Jun 18, 2013

Aspen Farms Horse Trials Showcases Area VII Talent

Karen O'Neal and Markus collect their first place award in Open Intermediate from show organizer Jonathan Elliott. Chesna Klimek photo.

Just over 300 horses and riders competed for more than $21,000 in cash and prizes this past weekend at Aspen Farms Horse Trials (AFHT) in Yelm, WA. Karen O’Neal took the top spot in the Open Intermediate division aboard her 11-year-old off-track thoroughbred gelding Markus. O’Neal moved into the lead by less than a point after Maya Black and Doesn’t Play Fair—leaders after dressage—incurred 3.2 time faults on cross-country.

Despite having no margin for error going into her stadium round, Karen said, “I felt really comfortable. I love the show jumping! I used to do the hunter jumpers when I was a kid; I still do the jumpers.” Her show jumping experience paid off, as she and Markus breezed around the colorful course clear and inside the time. Maya Black also delivered a faultless round to maintain a second place finish at her horse’s second time out at Intermediate level.

Karen teaches and trains out of Spokane, WA. Regarding AFHT, she says she tells her clients, “This is the most beautiful show you’ll go to.” Aspen Farms has been hosting the horse trials since 2006, and year after year competitors fill the available entries before the closing date, creating waitlists.

Karen Laidley and Coming to Fruition win the Zeit Capital Open Novice. AFHT was Karen's first horse trials back after a riding injury left her sidelined last year; she only received the "ok" to start jumping again from her doctor six weeks ago. Chesna Klimek photo.

“Jonathan and Suzy [Elliott] put together such an amazing event; it’s phenomenal” said Zeit Capital Open Novice winner, Karen Laidley. “Every year I come back there are improvements. I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for our sport.” She, like many other competitors, noted the small details that make AFHT stand out, such as the recycling services offered onsite, the free drink cooler for visitors, the expertly hand-crafted jumps, and more.

AFHT goes to great lengths to make the show enjoyable and rewarding for competitors at all levels. For example, the Zeit Capital Open classes in Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice offered prizes and ribbons through twelfth place, as well as cash awards, attracting large numbers of entries.

This year AFHT also offered Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP) awards for the highest placed TIP-registered thoroughbred in each level. Many Area VII riders compete with OTTBs, so the awards were a welcome addition to the prize line-up. The winners of the TIP awards were:

• Anna Collier and Gleaming Road in Intermediate
• Dawn Bunge and Allstar in Preliminary
• Madison Langerak and The Banana Bandit in Training
• Carrie Hopper and Nickel Nickel in Novice
• Alex Reed and On Broadway in Beginner Novice

Competitors and organizers alike were overwhelmingly positive about the horse trials. “It was a success,” said show organizer Jonathan Elliott, “The courses ran well. Everyone has seemed really pleased with it. The weather was perfect.” In the precipitous Pacific Northwest, weather can be a significant factor in the overall show experience.

Looking ahead, the Tin Men Supply Advanced division at the Aspen Farms Horse Trials on September 6-8, 2013 has been selected to participate in the Adequan USEA Gold Cup and Pro Tour Series. Jonathan explained, “It’s great to get chosen for it—great for the Area. We’re hoping we get good turnout.”

Find pictures, video, and news about Aspen Farms Horse Trials on their Facebook page.

Final results for the June AFHT can be found here.

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