Where the cornfields grow and Indy 500 fans unite, Indiana is home to the third United States Eventing Association (USEA) Classic Series event of 2018. Edinburgh, Ind. is where Mindy Kutzner and Frankie Smorch came out on top in the Training and Novice Three-Days at IEA Horse Trials and Three-Day Event on May 31-June 3.
Attracting more than just NASCAR enthusiasts, Indiana gathers the close-knit community of Midwestern eventers to IEA’s annual classic three-day event and horse trials. The event occurs during the time of year when the sunshine is out, humidity is low, and the average temperature is 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Michigan natives Mindy Kutzner and Frankie Smorch traveled south to win their weekend in Indiana.
A Love Story for Mindy Kutzner and Tristan
Mindy Kutzner and Tristan having fun in the Training Three-Day victory lap. DeAnn Kutzner Photo.
“I fell head-over-heels in love with eventing. I rode in my first event at age eight and have never looked back,” Kutzner explained how she got into the sport of eventing. As for her winning partner, Tristan (Wild Zone x Sunny Thera), a 15-yearold Thoroughbred gelding, he too enjoys the sport. “Tristan loves eventing,” with emphasis added on the love. “He enjoys competing and has an incredible heart.”
A girl in love with horses, Kutzner and Tristan first found each other on a local track in Michigan. Despite Tristan’s unkempt appearance and constant exposure to stress and tension, Kutzner noticed his kindness and talent. Purchased to be her sister’s event horse, Kutzner acquired Tristan when her sister moved from Michigan to continue her education. “Tristan and I have forged an incredible bond and [our] partnership has allowed us to compete up through the Preliminary level.” Their bond has secured a total of nine toptwo finishes six of the nine being wins! Their sixth win together was the wire-to-wire win in the Training ThreeDay at IEA ThreeDay Event and Horse Trials.
It was a tough decision for Kutzner to pinpoint her favorite part of the classic series event. “I honestly had a blast the whole weekend.” From start to finish, Kutzner loved every aspect including the opportunity to break out fancy clothes for the jogs, showing in the ‘big arena’ for dressage, tackling phases A through D on endurance day, working with her mom and husband in the veterinary box, and the challenge of jumping a large show jumping course on the final day.
The (six-time) winner gave her top tip on how to successfully prepare for a classic three-day event: “Find a training schedule that fits into your life and stick with it. Don’t shorten [or] change your trot sets because you are bored of trotting around in circles. Don’t skip your dressage day because the jumps in the next field [look] enticing.”
Behind every rider is a village and Kutzner would like to thank several people who helped with her win. “I need to thank my husband and my mom. They are my biggest supporters and they were the best people to have with me for this event.”
“I especially wish to thank Dorothy Crowell for coming to Indiana. She was able to instill confidence and competence in a large number of riders in a very short period of time. She is one amazing lady! I also want to thank every organizer and every volunteer at the IEA Horse Trials and ThreeDay Event. The amount of work that goes into a shortformat event is outstanding. The amount of work to run a long-format is simply overwhelming. To run both competitions requires an army and the organizers of this show make it happen.”
Following closely behind Kutzner was Roberta Christie on her 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Must Be Lucky, as the pair rested on their dressage score to finish in second place. To round out the top three was Madeline Mogridge who climbed nine spots on West Point, a 17-year-old Quarter horse owned by Betsy Ball.
Mare Magic for Frankie Smorch and WHF Winter
Frankie Smorch and WHF Winter pose for a photo after their win in the Novice Three-Day. Photo courtesy of Frankie Smorch.
At the age of three, Frankie Smorch started to form her love for horses. Shortly after she discovered the heart and power of mares. “I got my first horse when I was seven, a little Quarter Horse mare [that] I just rode for fun. She taught me a lot about patience and how horses' minds work.”
Smorch started her eventing career in 2016 with a Trakehner mare named Anastasia. After a couple of events under her belt, Smorch bought WHF Winter as a 5-year-old in 2017. “What really caught my attention was how quiet and willing she was. I loved her nature and felt a strong connection with her from the beginning. She has such a good mind and can really think her way through things.”
“Our first year together we worked on gaining confidence. She was an unconfident mare and needed a stronger rider to get her through cross-country. Once I learned how to ride her correctly we really started to click and work together as a team.”
After the initial adjustment period of getting to know one another, Smorch shared her joy. “This year is our second season together and I couldn't be happier with our progress.”
Now, the 6-year-old Oldenburg mare and Smorch have two wins on their record; the first was at Richland Park H.T. in the Junior Novice Rider division and their second win was this past weekend in the Novice ThreeDay.
Embarking on the new adventure together, Smorch admits she “was definitely nervous after hearing what we would have to do on cross-country day, but I'm very glad we did it. It was an amazing learning curve for us.” And as a first timer to the classic event, her favorite part was the ever-popular steeplechase. “I think steeplechase was great for both of us. WHF Winter (Rowan for short) is more on the lazy side and [steeplechase] helped get her forward.”
Smorch credits her trainer Erika Peterson, as Peterson was responsible for getting Smorch to her very first recognized USEA event. Smorch is also “very grateful for the all of my friends and family at Great Lakes Equestrian Center (GLEC). They are so supportive and always help with whatever they can. I couldn't ask for a more loving environment to be a part of.”
The next steps for the winning duo include moving up to the next level. “This season [Rowan and I] plan to move up to Training level if she feels confident enough. I’m very excited to continue our partnership.”
For a final tip, Smorch advises, “condition plenty before you go. It pays off to have a fit horse.” Fit and feeling good, Smorch and Rowan secured the win from start to finish on their dressage score of 27. Jyl Lavera on her own Class Action (Ghareeb x Curracloe Dasie), a 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, finished second and Kathleen Bertuna on Helen Rutter’s 17year old Thoroughbred gelding, Push the Light (Majestic Light x Pushia), finished third in the Novice ThreeDay – a division with 28 starters!
Kutzner and Tristan (left) and Smorch and WHF Winter (right) ready for the jogs. Photos courtesy of Mindy Kutzner and Frankie Smorch.
About the USEA Classic Series
The USEA Classic Series keeps the spirit of the classic long-format three-day events alive for Beginner Novice through the Preliminary levels. Competitors have the opportunity to experience the rush of endurance day, including roads and tracks, steeplechase, the vet box, and cross-country, as well as participate in formal veterinary inspections and educational activities with experts on the ins and outs of competing in a long-format three-day event.
Riders who compete in a USEA Classic Series event during the year will have the chance to win a variety of prizes at the events and will also be entered into a drawing held at the USEA Year End Award Ceremony for a year’s supply of SmartPak supplements and a custom fitted Stackhouse and Ellis saddle. Click here to learn more about the USEA Classic Series.
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