A total field of 20 future event horses came together today for the 2017 USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) West Coast Championships. With eight 3-year-olds, seven 2-year-olds, and three yearlings, as well as two 4-year-olds in the new division, the quality outdid quantity, as the judges were enthusiastic about the horses that showed up to compete today.
“The quality of the horses has no doubt improved the last couple years here on the west coast,” explained FEH Championship judge, Robin Walker. “There is a lot more quality here than we’ve seen in past years, and it was a nice day for the FEH program.”
In FEH classes for yearlings up through the 3-year-old division, horses are judged on both their conformation and the quality and correctness of their gaits. Upon entering the arena, their handlers are asked to stand the horses up for inspection to allow the judge to analyze the strengths and weaknesses in their conformation. Then, they are asked to walk a 15-meter triangle, and then trot a 30-meter triangle. Finally, they are asked to stand up one last time for the judge to make their final observations.
While the yearlings and 2-year-old Champions are named after their in-hand divisions, the 3-year-old overall Champion was determined after completing the in-hand class, combined with the score of their free-jump class in the Priefert jump chute. 3-year-olds were asked to show their canter and then have four to six attempts through the jump chute. The 3-year-olds were judged in three equal parts during the free-jumping division: The Canter, the Free-Jumping Technique, and the Free-Jumping Ability/Scope.
New this year is the FEH 4-year-old division, which provides horses who may not be ready for the YEH program a chance to compete for a Championship title with an undersaddle class, conformation aspect, and a jump chute portion.
Today’s Championships were judged by FEH/YEH Committee Advisor, upper-level Eventer and Grand Prix show jump rider, and ICP faculty member Robin Walker, accompanied by the world-renowned Irish horseman, Chris Ryan. In addition to the accomplished judges, young horse expert and FEH committee member Samantha Allan served as lead handler in the jump chute for all competitors.
Yearling Overall Champion, BlueDreamin CMeFly, owned and handled by Megan Bittle. USEA Photo.
The day began with the Yearling class, full of only stallions and geldings, no fillies. Typically, a Championship class will be pinned through sixth place for fillies and colts/geldings separately, and then overall ribbons through fourth place will be awarded to the overall highest scores, regardless of gender. Today, however, was a boys-only club in the Yearling Championship, with Megan Bittle’s own Sport Pony stallion, BlueDreamin CMeFly (BlueDreaminCatadude x BlueDreamin Gemini) taking home the Championship title on an 81.2. Cheron Laboissonniere’s Holsteiner stallion Chosen One DF (Coconut Grove x Columbia BF) scored a 78.1 to take home second place, and Sarah McCarthy’s Connemara gelding, Bounce DFEN (Redbuds Blue Moon x Manzanita) rounded out the class on a very respectable 77.1.
2-year-old Filly and Overall Champion, Hallelujah DF earned the highest score of the day, an 87.7. USEA Photo.
Cheron Laboissonniere’s Holsteiner mare Hallelujah DF (Mighty Magic x Columbia BF) claimed both the 2-year-old Filly Championship title, as well as the Overall 2-year-old Championship title on an extremely impressive score of 87.7 with Jennifer McFall serving as the handler and husband Earl McFall as the assistant handler. The 2-year-old Colt Champion was Sarah McCarthy’s Hanoverian stallion handled by Max Gerdes, Escher DFEN (Escudo II x Apt to Please), who scored an impressive 85.2, claiming the Overall Reserve Champion title for the 2-year-olds behind Hallelujah DF. The third-place overall winner in the division was Michlynn Sterling’s Dutch Warmblood filly, Kosmic Twist S (Corland x April’s Twist), scoring a 79.5.
Lady Elegance, the Overall 2017 USEA FEH West Coast Champion through the jump chute. USEA Photo.
The 3-year-old Championship was led wire to wire by Oldenburg filly, Lady Elegance (Landkonig x Ultimate Elegance), who led the in-hand confirmation portion, as well as the jump chute class, finishing on a cumulative score of 84.5. Owner Marta Petrenko served as handler of the filly today, who also competed her in the 2016 USEA FEH West Coast Championships, where Lady Elegance took home the 2-year-old Championship title. Lady Elegance was the highest scoring filly in the division, and also claimed the 2017 USEA FEH West Coast Grand Champion title. She had some stiff competition from her half-brother, Lando, an Oldenburg stallion who was also sired by Landkonig, but out of Valentine. Lando claimed the 3-year-old Colt Championship, and scored an 81.5 to claim the Overall Reserve Championship title, just behind his sibling Lady Elegance. Lando is owned by Michelle Motyl, Josh Kos, and Lisa Dunckley. Lisa Dunckley bred both the Champion and Reserve Champion of the FEH 3-year-old Championship this year, and found success with her youngsters at the 2016 FEH Championships, taking home multiple top honors there as well.
Lando, the 3-year-old Reserve Champion through the jump chute. USEA Photo.
“It’s apparent that the breeding programs and the quality of the horses are continuing to raise the bar in the country, and it’s especially nice to see that happening on the west coast now too,” stated Walker.
“I was delighted to see the quality that we had today,” exclaimed FEH Championship judge, Chris Ryan. “I think that the winners of both the 2- and 3-year-old divisions can hold their own in any company, anywhere. They were top quality. Seeing these horses today with good model, type, and go was a really good testament to the program. This shows the program is working, and I look forward to judging the USEA FEH East Coast Championships this weekend with Robin [Walker].”
The newly added 4-year-old division saw just two horses at the Championship today, but both scored very well, with Natalie Brady riding Susan Darling-Mahoney’s Trakehner gelding, Lucky Seven (Herbstkonig x LaRochelle) to the win on an 81.5. Rebecca Braitling rode Michlynn Sterling’s Oldenburg gelding, Raptures Legacy (Rapture R x Fast Romance) to a very respectable cumulative score of a 77.7. Both horses competed in the undersaddle class, where they were judged on gaits at the walk, trot, and canter, were then stripped of tack to be judged on conformation, and then were sent through the jump chute as a final test.
Inside the jump chute for the FEH 3-year-old Championships, a distance of 9’-12’ is set between the ground pole and obstacle one, 18’-22.5' between obstacle one and two, and 19’-25’ between obstacle two and three. The maximum height of the first fence is 2’7”, the second is 2’9”, and the last fence is 3’3’ in front, 3’7” in back and 4’ in width. The range of distance is to accommodate different types of horses at different stages of development. In the FEH 4-year-old Championships, the distances are the same as the 3-year-olds, but heights will build to: first fence at 2’9”, second fence at 3’ 3” and the last fence is 3’7” in front and 3’9” in the back and 4’3” in width. All the horses in either age group receive the opportunity to canter down the jump chute four to six times, building to maximum height as they go, while keeping safety as paramount importance. If a horse is ever over faced, the judges will make the call to either let the horse be finished, or have the fences lowered for a final, confidence boosting jump line.
The USEA also awarded two special awards at today’s FEH Championships. The Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P.) award is given to the highest scoring Thoroughbred in the 3-year-old class, and was awarded to Andrea Baxter’s Thoroughbred gelding, Muscavato (Creative Cause x Colonial Empress), who scored a 79.9 in his division with handler Marta Petrenko. The Born In America Award is presented to the highest scoring horse at the Championship that is American bred, and this year’s winner was none other than the Grand Champion herself, Lady Elegance.
Muscavato, the winner of the T.I.P. Award, 2nd place gelding, and 4th place Overall in the 3-year-old Championship. USEA Photo.
The USEA FEH East Coast Championships will take place this weekend at Loch Moy Farm in Adamstown, Md. on both Saturday and Sunday, with over 80 horses entered to compete for the Championship titles.
For more information about the FEH Program and Championships, contact Kate Lokey at 703-779-9897.
To view all scores from the FEH West Coast Championships, go here.
For more photos and videos, follow the USEA Instagram account.
To read the 2017 FEH Championship Fast Facts, go here.
About the USEA FEH Program
The USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) series was introduced in 2007 as a pilot program as, what the USEA hoped would be, a successful precursor to the already popular USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) series, which is designed for 4- and 5-year-olds. Since the “test year” was so successful – with more than fifty young horses competing at the year-end Championship show – 2008 would see the FEH’s first season as a bona fide USEA program. FEH Classes are in-hand classes for yearlings, 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds. At Championships, 3-year-olds are required to compete in an additional free-jump division. New in 2017, the FEH program will offer a 4-year-old class in which the horses show their gaits under saddle at qualifier events, and compete in a free-jump division at Championships as well.
The USEA would also like to thank Twin Rivers Ranch and the Baxter family for hosting the 2017 USEA FEH West Coast Championships. We could not have done it without you!