Oct 29, 2015

Eventers Honor Tradition in USEA Classic Series Divisions at Hagyard Midsouth and Waredaca Three Day Events

By Shelby Allen - USEA Staff
Michael Willham and Fernhill Cayenne. Photo Courtesy of Michael Willham.

Last weekend East Coast competitors enjoyed the traditions of a Long Format Event by participating in USEA Classic Series Divisions. Hagyard Midsouth Three Day Event, hosted at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, held Preliminary Three Day (P3D) and Training Three Day (T3D) divisons. Waredaca Three Day Event hosted at Waredaca Farm in Laytonsville, MD, held a Novice Three Day (N3D) as well as a Training Three Day.

Hagyard Midsouth Classic Series Three Day Event

Michael Willham and Fernhill Cayenne took the blue ribbon in the T3D. Willham, a relatively newcomer to the sport, bought Fernhill Cayenne or “Cay” less than a year ago. The pair has been successful at Training level, including a fourth place finish in the Professional’s Choice Training Horse Division at the American Eventing Championships this fall, and they have their eyes on Preliminary next. “I am hoping to move up to Prelim sometime next year. I figured the long format is close to a ‘half step’ between the two.” Pictured Above.

Willham maintained his lead throughout the entire weekend, despite a few minor setbacks. “I wasn't used to having to halt at the beginning of a dressage test, so I actually got an error on that. I went down the centerline and thought to myself ‘this is such a long time to try to keep him straight and forward’. It was precisely at that moment that I realized I was supposed to halt. But I was already at X, so by the time I halted, I was at I.” Despite the small penalty for a near miss of his halt, Willham was the top finisher after dressage on a score of 35.

Willham referenced a Kate Chadderton quote that he felt accurately described his horse, Cay, on endurance day. “Heart mixed of pure gold and pure rotten tomato. The heart jumps me out of any rough distance, the tomato spooks at a bird and tries to dump me.” A few minutes into Phase A of the endurance, Cay spooked at something, leaving Willham in the dirt.

“He ran all the way back to the start, where someone caught him. Once I got there, remounted and had to canter almost the entirety of Phase A in order to make time. Needless to say, I wasn't too happy with him for doing that. I took off running after him immediately. But he obviously outran me. All of the ground crew were super supportive and rooting for me to still be within the time. I had a few fans once I got back to the 10-minute box who were elated that I had gone clear after that fiasco.”

Cay continued to redeem himself by jumping clear in the cross-country and show jumping phases. “It was nice to end the season, not just on a win, but more importantly on a double clear show jump round. The past 3 shows I've had a pesky rail at each that really shouldn't have happened. So it was nice to finally go double clear again.”

Jansson, Dyer and Dyer's husband Terry. Photo Courtesy of Dyer.

While Willham dominated the T3D Audrea Dyer and her own All Aboard took over the P3D. After dressage she sat in second place on a 39.4, but continued along adding no additional penalties, which resulted in her final win. Having navigated four qualifying Preliminary Horse Trials, most in her position would choose to aim for a CCI*, but Dyer instead opted for the Classic Format 3 Day. “I entered the long format because it is a great education for horses and riders. Steeplechase teaches how to gallop at speed and jump out of stride. It gets the horse thinking forward and aggressive. It's also tons of fun! I also feel the long format is essential for conditioning, knowing your horse's limits and what it takes to get him fit,” Dyer elaborated.

Dyer respects the intense conditioning involve in preparing for a long format event. “While any CCI event requires a good deal more fitness than a horse trial or CIC, Endurance Day at a long-format event is a different ballgame. The horse must cover up to 17,400 meters [that’s over 10 miles] between Phase A through D; compared to only 4,680 meters max in the CCI*.” She does plan to take her gelding to FEI events in the future, but thinks including a classic format in her schedule provides unique benefits. “It’s my opinion that [a classic format event] makes for a sounder horse long term. Slowly building up bone and soft tissue to withstand the rigors of bigger jumps and faster works that come later. This foundation is necessary for a CCI* as well, but it’s easier to overlook when Roads and Tracks is not mandatory.”

“A classic three-day event is a true test of horse and rider, and most importantly, horsemanship. It’s a pass/fail exam of conditioning, preparation, and mental focus. It forced riders to spend hours in the saddle, to know their horse inside and out, every breath, every step, every bump along the way.”

Dyer’s ex-racehorse, All Aboard proved fit a ready for the entirety of the weekend managing two double clear jump phases. Although very accomplished at the level, Dyer fondly refers to her partner as her “One Rail Wonder,” because of past penalties in their show jumping phase, but this weekend was different. “Despite the grueling day before, he was fresh and careful in show jumping. He gave the fences lots of respect,” Dyer said. To prevent his rider from getting too comfortable, All Aboard rubbed the final fence giving Dyer a moment’s disappointment before the announcer could declare it a clear round. “I couldn't believe the rail stayed up...of all the times to jump clean, my horse had done it when it mattered most,” Dyer concluded.

One member of All Aboard’s fan club included his previous owner and trainer, Eva Jansson, from the racetrack. Dyer purchased this Thoroughbred through the CANTER KY program four years ago to give him a second, very successful, career.

Waredaca Classic Series Three Day Event

Carol Kozlowski. StockImageServices.com Photo.

Carol Kozlowski took the title in the T3D division, ridding her win wire-to-wire after scoring an impressive 26.20 in the dressage phase. She was entered on her young horse, Main Attraction or “Matthew.” Kozlowski, not wanting to push for the move up to Preliminary just yet, decided to continue to use the classic Training 3-Day to give Matthew a challenge at the end of the season. “I wanted the opportunity to add another ‘gear’ to his engine, and I wanted to see how he would physically and mentally respond to being asked to dig a little deeper and come back on day three to do his job in the show jumping,” Kozlowski explained. “It was all a huge fact-finding mission for me with this horse.”

Knowing her horse as well as she did, Kozlowski knew she had been dealt a difficult hand when realizing she was first to go on endurance day. “We managed to scatter the wildlife on Phase A on Saturday. The rest of the riders owe me for this!” Kozlowski claimed. Regardless of the few spooks going through roads and tracks, Matthew and Kozlowski stayed within the time remaining on their dressage score.

She explained that the benefits of a classic format go beyond a test of riding. Finishing a weekend as difficult as the long format requires an amplified level of horsemanship. “The reward is that you spend a lot of time with your horse and I believe I knew my horse better on the other side of the adventure. Upper level riders know their horses inside out, but many lower level horses never see this kind of scrutiny unless they're on track for this kind of competition.”

“I've never seen so many lower-level riders connecting with their horses, their peers and truly excited to have the opportunity to experience a format that most of us older riders recall from ‘the old days.’ It really was a sense of achievement that, frankly, I'd forgotten I had years back when the Long Format was in place for the upper-levels. For the young horses there, it was a milestone in their educations and their careers, and for the lower-level riders it provided a sense of satisfaction at the teamwork and dedication involved to make it all work.”

Lisa Hannan. Leslie Mintz/USEA Photo.

Lisa Hannan returned to Waredaca with her 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse to claim a second career win in the Classic Series Novice 3 Day. In 2012 Hannan and Skys the Limit won this exact event, after which Hannan allowed her horse a hiatus from the world of recognized Eventing. “I did the long format back in 2012 with Sky's the Limit and we won that year. I thought I'd bring her back just for fun, not even thinking she would win again!” Hannan described.

Following her 2012 win, Hannan decided to breed the mare. After foaling, Skys the Limit was ready to go back into work this Spring. Hannan knew she would have an uphill battle getting her mare from pasture to 3 Day event. “She went back to work in May of 2015 starting slow and building up all of the muscle she had lost while pregnant. I usually keep all of my horses fit year round so it took some extra time to get her ready.”

Hannan and Skys the Limit scored a 31.60 which put them in fifth place following the dressage phase. The pair stayed on point throughout the endurance phase adding no penalties which bumped them from fifth to second place.

Despite the increased emphasis on conditioning, Hannan was most concerned about the final show jumping phase.

“I was most worried about stadium this year. My coach, Autumn Rae, was unable to come on the day of show jumping but she had been there Saturday competing herself and walked me through the stadium course. She told me how to warm her up and prepare her, knowing she was going to be very tired.” On show jumping day when a clear round was highly sought, but difficult to come by, Hannan and her mare jumped clear into first place.

Full Results for the Hagyard Midsouth Three Day Event are available here.

Full Results for the Waredaca Three Day Event are available 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 format three-day event!

Long-format events from the Preliminary to Beginner Novice 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.


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; andStackhouse saddles!

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