Sep 01, 2019

Going Out on a High Note: Beginner Novice Champions Bring AEC to a Close

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Carla Jimmerson and Valley Creek Carlin LeBeau. KTB Creative Group Photo.

On the sixth and last day of the 2019 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds, six final champions were named in the Beginner Novice Championship divisions.

Beginner Novice Master Amateur

Carla Jimmerson and Valley Creek Carlin LeBeau (Heaven's Ridge Patrick LeBeau x Beacon's Cherubin Cathleet), her 14-year-old Connemara gelding, wrapped up their weekend with a double clear show jumping round to secure the win in the Beginner Novice Master Amateur division.

“It’s just been magical the whole weekend . . . I had a great test and my cross-country couldn’t have been better and then today, it couldn’t be any better. He was just forward and in front of my leg and it just felt good . . . I was very nervous but he was forward, he wasn’t too looky, he was confident – it just went really well.”

“I named him Carlin LeBeau, which is French for beautiful little champion, which is so appropriate because now he is a beautiful little champion,” she shared. “I’ve always dreamed of this moment, I’m just so proud of him . . . It’s been a long, fun partnership.”

Jimmerson and “Carlin” have previously competed up through Training level, but an injury caused them to start over at square one this year. “This year we started back at the very beginning. I took a year off and then this year all I’ve done is just go back and start at the beginning, do the basics again, and he’s just been awesome. We’ve both started gaining our confidence back.”

“I’ve always dreamed of winning at the AEC so every chance, if I qualify, I’m in,” she said. “I want to go if I can travel and make it and I could here. It’s just been super exciting and just the whole atmosphere, all the people you meet, there’s an air of excitement being her. I just love it.”

Amy Winnen and Galatea HU. KTB Creative Group Photo.

Amy Winnen and her own 13-year-old Rheinland Pfalz-Saar mare Galatea HU (Galant Du Serein x Rohmanie) picked up 0.8 time penalties but still managed to move up the leaderboard from third to second on a final score of 29.2.

“I had a little bit of a bobble after the combination and lost my stirrup so I thought I should take a second or two, which cost me time penalties, and grab my stirrup back before I finished,” Winnen detailed. “It was great – it could have been a little more forward. Overall it was a great weekend for us.”

“We had a good dressage test,” she continued. “It wasn’t our best, I have to say I was very nervous for that scoreboard to come out. I was happy we were in third after that I just made sure to ride really forward for cross-country. We’ve been careful a little bit with her this year – it’s only out third event this season, but it’s been good . . . I got Gia last year and she’s been a great partner for me, building up my confidence again. It’s been good.”

Kathleen Bertuna and Excel Star Harry. KTB Creative Group Photo.

Kathleen Bertuna and her own Excel Star Harry (Luidam x Moysella), a 4-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, rose from 10th after dressage to fifth after cross-country, finally landing in third place on 30.1.

“I got him for Easter and he’s only 4 [years old] and so we got to know each other and develop over the last couple shows,” Bertuna said. “Putting it all together at Championships was amazing. And this is such a big venue and he was such a big boy, he went past the banners and the stands. He had a lot to live up to, because his half-brother who he came over from Ireland won with Courtney Cooper – she brought him over . . . I couldn’t be prouder and happier with him . . . To put it all together at Championships, it’s just been a dream.”

“To come to the Championships and have the opportunity as an amateur to do something at this venue is amazing. It gives you so much focus throughout the year. It’s not the end-all of it, but to make it here is such an accomplishment. To tick off those boxes and to actually qualify is amazing and to get here – it’s the most memorable week of the year.”

Sherry Pound and Gestalt. KTB Creative Group Photo.

Beginner Novice Rider

The top three in the Beginner Novice Rider division all jumped clear this morning over Bobby Murphy’s show jumping course to hold their respective divisions from wire to wire. Sherry Pound and Gestalt (Gloriosus x Celine), her 7-year-old Mecklenburg gelding, took home the blue ribbon on 28.1.

“It was a bit messy,” Pound admitted. “We cross-cantered a lot, but he saved my butt as he always does. The atmosphere didn’t get to him too much so it was super nice – he was great.”

A fairly new rider, Pound has had “Gus” for about two years, and it’s been a long process to build a partnership. “It’s taken a long time to learn to control him and he likes to be quite the wild man, especially on cross-country but even in show jumping . . . My trainer Carsten Meyer really concentrates on dressage and rideability so we work a lot on adjustability, control, rideability, and me being able to stay on, that helps. We work on that a lot.”

“I broke my leg on him in January on cross-country with him bucking and taking off with me,” she revealed. “It’s been a good year, to come from that to this! . . . I was non weight-bearing for five weeks in a wheelchair and I probably started riding again in April seriously, in March I’d get on and walk a little bit.”

“I’ve wanted to come [to the AEC] since last year, hoping that we could do a bit of a better showing than last year. We were second after dressage last year and then had a disastrous wild cross-country that put us to last place. I was hoping for a better result today. The fact that it’s in Kentucky at the Horse Park is just fantastic and to ride in the Rolex Stadium was super fun. It was a good weekend.”

McKenna Martinez and Commitment. KTB Creative Group Photo.

Mckenna Martinez and her own Commitment, a 7-year-old Warmblood gelding, finished in second place on 28.3.

“I was honestly not expecting it to go that well,” Martinez said. “He is a show jumper so I kind of hang on and let him do his job out there where the other two phases I kind of have to be the boss. I was really happy with it. I kind of lost my steering after the first jump and went running sideways but he recovered well and it was a good round.”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and hopefully now that it’s been successful it can maybe happen again in the future,” she continued. “I didn’t expect to do this well, honestly. I got him in March . . . Our partnership was really rocky in the beginning so the fact that I could come down here this weekend and get a score like I did and keep it all weekend was amazing.”

Piper Uhl and Finnegan. KTB Creative Group Photo.

Piper Uhl and her 11-year-old Warmblood gelding Finnegan round out the top three on 29.1.

“It was great,” Uhl said. “I actually came in not too nervous today because I’ve spent a lot of time in the dressage arena volunteering at [the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event] so it was fun to have the tables turned and actually be riding down there. My horse was a superstar and covered me when I made some mistakes today so I felt really good about him.”

“My dressage, I was very happy with it,” she continued. “I felt like it was one of the best, most relaxed tests I’ve been in all year so I was ecstatic. Cross-country was so much fun – it was a blast. That course was great to ride and my horse was an absolute rockstar yesterday.”

All three riders agreed, walking down the ramp into the Rolex Stadium this morning was perhaps their favorite part of the whole event. “My favorite part was probably stepping into the Rolex Stadium this morning,” Martinez said. “Riding down the ramp this morning was pretty awesome. Cross-country was super fun yesterday but walking down that ramp was surreal,” Uhl agreed.

Lily Barlow and Big Bear's Cepheus. KTB Creative Group Photo.

Beginner Novice Amateur

Lily Barlow and Werner Geven’s Big Bear's Cepheus (Cor De Lux c Big Bear’s Esther), a 5-year-old Connemara gelding, put in a lovely double clear round to finish the weekend in first place on 25.9.

“It was awesome, this is the third time I’ve competed [at the Kentucky Horse Park] – I came for Young Riders a while ago but I haven’t been here in a while,” Barlow said. “It was just so much fun seeing all the different competitors. I heard it’s the biggest horse trials that AEC has ever been and it was so nice to see everyone else and all the different divisions. We had the Adult Team Challenge and that was super fun. They just made it a super fun weekend for everyone.

“We got him when he was 3 years old, so he’ll be turning 5 soon and he just has the biggest personality,” Barlow detailed. “He’s the funniest little pony in the barn – he’s always trying to get into stuff. This is the first time he’s been in a big atmosphere like this and he handled it great – he was just eating it all up and loved all the attention he was getting all weekend.”

“By far my favorite’s always the cross-country usually but this weekend it was actually the stadium,” she reflected. “I was actually able to keep my cool under pressure and I feel like I rode really well and he really showed up too – he really locked on to everything and handled it all great. Winning it was just the cherry on top.”

Kirsten LaVassar and Whatinsamhill. KTB Creative Group Photo.

Kirsten LaVassar and Jocelyn Deschene’s Whatinsamhill, a 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, moved up from fourth to second on their dressage score of 30.6.

“I could not have asked for a better horse to be here on I have the most fun that I’ve ever had in competing at all on this horse,” LaVassar said. “Just to come and be able to finish second – I can’t even explain, I’m just so grateful to be here with everybody.”

“[Our partnership] is actually pretty new,” LaVassar explained. “I lease him from Jocelyn Deschene and I had a different lease horse who ended up having a pasture accident and I ended up getting the ride on him and from the moment I sat on him it just sparked something inside of me and ever since then it’s been wonderful. We’ve only competed recognized three times before this and qualified and came here and I love him to death. I absolutely love him.”

“This has been a dream since I was younger, since before I did my first recognized, and to be here and do so well is amazing,” she said. “I really believe in the partnership I have with this horse. When I found out that we’d both qualified to go, I just felt that there’s no way I couldn’t enjoy myself and have a good time . . . It’s just been the best experience, I’m so glad we did it.”

Jacquelynn Schoeggl and Stellaluna. KTB Creative Group Photo.

Jacquelynn Schoeggl and Stellaluna, her 6-year-old Grade mare, finished the weekend on their dressage score of 31.5, good enough to send them home with a yellow ribbon.

“She was actually bred to be a pack horse in the mountains,” Schoeggl shared. “She ended up through a bunch of different places, she could have ended up in a bad situation but she ended up with good people. I bought her from my friend Jenny Bolton who put 45-60 days on her and then I got her. I actually fell off and chipped my front teeth the first time we had a cross-country lesson. We’ve come a long way but she’s only 6 and she goes around like she’s done this a million times. She’s the best little pony ever . . . I went through a pony phase and never left!”

“We drove all the way from Colorado, so 18 hours – definitely, definitely worth the trip. It’s the farthest I’ve ever gone to compete and the first time I’ve competed here at the horse park. It was just unreal. We got to ride in the Head of the Lake – how cool is that? How many people get to say they’ve done that?”

Tessa Geven and Tullymor's Houdini. KTB Creative Group Photo.

Junior Beginner Novice 14 and Under

Eleven-year-old Tessa Geven and Werner Geven’s 16-year-old Connemara gelding Tullymor's Houdini (Fieldstream Riley x Kahlua) had a flawless weekend, completing on their dressage score of 28.9 to move up from second and take home the win in the Junior Beginner Novice 14 and Under division.

“He was good,” she said. “I was nervous at the start but show jumping is my favorite thing to do so it was amazing. It was fun. Our goal was just to finish. I was nervous at first but once I got out there and started going it was a lot more fun than I thought it would be.”

“His barn name is Samson,” she continued. “When we first got him he was unbroken and we worked with him and eventually he became mine. We’ve had him since he was 13.”

Geven’s cross-country colors are orange and blue, and she was even spotted sporting orange boots and an orange bonnet in show jumping. “Our team colors are orange and blue because my parents are from Holland and they’re color is orange and then blue for America,” Geven explained.

Molly Hunt and Falcons Grey Bar. KTB Creative Group Photo.

Thirteen-year-old Molly Hunt and Falcons Grey Bar, her 19-year-old Paint mare, were also double clear today to move up from third to second on 29.4.

“It was super great,” Hunt said. “When she got out into the stadium she was just like, ‘Woah!’ and then she was ready to go. She’s just a really good horse.”

“We had a fall earlier in the season and she really tried to roll away from me,” Hunt shared.
I would say we have a really good partnership.”

“[My favorite thing about the weekend] was cross-country just because it’s so fun once you get out there and get in the groove.”

Victoria Sudkamp and Gallagher. KTB Creative Group Photo.

Fourteen-year-old Victoria Sudkamp and Gallagher (Dandelion Diamond Rebel x Hadley Maid), Melissa Mysing’s 12-year-old Irish Draught gelding, hopped up the leaderboard from fourth to third on a 30.0 after a double clear round.

“It was probably the best weekend we’ve ever had in our lives,” she said. “For stadium he walked in there like he owned the place – he said, ‘This is where I belong.’”

“This is my first year competing him,” she elaborated. “We placed third in a couple of shows and then we came here. We were expecting just to finish. He did more than finish. I think we click really well. He’s always there for me. He’s a little bit of a goofball, he’s really fun though. He tries his best.”

Ava Stevens and Two Against The World. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Junior Beginner Novice

Less than four points separated the top 13 in the Junior Beginner Novice division, but Ava Stevens and Tamatha Stevens’ 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Two Against The World (Reputed Testamony x Black Orchid) left all the poles up to claim the win on 29.6.

“I had a fantastic day,” Stevens said. “Oh my gosh, he was so good. He was amazing. It was the most intense stadium jumping of my life. I was scared out of my mind – I was dying emotionally throughout my ride. But my horse was with me the entire time, he gave me all the confidence in the world that I needed. I’m just so happy with him. There are no words.”

“Dressage, he was fantastic,” she elaborated. “I was nervous for that too, like I always am for everything, but he was very good. He responded to all my aids. Cross-country [was] absolutely fantastic. He was the best, absolutely the best. He went over everything just fine. I love him so much, there’s not even a word to describe how much I love him and how proud I am of him.”

"I’ve only had him for about a year and a half so he’s still a little new to me. He’s been an absolutely fantastic horse for me. He’s just wonderful."

"I’m so grateful to be here, it’s an absolute privilege to be here at all."

Sadie Phifer and Gusty Day. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Sadie Phifer and her own Gusty Day, a 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, progressed from fourth after dressage to third after cross-country and finally to second after a double clean show jumping round to finish the weekend on 30.5.

“I didn’t really expect [this],” Phifer admitted. “I just wanted to go clear. He spooked out in warm-up so he’s really not an easy ride. Sometimes he can really be distracted so I really have to stay on top of him. But he was with me and we went over each jump one at a time. He was a good boy.”

“He shines in cross-country and he’s such a good boy in dressage,” she continued. “It took us a while to work on dressage because he’s such a spooky guy, he used to spook in every corner of the dressage ring, but he did so good. Cross-country was wonderful, we almost were going too fast at first. The last few jumps we had to be like, ‘Wait!’ and then go over the last two.”

“Sometimes my trainer says I have to be really bossy with him,” she shared. “Sometimes I have to be more determined – he’ll be looking somewhere and I just have to be on top of him otherwise he just goes around with me doing whatever he wants. It’s nice that I can just go at it and then be quiet and then we can do whatever we want. I’ve had him since he was five, so about five years. It took us a while to work up everything.”

Payton Myers and Tekkenistic. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Being closest to optimum time on cross-country helped Payton Myers and her own Tekkenistic (Tek x Antagonistic), a 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, break the tie for fourth place and move into third on a final score of 31.9.

“In warmup we were just trying to jump a little bit so that we came into the ring and everything felt smaller,” Myers said. “He jumped around like a champion and we got to fence number 7 and he hit it a little bit, so that was a little nerve-wracking, but it stayed in the cups and he finished. He was really good. He was really brave.”

“Dressage was really good – he came in and he was super relaxed and confident. He gave me the best dressage test I could have asked for. He’s usually a little bit of a scaredy-cat during cross-country but he was super brave. He was really good.”

“I’ve owned him for a year and a half and everything is something different,” Myers said. “He teaches me something every day.”

Alexa Ehlers and Clear Laveer. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Beginner Novice Horse

Alexa Ehlers and Clear Laveer (Rascalino x Hauptstutbuch Wincenta II), her 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding, won the Beginner Novice Horse division in fine fashion, leading from wire to wire to finish on their dressage score of 26.1.

“He tries really hard,” Ehlers said. “I think I was just trying to jump each fence independently. Up in the warm-up he was tapping everything, and he was trying really hard, but trying by braille. I’m really proud of him. We went really slow and felt our way around and somehow he didn’t hit anything too hard.”

“I’m so impressed with him coming in and wanting to go to each fence – he was seeking them out,” she continued. “In the very beginning of him learning how to jump that wasn’t necessarily his first instinct. Especially after yesterday, it was exactly how I hoped. He came in and he was starting to hunt stuff down.”

Ehlers acquired “Reagan” from a dressage barn because he had been deemed “too dangerous.” “Some athletes you can really push, others are like me in the gym and you scream at them and they curl up in a ball – he and I are very much the same in that way. He had started bolting and they thought he was dangerous and said that he wanted to find a crazy event rider to take him. Me! . . . I let him sit for a while and just learn to enjoy life. It’s been great because it’s been a really slow process, but he just loves his job. Any day that he comes out and is happy to do anything, I’m elated. That’s all he has to do.”

Kalie Beckers and Madoc Mari. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Kalie Beckers and her own Madoc Mari (Lidgett Meredith x Madoc Gwyneth), an 11-year-old Welsh mare, held onto second place with a double clear round to finish the weekend on 28.4.

“I think I was more nervous than my horse was,” Beckers admitted. “I think she was like, ‘Quit trying so hard, we’ve got this.’ This was our first time at the AEC so it’s intense jumping in the Rolex Stadium, but she was good. She was like, ‘Calm down, we’ve got this,’ which is how she usually is.

“She was bold on cross-country which is different for her because she’s usually laidback,” she continued. “She even gave me a few bucks after jump five. We had a good time.”

Beckers and Madoc Mari have only been eventing for the last year and a half. “My parents both evented, but growing up I was too afraid to,” she said. “Then she just had a good personality, was calm and safe, and gave me the confidence to go ahead and go do it.”

Holly Payne Caravella and Dito 16. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Holly Payne Caravella and Mary Bancroft’s 4-year-old German Sport Horse gelding Dito 16 (Dr. Jackson D x Kassandra) maintained their score of 29.4 to finish in third place.

“He has never obviously been in atmosphere like this so I was super impressed with how he handled himself the whole week,” Payne Caravella said. “I took him to Millbrook and that’s the first time he’s been in temporary stabling and all of that. He kind of got introduced a few weeks ago and I had no idea what to expect, but he was so good. He just settled in really well and every day he got better and better. He went into the stadium and I really had no expectations. I really thought we might not even get in the stadium, but he was awesome. He just cantered around like he’d done it a million times. I was really impressed with him. The awards ceremony was a lot scarier than the actual competition.”

Payne Caravella imported Dito in January and has been preparing him to compete at the USEA Young Event Horse Championships in October. “This was a really good prep for that. Coming to this venue is just so awesome for the young horses because it just gives them so much atmosphere and you never get to see that until they’re a little bit older and further up the levels. I think to introduce them to that at the Beginner Novice level is really cool and is going to do a lot for him going on.”

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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 for 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. This year, the AEC will be held August 27 – September 1 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.

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