The very first ever Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Land Rover (AEC) at the Tryon International Equestrian Center are officially complete! Eighteen new AEC champions were added to the history books of eventing honors over the course of the last five days of competition in Mill Spring, N.C.
Professional’s Choice Junior Training
Watching McKinsey Wickman and Dassett Profile lead a victory gallop at AEC was a familiar sight as this pair are now back-to-back AEC champions. Wickman and her 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse by Crosstown Dancer took top honors in the Junior Novice division last year, only to return this year to extend their dominance over the Professional’s Choice Junior Training division.
Traveling all the way from Texas, Wickman grabbed a four-point lead in the dressage phase after earning a score of 23.6. They continued the following day with a speedy double clear cross-country, and finally today the pair picked up only one time penalty to end on a score of 24.6.
“It was a little nerve-wracking knowing I didn’t have a rail in hand because [Georgia Dillard] did so good,” she joked to second-placed Dillard. “I think we both handled the environment really well. It’s a lot to take in, but I think we handled that really well under the pressure.”
“It really is a blessing to be here, so I’m super proud of me and my horse for just getting to this point, and to really do well means a lot. It shows all the hard work we put together through the season.”
Georgia Dillard kept the pressure on Wickman throughout the weekend, and ended up the reserve champion of this division for the second consecutive year. Aboard Normandy’s Cole’s Clover (Normandy’s Four Leaf Clover x Racin’ Rosa), a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by Normandy Farm, she finished on her dressage score of 27.3. Third place went to Maddie McElduff and her own Tupelo (Baron Verdi x Thabana), a 7-year-old Trakehner.
Broadstone Junior Beginner Novice
Julie McElligot sealed the deal on a whirlwind weekend at AEC after a double clear show jumping this morning aboard Ricky (Ricky Martin x Chelsea Small Talk). Lauren Meyers’ 16-year-old Swedish Warmblood kept on his dressage score of 22.5 throughout the entire weekend for a wire-to-wire win of the Broadstone Junior Beginner Novice division.
“He was a little up when we got in there, but he loves the jumps. He took each fence much better than I thought he was going to. I was really pleased with how amazing he warmed up. He went really well today for me,” she said.
“Everything fell into place. He loves all three phases and he had an amazing weekend, probably the best rides we’ve had. I’m very proud of him, and it’s a great accomplishment for me considering it’s my first year eventing.”
Second place went to Kaley Breland and her own Not An Issue (Mix Max x Contessa), a 10-year-old Holsteiner. They end the weekend on their dressage score of 26.5 after also having back-to-back clear rounds yesterday and today. Ellie Bizot and Ziggy Stardust, a 6-year-old Hanoverian by Magon, moved from fourth to third after adding nothing on the cross-country, and they kept hold of that placing today to finish with the yellow ribbon.
Broadstone Junior Beginner Novice 14 and Under
It was a nail biting finale for the Broadstone Junior Beginner Novice 14 and Under division today when the overnight leader, Annabelle Kress and Batteries Not Included, picked up a sole time penalty in the show jumping to tie with second place on a 27.5 Fortunately for Kress, she finished closest to the optimum time yesterday, which ultimately gave her the championship title.
Susie Beale’s 16-year-old Pinto, who is affectionately nicknamed Batman, had an incredible weekend, placing second after dressage on a 26.5, moving into first after a double clear cross-country and ultimately winning the division in the end.
“I was a little bit worried about having rails because sometimes if I don’t ride him the right way he’s a little less careful,” she explained. “I actually fell off in the warm-up, which was actually a good thing because then I learned that I have to sit back and I have to trust myself, and that’s what I went in there and did.”
Mackenzie Lea and The Main in Black (CC Brunos Chinook x Foxy Peppy IMP), a 6-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse, were the reserve champions for this division, finishing on their dressage score of 27.5, and Chloe Johnson was third with her own DaVinci (Byars x Super Mount), a 13-year-old Thoroughbred, on a score of 27.8.
Junior Young Rider Preliminary
William Zuschlag and RF Southern Command (Ustinov x Trijntje) kept hold of their lead of the Junior Young Rider Preliminary division this weekend from dressage all the way through today’s show jumping. The 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood finished on his dressage score of 27.3.
“Our plan was to go in and be forward. I put him in a bigger bit for the show jumping. I thought he might be a little fresh in the big arena, and he was. He ended up being perfect and it was exactly what we needed,” Zuschlag said.
Coincidentally, this pair was already accustomed to winning here after they earned top honors in the Preliminary division at the Tryon International Equestrian Center at the U.S. Pony Club Championships last month. With another championship won, they’ve got big plans for the future including taking on a few one-stars and Intermediates this fall in an effort to qualify for the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) next summer.
The fitness needed for that is already in place and proving its worth. “We’ve upped his fitness program and that’s helped him a lot. He was so much fitter coming into the show jumping today. Usually he’s a little slower, and that makes the jumps feel bigger, but they felt little today,” he said.
Arielle Aharoni earned the reserve champion title for this division aboard her own 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood Dutch Times (Good Times x Alino Queen). They finish on a score of 28. Ali Scannell and her own Faolan, a 12-year-old Irish Draught Sport Horse by Captain Clover, completed the weekend in third with 32.8 penalty points.
Alexis Mazzatta was all smiles after she and Diana Burnett’s Shigatzi were crowned the final champions of the 2016 AEC. In only her fourth event ever, Mazzatta lead the Junior Novice division from start to finish on her dressage score of 26.
She’s still very new to the sport, only having done three events before this weekend. “This is my fourth event. I’ve been trying to event for like five years, just failed attempts. I couldn’t be happier. I worked so hard for so long just to be able to event and having this outcome is just amazing.”
Mazzatta and “Shaggy” have only been together for a short time, but they have made every minute count. “I’ve had Shaggy for two months,” she explained. “Right when I got him we had an amazing connection. He’s super sweet. We just connected right away.”
Nicholas Beshear and his own Badland’s Echo had a clear round in the show jumping to move them from fourth to second. He and the 21-year-old Paint mare finished on their dressage score of 29. Avery Lewis was tied with Beshear, but because he was closest to the optimum time, she ended in third with her own The Manx Man (Rock City x Queen’s Habit), a 15-year-old Thoroughbred.
About the AEC
The Nutrena® USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Land Rover (AEC) is the pinnacle of the sport for the national levels. Held annually, this event draws together the best competitors from across the country vying for national titles from the Beginner Novice through the Advanced level. This year's AEC is being held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, N.C. August 31-September 4, 2016.
The 2016 Nutrena® USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Land Rover would not be possible without our wonderful sponsors: Nutrena, Land Rover, Adequan, Merial, Broadstone Equine Insurance Company, Professional's Choice, Devoucoux,Merck Animal Health, Standlee Hay, Charles Owen, Fleeceworks, CWD, The Chronicle of the Horse, Noble Outfitters, Auburn Laboratories Inc., Smartpak, Stackhouse Saddles, Point Two, VTO Saddlery, FLAIR, Dubarry of Ireland, FITS Riding, Equine Art by Julie, Ride Safe, The Jockey Club, Ovation, Eventing Training Online, Kastel Denmark, Happy Saddle Treats, I Love My Horse, GumBits, Horse Hydrator, Phoenix Bodyworks, C4 Belts, The Scoring Chix, and more.