The United States Eventing Association (USEA) Young Event Horse (YEH) Championships bring together the best and brightest young talent to show off their skills on the flat and over fences. Today, 16 4-year-olds and 40 5-year-olds performed their dressage tests in front of judges Sally Ike (USA) and Lucinda Green (GBR) and were judged on their conformation by Chris Ryan (IRL) in the USEA YEH East Coast Championships at Fair Hill International in Elkton, Maryland.
The YEH Championship scores are out of 100, broken up into the following percentages: 20 percent dressage; 10 percent conformation; 60 percent jumping; and 10 percent general impressions. Therefore, the best possible score following the dressage and conformation phases completed today is a 30. The remaining 70 percent will be judged tomorrow during the jumping test.
Quality Obsession, a Dutch Warmblood mare by Zambesi, is leading the 5-year-old Championship with owner/rider Tim Bourke in the irons after the dressage and conformation phases on a combined score of 24.19. Quality Obsession also claimed the highest conformation score of the weekend, an 8.95.
Despite the creatively shaped canter circles that resulted from Quality Obsession’s desire to gallop sideways across the arena, Bourke explained that he was focused on displaying the mare’s potential as a four-star horse. “She’s a big moving horse. The goals of this competition are to show off [the horse’s gaits], so it doesn’t matter if you’re not all that accurate in the test as long as you show off a horse for the future that has good movement. That’s what we went for. She’s probably one of the best horses I’ve had.”
Bourke sourced “Petal” from Jonathan Reape in Ireland last year and explained that he’s been careful to take his time producing her because of his belief in her talent for the future. “She’s a pretty special horse. She’s really brave, a good jumper, and I’ve taken my time with her more than any horse I’ve ever had . . . She was always one that was going to take a bit of time just because of how talented she is.”
Hot on Quality Obsession’s heels is MB MaiStein, the MB Group LLC’s Oldenburg gelding by Rocky Lee, ridden by Tamra Smith to a score of 23.96. MB MaiStein’s dressage phase score was 16.46, the best dressage score of the day.
Smith sourced MB MaiStein from Kai-Steffen Meier as a 3-year-old and has been producing him for the last two years. “He’s actually been a slow horse to produce,” she said. “I usually ride smaller horses and I liked him because he was small and then he grew. So, we didn’t do a ton with him as a 4-year-old. When I decided that I was going to come east, I thought it would be smart for me to bring him out here and just get a lot of cross-country exposure and it’s really served him well.”
“I almost don’t know what he’s going to do tomorrow,” admitted Smith. “He’s a little bit awkward in the jumping sometimes. He’s just so powerful behind, but he’s super brave and even when he’s not sure of something he’ll just power over it . . . he’s been really fun to produce and he’s just a really workmanlike horse.”
Rounding out the top three in the USEA YEH East Coast 5-year-old Championships is Miss LuLu Herself (Stolzenfels x Noisettte), Bonnie Stedt’s Hanoverian mare bred by Boyd Martin. Mike Pendleton rode the mare to a two-phase score of 23.89.
In the USEA YEH East Coast 4-year-old Championship, R River Star (Riverman x R Star), an Irish Sport Horse/Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Courtney Cooper and bred by Cooper and Neal Camens, claimed the top score of the day, a 24.75. As things currently stand, R River Star is first in line to receive the Born in America award, presented to the top-placing American-bred horse.
Cooper rode R River Star’s dam, R Star, up through the Intermediate level and has two of her offspring. “River” is by the sire Riverman and has grown up at Cooper’s C Square Farm and been produced by Cooper from the bottom up. “He is a Riverman, so he’s very talented and athletic and occasionally opinionated,” she said. “We started him and backed him and when I came upon challenging moments I called a good friend of mine and he helped me work through them and put a few more tools in my toolbox as a horseperson. The horse is going great and is a lovely character.”
“He’s a pretty brave horse,” Cooper described. “I think very highly of him over the jumps – he’s a good jumper. But you can never tell what the young horses are going to do. It’s a competition, and sometimes when you have young horses they have green moments. But he’s a special horse and really good jumper. I’m hoping he does what I think he’s going to do [tomorrow.]”
Like This (Do it x Ballerina II) and owner/rider Colleen Rutledge sit in second place heading into tomorrow’s jumping phase on a score of 23.56. Rutledge only acquired the Mecklenburg gelding at the end of August and was sourced from Global Event Horses in Ireland by John Michael Durr. “I got a phone call saying, ‘I need you to make a logical and adult decision,’ which is normally trouble,” Rutledge said with a laugh. “I bought him straight off of video having never sat on him.”
“We don’t know each other really well right now,” she continued, “so we’re still in this delightful negotiation phase of ‘I win and you don’t.’ But honestly, he fits into my barn fantastically, he is sweet as can be and has quite a personality . . . He truly is four [years old], he’s very gangly, he’s still a little unbalanced, but the raw basics are there and he’s only going to get better.”
JAG (Jaguar Mail x Knock Out), a Selle Francias gelding owned and bred by Ashley Macvaugh and ridden by Ashley Norris, scored 22.19, good enough for third place heading into tomorrow’s final phase of competition.
The jumping phase of the USEA YEH East Coast Championships for the 4- and 5-year-olds will take place tomorrow morning beginning at 8:00 a.m. at Saw Mill Field. Interested in finding out more about the Championship courses? Click here for the exclusive course preview with course designer Trish Gilbert.
About the USEA Young Event Horse Program
The Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the three- and four-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.
The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to view the jumping standards and specifications.
Following the popularity of Rules Open Forum held virtually during the 2020 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in December, the USEA Competitions, Calendar, and Rules Committee decided to host another Rules Webinar to share information about the extraordinary rule changes going into effect on April 1, 2021 and the rule change proposals being put forward to the USEF by March 1, 2021 for approval for the 2022 competition season.
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Chris Ryan’s initial assessment of this 3-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding is that he’s a “good quality sort. Brown is a great color – a strong color in ‘nature.’ One of the first questions I ask myself when evaluating a horse is if he has refinement. We know the breed type here is Thoroughbred but I still ask the question."
The USEA Event Companion App was launched in late 2016 for iOS and Android devices to provide USEA members with easy, at-your-fingertips access to the USEA calendar of events, dressage tests, rules, news, and more. The app, now in its fifth year, has rolled out a new feature for users - push notifications are here!