Note: Throughout 2023, the United States Eventing Association will be putting the spotlight on each area and sharing how they will uniquely contribute to the growth of the sport of eventing. After starting the series with Area X, Area III, and Area VI, the next area featured is Area V.
The United States Eventing Association’s (USEA) Area V of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas kicked off its 2023 season of USEA-recognized horse trials with the Texas Rose Horse Park H.T. in Tyler, Texas, on March 24-26. Several area riders returned home after spending the winter in other eventing hubs. These riders are making an impact on the national stage and showcasing the dedication Area V has to the sport of eventing, as well as the camaraderie among its riders.
In 2023, Area V will offer some exciting additions and modifications to its 10 USEA-recognized events on the calendar. Texas Rose is planning to offer a Modified level for the first time at its next event on May 5-7 on the picturesque cross-country course designed by John Michael Durr.
“Area V really got behind it. They were really wanting a Modified,” said Kathy Brunson, who organizes eventing, dressage, and hunter/jumper shows at the Texas Rose Horse Park. “We’re excited to build all those jumps.”
In addition, Texas Rose will run two qualifying competitions for the USEA Young Event Horse Program (YEH) at its March and May shows.
“People wanted it, and so I’m just trying to help them and accommodate it so that they can get whatever’s needed for their horses,” Brunson said.
The first YEH event was held at Texas Rose in 2014. Adding a second YEH event in 2023 comes on the heels of having more qualifiers compete at The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse East Coast and West Coast Championships. Last year marked the first time that multiple Texas Rose qualifiers were in the Championships, despite having just four entries total in what was one of the earliest YEH classes in 2022. They were Kim Wendel and the Irish Sport Horse gelding MBF Gambler (Ramiro B x Monalease) in the 5-year-old division on the East Coast and Ashley Horowitz and the Irish Sport Horse gelding Monbeg Salt Fever (Womanizer x Eden Breeze) in the 4-year-old division on the West Coast. “Salty” was the first ever Texas qualifier to travel to the West Coast Championships and the first 4-year-old in either Championship from Texas.
That riders and horses that compete in Area V events are ready to travel the nation to compete on the championship level was also evidenced by 22 Area V horses from Beginner Novice to Preliminary making the long trip from the south to the north of the continental United States for the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships, presented by Nutrena Feeds, at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana.
Second-place finishes by Elizabeth Honeycutt and the British Sport Horse mare Exmoor Xandy Z (Cevin Z x Big Hopes) in the USEA Training Junior Championship and by Lauren Lambert and Fernhill Liverpool (Heathrow x Hocolada) in the USEA Novice Horse Championship represented the best Area V finishes at the AEC. This dedication of Area V riders leads to camaraderie among them while traveling long distances for events.
“It’s just been really fun because I always know everyone there is like a team,” said Luciana Hackett, who was one of six Area V Young Riders among the 20 entries in the USEA Training Junior Championship at the AEC. “I know so many amazing trainers here, and if one trainer can’t help me, I have such a great network that I can just ask someone else, and they’ll be there. It’s very inviting.”
In addition to a sizable contingent at AEC, several Area V riders compete in other areas in pursuit of their eventing goals when Area V is not hosting shows in the winter and summer.
“I feel like we all try to stick together when we go other places,” Hackett said. “Like, we went to Stable View [in Aiken, South Carolina], and I honestly didn’t expect to see anyone I knew there, and they came and found me. We had dinner together every night. We stick together because we’re all from the same place.”
Because Hackett is 14, she travels with her mom, Nicole Hackett, who is an example of the dedication of Area V parents. Nicole serves as a secretary for schooling shows at Texas Rose through the Pearl’s Office show management software she developed and spends many hours volunteering and advocating for Area V. She describes Area V as “so welcoming and so loving. You meet someone once, and you’re in. Whatever you need, we’re all together.”
In addition to the dedication of riders and parents, Area V event organizers have also gone to great lengths for the sport. For example, Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 in 2005, devastated the Lagniappe Equestrian Center in Folsom, Louisiana. Organizers at the Southern Eventing and Dressage Association (SEDA) spent a decade repairing the facility. They brought back the Fleur de Leap H.T., which were previously known as Watershed H.T. and C.T., in 2015. A new water complex and bank complex were installed within the last two years. Cathy Wieschhoff is the current cross-country course designer.
“We’re a good, family, local, community event,” Morgan Vaughn of SEDA said. “It’s a fun event. It’s Louisiana. We turn everything into a party.”
Fleur de Leap, which runs levels up to Training, offers a number of fun awards at its horse trials and combined tests, such as “The Flying High Dragon” and “The Dancing Dressage Dragon” for best jump score regardless of dressage score and “Volunteer with the Most Cheer” and “Best Support Staff” recognizing non-riders.
Fleur de Leap is now the only USEA-recognized horse trial in Louisiana, while nine Area V events will take place in Texas in 2023. Events range from three-day shows offering Young Event Horse and New Event Horse competitions at Texas Rose to one-day events like two horse trials at both Pine Hill in Bellville, Texas, and Willow Draw in Weatherford, Texas.
The 2023 Area V Championships will be split between Beginner Novice and Novice at the MeadowCreek Park H.T - Fall Social Event in Kosse, Texas, on September 23-24 and Training, Preliminary, and Intermediate at the Texas Rose Horse Park H.T. on November 4-5.
Although the Texas Rose Horse Park is for currently sale, Brunson, who has run events there for almost two decades, remains dedicated to its future, saying she’s motivated by what Area V represents. There’s the saying that “everything is bigger in Texas,” and that applies to the dedication of Area V eventers in the Lone Star State, as well as in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
“Their enthusiasm and being open-minded in working together and trying to make things better for everyone, I think they’re very positive,” Brunson said. “The hospitality for everybody, the positive attitude, and the love for the competition and for the horses means a lot to everybody in Area V.”
Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.
After not running in 2020 and 2021, the MARS Bromont CCI Three-Day Event returned to the Bromont Olympic Equestrian Center in Quebec, Canada, in 2022. America's Jennie Saville (née Brannigan) and Twilightslastgleam won the CCI4*-L, as the chestnut Thoroughbred gelding (National Anthem x Royal Child) bred and owned by Nina Gardner moved up from eighth after dressage into the lead after cross-country with the fastest round on wet ground over the tracks designed by Derek di Grazia. Canada's Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge, a bay Selle Français gelding (Mylord Carthago x Lelia) owned by Patricia Pearce, finished second, and they are among four from the top-10 in the CCI4*-L in 2022 that return in 2023.
Hannah Sue Hollberg of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, was on a winning streak at the Essex Horse Trials on Sunday, claiming victory in both the $10,000 Open Intermediate and Open Preliminary divisions with two horses that are fairly new to her. Some difficulty on cross-country did not stop her mount Hachi from claiming victory in the Open Intermediate with a score of 101.6, while Open Preliminary partner Rockster finished on his dressage score of 27.3.
The great football coach Vince Lombardi said, “We win our games in practice.” With the goal of having the most effective practices possible for horses, their riders, and their coaches, Cathy Wieschhoff explains some signs that can indicate when horse and rider should repeat an exercise, switch it up, or be done with that activity. Wieschhoff brings perspective as a five-star rider that has competed at the Kentucky Three-Day Event and Burghley Horse Trials, a USEF “R” Course Designer for eventing cross-country and show jumping, a former Area VIII chair and member of the USEA Board of Governors, and a Level V USEA ECP Certified Coach based out of Carriage Station Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.