The USEA Area Championships are held every year in each of the 10 USEA Areas where the best horses and riders have the opportunity to be crowned the Area Champion at their level. Each Area maintains slightly different qualification requirements for their respective Championships, and that information can be found here.
This year, the Area VI Championships took place on a sweltering weekend in Ramona, California at the Copper Meadows Horse Trials. In order to qualify to compete in the Area VI Championships in 2020, riders had to earn two MERs at the level at an event in Area VI during the qualifying period from August 1, 2019 to August 18, 2020. There were six championship divisions held at Copper Meadows: Open Preliminary, Open Training, Training Rider, Open Novice, Novice Rider, and Open Beginner Novice, and six Area VI residents walked away winners.
Junior rider Avery Noblitt and her 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding Cumani (Cassico x Calmelita) were the winners of the Area VI Open Preliminary Championship. They scored a 29.6 for third place after dressage and moved into first place after a double clear show jumping round. A double clear cross-country round granted them the championship title.
"Cumani was such an honest boy all weekend," Noblitt said. "We had a very steady and consistent dressage test that I was thrilled with, putting us in third place after dressage. On our second day, he was jumping out of his skin for me in show jumping, giving us a double clear round. He loves cross-country and gave me his all out there. Cumani was so honest and willing through the heat, I couldn’t be happier with him. My favorite part of the weekend was coming through the finish line with a happy and healthy horse," she continued. "Given all the circumstances with the heat and having him work hard, I was very glad to have a horse energized at the end of the course, ready for more."
Noblitt is a student of Jennifer Wooten at Trinity Eventing and said she was grateful to have the whole Trinity Eventing team by her side through the weekend. "I am very fortunate to have such an amazing team and trainer at Trinity Eventing to make sure Cumani and myself are at our best and making sure we are prepared for what’s ahead," she said. "I’m blessed to have a horse with such a big heart and a trainer who believes in both of us as a team."
Savannah Gwinn and Heather Morris's 9-year-old Oldenburg gelding Von Zipper (by Contendros) placed second on 33.7 and Amber Shevin and her own 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Zuvenir (by Juventus) were third on 36.9.
Erin Kellerhouse and her own and Jill Jaeger's Bon Vivant GWF, a 5-year-old Oldenburg/Holsteiner gelding (Banderas x Power Point), topped the Area VI Open Training Championship on a score of 29.5. "Pierre," as he is known in the barn, was bred by Elizabeth Jenner at Gateway Farm, a warmblood sport horse breeding operation in California. "He was a very good boy at Copper Meadows and he’s been producing very consistent results this season at Training level," Kellerhouse said. "My favorite part was going cross-country on this guy. He’s so fun out there. He super brave and catty and has a really good gallop!"
"The best part about Copper Meadows is that we all survived!" Kellerhouse laughed. "It was 115 degrees and literally miserable, but Taren Hoffos and her team did a great job making it very rider/horse friendly. We started at 7:00 a.m. and had a big break in the middle of the day. She also ran pretty much an open gate which made things very flexible."
In second place in the Area VI Open Training Championship was Cara Lavigna and her own Carrick Diamond Duke (Carrick Diamond Lad x Uskerty Barnaby), a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, with a score of 31.3, and Kimberley Low and her own Third Division, an 8-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, rounded out the top three on 34.2.
In the C2 Financial Area VI Training Rider Championship, Lorelai Goolsby and her own Collin 144 (Connor x Tosca II), a 7-year-old Holsteiner gelding, finished on their dressage score of 30.0 to take home the win.
"Looking at the weather, which was forecast to be over 100 degrees, I was thankful to have my division be split into a two-day," Goolsby said. "Even though my dressage time was in the middle of the heat, we took precautions and Collin got as many as four baths to ensure he was cool and happy. While the weekend was anything but traditional, being in second place after dressage helped keep me focused and motivated, despite the heat. Because show jump and cross-country were scheduled back-to-back, I didn’t know how we did until we walked back to the barn. I couldn’t believe it when my teammates came running towards me to tell me we had won the Training Championship! I was so happy for Collin. He did such an amazing job and I couldn’t be more thrilled for our future!"
Because of concerns over the heat, Goolsby's barnmates from Excell Equestrian pitched in between her show jumping and cross-country rounds to help cool Collin out before their final phase. "While cross-country is Collin’s favorite, it was around 110 degrees and we were both drenched in sweat," Goolsby shared. "Despite this, it was an amazing experience having everyone cheer us on and we couldn’t be happier to have competed. I’m really proud of Collin. He’s come such a long way in such a short time. We imported him from Germany exactly one year ago and his progress has been amazing."
Mathilde Levine and Chole Levine's 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Insatiable Casanova (Congressional Honor x No Ticky No Shirt) and Campbell Kadin and Kim Getty's 9-year-old Holsteiner mare Deichkind 10 (Coriando x Nicole) both finished on their dressage scores of 33.4 and 34.3 for second and third place, respectively.
The Area VI Open Novice Championship saw Robyn Fisher and Elizabeth Robinson's Livdon (Livaldon x Wymoing), a 5-year-old Hanoverian gelding, finish at the top of the leaderboard on their dressage score of 23.8, the lowest finishing score of the championships. "Livdon started the year very strong and after I had a hysterectomy this spring, Livdon seemed to have regressed," Fisher said. "My goal this weekend was to finish strong on our dressage score with a confident and happy horse. Livdon never put a foot wrong from the moment he stepped off the trailer to the moment he crossed the finish flags. He was a champion through and through."
Fisher imported Livdon from Supreme Sport Horses in the Netherlands as a 3-year-old. "He was the first horse that I purchased sight-unseen from Amy Doran, who has now become a good friend," Fisher said. "Livdon was an unstarted youngster that I have had the privilege of producing. I sold him as a 4-year-old to a dear friend and client after she lost her horse due to a very rare condition. Livdon is her heart horse and has continued to wow and charm us with every knicker and swish of his tail."
Fisher and her team also experienced the extreme heat of the weekend, but Fisher said it was rewarding to watch the members of her barn, R Farms, band together to help out each other and the other competitors at the event. "It was a very hot weekend, but everyone rallied making sure the horses, riders, and support crews were all hydrated, healthy, and happy. We all had our own battles we were dealing with but everyone stepped up ensuring we all had an amazing and successful weekend."
Grace Walker Alonzi and her own 6-year-old Oldenburg gelding Frantz (Fahrenheit x Sutubuch 1) finished second on a score of 26.4 and Amber Levine and Susan Sheehan's 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Shannondale McGyver (Shannondale Sarco x Mullentine Golden Cruz) were third on a 26.7.
Sophia Merz and her own Clara Bö led the Area VI Novice Rider Championship on a 24.1 after dressage and maintained their lead through show jumping and cross-country, even despite 4 cross-country time penalties, to claim the win. "It was extremely hot, so I am so proud of my horse for getting through the weekend," Merz said. "She tried her very best for each event and it paid off!"
"My favorite event was cross-country because of how confident we both were," she continued. "When she points her ears at each jump, she locks on and I know she is going to take me to it. In my opinion, that is the best feeling in the world."
In second place behind Merz was Natalie Kraus and her own King's Affair (Ranch Samaguy Dream Boy Kurt x Saros Princess), a 7-year-old American Warmblood gelding, finishing on a 30.9. Keira McKeon and Sarah McKeon's Change of Luck, a 7-year-old Andalusian mare, finished in third place on 33.3.
Last but not least, Stacia Lloyd and her own Pale Fire (Pamplemousse x Thankfully), a 5-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred mare, were wire-to-wire winners on their dressage score of 28.8 in the Area VI Open Beginner Novice Championship. "Saturday went great despite the blazing heat," Lloyd said. "I was really impressed with my mare - it was her third show and the best part was our dressage test. We have improved a little each time and I feel we still have a lot to improve on so I’m excited for future events."
Olivia Doman and King Blue (Great Blue x Zoezalienke), her 5-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, were second on 31.5 and Amy Luca and Saturday Sun (First Samurai x Bonnie Rose), her 5-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, finished third on 33.3.
For full results from the Area VI Championships at Copper Meadows, click here. Congratulations to all the Area VI Championship competitors!
Stay tuned this fall to find out who finishes on top of the other USEA Area Championships! For additional information about the USEA Area Championships, click here.
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If you have been involved at a higher level with the USEA, you probably recognize the names of the two ladies that spearhead all of the efforts of the USEA’s Programs, Partnerships, and Marketing department: Kate Lokey, Director of Programs and Marketing, and Kaleigh Collett, Marketing Coordinator, but a new member of this team has also joined the USEA staff in Heather Johnson, Programs and Inventory Assistant. If you have considered advertising with the USEA or are involved in the USEA’s Young Event Horse, Emerging Athletes U21, New Event Horse, Adult Riders, Young Riders, Classic Series, or Grooms programs, you probably have or most likely will interact with one of these staff members.