Sep 01, 2022

Atkinson Enjoys the Ride as He Leads USEA Intermediate Championships at #AEC2022

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Travis Atkinson and Don Darco. USEA/ Hope Carlin photo.

For Immediate Release: Time was definitely a factor in the USEA Intermediate Championship at the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds as horse and rider pairs contested Ian Stark’s cross-country track on Thursday. Of the 11 pairs to compete, only one went double-clear. Adding just 2.8-time penalties to their dressage score to take the lead going into the final phase was Travis Atkinson of Lehi, Utah, and his own 13-year-old Zweibrucker gelding Don Darco (Damarco x Gong Lee).

Dressed in red, white, and blue, Atkinson piloted “Darco” skilfully around Stark’s track despite an early miscommunication with a crossing guard, which he attributes to part of the reason why he found himself incurring the handful of time penalties. Overall, however, Atkinson was very pleased with the horse’s performance.

“He is my first horse to move up through the levels,” he shared. “We have been learning the ropes together. I got him as kind of a troubled horse, he is a little bit spooky and can be a little funny here or there. But on cross-country, he really seems to want to do the job. He is fun out there and is a game horse– even when he worries he is looking for a way to get the job done. He was great today, as good as I could have expected him to be. At the end of the day, it didn’t really matter, it moved us where we needed to be in order to be in contention for the win tomorrow.”

Darco and Atkinson have competed on the grounds at Rebecca Farm once before in 2021 where they competed in the Preliminary division. Going into show jumping, the pair were in the lead, but two rails cost them the win. “We were both a little less educated back then, so we are hoping we finish a little stronger tomorrow than what we did back then,” Atkinson reflected.

Looking to improve on last year’s performance, Atkinson sought the help of John Michael Durr in relation to their show jumping efforts. “In the past, our show jumping phase hasn’t been our strongest,” he said. “For me, I want to go and jump clear tomorrow obviously, but at the end of the day, my outlook with this horse is a lot bigger so I want to go in and have a good show jump round. If that is a clear round, then that is what I am going for. If it doesn’t, we just go to the next show and keep chipping away at it like we always do.”

In addition to their show jumping prep, the Area IX pair had to put in a few extra road miles to qualify for this year’s AEC as their area doesn’t offer an Intermediate. With so much work going into the leadup for this year’s Championships, Atkinson came into the weekend with an open mind and a positive perspective.

“I decided on the way here that I was going to come in this week and find a lot of excuses to appreciate my horses, enjoy the show, and kind of let things fall the way that they will. It seems like when I remind myself of that, I get the best results compared to when I put too much focus on what my results are going to be.”

The former leading pair after dressage, Tommy Greengard and his 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Joshua MBF (Foreign Affair x Femacchy MBF) added 7.6-time penalties to their score to rest in second following cross-country day on a score of 32.9. Rounding out the top three is James Alliston and Golly Martin’s 7-year-old Oldenburg gelding Monkey (Escudo II x Fasten Your Seatbelt R) who moved up from fifth to third with just 2.8-time penalties across the country to conclude the day on a score of 34.2. The only double-clear round of the day was issued by Alliston and Alliston Equestrian’s 8-year-old Oldenburg mare Karma (Escudo II x Travita) who currently sit in fourth on their dressage score of 35.2.

The final phase of competition in the USEA Intermediate Championship at the 2022 AEC will begin at 4:25 p.m. in Ring 1. See the full scores from the USEA Intermediate Championship here.

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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.

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