They have been waiting patiently all week for their turn to get the 2019 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds started, and today was finally their turn to start the competition. Six championship titles are up for grabs, but with two phases still to go it is anyone's game.
Junior Beginner Novice 14 and Under
The Beginner Novice 14 and Under division saw the top dressage score of 28.3 go to Maren Hanson and her own 24-year-old pony gelding, In My Feelings. “With today’s test,” said Hanson, “I was really, really happy with him. It was really the best I could get.”
Hanson has been riding the pony, called “Drake” in the barn, for about a year. “We found him in a pasture,” she explained. “Our friends just called us and were like, ‘Hey, we have this pony and we know you are doing mounted games. Would you like to come and try him?’ They sent a picture and we took him.” Hanson soon discovered that Drake had other skills, and the pair have more than dabbled in dressage as well, coming right from the Children’s National Championship, to AEC.
Following Hanson and In My Feelings is Tessa Geven and Werner Geven’s 16-year-old Connemara gelding (Fieldstream Riley x Kahlua), Tullymor's Houdini, sitting on a 28.9. Third place is being held by Elisabeth Davis and Glendale's Katie Belle, an 11-year-old Connemara mare (Rattle 'N Snap Laddie Boy x Anne Julia), owned by Davis, with a score of 29.1.
Beginner Novice Amateur
Hannah Reeser and Virginia Reeser’s Ltl Ireland Summr Soldier (October Fox x Abby Darling), a 5-year-old Morgan mare, scored a 23.8, the lowest score of the day, to take the lead in the Beginner Novice Amateur division.
“She was perfect,” Reeser said simply. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more of her. Being a 5-year-old and her being a homebred and just training her up through to this level, then coming here. It’s my first time here, so to come out on top is just incredible.”
“My mom rode the stallion and then we had another mare, and just from that we trained her through scary obstacles and worked her way up through the levels,” Reeser continued. “I was the first one to get on her.”
“I am excited [for cross-country],” she said. “She is an awesome cross-country horse; that is her best phase, believe it or not, so I am just looking forward to it. I have already walked the course. It looks great, so I am excited to get out there and tackle it.”
Lily Barlow and Big Bear's Cepheus (Cor De Lux c Big Bear’s Esther), Werner Geven’s 5-year-old Connemara gelding scored a 25.9 for second place. Jessica Wymbs and her own Weight of the World (Scorpion x Su Fama), a 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding sit in third place on a 27.9.
Beginner Novice Master Amateur
Carla Jimmerson and Valley Creek Carlin LeBeau (Heaven's Ridge Patrick LeBeau x Beacon's Cherubin Cathleet), her 14-year-old Connemara gelding, have been together since Valley Creek Carlin LeBeau was born.
“He is very special,” Jimmerson explained. “He was born on my property and I owned his parents. I was there the day he was born and I have just had him ever since. He is 14, so he has been my only event horse. I started him myself, so he has just been my partner. It has just been awesome.”
Jimmerson had never evented before Valley Creek Carlin LeBeau, with whom she currently sits in first place in the Beginner Novice Master Amateur division on a score of 25.1 “I did my first event on him. We started [eventing] several years ago, and I went up and competed two years even at Training, but he got kicked really bad by a boarder's horse. He had nerve damage, so it set us back. We literally had to go all the way back to the beginning this last year.”
“He is a Connemara pony, so he is a little mischevious,” she detailed. “He is definitely the dominant one of the farm because it is my farm and everybody knows he is the boss. But he is supper sweet. He is kind of funny because he does silly things.
Jimmerson is confident that Valley Creek Carlin LeBeau won’t have any trouble on tomorrow’s cross-country. “I’m excited because I am confident that he won’t have any trouble doing this. It’ll be my nerves, you know, whether or not I will, hopefully, be fine.
Julie Cayer and her own Great Moments, a 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, sit just behind the leaders on 25.5. Amy Winnen and her own 13-year-old Rheinland Pfalz-Saar mare Galatea HU (Galant Du Serein x Rohmanie) are in third place on 28.4.
Beginner Novice Horse
Alexa Ehlers and Clear Laveer were winners at the 2018 USEA AEC, and they’re back again to give it another shot. She and the 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Rascalino x Hauptstutbuch Wincenta II) sit in first place on a score of 26.1.
The plan after last year’s AEC was to send Clear Laveer to Ehlers’ sister in Georgia, but he ended up spending the fall and winter sitting in a field before making the trip. “He is just truly the happiest horse on the ground, like you walk into the barn and he is all ears and eyes and wants to be in your pocket, so he was the perfect horse for her to feel connected to again,” Ehlers said.
Clear Laveer spent the spring and summer with Ehlers’s sister and last month returned to Ehlers’s farm in Kentucky. During a clinic with Doug Payne, he suggested she take him back to the AEC, especially since they were taking place in her backyard. “He basically hasn’t done anything since last year,” she said. “He has cross-country schooled twice. He truly is the best because he shows up and he is whatever you need him to be. If you need to have a horse to love on and enjoy in the barn, he is that. And if it is something to enjoy on the flat, he is that. And then, it is like, ‘Okay, we are going to go jump,’ and he is totally game to do anything. And I say that now knocking on wood hoping that tomorrow goes well. He is just a blast, he is truly such a joy to have around. It is so much fun.”
“I have no idea what is going to happen [tomorrow],” Ehlers laughed. “I just hope he keeps stepping up because I just love him. He is so much fun. It is hard not to just giggle at him all the time.”
Kalie Beckers and her own Madoc Mari (Lidgett Meredith x Madoc Gwyneth), an 11-year-old Welsh mare, scored a 28.4 for second place going into tomorrow’s cross-country. Holly Payne Caravella and Mary Bancroft’s 4-year-old German Sport Horse gelding Dito 16 (Dr. Jackson D x Kassandra) round out the top three on 29.4.
Junior Beginner Novice
The Beginner Novice Junior division watched Indiana-native Ava Stevens prance to the lead in the dressage phase with the Tamatha Stevens entry, Two Against The World. Stevens and the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Reputed Testamonyx Black Orchid), held the first-place position, besting second-place points on a 29.6. “Today was fantastic,” commented Stevens. “My horse was so good. He was lovely in the warm-up, and he was just absolutely fantastic in our test.”
Stevens continued, describing her newer mount and how she developed a passion for horses: “I got him about a year-and-a-half ago, and he has just been giving me so much confidence. He has brought me up after my other schoolmaster. I started riding when I was about eight years old. I started taking lessons because there was this one kid in my class at school who had a horse, and then all the little girls wanted a horse. My mom was like, ‘Eh, it is just a phase. It will pass.’ Then, I started doing lessons, and then I am here today, and my riding has just progressed over the years. My trainers, Lee Ann Zobbe and Lisa Perez, they have made it all possible; I am so grateful for them.”
Aidan Goumas and Shannon Million’s Mister, a 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Sahmx Sister Exploding), are currently in second-place heading into cross-country tomorrow after earning a 29.9, while Erin Buckner and Picassi, a 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Buckner, rounded out the top three with a 30.1.
Beginner Novice Rider
Sherry Pound and Gestalt (Gloriosus x Celine), her 7-year-old Mecklenburg gelding, danced to the lead in the Beginner Novice Rider division on a score of 28.1. Pound, who has only been riding for about five years, started eventing two and a half years ago and bought Gestalt shortly after that.
“I always loved horses, and I was sitting in my house one day at the beach in San Diego and I said, ‘That’s it. I want a horse.’ And two weeks later I was living on a couple of acres and had a leased horse,” Pound explained. “It’s been a journey since then.”
“My horse is quite the big mover, so it has taken me a long time to learn how to ride him,” she said. “He is very forward and powerful. I had a Quarter Horse before that, so it’s been a journey to get there. Carsten Meyer, my coach, has just helped me every step of the way. He has given me the confidence to know that I could take on a horse like that and, it would take a while, but we’d get there, so it has been lovely.”
“It was the best test we have ever done, and it was just a perfect time for it to come together like that, so it was lovely,” Pound said of her dressage test. “I broke my leg in January falling off him cross-country, so it has been a long year, so it was really nice for it to all come together.”
Pound is hoping Gestalt’s “wild man” antics won’t make an appearance tomorrow. “We’ll see,” she said, “He was really good schooling cross-country last week, so I’ll just hope that we hold it together.”
Mckenna Martinez and her own Commitment, a 7-year-old Warmblood gelding, scored a 28.3 for second place. Piper Uhl and her 11-year-old Warmblood gelding Finnegan round out the top three on 29.1.
About the USEA American Eventing Championships
The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds is the pinnacle of the sport for 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. This year, the AEC will be held August 27 – September 1 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.
The USEA would like to thank the following sponsors for their support of the AEC: Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsors: Bates Saddles, Equistro; Gold Level Sponsors: Charles Owen, Standlee Hay, Parker Equine Insurance; Silver Level Sponsors: Mountain Horse; The Jockey Club, Park Equine; Bronze Level Sponsors: Arnall’s Naturals, State Line Tack, Black Petticoat, Devoucoux, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Horseware Ireland, LandSafe SmartPak, Dubarry, The Chronicle of the Horse, Stackhouse and Ellis Saddles, Auburn Laboratories, FITS Riding, Ovation, Lanier Sand and Soil, Event Cooling Solutions, Farm House Tack; Contributing Level Sponsors: Ariat, Meanwhile Back on the Farm, L.V. Harkness, Lexmark, GLC Direct, Georgetown Tourism, FarmVet, FLAIR Nasal Strips, Nunn Finer, RevitaVet, Resvantage Equine, CrossCountry App; Prize Level Sponsors: GumBits, Ride Heels Down, C4 Belts, I Love My Horse, Mare Modern Goods, Bluegrass Vibershield, Bluegrass Animal Products, Caracol, Active Interest Media, Astrid’s Oil, Baekgaard, On The Bit Horse Supplies, Luxe EQ, EQ AM Magazine, Jetti Spa, Great British Equinery, Foxden Equine, The Scoring Chix, Pure Form Equine; Competitor’s Party Sponsors:Jacqueline Mars, Kat and Roberto Cuca, United States Hunter Jumper Association, and United States Dressage Federation.
All the major contenders passed the eventing final horse inspection at the Tokyo Olympics and will carry on to contest the show jumping phase in a few hours’ time.
The ground jury (Nick Burton, GBR, Christina Klingspor, SWE, and the U.S.A.’s Jane Hamlin) and vets only failed to accept one horse - Fantastic Frieda, ridden by Poland’s Joanna Pawlak, who had completed the cross-country in 41st place with a refusal and 25.2 time-faults.
The FEI has announced that the Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel has had to be euthanized after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest Cross Country Course during Equestrian Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 1, 2021.
In 2002, at the age of 15, I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Maine while Tremaine Cooper was there building some cross-country jumps. I helped him build a trakehner, not realizing that this day would set the course for my future. A few weeks later he called asking if I could help him at Millbrook Horse Trials. From there I helped Tremaine during most of my school vacations and throughout the summers. After graduating high school I kept at it never looking back. I lived the gypsy lifestyle for about six years going from coast to coast and event to event. In 2013 my wife Kathryn and I settled down in Lexington, Kentucky. These days I spend roughly 60-75 percent of my time on the road preparing events or building private schooling areas. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some really great events around the states and have cultivated many friendships all over the country. In 2019 I was asked to be a part of Team Evans Olympic cross-country building crew. As I write this I am on my third trip to Tokyo. Here’s a day in Tokyo . . .
The British team cemented their gold medal position at the Tokyo Olympics with three magnificent cross-country performances, all clear inside the time. Added to that, their first rider, Oliver Townend, holds pole position individually after the dressage leader, Germany’s Michael Jung, picked up 11 penalties for triggering a frangible device.