When you’re riding a horse named Serenade, you know you’d better bring the crowd a show. 

And that’s just what American rider Alice Tarjan did on Saturday night under the lights of the Dixon Oval at Devon, during the CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle. 

With fitting instrumental music and a harmonious routine, Tarjan and Serenade MF overtook class leader Vanessa Creech-Terauds & Flear de Lis L. Their score of 76.515% would ultimately hold, besting the nine-horse field to take home the win along with the Brigadoon Challenge Trophy. 

“I’m thrilled. It’s not something I ever expected,” said Tarjan, who ultimately topped the leaderboard ahead of Megan Lane (CAN) & Zodiac MW in second, and Michael Bragdell (USA) & Qredit Hilltop in third. 

“The horse is young, and so just to be able to hold the consistent balance throughout the entire test, and get the same quality we do at home and in the warmup [is important]. I think you follow where the horses go, and where they lead you, and all you can do is try to set [them] up as best you can and put them in the best situations.”

Saturday marked a personal best score for Tarjan, 43, who bases in nearby Oldwicke, New Jersey. All considering, it wasn’t a bad time to post one. As the first of nine FEI Dressage World Cup qualifiers leading up to the Final in Omaha, Nebraska April 4-8, 2023, Tarjan will earn 20 points toward qualification—and with them, her own set of marching orders. 

Alice Tarjan & Serenade MF
(c) Grace Zalewsky/Phelps Media

“I got lost multiple times, poor horse, so I have to ride a little bit better, I think. She did her job as usual,” said Tarjan, adding that she was grateful that her complicated freestyle track helped to camouflage a few subtle mistakes.

“I’m still not able to get in the test what I am able to get in the warmup, and I think the idea is you want to be able to ride the test at just the same quality that you get in the warmup and can get at home.”

Tarjan, who produced the nine-year-old American Hanoverian (AHS) mare herself, won the United States Grand Prix Championship with Serenade MF in August. She won the same class with Candescent, another horse she trained up to Grand Prix, in 2021.

To date, Tarjan has never competed in an FEI World Cup nor in an international Championship. But, with four of the remaining FEI Dressage World Cup qualifiers taking place this winter in Florida, where Tarjan bases, 2022/2023 could be her year. 

And the aptly named Serenade? She might just be the mare to accomplish it.  

“[Serenade is] really on the aids, so you can ride a freestyle that difficult,” Tarjan said. “She’s a really cool horse; she tries her heart out for you.”