The Charles Owen Technical Merit Award was established in 2009 by the USEA Professional Horseman’s Council (PHC) to encourage safe and appropriate cross-country riding technique. The award is presented at a series of events throughout the year at the Training level to one junior rider and one adult amateur rider who demonstrate technique on cross-country for a list of criteria including gallop, preparation, execution of jump, rider position, and general impressions. Judges, who must be either Level III or IV ICP certified, USEF Licensed Eventing Officials or USET Senior Team Riders, reward the top riders who excel at these skills. The winners at each event receive a Charles Owen Body Protector and helmet bag, and the year-end high-point junior and amateur winners will receive a Charles Owen helmet.
Fitch’s Corner Horse Trials in Millbrook, New York (Area I) hosted the fourth leg of the Charles Owen Technical Merit series at their event on July 22-23, 2017. Junior rider Isabel Finemore and adult amateur rider Olivia Alminde received the award for demonstrating excellent cross-country riding technique. Sally Ike was the judge for the award.
Fourteen-year-old Finemore, winner of the Charles Owen Technical Merit junior award, rode two horses in the Junior Training division at Fitch’s Corner. Finemore won the division aboard the 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Instant Impact, on their dressage score of 29.6 and placed third aboard Craig Mor Tom, also a 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse, who added one rail to their dressage score to finish on 34.7.
“Even before I could walk, I used to go to the barn and watch my parents ride,” said Finemore. “Both my parents are amateur equestrians who enjoy jumping and hunting. I started riding when I was 3 years old on a little a pony called Scuttles. I loved it and was always badgering my parents to take me to the barn.” Finemore started competing at local jumper shows, but after riding in several hunter paces she found she loved the thrill of cross-country and made the switch to eventing. “In 2014, I competed successfully in my first Beginner Novice event at Riga Meadows and I was hooked!”
Finemore has been partnered with Instant Impact since 2014. “He is an absolute dream to ride as he is safe and responsible,” she said. “He has taught me to be a better rider. I have competed him in the US, UK and Spain.” Her partnership with Craig Mor Tom began much more recently, just at the beginning of this year. “My partnership with Tom is very different,” commented Finemore. “He has competed at a much higher level and was the European Champion in 2013. In the UK they call him the ‘Advanced horse with little legs’. He is teaching me to be bolder and more confident in my rides.”
Isabel Finemore and Instant Impact. Eliza Goldberg Photo.
“Competing at Fitch’s Corner is an amazing experience,” said Finemore. “It is set up so well and has a great atmosphere for horses. It never feels like a Preliminary and lower event as [the cross-country] is very technical, challenging, and very spooky. Competing in an atmosphere like Fitch’s Corner is great experience for up-and-coming riders, and I love to learn by watching the professional eventers, such as Boyd Martin, compete on their younger horses.”
Finemore has spent the last 18 months living in the United Kingdom with her parents and was able to compete almost every weekend and experience a variety of different cross-country questions as well as different footing conditions and terrain. “I have worked on changing my speed when coming to combinations in order to make my ponies rounds as easy and smooth as they could be. I have also developed my technique over different terrains. When I was riding the Fitch’s Corner cross-country course the ground was solid and there were no patches of mud so I didn’t have to focus so much on the turns I was making, but at Millbrook Horse Trials the ground was very wet and slippery so I had to change my ride in order to make the safest turns I could.” She also had the opportunity to train with Olympians Amy Graham and Andrew Hoy while in the United Kingdom, both of whom she credits with helping to further her riding technique, both on the flat and over fences.
“Since arriving back in the United States I have been fortunate to return to Kildare Stables where I am now training with the very talented Booli Selmayr. I am competing both Instant Impact and Craig Mor Tom at the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) and I am hoping to do well so that I can move up to Preliminary next year.”
Alminde and Cynthia Teich’s Moonstruck, a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare by Idocus, topped the Training Rider division, adding just two time penalties to their dressage score to finish in first on a score of 35.0.
Olivia Alminde and Moonstruck. Liza Teich Photo.
Alminde has loved horses since she was 3 years old and took some lessons as a child, but didn’t really get involved in eventing until 2009 when she started riding at Orchard Hill Equestrian Center after attending one of their summer camps. Now she’s a working student for her trainer, Caroline Teich. “She has taught me the ins and outs of eventing and I am so thankful for the opportunities that she has given me.”
Moonstruck, aka “Luna,” was purchased by Caroline’s mother and the owner of Orchard Hill, Cindy Teich, in the fall of 2015, and Alminde began leasing her in the spring of 2016. “She competed at the Preliminary level with her previous owner and has the experience to teach me more than any horse has.” They started out together at Beginner Novice and by the end of the year had placed first in their move-up to Training level.
“I was a little nervous considering it was one of the bigger courses we had seen,” said Alminde of competing at Fitch’s Corner, “and Luna had been acting fairly spooky in our cross-country schools leading up to the event. However, she was more brave and honest than I could’ve ever asked for, and I was thrilled with how it went. Overall, it was a great learning experience and a big confidence boost, showing me how lucky I am to have her as my teammate. Our next stop is the AEC and I couldn’t be more excited to get back out there with her!”
2017 Charles Owen Technical Merit Schedule
Pine Top Advanced H.T. | Feb. 23-26, 2017 | Thomson, GA (Area 3)
Coconino Summer I H.T. | July 8-9, 2017 | Flagstaff, AZ (Area 10)
The Event At Rebecca Farm | July 19-23, 2017 | Kalispell, MT (Area 7)
Fitch's Corner H.T. | July 22-23, 2017 | Millbrook, NY (Area 1)
Cobblestone Farms H.T. | July 28-30, 2017 | Dexter, MI (Area 8)
Shepherd Ranch SYVPC H.T. II | Aug. 25-27, 2017 | Santa Ynez, CA (Area 6)
Seneca Valley Pony Club H.T. | Sept. 2-3 2017 | Poolesville, MD (Area 2)
Otter Creek Fall H.T. | Sept. 15-17, 2017 | Wheeler, WI (Area 4)
Colorado Horse Park H.T. | Sept. 15-17, 2017 | Parker, CO (Area 9)
Texas Rose Horse Park | November 11-12, 2017 | Tyler, TX (Area 5)
About Charles Owen
Charles Owen has been elevating the standards of safety in our sport by manufacturing to some of the top international safety standards for riding helmets and body protectors. At their design headquarters, Charles Owen uses an advanced computer simulation to perform impact analysis for their products. Charles Owen is the official riding helmet of the USEA. To learn more about Charles Owen visit their website.