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Thu, 2016-11-10 13:41

The Thrill of the 'Chase Lives On with USEA Classic Series Divisions at Galway Downs International

Megan Wilson and Classic's Mojah. Photo by Captured Moment Photography.

Galway Downs International is a popular year-end destination for West Coast riders. It not only offers international CCI divisions, but also gives eventers a chance to tackle a traditional long format event with their USEA Classic Series divisions. These are increasingly popular at the Temecula, Calif. Venue, with entries warranting two Training Three-Day divisions.

Megan Noelle Wilson and her own Classic’s Mojah (Chambertin x Sevillano) led the Training Three-Day A division from start to finish. The 7-year-old Oldenburg was originally slated for a career in dressage, and carried theses skills into the first phase of competition, scoring a 26 on the flat. “He was in training with Stephan Peters, but didn’t quite cut it as a dressage horse,” Wilson explained.

Fortunately, the bay gelding was rerouted to evening, a career switch he has so far been very keen about. “[Peters] reached out to Tamie Smith to see if he could be sold as an event horse. I work and ride with Tamie, and they thought we would be a good pair. It was pretty much love at first ride,” she smiled. The pair’s dressage score remained untouched throughout the competition after two faultless jump rounds.

Wilson purchased “Mojah” in June of this year, and the pair have already racked up their share of successes, using this three-day to conclude their first season together. “We decided to do the training three-day because we were thinking about moving up to Preliminary, but since he is so new to eventing, we wanted to give Mo and I a chance to do something a little more difficult than a regular training before we moved up,” Wilson commented.

This was a first attempt at a traditional long format event for both horse and rider, and Wilson thinks the learning experience alone was invaluable. “The long format really prepares you for a good cross-country round I think. Steeplechase really gets them in front of your leg! Mo is more on the lazy side, so it surprised me when he I went out of the start box and he was so forward,” she explained. “Because he was in front of my leg he was really able to figure out his own feet.”

“It feels similar to doing an FEI event, which makes it so much more thrilling with the big crowds and atmosphere. I think Mo and I really had an opportunity to learn so much about our partnership because of the long format.”

Following Wilson was second-placed Allana Baker and Cursive (Golden Gear x Curry), a 13-year-old Thoroughbred mare. They kept pace with Wilson and Mojah throughout the competition, siting less than four points behind the leaders after dressage on a 29.7. They also delivered two double clear jumping rounds to end the weekend on their dressage score for second place.

A clear show jumping round moved Alexis Helffrich and Claire Thomas’ Glad Tidings AF up from fourth into a final third position, while one rail for Haley Turner and her own Orion’s Sweet Rubio gave them the fourth place finish.

The A division was a capable bunch. Out of the 21 starters, 19 finished the weekend and did so with no cross-country jump penalties. In fact, there were very few penalties across either jumping phase, with eleven competitors finishing on their dressage score.

Megan Compton and Five O'Clock Somewhere. Photo by Captured Moment Photography. 

In the second USEA Classic Series division, Megan Compton and her own Five O’clock Somewhere (Audio x Qtrpastree) also led a wire-to-wire win of the Training Three-Day B division. “Chunky,” a 15-year-old Thoroughbred earned a score of 31 in dressage, and added nothing to it through the rest of the competition.  

Keeping the pressure on all weekend was Chunky’s full sibling, Linda Paine’s Happy Hour, ridden by Kaylawna Smith. Also bred by Terry and Linda Paine, 8-year-old Thoroughbred “Happy” gave her brother a run for his money, finishing only .3 behind him. The success of these two California-bred siblings was a significant nod to Terry and Linda, who are very involved in not only the breeding, but also the training of their horses. “It was fun for me to see [Terry and Linda] there because they don’t own Chunky anymore, but they still keep up with him and appreciate seeing him out. I love that they’re involved,” said Wilson.  

Kaylawna’s family rivalry extended further that her horse last weekend, she also found herself tied with her mother, Tamra Smith, and Graceland’s Liebling after dressage both with 31.3 penalty points. But at the end of endurance day, it was Kaylawna who broke the tie after finishing closer to optimum time than her mother. “I was determined, I’ll say that. I went out on cross-country and made sure I was right on the dot,” Kaylawna commented, adding a playful, “I beat her!” Tamra graciously accepted her third place finish with Peggy Moore’s 5-year-old Oldenburg mare.

Of division B’s 22 starters, 19 finished the weekend and six of those also finished on their dressage score. Time penalties on phases B and D of endurance day shifted placings quite a bit, but they remained mostly consistent after show jumping.

It was another great year for the USEA Classic Series, which gives eventers the opportunity to experience the traditional format of eventing and the thrill of the ‘chase!

About the USEA Classic Series

Long-format events from the Preliminary to Beginner Novice levels are still a reality with the USEA Classic Series and include roads and tracks, steeplechase, and cross-country on "endurance day," as well as horse inspections. Educational activities are offered at the Classic Series Events.

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