse must have performed at least three dressage tests at these levels. All U.S. horses were considered, regardless of where they are based, as well as all horses who competed at least twice on U.S. soil.

These averages include Advanced scores that have been converted into FEI scores to allow for direct comparison. I’ve included the average in terms of both FEI and USEF scoring, but both scores include all Advanced/3*/4* tests from the year.

As a side note, nine American horses averaged below the all-important 45.0 mark this year. That’s down from 15 horses who dropped below 45.0 last year. However, another eight American horses have an average between 45.0 and 46.0, so the future looks promising.

Marilyn Little and RF Demeter. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Marilyn Little and RF Demeter. Photo by Jenni Autry.


FEI Average: 43.23

USEF Average: 28.82

Number of Tests: 4

Marilyn Little played it conservatively with her horses this year, competing the extremely experienced RF Demeter only four times. Aiming big with Rolex CCI4* as their first start at the top level for the year, they followed that up with a second place finish at Great Meadow CICO3* and Fair Hill CCI3*, with a start at the American Eventing Championship sandwiched in between.

RF Demeter began the year by putting in a personal best four-star score of 42.5 (FEI) at Rolex. Remaining extremely consistent, these two then scored a 43.8 (FEI) at Great Meadow and followed it up with a 28.0 (USEF) at the AECs. They ended the year with a score of 44.6 (FEI) at Fair Hill, ultimately putting them in second behind Marilyn’s second ride, RF Scandalous.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Jenni Autry.

FOURTH PLACE: Harbour Pilot

FEI Average: 42.91

USEF Average: 28.61

Number of Tests: 5

After a long hiatus, Harbour Pilot returned to the scene and proved he was better than ever. Harbour Pilot and Hannah Sue began the year by leading the field after dressage at Red Hill CIC3* with a score of 40.4 (FEI). After knocking out a 26.1 (USEF) at The Fork in the Advanced, they headed back to Rolex Kentucky and put in a solid 43.2 (FEI) in their first four-star start since 2014.

Harbour Pilot spent the rest of the year traveling overseas, starting with Aachen CICO3* in July, where he held up against overseas competition with a 45.6 (FEI). For his final start of the year, he knocked out a 41.7 (FEI) at Blenheim CCI3*.

Allison Springer and Arthur. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Allison Springer and Arthur. Photo by Jenni Autry.


FEI Average: 40.53

USEF Average: 27.02

Number of Tests: 6

Another horse who had most of 2015 off, Arthur was once again a familiar name on the scoreboards this year. In his first start of the year at Carolina CIC3*, Arthur ended up in a three-way tie for first place on a score of 43.4 (FEI). It was the highest he would score all year. Next up was The Fork Advanced, where he scored a 25.9 (USEF) in dressage before withdrawing prior to cross country. At Rolex CCI4*, he put in a 39.7 (FEI), only 0.2 points off his personal best at the level.

Taking the summer off, Allison waited until the AECs Advanced Championship to compete Arthur again, where they once again led after the dressage with a 25.3 (USEF). Following that, they contested the inaugural Advanced division at Stable View, scoring a 27.7 (USEF).  A run at the new Ocala Jockey Club CIC3* rounded out their year, where they scored a 41.7 (FEI) to tie for third place after dressage.

Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen. Photo by Jenni Autry.

SECOND PLACE: Loughan Glen

FEI Average: 40.18

USEF Average: 26.79

Number of Tests: 5

Loughan Glen slipped from the top spot this year after an uncharacteristic test at the Rio Olympic Games. Despite that, he performed consistently near or below his overall career FEI average, which is sub-40.

Clark first competed Glen at Belton CIC3* this year, putting in a slightly high score of 42.0 (FEI). They regained some of their swagger at Chatsworth CIC3* in the Event Rider Masters divisions with a 39.5 (FEI) before really hitting their stride at the Bramham CIC3* with a 36.5 (ERM). At that point, they made the trip over to American soil to take the win on their dressage score of 36.3 (FEI) from day one at Great Meadow CICO3*. As mentioned, a very surprising 46.6 (FEI) at the Olympic Games pushes their overall average into the 40s, leaving the door open for another to reign as top dressage diva of the year.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

FIRST PLACE: Fernhill By Night

FEI Average: 37.80

USEF Average: 25.20

Number of Tests: 5

This horse can throw down a test with the best of the best in the world. Although those tests did not translate into wins, Fernhill By Night gains the distinction of being the best American horse on the flat for 2016.

Liz Halliday-Sharp once again brought ‘Blackie’ over to America for the spring season, first contesting the Red Hills Advanced division with a 26.6 (USEF) on the flat. Next up was an Advanced division at The Fork, where they scored an astonishing 19.4 (USEF). At Rolex, Fernhill By Night performed a personal best of 43.0 (FEI) at the four-star level before withdrawing prior to cross-country.

Back in England, this pair continued to lay down sub-30 scores with a 38.9 (FEI) at Houghton Hall CIC3* and a 38.1 (FEI) at Burgham Market. His competition season ended there, as Liz spent the rest of the year recovering from a tragic fall that took the life of Blackie’s stablemate, HHS Cooley.