The inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill took place on Oct. 13-17 in Elkton, Maryland. With American rider Boyd Martin taking home the victory, it was a historic week for the sport of eventing. To add to the showcase of American pride, the five-star entry list had American-bred horses and horses who have been eventing in the U.S. since they were 4 years old.
To help introduce young horses to the sport of eventing, a popular program among competitors is the USEA Young Event Horse Program (YEH). This well-established program was founded in 2004, and the program’s goal is to identify 4- and 5-year-old horses that possess the talent and disposition that, with proper training, can excel in the four-star and five-star levels of eventing.
This year, The Dutta Corp. USEA YEH East Coast Championships took place alongside the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. During this week, over 70 YEH horses competed in the East Coast Championships and, at the same time, the YEH graduate horses highlighted the success of the program by competing in the five-star event.
A total of five YEH graduates successfully completed their five-star weekend in Maryland (Quantum Leap, DonDante, Indy 500, Pfun, and Emporium), and three out of the five finished in the top 20. The highest placed YEH graduate was Quantum Leap (Quite Capitol x Report to Sloopy) a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding bred in the United States by Elizabeth Callahan and owned and ridden by Doug Payne. Quantum Leap and Payne only added 1.2-time penalties to his dressage score after cross-country and jumped double clear on the final day in show jumping to finish ninth overall.
“I can’t say enough about this horse,” said Doug Payne in a Facebook post. “Double clear to finish ninth in his second [CCI5*-L] as a 10-year-old! We’re just incredibly lucky to have him, and [I] can’t wait to see what the future holds!!”
Quantum Leap’s first trip to Fair Hill was when he competed in the 2015 USEA YEH East Coast Championships as a 4-year-old where he finished third, and again as a 5-year-old in 2016 where he finished seventh. Two years later, Quantum Leap was the 2018 Holekamp/Turner grant recipient where he and Payne represented the U.S. at the FEI World Breeding Eventing 7-year-old Championships at La Mondial du Lion in Le Lion d’Angers, France.
This past year, Quantum Leap made a successful five-star debut in April at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, he was the Reserve Champion in the $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final at the AEC, and he added his first top 10 finish at a five-star event in Maryland.
The first horse to go through the cross-country finish flags was the YEH graduate, DonDante an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding sired by Pachio and owned by Team Rebecca LLC and ridden by William Coleman. Coleman competed two horses at the Maryland 5 Star, (DonDante and Tight Lines) and both of his rides finished in the top 15. “I feel blessed to have these horses with me, and equally blessed to have the team around me to help get the best out of them, and me, for that matter. My horses tried so hard for me this weekend. Dondante grew up before our eyes out there. He put in a much-improved dressage test, then gutted out an extremely tough stamina test on the cross-country. He also jumped very well on Sunday despite an unlucky pole,” said Coleman in a Facebook post. DonDante and Coleman put in three competitive phases to finish 15th overall.
As a 5-year-old, Dondante finished third with a score of 81.96 in the 2015 YEH East Coast 5-year-old Championship which was held at Fair Hill. Six years later, the now 11-year-old gelding returned to Fair Hill to earn his first five-star completion.
The 16-year-old Thoroughbred mare Indy 500 (Cromwell x TensofThousands) and Andrea Baxter competed at their sixth five-star competition together at the Maryland 5 Star. Proving their five-star experience, the pair stormed around the cross-country to put in a double clear round – and at 10 minutes and 43 seconds, they had the fastest ride of the day on Saturday. The pair finished 19th overall.
After her successful weekend, Baxter shared in a Facebook post, “Indy made easy work of her seventh [CCI5*-L], putting in our first double clear at the level. I’d be lying if I said getting there was easy. We’ve been battling a bruised foot all summer so sadly my show jumping wasn’t her best performance, but she tried with her whole heart to finish. She’s a true fighter.”
Indy 500 graduated from the YEH program in 2011 after she completed five YEH competitions with top placings. Andrea Baxter, the California native is the longtime owner and rider of Indy 500, and together they have completed some of the toughest tracks in the world. They did the Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L in 2017, 2018, and 2019 as well as Burghley CCI5*-L in 2018 and 2019, and now the Maryland 5 Star in 2021.
Jennifer Mosing’s 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Pfun (Tadmus x Celerina) did his last five-star event in 2019 at the Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L, but in October 2021 he made his return to the five-star level with rider Will Faudree. Faudree and Pfun were one of only seven pairs to put in a double-clear show jumping round on the final day of the Maryland 5 Star, and they finished 26th out of 46 competitors.
Previously known as Fernhill Teddy Two Two, Pfun was first introduced to U.S. eventing in 2012 where he competed in the YEH 5-year-old competition with Bobby Costello at the Spring Horse Trials at the Ark. In 2013, Will Faudree started competing Pfun and together they have over 16 top-three finishes on their USEA record. After their trip to Maryland, Faudree and Pfun now have three five-star completions together.
Ashlynn Meuchel and the YEH graduate Emporium (Cartano x UPANA), a Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Ashley Creek Stables, was the only pair in the five-star field where both horse and rider were five-star first-timers. They successfully completed their five-star weekend, which is an incredible feat in its own, but they were also one of only seven pairs to show jump double clear on the final day. “We took a crack at our first five-star! Theo did his first four-star just last fall, and coming to Maryland was quite a push alone. A couple of careful moments yesterday for a horse and rider green at the level. Happy to have gained experience and to be setting our sights on the spring already. We had one of a handful of double clear show jump rounds today which feels quite good,” shared Meuchel in a Facebook post.
The 12-year-old gelding who goes by the barn name of ‘Theo’ was first ridden by Tamie Smith and graduated from the YEH program in 2014. Meuchel has brought Emporium up from the Novice level and now they are newly minted five-star competitors.
Congratulations to all YEH graduates and YEH Championship competitors for a successful weekend at the Maryland 5 Star!
About the USEA Young Event Horse Program
The Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses aged four and five that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the four- and five-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.
The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to learn more about the Young Event Horse Program.
The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, SmartPak, Standlee Premium Western Forage, Parker Equine Insurance, Etalon Diagnostics, and Saratoga Horseworks for sponsoring the Young Event Horse Program. Additionally, the USEA would like to thank The Dutta Corp., Title Sponsor of the Young Event Horse Championships.
After a one-year gap, eventers from all over are ready to gather together and engage in four days of seminars, presentations, and gatherings at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention. This year’s convention begins Thursday morning at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Hotel and continues through the weekend.
Over 40 horses competed in the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) 5-year-old East and West Coast Championships in 2015. The YEH East Coast Championships were held during the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International in Elkton, Maryland, while the YEH West Coast Championships took place at Galway Downs in Temecula, California. Following 2015’s YEH finale, many of the graduating class of the 2015 USEA Young Event Horse Championships have gone on to make their mark on the upper levels of eventing.
Nicole Brown is joined by a panel of experts including top FEI veterinarian Dr. Emily Sandler-Burtness, five-star eventer Will Faudree, and professional eventer and horsemanship expert Tik Maynard to answer all of your biggest questions.
I’d like to start my Holiday Pressure Proof Tip with an excerpt from my new book Bolder Braver Brighter.
"Imagine leaning against a tree while your horse grazes happily beside you. You feel the warm sunshine and breeze on your cheek, hear the chirping of nearby birds, and smell the fragrance of the grass and wildflowers. Your horse nickers quietly and all you can think about is how lucky you are to have this horse and this sport and this life… right here, right now.