The USEF CCI* Eventing National Championship took place at the Virginia CCI/CIC and Horse Trials (VHT) in Lexington, November 1-4. Early leaders fell short of victory in the final phase and Colleen Rutledge and Isabel Finemore ultimately emerged as the 2018 Champions.
Following dressage, there was a three-way tie for the CCI* Championship. Ariel Grald and Monbeg Game Face, Sharon White and Highlife’s Je T’aime, and Colleen Rutledge and C Me Fly had all scored a 28.3.
The tie was broken after cross-country as Virginia’s notorious terrain meant time penalties for many. White and her second ride Masterel posted one of only four double-clear rounds in the division to move into the Championship lead. Rutledge and C Me Fly were close behind, having added just 2.0 time penalties.
The CCI* Championship title came down to the final phase. Scores were tightly packed and every rail counted. When Rutledge and C Me Fly show jumped without error, that put the pressure on White and Masterel, who unfortunately lowered two rails, adding 8.0 penalties to their score.
“She is a recent import from Germany and she has exceeded every expectation I have had for her this year,” Rutledge said of C Me Fly (Cristallo II x Hera), a 6-year-old Westphalian mare. With VHT being the mare’s first CCI, Rutledge wasn’t sure how she well she would show jump after the previous day’s tough cross-country test. “We were in completely uncharted territory for me. Even though we have show jumped after cross-country in some of the recent events, we’ve never show jumped after cross-country with that length and that amount of terrain.”
Rutledge continued, “She felt the terrain from yesterday and I had to be a little more aggressive with my leg and she just answered everything in spades. I couldn’t have asked for her to be any better across this entire weekend.”
Earning the CCI* Reserve Champion title was Boyd Martin and Ringo Star, an 8-year-old Thoroughbred owned by Helle Goodrich. They finished on their dressage score of 30.7.
Finemore Wins First International Event
The USEF CCI* JR/YR Championship is for young riders aged 21 and under. Stalking the top of the leaderboard throughout, 15-year-old Finemore put in three solid phases to win the JR/YR Championship in her very first international competition.
Finemore and Rutherglen (Ramires x Ramona), a 15-year-old Hanoverian owned by Andrew Hoy, scored a 31.6 to sit in fourth place after dressage. A clear cross-country round and 1.6 time penalties moved them up to second place. It all came down to the final phase, where Finemore and Rutherglen jumped fault-free to move up and take the win.
“I got a little bit more nervous as [the weekend] went on. Show jumping is always frightening, so that was a little bit nerve-wracking, but everything else was great. I know that [Rutherglen] knows what he is doing,” Finemore said.
Rutherglen was Hoy’s 2012 London Olympic Games mount and has a decade of international eventing experience. The gelding and Finemore only partnered over the summer, but Finemore has big dreams for them. “He is a four-star horse so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be big enough or strong enough but he’s so kind to me. He’s very thoughtful and it was very easy to build a great partnership with him,” she said.
Kelsey Ann Quinn, 16, and Dandy Longlegs led the way in the JR/YR Eventing National Championships throughout the first two phases, but two rails in show jumping dropped them down one placing and they finished as JR/YR Reserve Champions.
Martin Dominates Two-Star Divisions
Boyd Martin had a banner weekend at VHT. In addition to winning the USEF CCI* Reserve Champion title, he also won the CCI2* and CIC2* divisions.
Heading into the final phase of the CCI2*, Martin was sitting first and second with Barry and Contestor, respectively. Barry, a 9-year-old Thoroughbred owned by Martin and Windurra USA, lowered a rail to finish third. However, Denise Lahey’s 11-year-old KWPN, Contestor (Contango x Jer's Princess), show jumped fault-free to earn his second two-star win of the year.
“I find a lot of pleasure in riding horses for owners that really love their horse. Denise Lahey and Pierre Colin bred the horse and love the horse like it’s their child. A win at this and Bromont [CIC2*] is a thrill for me because it’s so satisfying for those guys that backed me for many years,” Martin said. “Barry deserved to win because he was jumping really well. I made a major error turning him in the air over a vertical. I heard him just tick it behind so that rail was definitely my fault. He wanted to jump clear.”
Christine Turner’s Kyra (VDL Ulando H x Wellesley), an 11-year-old Canadian Warmblood mare, won the CIC2*. Sitting second after dressage and show jumping, they moved up with a clear cross-country round and 1.6 time penalties.
“She’s a feisty red-head mare. It’s been up and down all year for her so it’s rewarding to finish the year well,” Martin said. “She’s a fantastic show jumper and cross-country is her tougher point, so we’ve been schooling a lot. The rain overnight made the course challenging and to Kyra’s credit, she went out and fought hard all the way around.”
Wood Once Again Wins CCI* With American-Bred Horse
Despite a broken hand, which was injured while competing at the Les Etoiles de Pau CCI4* in France, Australia’s Ryan Wood and Ruby (Royal Prince x Dinara), owned by Summit Sporthorses Ltd., Inc. took a commanding lead in the 45-horse CCI*-A division. They earned a 22.6, the 9-year-old Oldenburg mare’s best international score to date.
“Getting on before the test she felt like she was going to go in and do solid test from the moment I picked the reins up,” Wood said. The pair added only 2.8 time penalties on cross-country. Heading into the final phase, they had one rail in hand, which they used up at the very first fence on course.
“I tried to not think about the rail and just be efficient as time could be a factor. She woke up after that first fence and really came off the ground,” Wood said. They finished without additional penalties to win the CCI*-A division.
“It was really nice to see her lead from start to finish,” Wood said. “Thanks to her breeder, Ilona English, for breeding another top class horse. It’s great to have them coming through. Her half-brother Powell won this same event a few years ago.”
There were several special awards given in the FEI divisions. The winners are:
Eight teams also participated in the Intercollegiate and Alumni Team Challenge which included competitors from Starter through CIC2* level. Although Randolph-Macon College led after the first two phases, the University of Virginia edged ahead to win. Full team challenge results are available here.
VHT ran about 550 horses at the fall competition. In additional to the FEI international divisions, USEF national levels included Beginner Novice through Intermediate, plus Starter and Modified, which were hosted by VHT for the first time. Click here to view the full results.
“Obviously with these numbers we require a huge staff and many volunteers. I’m really grateful for everyone who helps us make the event happen,” said VHT Organizer Andy Bowles. “Thank you everyone who came out to VHT, whether this was your first visit or one of many. We strive every year to make this competition better, and we appreciate the support of our competitors. We look forward to 2019!
The spring eventing season in the Midwest is always a toss-up due to unpredictable weather. Will it rain, will it be sunny, or will it be a snowstorm? No one knows! Mid-America Combined Training Association’s (MACTA) first cross-country schooling of the season was cancelled in March due to extremely muddy footing conditions and by the time our April dates came around, COVID-19 was in full force and we were unable to host our cross-country schooling and schooling show.
The FEI has published its Policy for Enhanced Competition Safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, aimed at assisting organizers and national federations with the safe resumption of international equestrian events in line with national and local restrictions.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) has approved additional modifications to the qualification period for the 2020 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds. The AEC is scheduled to take place August 25-30, 2020 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, and the USEA is doing everything possible to ensure a safe and successful Championship, while also ensuring fair opportunities for all.
This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).