When Auburn University’s Alayna Backel jumped the final jump on her cross-country course today you couldn’t even hear the announcer over the mob of Auburn students, fans, and family members standing at the finish flags. As the last member of the Auburn War Eagles team to compete at the 2022 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships, Backel’s double-clear cross-country round with Amy Dobbins’ 17-year-old Halflinger gelding Oliver Twist (Aurora x Ludora de Las Perlas) solidified Auburn’s first victory at the Intercollegiate Championships in three years on a cumulative team score of 79.23.
“I started coming up to the last fence and I started tearing up and I thought, ‘okay I just have to get over it!’ And then I crossed and instantly, tears were just flowing! It feels unreal. I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” said an elated Backel.
Oliver Twist was a catch ride for Backel who rode him for the first time just a week and a half ago, but she had confidence in the pony going into all three phases. Interestingly enough, Backel wasn’t the only member of the team with a history with Oliver Twist. Teammate Grace Montgomery had previously competed the pony previously before he made a trek around the U.S. to teach other riders, only recently having made his way back to Alabama to run amoeba level with his leaser’s 8-year-old daughter.
“I ran Novice with [Oliver Twist] four years ago and then he was sold to a person in Arizona and then they sold him to someone in California where he did the jumpers,” Montgomery shared. “And then he ended up back with his original owner which I think is so awesome. This weekend he was a catch ride for Alayna and it makes my heart so happy to see them together.”
Montgomery was the first member of the Auburn War Eagles to compete on Sunday with Alexandra Green’s 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Fernhill Wonder (Farfelu de Muze x Cherokee Bella m2s). Despite having been out of the competition atmosphere for nearly a year, she tried to go into her cross-country round with a clear mind, a mindset that would not only benefit her team but would also leave her with a blue ribbon in the Open Novice A division at the conclusion of the competition.
“I felt like there was a little bit of pressure because I was the first rider to go for the team,” she shared. “I haven’t been out in so long but [Fernhill Wonder] was just perfect and we had fun. He’s pretty experienced, he’s done up to the two-star, and he just was just perfect this weekend. It’s been amazing.”
Galloping out of the startbox for the last time for Auburn University was recent graduate Gabrielle Yashinsky with her own 6-year-old Zangersheide gelding Sky Full of Stars Z (Rusticus x Little Star Z). The experience both with her horse and her team has held a lot of sentimental value to Yashinsky. “[Sky Full of Stars Z] was a little rockstar today. We had a super positive ride and he was game around the whole thing. I just made sure to reinforce at every jump and we got it done and we got a double clear to end the weekend. It’s an awesome way to go out. I couldn’t be more happy for my team and Auburn and it’s the perfect way to end my four years on the team.”
While her fellow teammates galloped around the grounds at Chattahoochee Hills, Kate Midgley and her own 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Ditch (by Gulch) closed out their weekend in the show jumping ring with a double-clear round to not only contribute to the Auburn War Eagles’ win but to also win the Preliminary Rider division on a score of 29.5.
“Ditch was awesome,” said a beaming Midgley. “He jumped around double clear. I was nervous going in – our team had a bit of a lead but show jumping can sometimes be our hard phase, but he was perfect. He carted me around and jumped great and I am so happy with him.”
Auburn University not only received the honors of Intercollegiate Champions but they were also presented with the 2022 Spirit Award for their exceptional team spirit and camaraderie that was displayed all weekend long.
Rounding out the weekend in second place was the University of Georgia’s Gurley’s Gone Wild team which is made up of Hannah Ledford, Bennett Smith, and Sierra Shurtz on a final cumulative score of 106.80
Third place honors went to the University of Kentucky Wildcats consisting of Cora Severs, Hannah Warner, Lauren Yeagy, and Cosby Green with a final cumulative score of 108.72.
For full Intercollegiate scores, click here.
The USEA would like to thank all of the Intercollegiate sponsors, Bates Saddles, FITS Riding, Kerrits, Horse & Country, U.S. Equestrian, and World Equestrian Brands, who provided wonderful prizes to the top three teams.
About the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program
The USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program was established in 2014 to provide a framework within which eventing teams and individual competitors could flourish at universities and colleges across the country. The USEA offers a discount of $25 on annual USEA memberships for current students of universities and colleges registered as Affiliates with the USEA. Many events across the country now offer Intercollegiate Team Challenges where collegiate eventers can compete individually as well as on teams with their fellow students. In Intercollegiate Team Challenges, each rider’s score is multiplied by a coefficient appropriate for their level to account for differences in level difficulty, and then the individual scores are added together to determine the team score. Click here to learn more about the Intercollegiate Eventing Program.
In the final USEA Classic Series event of 2022, three horse and rider pairs rode their way to the top of the podium in the Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice 3-Day divisions offered during the Ram Tap Horse Park Horse Trials which took place November 18-20 in Fresno, California.
US Equestrian opened a bid process for one event to host the Advanced level in Area 3 on Week 10 for 2023-2027 due to an event cancellation. The bid process was conducted in accordance with the 2023-2027 U.S. Eventing Calendar CCI4*-L, CCI4*-S, CCI3*-L, & Advanced Policies and Procedures. The USEF Eventing Strategic Calendar Review Task Force made recommendations to the USEF Eventing Sport Committee who made recommendations for final approval by the USEF Board of Directors.
Concluding the 2022 Area Championships season was the Area X Championships held during the SAzEA H.T. which took place November 19-20 in Tucson, Arizona. Three Championship divisions were offered, allowing three horse and rider pairs the opportunity to conclude their 2022 eventing season by being crowned champion!
“The highest priority must be given by instructors to developing in their riders a correct, balanced, supple, effective, and independent seat for dressage and for jumping.” - “Teaching Principles” in the new ECP Eventing Handbook by the Levels