The 2016 USEA East Coast Young Event Horse Championships kicked off today in Elkton, Md., alongside the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International Horse Trials as an unprecedented number of 5-year-olds and 4-year-olds went head-to-head for the top spot of their respective ages. Each year the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program grows, the competition gets more intense and this year is no exception with the top scores separated by mere points.
The USEA's YEH Series judges 4- and 5-year-old horses on their abilities on the flat and over fences with the goal of identifying horses that possess the talent and disposition that, with proper training, can excel to the upper levels of eventing. The competition is based on three scores: conformation (15%), dressage (35%) and jumping (50%). The judges for both the 2016 East and West Coast Championships are Ian Stark, Bea di Grazia and Cathy Tucker-Slaterbeck.
It was Marley Stone Bourke’s Foreign Quality who inched himself ahead of the rest for the early lead in the championship. Piloted by Marley’s husband, Tim Bourke, the 5-year-old Dutch Warmblood earned 30.66 in his dressage test (out of 35 points), and went on to also earn 11.96 points for conformation (out of 15 points), giving him a total score of 42.62 going into the jumping portion.
Tim imported “Badger” from Ireland as a 4-year-old, and reluctantly turned him over to his wife, Marley. “He actually belongs to my wife. I bought him, brought him over and registered him over here. I let my wife ride him for a while, so you’d hear them announce ‘Marley Stone Bourke riding Tim Bourke’s Foreign Quality.’ Then all the sudden I start riding him, and she changed his ownership without telling me,” Tim laughed.
Foreign Quality and Tim Bourke. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.
He can hold onto the ride for now, while Marley is pregnant with their first child. “She campaigned him all spring and did all the hard work on him. She’s pregnant now, So I’ve got the ride for a little while. She keeps threatening to take him off me and give him to someone else if I don’t do a good job, so the pressure was on today.”
Badger has only done one YEH qualifier in advance of this championship, which he handily won. Outside of the YEH program, he is becoming quite the competitor. Badger has three finishes at the Preliminary level, and Tim credits him as a nice jumper.
Flynn Sport Horse’s Get Gaudi earned a score of 42.33 for second place after the first two portions of the competition. The Dutch Warmblood mare is by Alicante HBC and out of Second Floor. Her dressage score mirrored that of our leader, 30.66, and her conformation is only slightly below at 11.67.
Third place after day one goes to another Dutch Warmblood, Galileo WP, who is owned by his rider, Daniel Clasing. Clasing bought “Stash” from Carol Gee and imported him in June. He is by the stallion Ustinov and out of Alexia. The breeder is unknown.
Clasing is making the most of their short time together, piloting Stash to a score of 41.13 (29.61 dressage/11.52 conformation). “He’s been a really good horse to work with. He’s really straightforward. Good mover, good jumper and he’s got a great brain. He’s pretty consistence in all three phases, but not a lot of experience,” he said.
Bradley Cooper and Rebecca Lee. USEA/Leslie Mintz.
In the 4-year-old group, Rebecca Lee’s Bradley Cooper had a nearly foot perfect dressage test for the lead. The 4-year-old Hanoverian earned 11.15 points (out of 15 points) in the conformation phase, and blew the judges out of the water under saddle for a dressage score of 32.76 (out of 35), the best dressage score of all the young horses today. He sits on a score of 43.19 going into tomorrow’s jumping phase.
Lee has only had “Bradley” since purchasing him in June, shortly he was imported by Kara Angulo from Germany. He is Hanoverian and out of the stallion Grey Top, and the dam and breeder information is unknown. “I thought he was really good today. He did everything he was asked for. He’s the nicest young horse I’ve ever ridden, so I’m just excited to carry on and jump tomorrow,” Lee said.
Nina Gardner’s Hopscotch rode into second place today on a score of 42.2, earning 11.75 points for conformation and 30.45 in the dressage with Jennie Brannigan in the irons. “Fiesty” is a Thoroughbred by Special Memories, and out of Gardner’s mare Vidalia. Vidalia was a special mare for Nina Gardner, ridden through the two-star level with both Phillip Dutton and Brannigan.
“She’s a fun horse for the Gardner’s and myself. It was unfortunate when [Vidalia] had to be retired, and this is her first baby, so it’s very special,” Brannigan explained. Riding Vidalia for the Gardners was one of her first professional experiences with the Gardners, and now having the ride on one of her babies is even more special. “She was one of the first horses that I rode for the Gardners. I think that’s when they started to think I was alright as a rider,” she smiled.
Kara Angulo’s Caleesi, a 4-year-old Holsteiner, also had a very positive day, ending in the third position with Kelli Temple riding. The mare has successful YEH bloodlines as her sister, Metallica, was last year's 5-year-old Reserve Champion also ridden by Temple. Bred by Petersen Hans-Nico, the mare is out of Connor and Nina VI. Caleesi earned an 11.82 in conformation and 29.68 in the dressage for a final flat score of 41.50.
The mare was imported earlier this year by Angulo. “She’s a wonderful horse to work with. It’s very natural for her. She’s brave and she has a great brain, and she’s very enjoyable to ride,” Temple said.
The jumping portion kicks off tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.