Steeplechase was the name of the game for winners Auburn Excell Brady and Nancy Read. The thrill, the adrenaline rush, jumping brush at top speed, and the excitement of taking part in eventing history: what’s not to love? Both Excell Brady and Read put steeplechase at the top of their list when asked their favorite part of competing in a classic event. Steeplechase is considered phase B of endurance day in the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Classic Series. Fresno County Horse Park in Fresno, Calif. started off the 2018 Classic Series season with a Training Three-Day and Novice Three-Day on April 26-29.
While some eventing fans were in the Bluegrass state watching the nail-biting finish of Oliver Townend’s win at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, Excell Brady and Read claimed victories of their own at Fresno County Horse Park.
Auburn Excell Brady and BSP Tuxedo. Marcus Green Outdoor Photography.
April 29 was a day of wins and Excell Brady with her mount BSP Tuxedo (Apokalipsis x Stutbuch 1) delivered a wire-to-wire win in the Training Three-Day at the Fresno County Horse Park. A Southern California native, Excell Brady discovered eventing through her good friend, Karen O’Neal. Reflecting on her childhood, Excell Brady was naturally drawn to eventing, “I always loved riding and finding logs and other things to jump. I kept my horse in a community that had trails and I did not spend much time in the arena.” Fast forward several years later and she’s earned her USEA ICP Level III certification and successfully runs Excell Equestrian in the hills of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
How did BSP Tuxedo and Excell Brady form their winning relationship? A phone call from Georgie Maskery in September 2017 and BSP Tuxedo (Tux for short) showed up at Excell Brady’s front door to prove his worth in the eventing world. In agreement with Georgie Maskery to discover if Tux would make a top event horse, Excell Brady and Tux started the early stages of their partnership. Excell Brady describes that Tux was, “very jumpy and spooky at first, kind of a suspicious horse, but as we have had more time together he has relaxed and become more trusting.”
By noticing the horse’s winning talent, she knew she had to have the 9-year-old Oldenburg gelding in her barn. And win they did. In November 2017 their partnership became official [with the help of her partner and sponsor, Larry Sawyer] and the talented pair started to rake in the blue ribbons. In their first event together, they won the Open Novice division at Galway Downs in November 2017. They continued the winning streak at Twin Rivers in the Training Horse division and again at Copper Meadows in the Open Training division. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that they were winners of the Training Three-Day at the Fresno County Horse Park.
“An interpreter” between horse and rider is Excell Brady’s description of her coach Wilma Blakely. “I have to say I really feel that I develop partnerships with my horses through dressage. I spend a lot of time working on it with my coach Wilma Blakely and she really helps me understand each horse individually. I think it’s very important to have a good person help you on the ground, sometimes I think of her as an interpreter.”
With help from her interpreter, Excell Brady and Tux have placed in the top three at six out of the eight events they’ve entered. That gives this pair a 75 percent chance of placing in the top three at their next outing. So, what’s next for this highly competitive pair? “I am planning to ride Tux at Galway Downs in his first Preliminary. I really like the Training Three-Day format as a preparation to move up to Preliminary. I think it’s a great opportunity to train your horse and do something a little more challenging before you move to the next level. It’s a nice opportunity to test your horse’s fitness and I think that’s important when planning to move up.”
With the Training Three-Day acting as a stepping stone, Excell Brady is excited for her future with Tux. “He’s definitely a one-person horse, he has all the qualities of a top event horse: great balance, three lovely gaits, lots of blood, and plenty of scope. He’s taken to the cross-country very well - he looks at things when walking around but once I put him on the line to a fence he’s taking me there.”
Excell Brady is winning her way through the levels and gives credit to her trusted partner, Tux. She thinks, “[Tux] has a really big heart and will do a lot for me if he trusts me.” Trust, compassion, and talent are a few factors that played into their win in the Training Three-Day. Make sure to keep an eye out for this pair as they seem to favor a certain shade of blue!
Nancy Read and Carolina PCH. Marcus Green Outdoor Photography.
Our next winner who shared a win with Oliver Townend the Sunday of April 29 was Nancy Read and Carolina PCH (Con Capilot x Pequita). This pair won the Novice Three-Day at the Fresno County Horse Park on a score of 35.7.
Introduced to eventing through foxhunting, Read events for a couple of reasons: pure enjoyment, the fun factor, and making new friends. “I was foxhunting in New Hampshire and we just started going to the schooling events around and just having fun with the low level.” A Massachusetts native, Read splits her time between the mountains of New Hampshire and the sunshine in California. “When I got married five years ago, that was the deal and now I’m able to compete on both coasts.” Her horses also compete on both coasts and plan to make the journey to New Hampshire on June 4. “Luckily, I have friends who enjoy driving and take seven days to go across the country and make a vacation out of it.”
Carolina PCH (aka Malibu) has a forever home with the Read family (and this was decided long before her win at the Fresno County Horse Park). Having purchased the mare as a 3-year-old, the now 10-year-old Oldenburg mare has been with the family for over seven years. So how did the mare acquire the barn name Malibu? “PCH stands for Plum Creek Hollow which is the farm she came from, but it also stands for Pacific Coast Highway, which runs right through Malibu, California.”
When tragedy struck, that’s when Malibu found her forever home with the Reads. “I lost a horse to an aneurism. My sister, who lives in Colorado, saw this little mare and said this is the one you should buy. She will be a perfect low-level event [horse].”
And perfect she is. Read describes Malibu as, “a lot of fun, very easy keeper, adorable, and a total sweetheart.” Malibu impressed Read so much that she decided she wanted more of Malibu in her barn. Read ended up purchasing two of her half-brothers, CrissCross PCH and Caribe PCH. Although it hasn’t always been a perfectly paved road with Read and Malibu, there have been a couple of road bumps along the way including the mare’s powerful hind end. “As Malibu got fitter, she started jumping me out of the tack – the mare has an incredible hind end. That’s when my friend and coach, Nicole Carroll took over the jumping part. Nicole competed her up to Preliminary level. While she was running Preliminary, I wanted to see what the mare should do next.”
After getting an expert opinion from one of the best in the business, Karen O’Connor, the Reads decided to switch her to a low-level family horse and share her with her daughter, Annie. The decision was built around the mare’s happiness, soundness, and longevity as an event horse. Malibu has fun living the life of a princess as she, “still gets to jump high, go out on hacks, goes swimming, and always stays sound.” With the road bumps smoothed over, Read finds enjoyment out of the mare’s athleticism. “I took the ride back and I can usually stay on. Or try to,” Read said with a laugh.
Read stayed on the scopey mare to secure the win in the Novice Three-Day. With endurance day, in particular steeplechase, being Read’s favorite part of the competition, the pair rose to the occasion on Saturday. “Steeplechase is fun, horses really like it, and it gets the horses in front of your leg. Phase C (which is what I call the cool down phase) gives them a nice break before the 10 minute box. By the time you’re ready to go cross-country, your horse is in front of the leg, paying attention, and the edge has been taken off. At both GMHA and Fresno, competitors were remarking on what a great cross-country round they had.”
No stranger to the game, Read has completed several USEA Classic Series Three-Day events at GMHA. “A clinic just as much as a competition,” is how she described her experience at GMHA. “It was really educational, we had Denny Emerson and Jane Hamlin helping the day before. We also had lectures every night. I loved it.” Transferring the love to the Fresno County Horse Park, Read said, “I really give John Marshall a lot of credit. He’s done a great job with the event.”
Interested in how you can bring home the blue like Read? She gives a couple of insights on what to expect on endurance day. “I always try to come in early in the phases [of endurance day] - your time and their time might be a little different. Pay attention because it’s very easy to miss a gate or go the wrong way.”
These two leading ladies checked all the boxes, went through all the flags, completed every turn, made the time, and earned the first two blue ribbons of the USEA Classic Series of 2018. The USEA would like to congratulate both Auburn Excell Brady and Nancy Read on their successful weekend!
About the USEA Classic Series
The USEA Classic Series keeps the spirit of the classic long-format three-day events alive for Beginner Novice through the Preliminary levels. Competitors have the opportunity to experience the rush of endurance day, including roads and tracks, steeplechase, the vet box, and cross-country, as well as participate in formal veterinary inspections and educational activities with experts on the ins and outs of competing in a long-format three-day event.
Riders who compete in a USEA Classic Series event during the year will have the chance to win a variety of prizes at the events and will also be entered into a drawing held at the USEA Year End Award Ceremony for a year’s supply of SmartPak supplements and a custom fitted Stackhouse and Ellis saddle. Click here to learn more about the USEA Classic Series.