Six new Area IX Champions were crowned during the Area IX Championship which took place alongside The Event at Archer in Cheyenne, Wyoming, August 18-21. Championship divisions were offered from the Starter level all the way up to Preliminary and the beautiful tracks at Archer offered some fierce competition for Championship competitors. The USEA caught up with each individual champion as they looked back on their performances in Cheyenne that helped them bring home the top prize.
Preliminary Champions | Amy Bowers & Del Mar Belle | 35.5
Amy Bowers and her own 7-year-old Thoroughbred mare Del Mare Belle (Tiznow x Pacific Breeze) led the Preliminary Championship from start to finish. Their dressage score of 27.5 gave them the leading edge they needed, and after adding two rails to their show jumping they still held onto their lead with a final score of 35.5. The win was hugely rewarding for Bowers, who purchased “Belle” as a 3-year-old fresh off of the track and has produced the mare herself to the two-star level.
“Belle is such a special talented mare. She is an absolute beast on cross-country but in the barn, you would be hard pressed to find a sweeter, more loving horse,” Bowers shared of her partner.
Regarding the atmosphere at the area championships, Bowers reflected that it couldn’t have been better. “The atmosphere at the championships was so supportive. It’s such a challenging sport. I feel like people in our area are so supportive when you are having a hard day, but so ready to cheer you on when it’s going well.”
Modified Champions | Ashley Horowitz & Tiny Dancer | 38.5
In the Modified Championship, it was Ashley Horowitz and her own 6-year-old Thoroughbred mare Tiny Dancer (Fusaichi Pegasus x Burren) who were crowned queens at the end of the weekend. The pair put in a dressage test that would earn them a 34.5, had a double-clear cross-country effort, and added just one rail to finish in the first place position. For Horowitz, the best part is being able to showcase her special partner.
“The most valuable thing to come out of this season, and this win, is to get to spotlight this amazing mare, she shared. “She is only six and has perpetually exceeded my expectations. I bought her just after her last race a little over two years ago, and I never would have believed that I would be in this position at this point. I attribute most of our success to her big heart and her love of the sport. You can tell she gets it and she just loves it!”
There probably isn’t a better feeling than going into the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds off of a win in your Area Championships, and that is what is up next for this duo. As the pair have already successfully completed two Preliminary events, Horowitz aims to gear Tiny Dancer up for her first CCI2*-S either this fall or the coming spring.
Training Champions | Travis Atkinson & Something | 24.3
Winning the division from the moment they saluted the judge at the end of their dressage test was Travis Atkinson with the 8-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Something (Reversal x Northern Manners) who he co-owns with Carly Atkinson. Their dressage score proved unbeatable and double-clear rounds in both cross-country and show jumping helped them maintain their lead throughout the weekend.
“‘Calvin’ is a complete goofball,” shared Atkinson. “He loves attention and is extremely sweet! He is super brave, dependable and the type of horse you always enjoy riding.”
Atkinson shared that typically cross-country is his favorite phase, but after putting in a lot of hard work to improve their show jumping efforts there was a new phase he was most proud of. “I think having a clear show jump round clench the win was probably my favorite part!”
Novice Champions | Madison Manley & NDR’s Fez | 21.0
Madison Manley took a chance on a wild, untouched young horse in 2017 after her husband explicitly said no to the idea of bringing home a foal. After the passing of his beloved pup, however, his heart softened and off they went to a rescue in Hartville, Wyoming called Kindness Ranch. That is where Manley first met NDR’s Fez.
“He was barely halter broke and ran the lady over that was showing him to us,” she reflected. “They thought he was a Thoroughbred and at the time I was riding a lot of Thoroughbreds. After further research after buying him, it appears he was probably a PMU baby. When he was a bit older we definitely knew he wasn’t a Thoroughbred and just out of curiosity we did a DNA test. I am really fond of him so wanted to know what he was so I could buy more.”
The DNA test, however, came back with an odd concoction of bloodlines: predominantly Paso Fino with a touch of Lippizaner and Percheron. “When we got the DNA test back all I could do was laugh because no one guessed any of those breeds nor would we have searched out those breeds for eventing,” shared Manley.
Manley worked with “Fez,” who she describes as quite a character, to turn him into the event horse he is today at 5 years old. At this weekend’s Area IX Championships, he showed that his unconventional bloodlines didn’t hold him back from being a successful event horse. He led the pack from the get-go on a dressage score of 20.6 and only added 0.4-time penalties to his score on cross-country to win the division on a score of 21.
“When I came into the warm-up for dressage I knew he was going to put his best test down,” Manley commented. “He’s been on the verge of a really spectacular test all season and I’m glad he could really show off all his hard work at the championships. Cross-country for him is a walk in the park, the big hills in Wyoming really kept the motor going and we almost went a bit too fast! Show jumping had two hairy jumps but luckily he’s a good jumper and likes the blue ribbons.”
Beginner Novice Champions | C’Dale Jore & A Mariner | 27.4
When C'Dale Jore and her own 6-year-old Oldenburg gelding A Mariner (Morricone x Sissy) scored a 23.4 in their dressage phase of the Area IX Beginner Novice Championship, it gave them a seven point lead over their fellow competitors. Even by adding a rail to their score in show jumping, that generous lead from the start allowed them to hold firmly to their first-place position on a final score of 27.4. This win was extra special for Jore who purchased the young horse as a yearling with her husband who helped bring the horse along with natural horsemanship techniques.
"I am totally overjoyed with his amazing progress," Jore shared. "We’ve had him since he was a yearling. My husband put all the Parelli ground lessons that we learned from Linda Parelli and he passes with flying colors. Mariner and I had an awesome dressage test at Archer, we were both 'on' at the same time on the same day. It was amazing!"
"I am 69 years old," Jore continued. "I grew up riding Western & bareback, jumping everything in sight, then barrel racing and goat tying on the Intercollegiate Rodeo Team. At age 40, I sat in my first English saddle and have not looked back. I ride the mountains in my English saddle! I love all three phases of Eventing but cross-country is the most exhilarating and exciting.
While Jore lives in a rather remote area away from a strong eventing community, she gets help from three very special helpers: Farrah Green, Amy Bowers, and her daughter Schatzi Jore Trones.
Starter Champions | Wendy Williams & P.S. King of Hearts | 31.7
It was a wire-to-wire finish in the Starter Championship for Wendy Williams and her 16-year-old American Warmblood gelding P.S. King of Hearts (Marquis de Sade x Bostasha) who finished on their dressage score of 31.7.
“I first met P.S. King of hearts in October of 2020 when Laura Backus, our coach, suggested he would be a great schoolmaster for me to learn the beginnings of eventing,” Williams reflected. “He has been a lovely teacher for me ever since. I am amazed by his patience and willingness to work even if I make mistakes. I truly love this horse not only because he is a fantastic eventer but he also likes to snuggle.”
While the win was a big high point for Williams, her favorite memory from the Championship weekend lies in a more sentimental place. “The best part of the Championships this year is me being able to do this together with my kids. We all had a wonderful weekend together.”
As they hiked through the Galway Irish countryside, Shelley Bridges and John Whelpley soon found themselves amid a herd of curious Irish Draught mares grazing calmly around them. Bridges, an endurance rider extraordinaire with a well-known, educated eye for all things horse, noticed one of the mares in particular and said, “What about that one?” and our unlikely story began.
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