With 70 percent of the scores coming from the second day of the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) East Coast Championships, the 4- and 5-year-olds had a big moment in front of them to impress the judges Chris Ryan and Sally Ike. The horses were judged over a set of show jumps (15 percent) then moved directly into the cross-country portion (30 percent) before finally showing off their gallop and earning an overall score for their jumping (15 percent) and general impression (10 percent).
Alyssa Phillips’ FE Celestino earned a perfect 30 on his cross-country efforts – the only horse to do so across both classes. The 5-year-old Mecklenburg gelding (Ce-Matin x Antigone) was ridden by Jennie Brannigan to win the East Coast Champion title on a 88.78.
“This spring Clayton [Fredericks] was saying 'come over and see all of our horses we have for sale,' and I said ‘well I don’t have any money so there is no point,’” explained Brannigan of “Dwight” who was imported from Germany by Fredericks as a sales prospect. “But Alyssa said that she would really like to get a young horse and learn how to train a young horse which is how we got Dwight. Alyssa has been riding him mainly, but she is doing a lot of college stuff this fall. I think he has just been an awesome horse and it is great that Alyssa wants to learn how to be a better horseman and learn how to train a young horse.
“I feel very lucky to be able to compete him this weekend because he is lovely,” continued Brannigan. “He was wonderful – it was definitely a big ask to do this, so I am very happy with him.”
FE Celestino is now a leading contender for the Holekamp/Turner Grant Young Event Horse Le Lion d'Angers Prize and Grant which is awarded to the highest-scoring horse from the YEH 5-year-old Championships that is qualified and willing to compete at the FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships in their 7-year-old year.
Just a hair’s breadth behind FE Celestino is Not Ours who finished on an 88.74 to earn the Reserve Champion title as well as several special awards: The Born in America Award, The American Thoroughbred Award, and The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program Award.
The Thoroughbred mare Not Ours (Cherokee’s Boy x Ketubah), owned by Nicole Scherrer and ridden by Erin Sylvester raced seven times and earned $12,000 before she developed a wind problem and her connections sent her to auction at New Holland. It was there that Scherrer found her and saved her from an uncertain fate.
“[Scherrer] found her in the kill pen at New Holland as a 2-year-old,” explained Sylvester. “She has done a lot of the training herself. [Not Ours] is a very kind and trainable horse. I have taken over riding her mostly for the last year. She is really quality. I am excited to see what she does after this.”
With the highest general impression score of all the 5-year-olds – a 9.40 – Betterthanexpected earned himself third place and a total score of 88.4.
“He is a total dude of the horse,” said Joanie Morris of The Admiral Partnership’s Thoroughbred gelding (Malibu Moon x The Best Day Ever). “He trained, but never raced. Two years ago, I was actually at Fair Hill and a friend of mine called me and said ‘I am looking at a horse you are going to want, but there are people standing in line behind me so you have to tell me now.' I said 'can you at least send me a picture?’ When I drove in there were a bunch of horses and I saw him and I said ‘please let this be him because he was so beautiful.’
The Admiral Partnership is made up of Morris’ parents and their friends of 45 years plus some of her husband’s Richard Picken’s family – so “it is has been a big family event,” she said.
The overnight leader, Butt’s Aria W, Brandye Randerman’s Hanoverian mare (Nobre XX x Butt’s Grifin Avalon) ended in fourth with Mike Pendleton.
The fifth place in the 5-year-old class went to Plain Dealing Farm’s Quality Control, a Dutch Warmblood gelding of unrecorded breeding, ridden by Lucia Strini to a 86.9.
The Safe Harbor Award, presented to the young horse who consistently exhibits the most graceful and rider-friendly performance throughout the competition, was awarded to Va Va Voom, Matthew Bryner’s Holsteiner by Connelly.
Excel Star Time To Shine shot up to the top of the 4-year-old class with his enormous general impression score – Ryan and Ike gave him a 9.6 out of a possible 10. The Irish Sport Horse gelding (Luidam x Lismore Bella) earned a total of 91.3 to finish with the highest score of the day. While Courtney Cooper sells over 60 horses a year and imports dozens to sell under her Excel Star prefix “David” is owned by the Dare to Dream Team – a group of owners put together by Cooper to help her get back to the top level of the sport – so is sticking in Cooper’s stable.
“I bought him as a 3-year-old last December and he had just been broken in,” explained Cooper. “We watched him free jump and did maybe five minutes on him and thought he was a really nice horse. He is a real horse for the future – we are really excited about him. He has tons of scope, lots of step, a big, leggy rangy good looking horse. There wasn’t a lot not to like. . . He is athletic, he has great conformation, but the best thing about him is his brain. He is super trainable. Just a good type.”
Cooper took David to the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) to get him into atmosphere to prepare for the YEH Championships and winning the Novice Horse Championship was just a cherry on the top. “He was very good there and I think that stead him in good stead here. You never know how the horses are going to deal with everything, but he was just so good. He has earned his month off,” she said.
Cooper is no stranger to the YEH program having won the 4-year-old class last year with her homebred R River Star. “I think [YEH] is a great way to introduce the young horses to eventing without being stressful. I think if you come to the championships – you need to bring horses that are going to be competitive. I think the group of 4-year-olds this year was the best there has ever been. There were only one or two conformation scores under 8 which is impressive overall. And they were all a bunch of good jumpers so it is very exciting for our future,” she concluded.
The overnight leader, Double Diamond C, wasn’t quite able to keep ahold of his lead but slipped down just one place to finish as reserve champion. Laurie Cameron’s homebred Hanoverian gelding (Diacontinus x Lois Lane CBF) finished on an 88.22.
“He was really super,” said rider Maya Black. “He went out there to do what I expected him to do. He was very professional about it all and very rideable and I felt like he is one of those horses who doesn’t overexert himself too much, but I think in a few years when the jumps get a bit bigger he will be even more impressive. He was fun and easy. I think he will get a bit of a holiday and hopefully, he will be out there doing the 5-year-old stuff next year.
Hannah Moor, Jane Dudinsky’s homebred Holsteiner mare (Mr. Wizard x Rainshadow) took third on a 87.43 with Doug Payne riding.
Holly Payne Caravella rode Mary Bancroft’s Dito 16, a German Sport Horse gelding (Dr. Jackson D x Kassandra) to fourth on a 86.82.
Redtail Penumbra rounded out the top five with Alexander O’Neal in the tack. O’Neal’s wife, Elinor, bred and still owns the German Sport Horse mare who is by Cevin Z and out of True Dynamite XX, a mare who Elinor competed through the CCI4*-S level.
A new award is being presented this year which will be decided after the YEH West Coast Championships – Stillwater Farm is providing an award to the 4-year-old with the overall best gallop score. The winner will earn a trophy and a $1,000 prize check. This award is generously provided by Stillwater Farm and is presented in loving memory of Donald Trotter, who passed away this year. The current leader for the award is Keepsake, Nina Gardner’s homebred (National Anthem x Victorious) who earned a 9.5 with Jennie Brannigan.
Find all the scores here. The YEH West Coast take place this Sunday, October 20 at the Fresno County Horse Park. Stay tuned for full coverage from the event as well as in-depth coverage in the November/December issue of Eventing USA.
About the USEA Young Event Horse Program
The USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the four- and five-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.
The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to learn more about the Young Event Horse Program.
By this time I am sure that you have received the news that the 2020 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (AEC) has been canceled. I sincerely apologize for the difficulty this has caused everyone involved. I want to commend the USEA Board of Governors for making an extremely hard decision.
Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.
The Whidbey Island Horse Trials take place in Oak Harbor, Washington (Area VII) in early July of each year and offer Beginner Novice through Advanced/Intermediate horse trials. The Whidbey Island Horse Trials lost their venue in 2019 but are working on finalizing a new venue for 2021.
This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).