Loch Moy Farm and the Maryland Horse Trials in Adamstown, Maryland served as the host for the Area II Championships this year from September 30-October 2. Featuring eight different Championship divisions from the Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels, the Area II Championships were highly contested. Get to know a little bit about the eight new Area II Champions below.
Preliminary Champions: Lainey Ashker & Lovedance | 31.2
It was a wire-to-wire win for Lainey Ashker and the Lovedance LLC’s 6-year-old Warmblood mare Lovedance (Quality Time x S-Nodence) who finished the weekend just adding 3.2 time penalties from cross-country to their dressage score to finish on a 31.2. The win is especially exciting for Ashker, who has high hopes for this flashy young mare.
“In the fall of 2020, Sarah Metlander was sending me really fancy horses from Europe on Facebook messenger. I am a Thoroughbred girl, for many reasons, one of which is that they are affordable. I have been lucky to have had a few owners in the past, but I have not put myself out there a lot in terms of ownership. Sarah was sending me these really lovely horses, but I couldn’t really afford them. Around November she sent this black horse and the second I saw the horse trot and saw its hind leg, I just saw the potential in her. I thought she could do eventing or if that didn’t work out, she could make a great dressage horse since I do both sports.”
Ashker loved her so much, she decided to pursue her first-ever syndicate and she brought the mare over. While she has had to acclimate to the different type of ride from her typical Thoroughbred eventers, Ashker has loved every minute of getting to know this mare. “She has come out every single show this year and given me all that she can give me, so I can’t fault her for that. She is a world-class horse and I am just really, really pleased with the weekend and quite honored to have the ride on her.” Ashker has five shares of syndication left for Lovedance and anyone who might be interested in joining them on their journey together can connect with Ashker via email at [email protected]
Modified Champions: Berkley Gardner & Aristocrat | 29.5
The Area II Modified Champions were Berkley Gardner and her own 11-year-old Connemara mare Aristocrat (Aladdin’s Denver x Lilly). The duo finished their weekend on the same score they started on, 29.5, moving up from second to first after having a double-clear cross-country run. While Gardner was super proud of that cross-country effort, she was most proud of their final phase of the weekend’s competition.
“Typically I would say that cross-country is my favorite phase. The entire day was a downpour and ‘Ari’ is a mudder, but for the Area II championships, it was show jumping that I will never forget. Going to warm up I was told I would be going last as the order of go was reverse order which was the first time we were first going into the final phase. As I watched the other horses go before me, I tried to focus on just my warmup with my trainer Jill Thomas and not look outside of the warmup ring. I walked down as late as I could so I wouldn’t have to watch, but the nerves kicked in and my dressage trainer was there at the in-gate and got me to focus on just what I needed to do in the next 90 seconds. The course I was comfortable with, but the triple wasn’t a question we have had in competition before. I trusted my schooling and preparation. Once I got over the first fence I was able to focus and after a one stride that Ari bailed me out on, I was focused on the triple and we nailed it. Now it was only a Liverpool and the last spooky fence. The liverpool wasn’t pretty, but we got it, and three strides out of the last fence I yelled at Ari to “get” and we sailed over it to the sound of applause. I was in shock as the last fence has gotten me before in big competitions before and it took a minute for it all to sink in.”
Junior Training Champions: Maeve Kenny & Astaire to the Future | 20.0
Maeve Kenny and Alexandra Tatham’s 19-year-old Thoroughbred mare Astaire To The Future (Fred Astaire x Into the Future) won the Area II Junior Training Championship from start to finish without harming their impeccable dressage score of 20.0.
“This was mine and ‘Ginger’s’ lowest dressage score ever,” shared Kenny. “This was a huge accomplishment since I have been training with a dressage trainer over the past two years. Then this show jumping round was my first clear show jumping round at the Training level. This show was a weekend of many firsts for myself and Astaire to the Future. I had never really expected to finish on that dressage score. I knew the cross-country was going to be really fast and I was unsure if we were ready but luckily our many fitness days paid off and we were able to be one of the few people to keep in the time and jump clear.”
Crossing the finish flags in show jumping was extra special for Kenny. “My favorite moment that weekend is when I jumped the last jump and I knew we had won. I was so grateful for everything this horse had offered me in the past years. I then looked up to see my mom so happy and proud of me. I immediately came over giving her a big hug. This has been a huge accomplishment and I have never done anything like this before.”
Training Champions: Kelly Stalter & Donna Del Lago | 29.1
Also winning their division from the completion of their dressage test were Area II Training champions Kelly Stalter and Plain Dealing Farm’s 9-year-old Warmblood mare Donna Del Lago (Damsey x Wishing). Their dressage score of 29.1 remained untouched through the remaining phases.
Junior Novice Champions: Reagan Nalls & Are You Ready Freddy? | 25.8
For Area II Junior Novice Champions Reagan Nalls and her 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Are You Ready Freddy? (Tiznow x High Button Shoes), the victory in their Area Championships is indescribably meaningful.
“Both Freddy and I have experienced several injuries, mishaps, and setbacks over the entire 2022 season, making it challenging for us both to continue. In fact, we were unable to compete from mid-April to mid-July. Being able to get past all of that, both physically and mentally, and win the Junior Novice Area II Championship is really precious, and I will treasure the experience for the rest of my life.”
When Nalls purchased Freddy in August 2020, he was very green and had no competition record. The pair has climbed the ladder together over the course of the last two years.
“I did not have many plans or aspirations for him beyond Training at a starter trial, and I did not anticipate participating in any of the major competitions with him. As we continued working with multiple professionals, we recognized his potential went well beyond schooling shows and starter trials. Throughout the 2022 season and all of our trials and tribulations, Freddy has taught me about patience, confidence, and persistence. The 2022 season has not been kind to us but I am so happy to have ended it on a high note and on the horse of my dreams.”
Novice Champions: Coree Reuter-McNarra & Another Concerto | 26.4
“I'm just so proud,” said Area II Novice Champion Coree Reuter-McNarra who moved up from second to first and concluded the weekend with the win with her 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Another Concerto (Concerto x Her Gift) on their dressage score of 26.4. “Proud of my horse, for sure, and proud of myself for riding the way I always knew I was capable. I was so determined to have a good day! This win means so much to me, it's the biggest win I've ever had in all of my years with horses, and it was all the more special knowing how hard I had to work to make it all come together. I really had no expectations of what I would do this season, as I just had my second daughter in January. I had no idea what kind of ride time I would have with two kids and a very busy full-time job. I am the Head Athletic Trainer at Centreville High School in Clifton, Virginia, and football season is pretty intense! So I had to take things day by day and make the best out of the ride time I got. I really learned how to give myself grace this year and to let things be what they will and just really embrace every moment I had at the barn.”
Reuter-McNarra partnered with her $100 partner who she calls Solo six years ago and she states that he has taught her many lessons regarding trust and bravery. Their bond has definitely allowed Reuter-McNarra to continue to pursue her dreams of eventing, despite her busy life out of the saddle. If she could share one thing with other moms like her, it would be the following sentiment:
“To all those horse-loving moms out there who are like me trying to balance raising kids, working, and finding a little slice of life that's all your own - keep going! It's hard and frustrating, and you will always want more time for something, but trust me that your moment will come, and it is possible to be a great mom and employee, and still find success and joy in your passions. Whether it's eventing, or something else. If I can pull it off with my crazy schedule, you can, too!”
Beginner Novice Champions: Lindsey Morris & Lucky Charm | 25.9
Executing a fault-free weekend to bring home the title of Area II Beginner Novice Champions were Lindsey Morris and her 15-year-old Warmblood gelding Lucky Charm. The pair finished on their dressage score of 25.9, checking off a big goal that Morris had set for herself earlier this season.
“It feels amazing to win. About halfway through the season, my trainer Joe Desantis and I set this as a goal and it feels great to accomplish that. I started eventing him to help us both gain confidence back and just have fun jumping again. Being able to jump around clear and finish on our dressage score with this win means the world to me.”
Morris and Lucky started their partnership in 2014 in the Adult Hunter ring but also dabbled in the equitation and jumper arenas as well. This year was the pair’s first season eventing together. “He’s just my best friend and the biggest puppy dog,” shared Morris. “He’s so versatile and excels in everything I’ve tried with him. I’m very fortunate to have a horse like him. Our partnership has really blossomed with the help of The Frame Sport Horses and Joe Desantis.”
Junior Beginner Novice Champions: Emma Whitaker & Delilah’s Boy | 29.1
Emma Whitaker and Hedgerow Farm’s 12-year-old Connemara gelding Delilah’s Boy started their weekend in second, but it was their double-clear jumping rounds that would ultimately help them earn the win on their dressage score of 29.1
“I was really proud of both of our jumping rounds because of the bad weather, but mostly cross-country,” shared Whitaker. “Sammy really took care of me and we took our time to get safely around the course and at a good pace.”
After watching her best friend and cousin Kendal Fansler deliver a double-clear show jumping round, Whitaker felt inspired. “We ride together and take care of the horses at our farm together every day. She went clear and it gave me the motivation to go in and do the same. We really wanted to be in the top eight together and be able to do the victory gallop. When we finished show jumping clear, I was so proud of Sammy and very excited to be able to gallop! It was really fun to be on the podium with my best friend finishing in second place!”
In the final USEA Classic Series event of 2022, three horse and rider pairs rode their way to the top of the podium in the Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice 3-Day divisions offered during the Ram Tap Horse Park Horse Trials which took place November 18-20 in Fresno, California.
US Equestrian opened a bid process for one event to host the Advanced level in Area 3 on Week 10 for 2023-2027 due to an event cancellation. The bid process was conducted in accordance with the 2023-2027 U.S. Eventing Calendar CCI4*-L, CCI4*-S, CCI3*-L, & Advanced Policies and Procedures. The USEF Eventing Strategic Calendar Review Task Force made recommendations to the USEF Eventing Sport Committee who made recommendations for final approval by the USEF Board of Directors.
Concluding the 2022 Area Championships season was the Area X Championships held during the SAzEA H.T. which took place November 19-20 in Tucson, Arizona. Three Championship divisions were offered, allowing three horse and rider pairs the opportunity to conclude their 2022 eventing season by being crowned champion!
“The highest priority must be given by instructors to developing in their riders a correct, balanced, supple, effective, and independent seat for dressage and for jumping.” - “Teaching Principles” in the new ECP Eventing Handbook by the Levels