Oct 28, 2017

Dominant Performances by Myers and Leuenberger in USEA Classic Series at Waredaca

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Margaret Myers and Arikara in the Training Three-Day at Waredaca. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Waredaca Horse Trials in Laytonsville, Maryland hosted the only 2017 USEA Classic Series events in Area II at their fall event, October 19-22, 2017. In addition to a full horse trials for Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels, Waredaca also offered Training and Novice Three-Day divisions. There were 24 competitors in the Training Three-Day and 28 in the Novice Three-Day.

They saved the best for last in the Training Three-Day, as Margaret Myers and Sonja L. Twiford’s 11-year-old Thoroughbred/Paint/Shire gelding, Arikara, were the last to go in the division but made it count by running away with the lead and never looking back. The pair scored a 28.6 in dressage and led wire to wire on that score to finish 4.3 points ahead of second place on the final day.

Margaret and Ari in the zone and headed up the hill to the final question on course. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Myers began riding as a teenager and knew as soon as she saw her riding instructor's daughter go cross-country that she wanted to event. "I started riding with Tiffany Catledge of Allforit Farm about six years ago and credit her for all Ari’s and my success," she said.

Arikara, or "Ari" as he's known in the barn was a Premarin foal who was started by Catledge and she knew that Ari and Myers would be a good match. "Six years ago I needed a horse and Ari needed a job," explained Myers. "He is the perfect partner for me. He does exactly what I tell him to (even if I tell him to do the wrong thing) so I’ve learned tons from riding and having him. He’s the most fun ever to ride, super adjustable and brave and opinionated. I’m so lucky to have him."

Earlier this spring Myers came across the long format event while looking through the Omnibus and thought it sounded like it would be a fun experience. "I asked Tiffany about it in June or July and she said that we could do it, but that Ari and I would have to be super fit and on the top of our game," she said. "From that point on, it stuck in my head and I was determined to complete it. I thought it would be a great test for both of us as well as a fun way to end the season."

"Endurance day was literally the most fun I’ve ever had on a horse," said Myers. "Steeplechase of course was like having wings but my personal favorite part was leaving the start box of phase D on a horse who felt fitter and stronger than he ever had before despite the 45 minutes of work beforehand. It was definitely one of our best cross-country rides – he was so “in the zone” and ready to go. There were parts of the course I was worried about that he didn’t look twice at and took right in stride. I teared up a little bit after coming through the finish flags because he had been so perfect and still felt like he had engine to spare after completing all four phases."

"I think everyone should do [a long format event], both because of how much fun it is and because of how much you learn," Myers said. "You and your horse need to be fitter than you think – I started increasing Ari’s work to take him from “horse trials fit” to “three-day fit” late June-ish which I thought was going to be overkill but it worked out perfectly. I ran six days a week and lifted [weights] three, while he hacked and trotted a TON. Starting in late August/early September, every time I rode, even if we were just doing flat work, we would go on a 45 minute-1hr hack after and I think that really helped. If you come into the event prepared, endurance day rides like a dream come true."

Myers concluded by complimenting Waredaca for being such a well-run and positive event. "Everyone, from officials to volunteers to fellow competitors, could not have been more welcoming and friendly."

Jamie Leuenberger and her own The Black Pearl, a 14-year-old Friesian gelding, were second after dressage on a score of 28.1 in the Novice Three-Day, put in four clear phases on endurance day, and jumped clean on Sunday to secure the win on their dressage score, less than two points ahead of second place.

Jamie Leuenberger and The Black Pearl on course in the Novice Three-Day at Waredaca. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Leuenberger grew up riding ponies in the hunters and even competed at the USEF Pony Finals in 2010 before she outgrew her large pony. “My family couldn't afford a big trained warmblood for me to do the hunters on and I was only 13 and needed a horse who would at least be safe. That is where The Black Pearl, who we call Jack in the barn, came into the picture,” she explained. “He didn't actually have a name when I got him so I named him after the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. We got him when he was about seven from a Mennonite guy in Pennsylvania who probably got him from an auction. He told us that Jack likes to jump and jumped him over a big log in the field in a halter and western saddle, so we bought him.”

“Our best guess is that Jack is a Friesian/Thoroughbred cross of some sort but we aren't entirely sure about much of his history,” Leuenberger continued. “When I got him he didn't know much except go, stop, and turn in a very general sense, and he really couldn't canter. In fact, we were lucky to be able to canter down the long side of the ring, and he would occasionally break poles when we jumped. He may not have a lot of natural talent for jumping and he is not the most spectacular mover, but he has always been very honest and safe, and he is exactly the horse I needed. In the seven years I have had him I have evented Jack through Training level and, despite the fact that many people thought he could never do it, I have shown him quite successfully through 4th level dressage.”

Jamie and Jack sharing a moment in the vet box following four clean endurance day phases. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Leuenberger and Jack had previously competed in the Training Three-Day at Waredaca back in 2013 and had such an amazing experience that she decided to come back this year to do the Novice Three-Day to help Jack overcome some confidence issues that came up this year. “[The Training Three-Day] really gave him confidence and helped him figure out what eventing is all about. This year we were having some confidence issues because Training level is near the edge of his scope so I dropped him back to Novice to build his confidence. He really has nothing to prove at this point so I wanted him to have fun, and I knew from our experience last time that this would be the perfect way to give him confidence.”

“My favorite part of the Three-Day is probably all of endurance day. Steeplechasing is so much fun and putting phases A, B, C, and D all together is just incredible because each piece sets you up perfectly for the next and it all works so well together when you get your timing right, said Leuenberger. “It also teaches an incredible amount of horsemanship.”

To those thinking about contesting a long format event, Leuenberg would say, “[don’t] be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Also, it is really important to figure out an appropriate conditioning schedule for your horse and there are many knowledgeable people you can ask about conditioning. Finally, I would say that you shouldn't panic if something goes wrong.”

“It really has been an incredible journey for us and he couldn't have picked a better time to win a USEA recognized event for the first time,” concluded Leuenberger.

View the results from the USEA Classic Series Waredaca by clicking here.

About the USEA Classic Series

The thrill of the 'chase lives on for those who want to experience the unforgettable rush of the classic long format three-day event!

Long-format events from the Beginner Novice to Preliminary levels are still a reality with the USEA Classic Series and include roads and tracks, steeplechase, and cross-country on "endurance day," as well as horse inspections. Educational activities are offered at the Classic Series Events. Visit the USEA Classic Series page to learn more about the Series and see upcoming classic format events in your area, and check here to see if you are qualified!

Thanks to our generous sponsors, the USEA Classic Series Event winners have the opportunity to compete for a variety of prizes including SmartPak engraved halters and leadshanks; the chance to win a year of SmartPaks; Point Two Air Jackets; online subscriptions to Eventing Training Online; USEA logowear; Fleeceworks saddle pads; and Stackhouse Saddles!

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