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.
The Shepherd Ranch SYVPC Horse Trials, held at Shepherd Ranch in Santa Ynez, Calif. on August 25-27, 2017, hosted the Area VI leg of the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award. Susan Coert and Eneya Jenkins were awarded the Charles Owen Technical Merit Adult Amateur and Junior awards for their display of safe and appropriate riding across the country.
Robyn Fisher served as the judge for the Charles Owen Technical Merit award at Shepherd Ranch. Fisher explained how she stood in the tower, which allowed her to see the entire cross-country course. “There was one part where [riders] had the coffin, and then they had to go into the water, and then they had another complex, so I just judged every horse through that [section of the course] so that it was consistent for every horse.”
Coert’s partnership with Mommy’s Ferrari made an impression on Fisher. “They were solid, they were safe, and you could tell that the horse trusted her and she had trust in the horse. She did everything how it’s supposed to look and she did a wonderful job.” Coert piloted Lauren Smith and Penny Russell-Smith’s 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding to a second-place finish in the Senior Training Rider division on a score of 34.8, adding just 3.6 cross-country time penalties to their dressage score.
Coert grew up riding on a cattle ranch in Texas and had never even heard of eventing until her daughters got involved in Pony Club. “Before long both of my girls were taking lessons and riding competitively,” explained Coert. “I always insisted on safety, and we grew into the sport under the careful tutelage of Deborah Rosen. For over a decade, I was ‘Horse Show Mom’ and loved every minute of it! I always knew, however, that I would pursue my own riding goals once my daughters were older. So, once my youngest turned 18, I started competing myself.”
Mommy’s Ferrari had competed through Novice level with his owner, Lauren Smith, before she graduated high school and went off to college. “At that point, Ferrari needed a rider, I needed a horse, and Debbie suggested the partnership in June of 2015,” said Coert. “Ferrari is a very talented little horse that really shines in all three phases. He’s truly a dream to work with, and for an adult amateur like myself just starting out, I can’t imagine a better partner. I’m continually impressed by his heart and athleticism, as well as his patience with me. Because he’s on the smaller side, he tends to look to me for confidence as the jumps have gotten bigger at Training level. But once he’s convinced he can do it, he’s pretty unstoppable, and a total thrill on cross-country.”
“I think the Charles Owen Technical Merit score sheet does an incredibly thorough job evaluating each piece that goes into creating a stellar cross-country ride,” commented Coert. “As a person that is super competitive, it’s easy for me to lose sight of what’s most important in a quality ride if I only look at ribbons. The correlation, however, should be that if I’m doing what I should be doing as a rider to execute a technically correct ride, the ribbons tend to naturally follow.”
Coert credits Rosen’s thorough instruction with a focus on safety for teaching her to tackle cross-country with appropriate technique and skill. “She’s very deliberate in how she approaches the training of both horse and rider, and safety is her number one concern,” she explained. “Honestly, I’m not surprised that someone from her barn won this award, I’m just surprised and humbled it was me! It was such a moving and validating experience to be acknowledged for something that is a cornerstone of my barn’s training philosophy and to know that my ride embodied that.”
Jenkins and her own Americana, a 9-year-old Holsteiner mare, picked up 6.8 time penalties on cross-country to finish in fourth place on a score of 47.5. Jenkins has been riding since she was two years old, and has had the opportunity to compete several horses over the past few years before beginning her partnership with Americana, who was for sale as a jumper when Jenkins met her.
“My trainer recommended giving her a try and just riding her for fun, and I knew then that she was the horse for me,” said Jenkins. “I had never felt so comfortable or in tune with a horse as much as I did with her. I knew we were meant for each other and I couldn't describe the way I feel on her even if I tried. She started off only stadium jumping but then slowly we introduced cross-country and she absolutely loved it. We worked through dressage together because it wasn't either of our fortes and we still continue to work harder to get better. She's come a very long way since I bought her last summer and so have I!”
Jenkins explained that she hasn’t competed in a while because she has been focusing on school, but that going cross-country schooling before the event really improved her confidence. “Even though my scores weren't amazing I felt like we really had a breakthrough in the way my rides felt. I get a little nervous on cross-country and we may have gone slower than usual but my trust for her only grows as we excel in events together. Receiving this award really showed me that I was right about the breakthrough at this show. I only hope to get better and strengthen the relationship I have with Americana.”
Watch Eneya Jenkins and Americana tackle the Training cross-country course at Shepherd Ranch. Video courtesy of Ride On Video.
“I think what Charles Owen is doing for three-day eventing is so admirable,” concluded Coert. “Because I’m passionate about seeing our sport continue to grow and thrive, it’s made a huge impression on me to receive an award that demonstrates their commitment to something that I love.”
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.