Sep 03, 2022

Beginner Novice Leaders Remain Unchanged After a Successful Final Day of Cross-Country at #AEC2022

By Kaleigh Collett - USEA Staff
Madeline Backus and Slew the Blues. USEA/ Hope Carlin photo

For Immediate Release: The Beginner Novice competitors at the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds took to the rolling hills of Rebecca Farm today to tackle Ian Stark’s cross-country course on Saturday. As the final level to leave the start box this week, the competitors had the benefit of watching several divisions negotiate the Montana terrain before they headed out on course. It clearly worked in their favor, as a majority of the competitors finished the phase with double-clear scores. All four dressage leaders have maintained their positions as we progress to the final day of AEC competition.

USEA Beginner Novice Horse Championship

Madeline Backus maintained her lead with Brad Ray's Slew the Blues, a 9-year-old Quarter Horse mare (Slew’s Gold x Only Blue Crystal). The pair finished on their dressage score in a very competitive division and have just 1.1 points separating them from second place. The pressure is on, but Backus is laser-focused on getting the job done tomorrow.

“Cross-country went better than I expected. I thought 'Bindi' would be more looky at some things, because the decorations are so wonderful and big and she hasn’t been at a venue like this before, but she actually went out and just totally focused on the job. After the first two fences she was a little distracted leaving the group, but from then on out she was just hunting for the flags and really enjoying herself. The first time a person was ever on her back was when I got on her last July, so it’s just amazing to see her progression. She’s just that type of horse though, everything is very easy for her, and she understands things very quickly. She’s just been super fun. I think I have the same concerns for tomorrow as I did going into cross-country that she may be a little looky. The show jumps are stunning, and the course they have set up for the championships is beautiful and fully decorated, and she just hasn’t seen stuff like that before. I imagine she’ll be a little looky, but I’m excited about it.”

USEA Beginner Novice Junior Championship

Bridget Kelly and Windover Tarragon. USEA/ Hope Carlin photo


Bridget Kelly and Windover Tarragon, a 13-year-old Connemara mare (Irish Parks Caraway finn x Del Poco Princess), will also remain in first place as we look ahead to show jumping on the final day of the 2022 USEA AEC. Windover Tarragon’s consistency in the final phase has Kelly feeling confident in her chances to lead from start to finish in her junior division.

“The course rode really well. My pony just took it all in stride. It was different for us because we’ve never been on grass before. We just had a great time! We kind of zoomed out of the box and were going really quick towards the beginning, which is funny because grass is usually a little more slippery. By the end we had to slow down a little bit, but it was really good. It was challenging, but it was super fun. We just had a great time out there. My horse felt really awesome; she loves cross-country, and it is definitely her favorite phase. I feel pretty good about tomorrow, definitely more confident after today. We normally have good show jumping rounds, so fingers crossed, but I think we can hopefully get a double clear tomorrow. She’s very tidy with her feet, and she’s never had a rail with me, so I’m pretty confident. I plan to spend a lot of time with her, talk to her and make sure we have a really solid warmup before we head into the ring tomorrow.”

USEA Beginner Novice Amateur Championship

Jenna McFadden and Take a Shot. USEA/ Hope Carlin photo

Jenna McFadden and Mackenzie Johnson's 6-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Take a Shot (Grindstone x Easy Elegance), held onto their lead in the Beginner Novice Amateur division today. After pumping herself up with some “dad rock” music, McFadden buckled in for the task at hand, adding nothing to her score when she passed through the finish flags.

“Whiskey was great; he didn’t look at anything! I think he was like ‘Oh this is a serious show! Yes, I’ll pick up my feet,’ and he just went. I rode a little aggressively just in case because I didn’t want to regret anything, but it seems like I didn’t need to. While I think he is best at dressage, he really loves cross-country. He had so much fun today! He just has the most boyish personality ever; he’s a golden retriever on the ground, but he figures stuff out quickly, so I always have to come up with new challenges for him. I think everyone knows that show jumping can be a bit difficult. You can ride everything perfectly and something can go wrong, so the pressure is on being in the position I’m in. My goal is just to have fun and give my horse a good ride. I think if I ride him well, he will show up and do his job. I’m looking forward to it!”

USEA Beginner Novice Rider Championship

Mandy Collins and Vatino. USEA/ Hope Carlin photo

The last beginner novice division of the day ended in familiar fashion with Mandy Collins riding Lillian Theil and Bettijean Collins' Vatino, a 20-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Patino x Inta), maintaining their first-place position overnight. The pair finished double-clear after cross-country and remain on a score of 29.5 going into the final phase.

“Tino just takes such good care of me. I was feeling a bit nervous beforehand, not because of the fences, but I guess just show nerves. He was like ‘Listen lady! Where are we going? What are we doing?’ and he was taking me to the fences and even saved me a couple of times when I made my little amateur mistakes. He was such a good boy; he really loves it out there! He didn’t even do his usual antics out of the start box where he gets hoppy and excited. He was a little excited in the warmup and was more forward, whereas he is usually a push ride at home, so I thought he was going to get excited, but instead he walked right in and said ‘let’s go’! The course felt really good. It took me until the fourth fence to feel the rhythm, but he was such a machine out there. My trainer and his owner have done a great job with his education and helping amateurs like me get out there. I feel good going into show jumping, but it is a day-by-day thing and I’m constantly reminding myself of the basics: keep my shoulders back, my leg on, and count the rhythm. I do get those little jitters beforehand, but I have a great team over here that helps me through by playing my favorite pump up song to settle everything in. I know Tino is ready, he just finished his post-cross-country snooze and he is ready to go!”

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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.

The USEA would like to thank Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena Feeds; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsor: Bates Saddles Gold Level Sponsors: Parker Equine Insurance, Smartpak, Capital Square, Standlee; Silver Level Sponsors: Auburn Labs, Mountain Horse, The Jockey Club, Kerrits; Bronze Level Sponsors: Athletux, The Chronicle of the Horse, Dubarry of Ireland, FITS Riding, Equilume, Devoucoux, Fifth Third Bank, Gallops Saddlery, D.G. Stackhouse & Ellis, Clark Nissan; Contributing Level Sponsors: CrossCountry App, WeRideTogether, Haygain, First Interstate Bank, Schellinger Construction, Glacier Bank, Animal Health Solutions Inc., Discover Kalispell; Prize Level Sponsors: Vet Blue, Practical Horseman, Hound & Hare, Strides of Equality Equestrians, Horse & Country TV, Bemer Independent Distributors, Freelance Design, Achieve Equine/FLAIR, Flexible Fit Equestrian USA, and more! ATC Sponsors: The Chronicle of the Horse, FITS Riding, Nutrena Feeds, SmartPak, Achieve Equine/FLAIR, Kerrits, and Horse & Country TV

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