The Charles Owen Technical Merit Award was established in 2009 by the USEA Professional Horseman’s Council (PHC) to encourage safe and appropriate cross-country riding technique. The award is presented at a series of events throughout the year at the Training level to one junior rider and one adult amateur rider who demonstrate technique on cross-country for a list of criteria including gallop, preparation, execution of jump, rider position, and general impressions. Judges, who must be either Level III or IV ICP certified, USEF Licensed Eventing Officials or USET Senior Team Riders, reward the top riders who excel at these skills. The winners at each event receive a Charles Owen Body Protector and helmet bag, and the year-end high-point junior and amateur winners will receive a Charles Owen helmet.
Of the twenty-four riders that competed in the Training divisions at the Colorado Horse Trials in Parker, Colorado, September 15-17, 2017, junior rider Emily Ashburn and adult amateur Ellie Brown demonstrated superior cross-country skill and were awarded the Charles Owen Technical Award. Sue Smithson, member of the Ground Jury at Colorado Horse Trials, was the judge for the Area IX leg of the award.
Seventeen-year-old Ashburn rode her own 10-year-old Oldenburg mare, Hall of Magic (Hall of Fame x Charging Destiny) to a 10th place finish in the Training Rider division at the Colorado Horse Trials.
Ashburn was your typical horse-crazy kid, spending as much time at the barn as possible, even when she wasn’t in the saddle. After a few years riding hunter/jumpers Ashburn went looking for more structured horsemanship instruction and ended up with her local Pony Club, Centennial Pony Club in Fort Collins, Colorado. “After my first Elementary level event I was hooked both by the thrill of cross-country and the kindness shown to me by the eventing community,” said Ashburn.
Ashburn has been partnered with Hall of Magic, known as “Jenny” in the barn, for over two years now. “I kept seeing an ad for a little 15.2 hand pinto jumper mare five minutes down the road from me owned by the women who bred and raised her,” said Ashburn. “Jenny was a little hot rocket and still quite green but extremely athletic and willing. Her owner hinted at some rather explosive trial rides in the past but we seemed to get along well. There were definitely a few times where I wondered what I got myself into in the beginning. Jenny has kept some of the quick, sensitive attitude but in a more relaxed, manageable manner which is a total blast for me to ride.”
“Colorado Horse Park’s September horse trials was far from my best placing with Jenny but overall, I was happy with the weekend,” explained Ashburn. “The cross-country course looked challenging and technical with some combinations and Jenny is still somewhat green at Training level so walking the course I was unsure of how she’d handle it. We had one stop early in the course at a dark steeplechase type jump with challenging lighting but I was very happy with the rest of the course because she confidently handled everything else.”
Ashburn credits Centennial Pony Club’s main instructor, Melinda Weatherford, with helping her develop her cross-country riding skill. “Lindy is very big into making sure all the basics are correct in both horse and rider. She was instrumental in turning Jenny into a decent eventing horse, she found ways to push both Jenny and I while keeping Jenny relaxed.”
Brown and Jackie Severson’s 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Ringfort Fighting Chance, scored an impressive 19.3 in dressage and added no faults in either jumping phase to finish on their dressage score, a whopping 16.6 points ahead of second place.
Growing up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Brown learned to ride western before making the switch to eventing. “I was lucky enough to find a barn that was heavily involved in Pony Club, and I jumped from lesson horse to lesson horse until it became clear that eventing wasn’t just a phase for me,” said Brown. “Competing in Area X as a young rider, I would find old videos in my barn’s office of Kim Severson competing in Arizona and New Mexico. Kim became a huge inspiration for me, and after graduating from high school in 2008 I packed up my fairly new, and very stubborn, Irish Sport Horse to head across the country for the experience of a lifetime to work with her in Virginia.”
Even after returning to Colorado to pursue her education, Brown continued to work consistently with Severson, and that’s how she met Ringfort Fighting Chance, known as “Conquer” or “Conks” in the barn. “I met [him] in the early Spring of 2012 when I was working with [Kim] in Aiken. He was doing well at Training level, but Kim had been on the fence of whether or not to sell him because he’s not the fastest horse in the barn and prefers to have “his person”. He hadn’t always been my favorite to ride, as he can be quite lazy and has a ridiculously bouncy trot to sit, but I had been working on getting him to stand in the ice boots, and had completely fallen in love with his sweet brown eyes and the way he always tried to steal my coffee . . . I’m still not entirely sure what parts of the universe aligned to make it happen, but somehow he ended up on my trailer back to Colorado.”
Brown is a graduate student at the University of Denver pursuing a career in sport and performance psychology, and explained that she has had to constantly adjust and re-evaluate her goals and expectations to accommodate her education and career focus. Conks has spent the last 15 months in training with Severson in Virginia. “I arranged to drive out to Virginia for a week in August, in which Kim patiently helped me remember how to not fall off, and I entered the Colorado Horse Park with four weeks of riding under my belt,” said Brown. “Conks, of course, did his job perfectly and looked after me while I smiled like an idiot the entire weekend. He’s more than my best friend, and I can’t wait to see what we are able to do together next season.”
Overall, the feedback Brown received indicated that she had demonstrated effective and appropriate changes for the obstacles and terrain of the course. “My performance goal for this cross-country course was to focus on developing a balanced gallop in between the fences without getting in Conquer’s way, as I have had a habit in the past of trying to set him up too much before the fences, which makes him super spooky and causes him to fall behind my leg,” said Brown. “I felt as if I accomplished my goal of being effective and minimal throughout this course.”
As a mental skills consultant, Brown is constantly working to identify areas of strength and areas of growth for myself in both training and competitive situations. “Schooling cross-country and actually being on course during an event can be two very different experiences, in which the rhythm of being on course and competing provides very different conditions and variables than schooling . . . I believe this experience provided a fantastic opportunity for me to get feedback though a fresh set of objective eyes regarding these areas for growth in a competitive setting, and how they differ from my every day training and schooling.”
Brown said that she sets up cross-country questions in her arena at home to practice her cross-country riding technique. “This gives me the opportunity to develop my eye and the skills necessary for cross-country questions before going out and executing at speed when I have the opportunity to school on a cross-country course. Kim often had us jump in and out of her jump ring to practice the different balances between show jumping and cross-country, as well as balancing on grass versus a footed arena and different terrains.” Also, because she hasn’t been riding regularly, Brown was quick to acknowledge the positive effect that cross-training has had on her riding. “I think my own focus on functional strength movements, as well as barre classes, has really helped me to maintain my position and stability in the saddle.”
“I believe this program provides a great opportunity for riders develop a greater awareness of their strengths and areas for growth in a competitive setting,” concluded Brown.
2017 Charles Owen Technical Merit Schedule
Pine Top Advanced H.T. | Feb. 23-26, 2017 | Thomson, GA (Area 3)
Coconino Summer I H.T. | July 8-9, 2017 | Flagstaff, AZ (Area 10)
The Event At Rebecca Farm | July 19-23, 2017 | Kalispell, MT (Area 7)
Fitch's Corner H.T. | July 22-23, 2017 | Millbrook, NY (Area 1)
Cobblestone Farms H.T. | July 28-30, 2017 | Dexter, MI (Area 8)
Shepherd Ranch SYVPC H.T. II | Aug. 25-27, 2017 | Santa Ynez, CA (Area 6)
Seneca Valley Pony Club H.T. | Sept. 2-3 2017 | Poolesville, MD (Area 2)
Otter Creek Fall H.T. | Sept. 15-17, 2017 | Wheeler, WI (Area 4)
Colorado Horse Park H.T. | Sept. 15-17, 2017 | Parker, CO (Area 9)
Texas Rose Horse Park | November 11-12, 2017 | Tyler, TX (Area 5)
About Charles Owen
Charles Owen has been elevating the standards of safety in our sport by manufacturing to some of the top international safety standards for riding helmets and body protectors. At their design headquarters, Charles Owen uses an advanced computer simulation to perform impact analysis for their products. Charles Owen is the official riding helmet of the USEA. To learn more about Charles Owen visit their website.
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