May 28, 2024

Beshear Comes from Behind to Win CCI3*-S at Virginia Horse Center Eventing

By Sally Spickard - Edited Press Release
Emily Beshear and Rio de Janeiro. Sally Spickard photos

Lexintgon, Va.—May 27— Competition wrapped up Sunday to cap off a highly successful weekend at the Virginia Horse Center Eventing horse trials. All remaining divisions completed their competition weekend, with some finishing on show jumping and others concluding with cross-country. The FEI long-format division champions were also crowned, as well as a slew of other award winners for their efforts over the weekend.

Emily Beshear, whose Deep Purple Eventing is located not far from the Virginia Horse Center, steadily climbed up the leaderboard in the CCI3*-S division, which concluded on Saturday. She piloted Rio de Janeiro (River Dancer x Vanilla Ice), who is owned with her son, Nicholas Beshear, to the eventual victory on a finishing score of 37.6.

After starting the weekend in fifth place, Emily and the 15-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding moved into second following show jumping on Friday. Initial leaders Ariel Grald and Adagio’s Nobility were assessed 20 jumping penalties on cross-country Saturday morning, opening the door for a new leader. While no pairs completed Jay Hambly’s cross-country course within the optimum time of 6 minutes, 25 seconds, Emily’s 8.4 time penalties kept her ahead of second-placed Hannah Sue Hollberg and Carsonstown.

“The horse is very efficient,” Emily said as she described her cross-country round. “He doesn’t have a big stride, but he’s got all the heart in the world and he’s very genuine, so I wanted to just let him go out, pick his pace and gallop around and be as efficient as I could around the turns. He’s pretty easy to turn and balance, and he did exactly what he was supposed to.”

“I liked all the improvements they’ve made out there, they’ve done a beautiful job working on opening it up,” Emily said of the always-evolving cross-country, designed at VHC Eventing by Hambly on the Oak Hill side and by Jon Wells on the VHC side. “The course rode really well! Originally, I was thinking of going to Bromont. The horse is older and I needed to get my three-star qualification. I did decide afterwards not to push him for Bromont and to wait for later in the year, but this was a no-brainer to come here and get a nice, good run in. And I think they’ve done a great job with improving that side, so I enjoyed it!”

“I’ve known the horse for a really long time,” Emily said of the partnership she’s enjoyed with Rio de Janeiro. “He was actually bred and brought along by a young rider from Michigan that I helped. When she went off to college, I got to take over the ride and we purchased him. And then shortly thereafter I ended up injuring my knee, so I was out for a year and Nicholas took over the reins. He got the horse a bit of three-star mileage and did really well with him but then graciously gave me the ride back. So he’s become the honorary owner so we can keep the partnership going.”

Emily says she plans to aim for some Advanced competition and perhaps a CCI4*-S to round out the year, using this for re-qualification as well as fine-tuning for a step back up to the next level.

Benefiel Rises to the Occasion in CCI2*-L

Ashton Benefiel and Libris Charlotte

There was a two-way tie for the lead following cross-country in the CCI2*-L division, with young riders Tate Northrop and Ashton Benefiel left to duke it out for the eventual win on Sunday on matching scores of 32.7.

Olympic show jumping rider-turned-course designer Michel Vaillancourt set a challenging show jumping track across all divisions, including the National levels. The courses required thinking and education on the part of both horse and rider, and caught more than a few pairs out in Sunday's FEI divisions.

The pressure was on for the two leaders. Benefiel was the first to ride, bringing forward her 9-year-old British Sport Horse Libris Charlotte (Cevin Z x Witches Broom). The pair boasted a clear FEI show jumping record with their two previous CCI2*-S and CCI1*-S competitions.

They delivered, securing one of four double clear rounds to keep the pressure on Northrop. Northrop rode the 9-year-old Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding, Harrison (Pasolongo x Sybrite), who is owned by her mother, Megan Northrop. Their dreams of taking home the win were dashed when fence three rattled and fell, assessing four penalty points and one eventual time penalty to drop down into fifth overall.

For her part, Benefiel says she was surprised to have taken the win. “I certainly did not expect to win,” she smiled. “I really wanted to come into the weekend and just have a confidence building round in cross country and show jumping. Thankfully we were able to do that and come home with the win.”

Benefiel trains with five-star and World Championships rider Ariel Grald, both when Grald is in Florida for the winter as well as periodically through the summer in Southern Pines, North Carolina. She also rides with Florida-based CCI4* rider Alexander O’Neal when Grald is away.

“Ariel had some great advice and [the course today] ended up riding really well,” she said. “I was feeling really good [this morning]. 'Charlie' is a really careful show jumper, and I knew that if I could do my job that she was going to do hers. She gets a little nervous about other horses in the warmup, so I was hoping that I would have enough time to get her relaxed and soft in her body before we went out there, and we were able to do that.”

Free Union, Virginia-based Gabby Dickerson cleaned up the second and third spots on the leaderboard, riding Kristin Caskey’s and Lulu Malinoski's 8-year-old Zangersheide gelding Afrojack Z (Akarad Hero Z x Zermie) to second place on a score of 32.8 and her and Roland Millican's 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Gortglas Lupin (Luidam x Gortglas Skye) to third on a 33.9.

White Goes Wire-to-Wire in CCI2*-S

Sharon White and Arden Augustus

Sharon White secured a wire-to-wire victory in the CCI2*-S with Anita Antenucci’s Arden Augustus (Jaguar Mail x Juneau), adding no penalties to her initial dressage score of 29.0 to finish over 10 points in the lead at the end of Saturday's cross-country.

“I’m so pleased with him,” White said after her round. “He tried really hard and it’s very hilly here, and I think that’s a really good education for them. He’s a very game cross-country horse, but he’s been a little spooky at the coffins, so there’s a beautiful coffin here that is challenging enough, so I really rode him there. And he was like ‘What is wrong with you up there? I’m fine! No worries!’ So good job, buddy. [The course had] good water jumps, a good coffin, good corner questions, and great terrain, so a really good education for him in his career. I’m really thrilled and really thrilled for Anita, she’s a really good friend, so it’s really fun for us. It goes wrong a lot, but when it goes right it’s really nice!”

White plans to keep “Gus” at this level for the rest of this year, looking to the future and focusing on strength development and education. “He’s a very big horse, so I need to be slightly careful and a little patient. There’s no rush. He certainly doesn’t need to be going Intermediate this year, so there’s absolutely no hurry. It’s a good year of education and strength development.”

Kelley Claims CCI1*-L Victory

Lindsay Kelley and Fashionable Man

It was a wire-to-wire win for Lindsay Kelley riding Paige Ramsey's 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Fashionable Man (Charitable Man x So Francie). This pair finished their weekend clear on their dressage score of 27.8.

The CCI1*-L course also rode challenging, with just two pairs including Kelley jumping double clear. Second-placed John Michael Durr and Cindy Deporter’s 18-year-old Hanoverian mare Ana D (by Warlord) produced the other double clear, also finishing on their dressage score of 29.6.

“I noticed that the course designer really did design a pretty tight track,” Kelley reflected. “It’s a tight ring, it’s a small ring, and on top of that he put in some tough combinations where there was really only one shot in that would work. So you had to get a close distance in [to the combinations] to be able to get out clear. And so I warmed this horse up in a very relaxed way. He is a Thoroughbred, so I find that Thoroughbreds get some confidence by going forward if the track allows it. This track did not. They wanted you to properly show jump this course, so I warmed him up in a very relaxed way, did not let him leave any strides out, tried to get him close in the warm-up to every fence in the warm-up so that’s what we could emulate in the ring. And he did just that. He was absolutely awesome, so rideable.”

Kelley said she was able to block out any pressure she might have felt as the last to go and the defending leader. “I really do try and block all of that out as far as my headspace goes and stay riding my own horse and staying with my own plan, trying not to get distracted,” she explained. “It’s easy to get distracted, knowing that you don’t have a rail in hand, but I tried to just focus on what I could do, which was give my horse a good ride.”

View full results from the weekend here.

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