The first USEA Classic Series competition of the year kicked off on June 3, 2022, at the IEA Horse Trials in Edinburgh, Indiana. Offering both Novice and Training level divisions of the classic three-day format, the IEA Classic Series event is a staple in the midwestern eventing calendar since it hosted its first Classic Series event in 2009 at the Training level.
Rising to the top of the 10-competitor field in the Training level division was Arielle Ferrell riding her 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare Parkmore’s Miss Demeanor (Parkmore’s Pride x Eloping). The pair started their weekend on a dressage score of 35.4 which they would carry through all of the phases of the competition to move up from fourth place to first with no penalties added.
A former Pony Club member, Ferrell found herself drawn to two things: the thrill of cross-country and the horsemanship skills she was developing. While her heart was very much invested in the sport of eventing, her competitive dreams didn’t have the opportunity to fully take flight until the fall of 2019 when she found “Missy” hanging out in a field just 20 minutes down the road from where she lived.
“Her owner and breeder had a string of Irish horses that needed placement with folks who could give them a job,” Ferrell reflected. “Missy was trained as a show jumper in her younger years, but due to her owner sustaining an injury she hadn't really done much of anything for about six years. I showed up to her farm and I immediately knew she had some real potential and was special. She was quite out of shape and it took about an entire year to get some real muscle on her. She could hardly canter a circle when I got her! We continued to plug away and get stronger and stronger both physically and in our trust in each other. I swear this mare would jump the moon if I asked her to! She just gets better all the time.”
After building up Missy’s strength and their partnership together, the duo kicked off their recognized record together in the spring of 2021. They would bring home their first blue ribbon together on just their third outing at Champagne Run at the Park Horse Trials in July of that year at the Novice level. By the end of the year, the pair had moved up to the Training level and decided to challenge their partnership in a whole new way in 2022.
“I decided to compete in the Training Three-Day because I wanted to see what it takes to complete such a mighty effort! The classic format is such a unique experience and to have the option in my area with a fit and ready horse- I had to try it! I also very much wanted to take a whack at the steeplechase. I'll admit I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie. It was hands down my favorite part of the weekend as my mare and I found the step and galloped every fence out of stride.”
Despite the long format being a first for both Ferrell and Missy, Ferrell found that IEA went above and beyond to make it a fun and educational experience. “IEA threw a stellar event and with it being our first ever long format I very much appreciated the ample amounts of education around the dos and don'ts of a three-day. Dorothy Crowell was our clinician for the week and she really was our Mother Hen. I am so grateful for her wisdom and support!”
If a Classic Series Event is on your bucket list, then Ferrell has one word of advice for you: do it.
“You will have one of the best experiences no matter the placing and you will learn so much about yourself and your horse and our sport,” she shared. “I have never felt so bonded with my horse and the confidence that has come out of this week is remarkable. Oh, and one tip- wear sensible shoes for jogs!”
Winning the Novice Three-Day wire-to-wire was Kyla Tovar riding her 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Kilcoltrim Jacko (Jack of Diamonds x Sky Rise) on a cumulative score of 25. While Kyla has been competing at IEA for over a decade, this was her first year giving the long-format a go after her trainer Katie Ruppel encouraged her to make it a goal for Tovar and her new partner Jacko.
“I got into eventing when I was about 12 when one of my good friends invited me to Pony Club. I was immediately hooked and became obsessed with the sport of eventing,” Tovar shared. “I grew up competing in Area IV and then competed out in Area IX while going to Colorado State. After 2020 I decided to transition to online school and moved to Ocala to be a working student for six months for Katie Ruppel.”
Ruppel helped Tovar connect with her new partner “Jacko” in October of 2021 and the pair had their first USEA recognized outing together in January of 2022 at Majestic Oaks.
“He’s kind of my babysitter and has been enjoying hanging out at Novice helping me to become more confident with my riding,” Tovar said of her new partner. “I had always thought I wasn’t the type of rider that would be successful in a Classic Format and it was never on my radar. Katie really helped me with my confidence this past year and a half and has always pushed me to reach for bigger goals so I decided to give it a shot.”
As a self-described anxious rider, Tovar felt that the experience of the long-format event helped she and Jacko zone in one thing at a time. The additional phases allowed the partnership to really focus together and warm up in a way that Jacko felt tuned in and keen to listen to his rider.
“My favorite part of the competition was the steeplechase,” reflected Tovar. “It kind of took me back to being a Pony Club kid when my friends and I would all race our ponies in the field.”
Looking back, Tovar is beyond thrilled with the weekend and how she and Jacko united as one for their second win in their still newly blossoming career together. The busy weekend zipped by, leading to Tovar’s last piece of advice for her fellow eventers.
“If I had to give advice to people looking at making a long format their goal, I would say to be present through the competition and to have fun. The weekend goes by so fast and if you don’t stop for a second and breathe you might miss out on all the fun you are having!”
On May 1, 2022, Max Corcoran was appointed as the Eventing Elite Program and Team Facilitator. In her role, Corcoran will support the areas of communication, logistics, and management of the teams for the Eventing Programs to deliver sustained success at World and Olympic Games level. As the Facilitator, she will work closely with the interim Chef d’Equipe/Team Manager, Bobby Costello, and eventing staff to build solid lines of communication with athletes, grooms, owners, coaches, veterinarians, and all stakeholders linked to the athletes and develop the structures around the Elite Program and senior U.S. Eventing Team.
Imagine: you are at the biggest sporting event of your life. The stakes are high, and you have spent countless hours preparing for it. However, you are expected to just show up and immediately perform. You cannot stretch or take a practice swing. You have no time to loosen up or sharpen your eye. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Just like us, our horses need adequate time to warm up each day. A warmup is any preparation for work, and it is often the leading edge of that work. It is the small aid response that becomes the more advanced aid response.
This year a new class will be joining the 47 eventing legends currently in the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Eventing Hall of Fame. Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor awarded within the sport of eventing in the United States. Those invited to join the USEA's Eventing Hall of Fame have truly made a difference in the sport of eventing. Hall of Fame members have included past Association presidents, volunteers, riders, founding fathers, course designers, officials, organizers, horses, horse owners, and coaches
Preparing for your first horse trial and not sure what is expected of you at each level? Over the course of the next few Rule Refreshers, we will be diving into each level and the performance expectations of each phase. Want to better prepare yourself or your students for their first competition or a move-up? The USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is a free resource to all USEA members that outlines clear and consistent guidelines for riders and trainers to refer to when navigating their way through the competition levels.