Olympic medalist and steeplechase jockey Kevin Freeman said he had the best of both worlds he occupied simultaneously in the 1960s and ‘70s, explaining that his heart belonged at once to both eventing and jump racing.
“But I loved steeplechase best of all.”
Freeman said that, at surface level, the two bear little resemblance. But dig a little deeper, and there’s a lot the same, with plenty of cross-pollination between the two.
Like many other parts of American history, the ideas and people behind the sport of eventing in the United States came out of the states that now represent the United States Eventing Association’s (USEA) Area I. Just like how Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont have been the birthplace of great American leaders and ideas, these states were where eventing earned its stars and stripes.
The Essex Horse Trials in New Jersey in the USEA’s Area II combines eventing’s history and future. The event has taken on many looks since it was first run in 1968 and is now back in position to return to the prominence it once held, thanks to a dedicated team devoted to preserving the event’s legacy.
Jillian Newman’s journey to victory in the first-ever CCI1*-L held at Twin Rivers Ranch in Paso Robles, California, in the 17-year-old rider’s first FEI competition began when she saw a Facebook post about Curraghgraigue Freeman (Freeman VDL x Curraghgraigue Vella Erri) in the spring of 2021.
This year’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event will feature several five-star horse and rider veterans like Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF and Phillip Dutton and Z, but three of the entries will be making their dreams come true in their five-star debuts. We caught up with Sydney Solomon, Andrew McConnon, and Alina Dibowski to learn more about their journeys to Kentucky.
Lea Adams-Blackmore laughs as she remembers Frostbite’s first starter horse trials when he was just getting started. “I’m pretty sure he stopped at every single cross-country jump the first time,” she said. “I remember walking off the course, and [my trainer Jane Hamlin] was shaking her head and said, ‘It’s OK. We’ll get ‘em. We’ll figure it out.’”
If something needs to be done at an event in Area IX, you can be sure Kayla Dehart’s thought of it. And when she’s not doing her usual job of cross-country control, the 24-year-old will step in to help with anything that needs to be done.
From horse trials in her home state of California where she prepared herself and her horses to take on the best in the nation and around the world to five-star events overseas where she represented the United States on some of eventing’s biggest stages, Tamie Smith had a remarkable season and finished 2022 as the Bates USEA Lady Rider of the Year for the second year in a row.
The Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International featured a strong group of experienced pairs in the marquee CCI4*-S division, and by the end of the competition, held March 16-19 in Raeford, North Carolina, the top-10 was packed with several five-star veterans and Advanced level winners.
Mary Bess Davis wasn’t exactly expecting to find her name in the mix with Imperio Magic, as she’d just moved her 9-year-old Anglo European gelding (Cassender C x Khadija Des Hayettes) up to Advanced last fall, but by the end of the weekend, the pair had made one of the biggest leaps up the scoreboard from 23rd after dressage to finish 10th.
Being spontaneous has paid off for Kevin Keane and Sportsfield Candy. “I bought him on a Wednesday and showed him on a Thursday,” Keane recalls about his first event with his Irish Sport Horse gelding, then 9 years old, at Plantation Field Horse Trials (Unionville, Pennsylvania) in September 2016. “I owned him for part of a day, and the next morning I showed up at a CCI and jogged him up for a two-star, and we went clean and clean and clean.”
Ayden Schain and Sarah Ross were two of the 19 young riders that participated in the first-ever USEA Emerging Athlete U21 (EA21) National Camp in Ocala, Florida, at the start of 2023. Ross came from the West, originally from Nevada and most recently training and competing in California. Schain came from the East, based out of Vermont. Both are now pursuing eventing full-time in Florida with Schain working for Leslie Law and Lesley Grant-Law and Ross with Zachary Brandt.