The Charles Owen Technical Merit Award was established in 2009 by the USEA Professional Horseman’s Council (PHC) to encourage safe and appropriate cross-country riding technique. The award is presented at a series of events throughout the year at the Training level to one junior rider and one adult amateur rider who demonstrate technique on cross-country for a list of criteria including gallop, preparation, execution of jump, rider position, and general impressions. Judges, who must be either Level III or IV ICP certified, USEF Licensed Eventing Officials or USET Senior Team Riders, reward the top riders who excel at these skills. The winners at each event receive a Charles Owen Body Protector and helmet bag, and the year-end high-point junior and amateur winners will receive a Charles Owen helmet.
Seneca Valley Pony Club hosted the Area II leg of the Charles Owen Technical Merit series at their fall Horse Trials at Bittersweet Field on September 2-3, 2017. Out of nearly 75 starters at the Training level, Erin Reilly and Alexis Mazzatta received the Charles Owen Technical Merit Adult Amateur and Junior awards for their demonstration of excellent cross-country riding skill. Sara Miller-Leary judged this leg of the award.
Mazzatta and Shigatzi, a 14-year-old Canadian Thoroughbred gelding by Franc Coeur, finished ninth overall in the Junior Training division at Seneca Valley. Mazzatta had always dreamed of eventing and “Shaggy” as he is known in the barn has helped her to realize that dream.
“Shaggy has gone up the levels with Diana Burnett and I leased him for a year before we bought him in June,” said Mazzatta. “He is the sweetest horse I've had the pleasure of knowing and always tries his heart out. Shaggy has taught me so much in the time I've known him and we've been able to accomplish a lot, all with the help of my trainer Kristen Bond, in the year and a half I've been eventing.”
Mazzatta was encouraged by the feedback she received since typically riders don’t receive scores on cross-country. “It was nice to hear that Shaggy and I are a good pair and it's good to see the places where scores could be higher,” she said. “It was raining all day so the footing was a bit soft and we decided it'd be better for me to go a bit slower. It was cool to see one of the points of judgement to be appropriate speed for terrain and conditions then to be recognized for it . . . I'm honored to have won such a cool award!”
Reilly and her own Banc D’or (Bankers Gold x Kick Those Daisies), a 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, placed sixth overall on a score of 45.2 with a double-clean cross-country round in the Training Senior 1 division at Seneca.
Erin Reilly and Banc D’or. GRC Photo.
Reilly’s riding career began at a fox hunting barn. “Learning how to ride on 16.2+ hand hunt horses and helping train off-the-track Thoroughbreds that came through the barn for resale really boosted my confidence and made me love the project horses,” she explained. She got hooked on eventing after joining Pony Club when she was just eight years old. “I love the challenge of riding three different phases in one competition because it makes for a well-rounded horse and rider pair who can adjust so drastically from dressage to cross-country.”
Rumsey Keefe, Reilly’s trainer, gave Reilly the opportunity to compete through the preliminary level on two of her horses before Reilly purchased Banc D’or as a project horse. “Banc” as he’s known around the barn raced at Charlestown until he was six, and had only about a month of retraining when Reilly bought him. “From the first time I tried Banc I could tell he that he was a quirky horse but very honest. I don't think you can really train a horse to be bold, they have to want to do their job, and I could tell that Banc wanted to please,” said Reilly. The pair have been together for three years now.
“Because he is so bold, cross-country hasn't really ever been a problem for him,” commented Reilly. “We're starting to school bigger and more technical fences with the intent of moving up in the spring. Our focus on footwork and accuracy on a line rather than just getting over the fences has transformed him into a much more ridable horse not only on cross-county, but in the other phases as well. We really just click together as a pair. It's been a long road to where we are now, but I love him for always trying to please me. I think the quirky ones are the most fun, and I think he has that mindset and drive to him to go pretty far in eventing.”
Reilly explained that the comments she received from the judge on her score sheet were encouraging and complimentary. “Banc and I have come a long way in finding the balance between boldness and rideability so it was exciting for that to have been recognized at Seneca . . . It speaks to how capable we can be as a pair. I feel like I easily get down on myself since Banc is a reflection of the work I have put into him, so when I mess up I tend to take it really personally. At Seneca, he took every jump in stride and I feel like he is finally taking initiative on course and thinking for himself.”
“I think the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award as a whole is a great way for riders to improve on their technique and skill,” said Reilly. “Out on course it can be easy to forget to ride each fence a specific way when you are just trying to finish the course successfully. I think this award targets riders who have learned to focus on every aspect such as gallop, preparation, jump, and position and pull it all together in the five minutes we have to show off countless hours of preparation.”
2017 Charles Owen Technical Merit Schedule
Pine Top Advanced H.T. | Feb. 23-26, 2017 | Thomson, GA (Area 3)
Coconino Summer I H.T. | July 8-9, 2017 | Flagstaff, AZ (Area 10)
The Event At Rebecca Farm | July 19-23, 2017 | Kalispell, MT (Area 7)
Fitch's Corner H.T. | July 22-23, 2017 | Millbrook, NY (Area 1)
Cobblestone Farms H.T. | July 28-30, 2017 | Dexter, MI (Area 8)
Shepherd Ranch SYVPC H.T. II | Aug. 25-27, 2017 | Santa Ynez, CA (Area 6)
Seneca Valley Pony Club H.T. | Sept. 2-3 2017 | Poolesville, MD (Area 2)
Otter Creek Fall H.T. | Sept. 15-17, 2017 | Wheeler, WI (Area 4)
Colorado Horse Park H.T. | Sept. 15-17, 2017 | Parker, CO (Area 9)
Texas Rose Horse Park | November 11-12, 2017 | Tyler, TX (Area 5)
About Charles Owen
Charles Owen has been elevating the standards of safety in our sport by manufacturing to some of the top international safety standards for riding helmets and body protectors. At their design headquarters, Charles Owen uses an advanced computer simulation to perform impact analysis for their products. Charles Owen is the official riding helmet of the USEA. To learn more about Charles Owen visit their website.