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 and Area III, the next area featured is Area VI.
West Coast eventers experienced tremendous success in 2022. Tamie Smith recorded top-10 finishes at Badminton in England, at the FEI World Championships at Pratoni in Italy, and at the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. Helen Alliston won the $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final, and Tommy Greengard captured the USEA Intermediate Championship at the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC), presented by Nutrena Feeds. James Alliston returned to the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event for the first time since 2017 and finished third in the CCI4*-S.
As these, and other riders across all levels, turn their attention to 2023, eventing venues in their home state have new things in store and will offer a range of programs this year. Area VI also includes Hawaii, in addition to California.
The Horse Park at Woodside has added Derek di Grazia as cross-country course designer. Di Grazia’s courses have been featured at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, the Tokyo Olympics, Bromont International Horse Trials, and at the Morven Park International Horse Trials. Designing at Woodside reunites him with a venue close to where he resides in Carmel Valley and where he has competed for decades.
“There’s quite a lot of interest to compete there,” di Grazia said. “It’s one of the few places in California that actually has terrain, which is very beneficial for the horses and riders competing. Having that experience of being able to go up and down hills as well as having the terrain be part of the jumping question is quite important in the development of both horses and riders.”
The Woodside Spring H.T. will take place on May 26-28, followed by the Woodside Summer H.T on Aug. 11-13, and culminating with the Woodside Fall International on Oct. 6-8 that will return eventing at the FEI levels to Woodside with a CCI4*-S, CCI3*-S, and CCI2*-S.
Since 2022, the Ram Tap Horse Park in Fresno has revitalized the Ram Tap H.T., which were one of the first recognized events licensed by the USCTA, the predecessor to the USEA, in 1960. (The event has also been known as the Fresno County Horse Park H.T.)
“So many people that are eventing here now did as kids or their parents did as kids,” organizer Terry Hilst said. “It’s really important to a lot of riders. [USEA CEO] Rob Burk cut his teeth out here.”
In 2023, there will be four events at Ram Tap. Organizers are hosting a second Advanced, offering the level at both the Ram Tap National H.T. on March 17-19 and Oct. 20-22. The Ram Tap H.T. & Classic 3-Day that represents the final event of the year in Area VI in 2023 will feature the USEA Classic Series, offering Beginner Novice Three-Day (BN3D), Novice Three-Day (N3D), and Training Three-Day (T3D).
“We’re trying to make it rider friendly as much as we can,” Hilst said. “If I could, I would do everything Classic. I absolutely love the Classic. I believe in the way it conditions the horses and the riders. We’re really proud to offer the Classic in November.”
Area VI has also embraced the USEA Young Event Horse Series, with two qualifying events at Shepherd Ranch in Santa Ynez and at Twin Rivers in Paso Robles. Twin Rivers has hosted The Dutta Corp. USEA YEH West Coast Championships as a standalone event since 2020. In 2022, the West Coast championships featured their largest field and produced the highest-scoring 5-year-old champion on either coast with the chestnut Zangersheide gelding That’s Me Z (Take A Chance On Me Z x Venetia) ridden by Greengard. In 2023, the championships are scheduled for Oct. 27-28.
Twin Rivers has also experienced a different look in 2023, although that wasn’t necessarily by choice. A hard-working crew led by the Baxter family that has operated Twin Rivers since 2001 and financial support from the Area VI eventing community were part of a massive recovery from record flooding that caused parts of the venue to be under approximately four feet of water two months prior to hosting the Twin Rivers Winter H.T. on March 3-5.
“The support we received was so heartwarming,” organizer Connie Baxter said. “It was a real team effort, and after all the hard work that went into hosting these horse trials, we’re looking forward to the internationals, as well as the Young Event Horse West Coast Championships, that make up our show schedule in 2023.”
Twin Rivers will run up to the CCI4*-S at the Twin Rivers Spring International on April 13-16 and the Twin Rivers Fall International on Sept. 21-24.
Area VI’s CCI4*-L, one of just five in the United States in 2023, will take place at the Galway Downs International Event on Nov. 1-5, bringing the curtain down on the season of FEI events that prepares West Coast riders to take on the rest of the country and the world.
“I really want to be that person that proves to people that they can make it from here and it’s achievable,” Smith said. “You have to travel for sure, but it’s 100 percent attainable. It’s a completely different dynamic out here, and it’s super special. I think a lot of people are missing out because they don’t get to see our community and what we get to experience by being on the West Coast because it’s such a close-knit family.”
Smith and other Area VI riders, coming off their successful 2022, will be hoping for more celebration for West Coast eventers in 2023.
Marley Bridges lived and breathed gymnastics. “I started at the age of 5,” said Bridges. “You always had to have the time and the mindset for gymnastics. You had to allow yourself to commit to it. You had to commit to working out four hours a day, five days a week, doing cardio every single day, train every single day. You had to stay committed to yourself, the team, and the sport.”
If you’re like most riders you’ve probably heard someone say something like, “Your last mistake is your best teacher,” or “if you’re doing everything right you’re doing something wrong because you’re in your comfort zone.” While I agree whole-heartedly with these sentiments, I actually prefer, “Equestrians don’t make mistakes. Mistakes make equestrians.” They make us bolder, braver, and brighter; but only when we develop a positive relationship with our mistakes and respond to them in productive ways.
Up-and-coming eventing athlete Tommy Greengard of Malibu, California, was named the recipient of the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation’s Amanda Pirie Warrington Grant for 2024. A current competitor on the U.S. Equestrian Federation's (USEF) Eventing Emerging Program List, Greengard has aspirations of representing the United States internationally.
Bethany Hutchins-Kristen headed into 2023 with hopes of earning the SmartPak USEA Stallion of the Year award for a second year in a row on her homebred Geluk HVF, and after a stellar season, including a top-10 finish at the TerraNova CCI2*-L (Myakka City, Florida), she took home the top prize with an 18-point lead.