Sep 01, 2022

Field of Dreams, Closing in on Preliminary Division Championship after Day 2 of #AEC2022

Maddie Smith and Versace. USEA/ Hope Carlin photo

For Immediate Release: Nothing beats running cross-country at Rebecca Farm, especially when it presents an opportunity to white-knuckle that overnight lead or bump up to a more favorable position in the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds, which plenty of riders did today across all levels of the Bates USEA preliminary division across a technical course.

Bates USEA Jr./YR Preliminary Championship
The 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Versace lived up to his barn name “Ace” today as he and owner Maddie Smith tackled cross-country and earned the top spot on the leaderboard for the junior preliminary division.

Since purchasing him just over a year ago, Smith is pleased with his impressive competitive nature, yet “chill” personality. With a huge jump from her placing yesterday, Smith is over-the-moon to have landed in this top spot today.

"I was going for time and just having a clear and confident round, and the placing is the last thing I’m thinking about when I’m out there—just safety first," said Smith over taking the lead.

The course posed lots of questions today, specifically asking, “How brave and game are you?” of each thundering steed, which was appreciated by Smith and many others. “Compared to Training, it’s definitely a step up. I came here with my other horse in July to do the two-star and I would say that this course is a step up from that. There were a lot more elements to it and a lot more balance changes instead of just speed changes.”

Smith notes that Ace is steadily progressing from one event to the next, which makes perfect sense why we see them taking lead today. And sometimes balance is cause for celebration when one phase is stronger than another. “His dressage is coming along nicely. Even though he was a little explosive yesterday, it clearly paid off in cross-country today.” With the encouragement of her parents and very understanding professors at California State, Monterey Bay, Smith is a work horse just like Ace. “I’m a full-time student, a science major,” said Smith with a nervous laugh that clearly unpacks the heavy burden she is under with riding two horses and keeping up with school work.

In second place standing is Lizzie Hoff riding Classicals Fortune and immediately following her is Maeson Messmer riding Gambling On Jack holding the third place spot.

Bates USEA Preliminary Amateur Championship

Amy Haugen and Ebenholtz. USEA/ Hope Carlin photo

It would put a smile on anyone’s face to keep an overnight lead after conquering a tough cross-country course, and there’s no doubt that Amy Haugen wears one today after piloting 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding Ebenholtz (Ehrentusch x Levantine). The flashy gelding with perked ears handled a technical course with his typical dose of honesty, and at times that honestly was surprising for Haugen who just competed here with Enzo in July at the two star Event.

“He looked at a lot of things today that I was not expecting,” said Haugen. “Some of the fences that I would’ve thought were give-me’s, he was a little looky. Overall, it just more technical, like the coffin line—that was definitely more technical, more difficult. I dread banks always and forever, so that was on our course, but I think it was really fair and fun to get around.” In true competitor’s spirit, Haugen is a reliable critic of each ride she takes, holding herself responsible for little progressions that she can make next ride out. Claiming the course to be tough and scrappy at times, Haugen said, “It wasn’t our prettiest round but he was super honest.”

With Mark Donovan’s show jumping course in her sights for tomorrow, Haugen’s main objective is staying out of Enzo’s way. “He loves to show jump, and he’s good at it, so as long as I can be a good partner to him and stick with him, he—knock on wood—should not have any trouble,” said Haugen. “I think stadium is his favorite phase. I just need to be a good partner to him and not make his job any harder.

Speaking of being a great partner, Haugen is grateful to her barn team for helping and supporting her through this second trip to Kalispell because it’s not just Enzo who needs looking after. “I think it’s really exciting for Area VII to have the AEC here…I’m just excited to make the trip because with having two young babies, a cross-country trip is not as easy in this stage of our life,” said Haugen. Weston is just over a year old and Hudson is three and yes, both are sitting horseback, especially Hudson who screams when it’s time to get off. “I wouldn’t be able to [come here] without my barn team here to help with the kids, the horse, getting ready—it’s definitely a team effort so I’m grateful to everyone who’s with us, supporting us.”

With two wins under her belt this season, Haugen and Enzo are aiming to capture a third right here at Rebecca Farm at the close of this year’s AEC preliminary amateur division.

Going into the third and final phase in second place standing is Mindy Sands aboard Roman Express and taking that third place spot is Kristi Walker riding Just a Dream.

Bates USEA Preliminary Rider Championship

Ghislaine Homan-Taylor and Mt. Whitney. USEA/ Meagan Delisle photo.

Ghislaine Homan-Taylor aboard the 7-year-old Off-Track Thoroughbred Mt. Whitney (Penitent Man x Taitt Hill) gained a few places today, catapulting them to the lead after navigating a gnarly cross-country course. Despite this being his first season going preliminary, Homan-Taylor was ecstatic over his performance.

“He was a little green out there, a little looky. There was a lot to see and a lot to do and he ate it up,” said Homan-Taylor. “He was super. And he’s ridiculously fast, he’s got a great gallop.”

Placing third at the two-star in July at the same location, Homan-Taylor applauded his clean and careful cross-country run today. “There was a lot more to do this time than there was in July. There was a lot more combination, quite a bit more technical. This time, they hit you hard right away and you had to be on your game and he was focused and brought it.” With cross-country being a typically strong phase for him, today’s placing was somewhat expected but undoubtedly a welcomed surprise.

“We hoped to gain a couple places but I didn’t think the field would mix up quite as much as it did today,” said Homan-Taylor. “I’m super proud of him. Our dressage was alright but he was a little tense with the atmosphere and not quite as on his game as he could’ve been so I’m excited that he gets a chance up at the top even though yesterday wasn’t our day.”

With a plan to keep him relaxed and adjustable for show jumping tomorrow, Homan-Taylor is steering clear of him falling flat and tense as they approach each fence. After all, who could be tense with this stunning backdrop and impeccable footing? “It’s so fun to have the AEC out west again. Rebecca Farm always does an incredible job—the support that all of the riders are getting, the stabling is wonderful, everything is close. It’s just such a horse friendly venue even with so many people.”

A colorful course awaits this pair as they rein in that big energy from today’s complexities.

Holding firmly onto second place is Kelsey Horn aboard Cleared For Take Off with Amy Bowers on Del Mar Belle right behind her holding third.

Bates USEA Preliminary Horse Championship

Nicole Aden and Illustrator. USEA/ Meagan DeLisle photo.

The 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood “Little Man,” who is more commonly referred to as Illustrator (Larone x Vienna), earned a top spot in today’s standings on a score of 26.8 with Nicole Aden piloting. His barn name, which stuck with him when he was purchased, is an ode to his overgrown-pony attitude and way of going.

“He has a fan club everywhere he goes,” said Aden about his lovely and big personality. And clearly that big confidence had him zipping along an otherwise spooky course that had many competitors a bit frazzled. With this being his second year going preliminary, Little Man has a true partner in Aden who is excited over being asked more difficult questions at the right time.

“He’s really stepping up maturity-wise and he used to get really nervous with the atmosphere but now he just goes in and knows what he’s supposed to do so it’s really exciting when they click it mentally,” said Aden. “Some of the questions were similar but they threw in intermediate questions which was nice because I’m hoping to move him up at the end of the year.” Spoken like a trainer who has six students with her on this trip, Aden admits that it’s a perfect scenario to have the chance to school Little Man over some new questions amid a lesson that he already knows and is familiar with. Something scary is complimented with something he already knows.

So, for a rider who has been to numerous prestigious competition grounds all over this country, how does Rebecca Farm stack up? “It’s the best!” said Aden, describing how the energy is what sets this stunning location apart from the rest. While the scenery is something to surely admire, it’s the feel-good energy of everyone who comes to spectate, volunteer and compete that brings a wave of calm over the grounds.

Going into the third and final phase, Helen Alliston takes second place standing piloting Flinterro Z and Anna Stein aboard Lucy Lucy Lucy is holding onto third place standing.

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About the USEA American Eventing Championships

The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds is the pinnacle of the sport at the national levels. Held annually, the best junior, adult amateur, and professional competitors gather to vie for national championship titles at every level from Beginner Novice to Advanced. This ultimate test of horse and rider draws hundreds of horses and riders from around the country to compete for fabulous prizes, a piece of the substantial prize money, and the chance to be named the National Champion at their respective levels. In fact, the 2021 AEC garnered over 1,000 entries and now stands as the largest eventing competition in North American history. The 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds will be held August 31 – September 4 at the beautiful Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.

The USEA would like to thank Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena Feeds; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsor: Bates Saddles Gold Level Sponsors: Parker Equine Insurance, Smartpak, Capital Square, Standlee; Silver Level Sponsors: Auburn Labs, Mountain Horse, The Jockey Club, Kerrits; Bronze Level Sponsors: Athletux, The Chronicle of the Horse, Dubarry of Ireland, FITS Riding, Equilume, Devoucoux, Fifth Third Bank, Gallops Saddlery, D.G. Stackhouse & Ellis, Clark Nissan; Contributing Level Sponsors: CrossCountry App, WeRideTogether, Haygain, First Interstate Bank, Schellinger Construction, Glacier Bank, Animal Health Solutions Inc., Discover Kalispell; Prize Level Sponsors: Vet Blue, Practical Horseman, Hound & Hare, Strides of Equality Equestrians, Horse & Country TV, Bemer Independent Distributors, Freelance Design, Achieve Equine/FLAIR, Flexible Fit Equestrian USA, and more! ATC Sponsors: The Chronicle of the Horse, FITS Riding, Nutrena Feeds, SmartPak, Achieve Equine/FLAIR, Kerrits, and Horse & Country TV

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