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.
Otter Creek Horse Trials in Wheeler, Wisconsin, hosted the Area IV leg of the Charles Owen Technical Merit series at their fall event on September 15-17, 2017. Cameryn Silvernail received the junior award and Paige Dueck was the winner of the adult amateur award. Helen Brettel, President of the Ground Jury at Otter Creek, was the judge for this leg of the award.
Silvernail and Erin Eisner’s 15-year-old Connemara gelding, Erin’s Luck (M.G.R.M. Mick O'Lean O'Flynn x Ardancing Libra), scored a 28.2 in dressage and jumped double-clear on cross-country, ultimately placing eighth in the Junior Training Rider division at Otter Creek.
When she was five years old, Silvernail came home to Minnesota from a visit with family in California and told her mother she wanted to ride a horse. Silvernail began taking dressage lessons, but really wanted to learn to jump., and this led her to a clinic where she met the Rold family, who introduced her to Pony Club, Julie Stenslie, and the Junior Developing Rider Program (JDRP). “I live in two hours north of the cities so routine lessons are hard,” said Silvernail. “I have to take what I learn and work on it at home.”
Erin Eisner is Silvernail’s aunt and gave her the ride on Erin’s Luck when she left for college five years ago. During that time Silvernail’s relationships with “Toby” has had its ups and downs. “[We] have had a love hate-relationship because I needed to become a stronger rider and we needed to learn how to trust each other. In fact, I had not ridden him in two years [until this spring]. As Becky Holder said at a JDRP clinic this past summer, I needed to learn how to tame the fire-breathing dragon!”
“[Our] feedback on the score card said that we had a smooth execution of the jump and appropriate setup and speed for the level,” said Silvernail. “Being recognized for the hard work Toby and I have put in [was very rewarding.] I am really happy I didn't give up on him.”
Silvernail credits her cross-country skill to the number of great instructors she has had the opportunity to work with over the years, including Julie Stenslie, Becky Holder, and Ryan Wood, as well as observing other riders and practicing as much as possible. “Thank you to Charles Owen for the recognition and the support!”
Dueck and her own Zoom, a 9-year-old Canadian Warmblood mare by Coromino out of Zipper’s Eastern Moon, added just a single rail to their dressage score to finish in second in the Senior Training Rider division.
Charles Owen Technical Merit Adult Amateur Award winners, Paige Dueck and Zoom. Photo courtesy of Paige Dueck.
Dueck got her start riding horses in 2000 when she bought a three-year-old unbroken Arabian from a local breeding farm. When she was in high school she held working student positions at eventing farms in Alberta and Manitoba, and that’s where she fell in love with the sport. Dueck continued to ride throughout her time at University, getting married, and starting dairy farming full-time. In 2014 she took the President’s position in the Provincial Horse Trials Association and started getting more involved with running her local eventing club.
“There isn’t a lot of opportunity for eventing in my Province,” explained Dueck. “We host one event per year here in Manitoba and the next closest Canadian event from me is 16 hours. Because Area IV has events within nine hours of me I have been going south to get more event show miles and have been heading south for seven years now. The USEA shows are well-organized and beautiful, and a bonus is that instead of trying to ride and organize shows like I do here at home I get to attend strictly as a rider and focus on me and my horse.”
“Zoom is my first horse of real quality where I can tell she has great potential to go far in this sport,” said Dueck. The mare was bred by a local Canadian Warmblood breeder and purchased by Dueck as an unbroken 6-year-old. “This made her more affordable! She is in her fourth year eventing now and is sitting solid at the Training level just waiting for enough exposure and experience to move up to Preliminary. It took a while for her to build confidence both in me and herself. I trailer her an hour about twice a week for lesson with my coach and with her help, along with traveling to USEA shows, I have been able to mover her up smoothly to the Training level.”
Dueck said that receiving the Charles Owen Technical Merit award was a sign that all her hard work and attention to the technical aspects of the sport were paying off. “After I was handed the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award at Otter Creek HT I was honored! I was also awarded a fancy helmet bag AND a certificate towards a cross-country vest! The vest I wear now does not fit me great and was bought hoping I would grow into it so this award meant a lot to me. I spent the 9-hour drive home Googling which vest I would love to upgrade to.”
“The biggest thing I took away from winning this award was giving myself some reassurance that I look like I know what I am doing,” said Dueck. “Riders work hard to be their best and there is a lot of advice, opinions, and emotions to go along with our riding goals that can cause you to question what you think you know. Going down to the United States gives me opportunity to watch upper-level riders compete and this can feel intimidating sometimes.”
Dueck has worked hard to increase her knowledge and skill, even taking the course designers and builders course offered by Equestrian Canada so that she could build and design her own jumps at home to practice on. She also takes every opportunity to attend clinics so that she can get fresh eyes on her riding and new ideas for her training. “Using the skills I have been taught and being brave and confident on cross-country has helped me move my horses along in the sport."
“Winning this award was the cherry on top of my 2017 eventing season with Zoom,” said Dueck. “We finished in second place, Zoom felt confident and ready, the weather was great, the people were awesome and I took home more feedback and advice that I can use to come back better next season. Thank you to everyone that makes this sport great both in Canada and the United States!"
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.