It was a busy weekend at the highly-anticipated Twin Rivers Fall Horse Trials, held September 19 – 22 in San Miguel, California. The competition had a total of 377 starters in 29 divisions. Not only was the event running horse trials with divisions ranging from Introductory to Advanced, they also hosted the Area VI Championships, and held three Young Event Horse divisions on the Thursday.
At the Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels, the Championship divisions were run independently with enough qualified riders to have a Rider and Horse Championship division. For the Intermediate and Advanced levels, the Championships were run concurrently within the regular horse trial divisions.
Twin Rivers’ organizers, the Baxter family, were able to secure many fantastic sponsors for each Championship division, including White Horse tack, Gold Force, Devoucoux, CWD, Sonoma Saddlery, Ride On Video, The Equine Center, Star Equine and several more. Each sponsor donated a special prize to the division’s winner beyond the great prizes already awarded to 1st to 4th place winners, which included saddle pads with Area VI Championship embroidered on them, leather open front boots, splint boots, and bell boots from Professional Choice, boot bags by Equestrian Habits, as well as Twin Rivers embroidered day sheets.
The atmosphere at the show had a definite championship feel to it, especially when it came to the cross-country and stadium courses. Don Trotter of Sunsprite Warmbloods supplied a number of beautiful jumps, including a lovely USEA Area VI jump for the stadium course.
As I arrived Wednesday, I noticed Don Trotter, Sunsprite Warmbloods, unloading and settting up his jumps in the show jumping arena. I was extremely impressed by how beautifully and detailed each jump was painted, especially the USEA Area VI jump.
Course designers James Atkinson and Sarah Dubost, cross country and show jumping respectively, brought their “A” game and produced well-flowing, challenging courses to really test riders late in the season at the championship level.
Atkinson spoke about how he thought the cross-country courses rode (as he rode them himself), “everything seemed to go really well…many of them [advanced riders] made time, which never used to happen.” Competitors from Beginner Novice to Advanced were impressed with the courses and all the changes that Atkinson had made.
In the show jumping ring, Sarah Dubost created challenging courses for all the levels and utilized the beautiful jumps well to make Sunday a consequential day in show jumping. Clean rounds were hard to come by especially for Training level and above.
The winners of each Championship division received a saddle pad, stable sheet, leather open front boots, a gift certificate from Ride On Video, and the special prize donated by the sponsor of the division.
Pam Fisher and Seal Lion had a successful weekend winning the Advanced Championship division. When she came to pick up her prizes, “finally…it feels like it’s all coming together,” she said with a sigh of relief. The Intermediate Champions were Jennifer McFall and High Times who were Area VI’s top-placed rider at Jersey Fresh CCI*** this past Spring. They had a lovely show jumping round with just one rail down.
Eager to come in to the office to get their prizes were the winners of the Preliminary Horse and Rider Championship divisions, Ruth Bley riding Silver Sage and Kiera Carter riding Corinthoz, respectively. Bley rode many lovely horses to success this weekend and was exceptionally pleased with Silver Sage and their performance. Carter was always smiling this weekend but, none bigger, then after her show jumping round when she clinched the win for the Championship division.
As the levels lowered, the feeling of excitement grew, especially in the Training divisions. Joe McKinley won the Training Horse Championship division on Romulus (owned by Heather Marchman) and as he came to pick up his prizes said, “you know, I have been in the Championships so many times but always end up second…” He finally won! The Training Rider Championship division winner, Stepanie Wehan on Remington, had one rail in the show jumping and won the division by just 0.4 point.
The Novice Rider Champion, Alexandra Terlesky and Weltina, won the dressage with a 28.5 and continued her stellar performance throughout the weekend by finishing on her dressage score. She and her parents were very proud of her success. The Novice Horse Champion was Jennifer Wooten on a lovely horse, Heart of Gold SE (owned by Rose Sullivan), also finishing on her dressage score of a 23.5.
At the end of the day, Joe McKinley came through with his second win riding Charming Waltz, winner of the Beginner Novice Horse Championship division. It was a momentous day for McKinley, who clinched two Championship wins during the weekend after not having won a championship division before. The Novice Rider Champion, Annie Desmond, an adult amateur won on a competition-wide low score of a 19.1. She was ecstatic after her tremendous success this weekend.
Overall, the Area VI Championship at the Twin Rivers Fall Horse Trials were a huge success. The weather cooperated, with temperatures in the mid 70s, and lots of folks – Twin Rivers’ organizers, staff and volunteers – put in a ton of hard work to create a truly wonderful show.