For Immediate Release: The USEA Beginner Novice Championship took an early and fiery start to the day with ponies, horses and riders ready to leave their best round in the show jump arena, signaling the final phase on the final day of the American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds. The smokey skies gave way to a cloudless, picturesque backdrop as the sun shone bright on new winners through each level of this division.
USEA Beginner Novice Horse Championship
Madeline Backus aboard Brad Ray’s 9-year-old Quarter Horse Thoroughbred Slew the Blues (Slews Gold x Only Blue Crystal) took home the win in the USEA Beginner Novice Horse Championship after a stellar show jump round. A big smile for Backus and a big pat on the neck for Slew the Blues complimented the epic finish.
“I’m super proud of her—this is the first big show she’s been to and the first time she’s been in temporary stabling. She had a little meltdown the first couple of days but she’s just settled in and got to work every time I put my foot in the stirrup. I’m super impressed with her,” said Backus. “I was the first person on her back last July so she’s come along really quickly in a year and she’s just taken all the steps and keeps showing up for it.” The pair have plans to move up to the novice division this fall.
Faith Dalessandro riding her 8-year-old Connemara mare Abbeyside Waves (AC-Samson AF Engvang x May Ross) brought home the second place finish today, overcoming challenges in dressage which made the rest of the event a true joy. “She’s so great to work with—she’s one of those steady eddies,” said Waves. “So I can always rely on her to just get me through, especially cross-country—that’s where she’s at home. We were really struggling with dressage and we really pulled it off this weekend, I was just really happy with her.”
Luciana Hackett piloted the 6-year-old Welsh Thoroughbred gelding Way Too Marvelous BSR (Gayfield’s Way Too Cool x Missing Blue) around her show jump round to claim a third place finish. If you were ring side, chances are you were there with Hackett as she clung her legs around a few crow-hops after the second fence. “He’s kind of angry at me every time I give him a bad spot,” said Hackett. “He blames me for everything that happens, which is fair because it usually is my fault but he really is a great pony.”
USEA Beginning Novice Junior Championship
Proudly celebrating a birthday and the first place finish in the USEA Beginner Novice Junior Championship is Bridget Kelly aboard her perky 13-year-old Connemara Quarter Horse mare named Windover Tarragon (Irish Parks Caraway finn x Del Poco Princess). An absolute ringside treat to watch in the arena, Windover Tarragon is undoubtedly a happy competitor.
“The AEC has been a long-time dream of mine. I’ve had this pony for two years, so when we first got this pony she was very stiff and just not at the level she is now so it’s been a challenging journey to bring her up—especially with the dressage. We’ve had a lot of problems with the dressage but dressage is my favorite things so I really like to work on it a lot. Getting that personal best score of ours and leaving from start to finish was just incredible. The show jumping was definitely nerve-wracking. Jumping last is a lot more stressful than it seems. It’s just an incredible feeling. I’m so happy and so proud of my pony."
Lauren Field piloting the 11-year-old Selle Francais Holsteiner named Balou’Quill (Quite Easy x Navis De Blondel) claimed the second place finish today after what felt like a long-time coming to get to this point in her career. “I’ve had her a year, and two years ago having a horse wasn’t even in the picture so that’s just incredible and dressage is something we’ve been working on and this show was my best score so far,” said Field. “Traveling was good—I was just so excited the whole time. Once I got here I started getting a little nervous but this place is so beautiful so it kept me excited."
Capturing a third place finish is Reese Dellangelo riding Kaitlyn Yacbucci’s 11-year-old Thoroughbred Our Golden Chance (Golden Missile x Quite By Chance). The pair had a surprising leap to the top finishers and were quite stunned with obvious adrenaline. “I did not think I was going to make top five—I started in 13th after dressage. It’s no other word other than amazing,” said Dellangelo. “This is my first season eventing and we only did three recognized shows before this. To be even on this property is mind-blowing. My last horse passed away—I was supposed to come here with him. I’d like to think I did this for him.”
USEA Beginner Novice Amateur Championship
With a first place finish under her belt today, Jenna McFadden took the leading position of the victory gallop aboard Mackenzie Johnson’s 6-year-old Thoroughbred called Take a Shot (Grindstone x Easy Elegance). With unexpected but welcomed riding suggestions, McFadden finished on her dressage score to bring home an impressive win.
“Show jumping is definitely our hardest phase so it’s hard to leave that for last, especially when the pressure is on, but I’m very happy with how he was,” said McFadden. “I stress before [show jumping] but then I remember that I’m having fun. My trainer was going Preliminary this week so I was lucky to tag along for a course walk with Ian Stark. He definitely thought I was going Preliminary so he was telling me to ‘ride forward!’ I tried to use that same mentality, just smaller and slower, and it worked perfectly. He was fantastic.” He was better than I could have asked for for dressage and cross-country. In show jumping I had to fight for a couple of the turns but I just got scrappy and just rode like Ian Stark told me to.”
It was Kyla Tovar aboard her 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse named Shannondale Jordi (Sarco St Ghyvan x Shannondale Duchess), who is more commonly referred to as 'Stinker.' “I’m really lucky to ride him. We’ve only had him to two months so we’re still getting to know each other,” said Tovar. “I didn’t want to make the journey out here with just one horse so that was the goal to get here. The day before dressage he actually ran away with me—we almost joined the Modified cross-country course. He’s never been in an atmosphere like this before so it’s just completely new to him.”
Lauren Barker claimed the third place finish today aboard 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood named Jackson J (Zardando x Finally J) after settling into an unfamiliar setting. “I’ve never been to The Event or any AEC. I have a baby horse—he’s eight—but he’s new to all of this and he settled in really well. Cross-country was what I was most nervous about because the show before this he actually wheeled me off on cross-country at jump one, so we weren’t sure how it as going to go but he was a super good boy. And this was our first time making time—he’s a lofty boy so we always get time faults.”
USEA Beginner Novice Rider Championship
Mandy Collins piloting Lillian Thiel’s 20-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Vatino (Patino x Inta) celebrated a first place win today finishing on her dressage score. After what seems like a few lifetimes. Collins is in tears having the lead in today’s victory gallop aboard a horse she clearly adores.
“I grew up as a kid riding outside of Atlanta and then I went to college and started my career, and I always thought I was going to get back into it but then 10, 15 years kind of passed. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to start riding again and I saw pictures online of this event—that I never got to go to—and I’m here, on this horse, and it feels like an immense privilege,” said Collins. “He tries so hard for me. You come back with a new mentality as an adult rider and he just always looks out for my best interest. Going into the dressage arena, I was able to feel him relax and he just gave me that confidence to go in there and try my best because he put on his game face, too. He’s 20-years-old so he’s been around the block a little bit. To feel that confidence from phase to phase to phase when I’m not sure has just been a gamer changer for my confidence and progressing with my riding.”
Katharina Huenermann aboard the flashy 6-year-old Welsh Arabian Targaryen TWF (Winterlake Tristan x CNF Marteenna) secured a second place finish today after a stellar show jumping round. Proceeding the victory lap, Huenermann had an emotional hand-off of the reins that she’s held for four years to the gelding’s new owner—signaling a bittersweet finish to a longstanding relationship and the commencement of a promising new partnership. “It’s a very bittersweet moment, but I got Teddy four years ago—I bought him as a shaggy 2-and-a-half-year-old little pony, and this is basically the icing on the cake to our career,” said Huenermann. “He’s won basically everything we’ve entered him in. We only rode three Beginner Novice horse trials and he won them all back-to-back so we decided to come here to make this a one-way trip. I have two more young horses coming up so it’s time now for him to move on to a new owner. She’s super excited to take over the reins and make him her new unicorn. It’s just the icing on the cake to finish out the year here at Rebecca Farm and he’s going to stay in Montana.”
Taking the third place finish and concluding the USEA Beginner Novice Rider Championship here at Rebecca Farm was Kimberly Johnson riding the 7-year-old grade bay mare Ascendance. Having a very visible connection in the saddle and in person, this show jumping round makes these three days particularly special. “I’m riding a 6-year-old rescue horse and the journey the last year has just been amazing. I’m just grateful to be here and have made it this far. She’s a really special mare.”
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About the USEA American Eventing Championships
The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds is the pinnacle of the sport at the national levels. Held annually, the best junior, adult amateur, and professional competitors gather to vie for national championship titles at every level from Beginner Novice to Advanced. This ultimate test of horse and rider draws hundreds of horses and riders from around the country to compete for fabulous prizes, a piece of the substantial prize money, and the chance to be named the National Champion at their respective levels. In fact, the 2021 AEC garnered over 1,000 entries and now stands as the largest eventing competition in North American history. The 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds will be held August 31 – September 4 at the beautiful Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.
The USEA would like to thank Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena Feeds; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsor: Bates Saddles Gold Level Sponsors: Parker Equine Insurance, Smartpak, Capital Square, Standlee; Silver Level Sponsors: Auburn Labs, Mountain Horse, The Jockey Club, Kerrits; Bronze Level Sponsors: Athletux, The Chronicle of the Horse, Dubarry of Ireland, FITS Riding, Equilume, Devoucoux, Fifth Third Bank, Gallops Saddlery, D.G. Stackhouse & Ellis, Clark Nissan; Contributing Level Sponsors: CrossCountry App, WeRideTogether, Haygain, First Interstate Bank, Schellinger Construction, Glacier Bank, Animal Health Solutions Inc., Discover Kalispell; Prize Level Sponsors: Vet Blue, Practical Horseman, Hound & Hare, Strides of Equality Equestrians, Horse & Country TV, Bemer Independent Distributors, Freelance Design, Achieve Equine/FLAIR, Flexible Fit Equestrian USA, and more! ATC Sponsors: The Chronicle of the Horse, FITS Riding, Nutrena Feeds, SmartPak, Achieve Equine/FLAIR, Kerrits, and Horse & Country TV
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For seasoned and novice riders alike, it is always good to revisit the basics. Serving as the foundation for any eventer, the positions used on the cross-country course differ from those in the dressage or show jumping ring. The USEA tuned into five-time Olympian, three-time World Equestrian Games rider, two Pan-American Games rider, and USEA ECP certified coach Karen O'Connor as she walked coaches and students at the USEA ECP Symposium through the basic positions for effective cross-country riding.
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With the recent wrap-up of the 2023 Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) Symposium in Ocala, Florida, USEA Podcast Host Nicole Brown chats with ECP Faculty Members Jennifer Howlett Rousseau and Robin Walker about all things related to the ECP. From the USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels to the benefits of pursuing certification, selecting the best coach for you, recapping this year's Symposium, and more - this week's USEA podcast is the perfect educational tool for coaches and riders alike!