The opportunity to gallop across the legendary grounds at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, will never lose that special feeling for eventers, and this past weekend competitors at the Jump Start Horse Trials got to do just that for their large selection of divisions and the USEA Area VIII Championships. Championship divisions were offered at the Preliminary, Modified, Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice levels, giving five horse and rider pairs the opportunity to claim the crown.
Preliminary Champions: Liz Halliday & Newmarket Cooley | 24.1
Liz Halliday was on her way to Maryland for the mandatory prep outing for the Pan American Games when we caught up with her about her experience at the Area VIII Championships. Halliday, who splits her time between Ocala, Florida, and Lexington throughout the year, reflected that she never gets bored of a chance to make her way around the Kentucky Horse Park.
“I think it's just amazing that they host other events there,” she shared, “because it's such a great piece of ground and really good old turf. They always have a nice big galloping course and something different every time. I love it. It's our home event, which is even better. And I think it's great for the horses to get in the arenas too, because I know we didn't use the Rolex arena, but we're still using some good spooky arenas and some real atmosphere for them. So it's always a good experience.”
This weekend, Halliday was piloting the Newmarket Syndicate’s 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Newmarket Cooley (Newmarket Venture x Kilderry Clover) around the Area VIII Preliminary Championship track. The pair didn’t quite have the outing they wanted at this year’s USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds, but that didn’t slow Halliday and “Albie” down a bit.
“He's an amazing horse,” said Halliday. “I think the world of him, I think he's a real world-class horse for the future. It was very uncharacteristic what happened at the AEC, but you know, he's a young horse, and he hadn't had a run for a long time—and probably it was my fault as well. But he was fantastic at Tryon [Mill Spring, North Carolina] and won [the Preliminary division] on his dressage score, and then came out and won this as well. I really believe in him as a top one for the future. I think he's one to watch.”
Albie will have some downtime now at the end of his season, but Halliday hopes to gear him up for his first three-star in the spring.
Modified Champions: Amanda Richard & Count Julian | 30.0
When Amanda Richard pulled the now 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Count Julian (Count the Time x Believen It) off of the racetrack in 2015, her first inclination was to transition him to a career as a hunter.
“His quiet, uncomplicated brain was apparent from the moment I saw him jog,” she said of her initial reaction to him. But Count Julian quickly showed Richard that he was capable of a little bit of everything.
“Since then, he has said yes to everything I have ever asked him to do,” she continued. “Jump huge tables on cross country? Yes ma'am. Show FEI dressage? Yes ma'am. Go trail riding in the forest bareback in a halter? Yes ma'am. I am so grateful for our partnership. Seeing him in my backyard every day brings me incredible joy.”
The duo started in third after dressage with a score of 30, but it was their double-clear efforts across both jumping phases that nudged them up the leaderboard to take home the Champion title. Richard was very complimentary of the experience overall at this year’s Area VIII Championships.
“The atmosphere at the championship was extremely friendly and supportive,” said Richard. “Everyone in Area VIII; the competitors, volunteers, organizers, and officials all clearly show up for the love of the horse and the love of the sport. The facilities at the Kentucky Horse Park are also second to none; it is a great privilege to gallop over the ground so important for eventing. All three of our phases went well but I especially enjoyed the jumping phases. Cathy Weischhoff and Brody Robertson designed thoughtful, educational courses that had just the right amount of difficulty. All of the organizers and officials really did an amazing job in planning a fabulous event.”
While winning was, of course, a very special moment for Richard, the real victory lay elsewhere.
“I put in incredible amounts of work every day to do right by my horses," she said. "Julian left the event sound and happy with the desire to go run around cross-country again. Winning was icing on the cake and confirmation that I am on the right track in my horsemanship journey.”
Training Champions: Jamie Allison & Jedi | 25.2
Jamie Allison refers to the Kentucky Horse Park as one of her favorite venues to horse show at, which made this year’s Area VIII Championships even more exciting for Allison and her 9-year-old Warmblood gelding Jedi.
“The atmosphere was big and busy as usual, but we were fortunate to have an entire weekend of gorgeous weather which made for happy horses and good footing,” said Allison.
The pair sat in first after dressage with a score of 25.2 and maintained that lead and score all weekend long “Jedi has been a super horse for me; always consistent and lovely on the flat and brave and careful at the jumps. Our toughest part is usually making time as he is a big slow warmblood horse, but we dug deep this weekend and I worked hard not to pick at him and made it happen!”
Allison, who has to juggle running her own business and raising a toddler, credits much of their success to Jedi’s wonderful temperament and disposition.
“Even when I get busy and give him less prep time than perfect at home. he always steps up and gives me 100% at the shows,” she said. “This was a fabulous way to end our season and the icing on the cake of his amazing show record. I was most proud of the fact we jumped around a tough cross-country track and made time! I am super thankful to be fortunate enough to have such a special horse in my life, they don’t come around like him very often.”
Novice Champions: Emerson Padgett & MSH Giant Jac’ka | 19.4
Emerson Padgett and her 7-year-old Selle Français gelding MSH Giant Jac’ka are no strangers to winning at the Kentucky Horse Park. Their last show was at the 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships where the duo were victorious in the USEA Novice Junior Championships. They returned to the Kentucky Horse Park this past weekend for the Area VIII Championships where they continued their winning ways.
“I got 'Jac' last December,” said Padgett, “so this year has been full of us getting to know each other. In the tack and on the ground, he is such a kind, sensitive horse and a total pleasure to be around. I couldn’t ask for a better horse to learn with, I feel so lucky to have him!”
Padgett loves competing at the Kentucky Horse Park and felt like all of the pieces of their new partnership finally came together at the Area VIII Championships.
“I really enjoyed every phase this weekend, but he was the boldest he has ever felt around the cross-country course,” she reflected. “I am so pleased with how much he has gained confidence throughout the season. Each event feels like an improvement from the last, and it felt like everything came together this weekend!”
Beginner Novice Champions: Emma Petrick & Hawthornstud Futures Bright | 26.3
Emma Petrick has had the ride on her 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Hawthornstud Futures Bright (Future Trend x KEC Capetown) since this spring, but the pair have already made a name for themselves, placing within the top two at four of their six outings, now including a win in the Area VIII Beginner Novice Championship.
A dressage score of 26.3 put the pair in second place to start the weekend, but it was their double-clear performances in both jumping phases that allowed them to bring home the win against the field of 33 other entries.
United States Eventing Association (USEA) members at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention were in for a treat on Friday as the U.S. Eventing Team was on hand to discuss their accomplishments this year at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
“Test the best without hurting the rest,” said show jumping course designer Chris Barnard as he and fellow designer Marc Donovan led a lively discussion for nearly 50 participants at the Show Jumping Seminar on the first day of the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.
This afternoon, USEA President Louise “Lou” Leslie welcomed U.S. Eventing Association (USEA) Board of Governors members, USEA staff, and USEA Annual Meeting & Convention attendees to the first of two Board meetings which will take place during this year’s Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, with the teaser that 2024 is going to be full of initiatives for more opportunities to access the eventing experience, some of which attendees might get first wind of during this year’s gathering. The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention takes place Dec. 7-10 at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel.
Welcome to the Show Me state and to Area IV USEA members! The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention kicks of tomorrow and features four full days of educational seminars, committee meetings, and social gatherings all with one aim—to bring the eventing community together to continue to improve upon and celebrate the sport that we all love. This year’s Convention takes place in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis from Dec. 7-10, and we have rounded up everything you need to know to make the most of your time in the heartland.