Sonnenberg Farm’s US Bred Everdance Wins at The 2020 Festival of Champions

Usually, all the top-ranked horses at international dressage competitions or the US Festival of Champions are imported and are bred in Europe. Sonnenberg Farm, from Sherwood, Oregon, is changing this by breeding top ranked horses that are not only successfully competing, but also winning. In 2017 they were awarded North American KWPN Breeder of the Year. This year, Sonnenberg’s Everdance went undefeated at international competitions in the small tour and won the championship in Chicago at the 2020 US Festival of Champions. In fact, Sonnenberg’s Everdance went undefeated with rider Endel Ots in the entire 2020 season. 

From the beginning, the beautiful American bred mare, Sonnenberg’s Everdance (by Johnson x Zeoliet x Oldenburg) showed a great deal of talent and great temperament. The mare had three very strong gaits. “As Everdance was growing up on the farm,” Gina said, “she was always so easy to work with. She was always mature beyond her years.” 

Sonnenberg Farm’s resident trainer Michele Bondy has worked with and competed the mare for the last several years, guiding her to win the 2018 ODS Prix St. Georges Open Champion. As her rider, Michele agreed that Everdance had international potential, but with all the other horses she is training and guiding at Sonnenberg Farm, she couldn’t go to Florida to compete and leave the rest of the horses behind, so Sonnenberg added Endel Ots to their team. 

“Everdance is such wonderful mare,” Michele said, “I was excited to see her compete against some of the top horses globally under the experienced guidance of Endel, but after she left, I missed her a ton!” But the team at Sonnenberg Farm knew that Everdance needed to move to Wellington, Florida, to be able to compete at international competitions at the Global Dressage Festival. 

Gina commented, “Everdance always showed unbelievable mechanics in her movement—even as a young foal. Everdance had tons of suppleness and joint articulation. She would show us huge trot and canter passes in the field. When you combine her natural huge movement with her boldness and confidence, from a very young age, we could see her potential. She never showed us anything less.” 

“And seeing her potential,” Dan Ruediger said, “we knew she was ready for Global.” 

With this goal in mind, they connected with Endel Ots. He flew to Oregon, rode her and loved the 11-year-old mare. From there, he would take her first to a national competition. “My warm-up prior to competing Everdance in her class,” Endel said, “is about 10 minutes. It’s funny. I make the USEF Developing Coach Charlotte Bredahl nervous because I warm her up carefully yet in not too much time, and go to compete. She’s such an honest horse, she does it naturally and doesn’t need a long warm-up.” 

At the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, Everdance and Endel won all their classes, and they won by 3 or 4 point margins—a very strong showing. “Sonnenberg’s Everdance is one of the most straightforward and honest horses I’ve ever competed,” Endel said. “She loves to work and she gives 100 percent to me.” The two did great, a really strong performance, receiving scores in the mid-70s—74s and 75s—even on the Intermediare-I tests. 

After a few competitions and remaining undefeated, they qualified for the 2020 U.S. Festival of Champions where the top-ranked horses from all over the world compete. And the two got the invitation. 

At the 2020 US Festival of Champions, Everdance and Endel entered the Prix St George on Day one and scored 74.941 percent; on day two in the Intermediare I Class, they scored 75.441 percent; and on day 3, the Intermediare I Freestyle, they scored 77.645 percent. They became the USEF National Champion of the 2020 US Festival of Champions Intermediare I Championships, scoring 3 percentage points above the National Reserve Champion. 

“It’s so fun to ride a truly international, competitive horse like Everdance, that has so much movement and such ability for dressage, and she was bred in the U.S.A.,” Endel said. “Everdance can truly compete with all the top horses from Europe.” 

Originally from De Pere, Wisconsin, Endel Ots started competing at a young age. Endel trained with Hubertus Schmidt in Germany, and then later, he studied under Lars Petersen in Wellington, Florida. He was also the Alternate for the Pan American Gold Medal Team for the United States. 

Endel Ots has numerous National awards–USDF Prix St. Georges Horse of the Year in 2007 and USDF Intermediare I and Intermediare I Freestyle–with scores over 75 percent. In 2012, he was the Reserve Champion in the Developing Horse Grand Prix division at the United States Young Horse Championships, and was Champion in the same division in 2014. And he currently owns and operates his own training business out of Wellington, FL. 

After Everdance and Endel’s successes, Sonnenberg Farm has now sent another horse to Florida–Generosa, an FEI mare; she’s training for Prix St. George and Intermediare I for next year. In 2015, she was 4-year-old National Reserve Champion in Chicago. Their three-year-old 17- hand stallion, Sonnenberg’s Modern Pleasure, also shows great potential, and the Sonnenberg Team hopes he makes the young horse championships. They will have 6 or 7 horses showing this next year and are expecting 6 new foals in the U.S. and 2 in Holland. 

Sonnenberg Farm LLC, owned by Gina and Dan Ruediger, is a top breeding and training facility of KWPN dressage horses in North America. They are located in Sherwood, Oregon, 20 minutes south of downtown Portland. Sonnenberg has bred and trained many KWPN Keuring Champions and Reserve Champions, USDF Horse of the Year Champions, USDF/ODS Region Champions, and USEF/Markel Young Horse/Developing Horse National Reserve Champions. 

by Janice Hussein MBA, MS

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