Aug 18, 2023

Intercollegiate Invasion: Meet the College Athletes Competing at the 2023 USEA AEC

By Kaleigh Collett - USEA Staff
Callia Englund and Boss Indy at the 2023 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship at Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, NC. USEA/Shelby Allen photo

The 2023 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships may have come and gone already, but many Intercollegiate members have their sights set on the next championship of the year: the 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds! The USEA caught up with members from the Auburn University, Transylvania University, University of Findlay, University of Georgia, and University of Kentucky teams to chat about their plans for the 2023 AEC coming up on August 29 through September 3 at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Auburn University

Hayden Wathen and Contestor on cross-country at the 2023 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship. USEA/Shelby Allen photo

Auburn University team member, Hayden Wathen, is feeling especially grateful to be competing at the AEC this year with her horse, Contestor (Contango x Jer’s Princess). After colic surgery sidelined “Cortez”, a 16-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Wathen and formerly campaigned through the Advanced level by Boyd Martin, in April of 2022, the pairs’ plan to move up to the Intermediate level was abruptly put on hold. A lengthy recovery kept “Cortez” out of the game for most of the 2022 season, which made their achievement of qualifying for the USEA Intermediate Championship division at the 2023 AEC that much sweeter.

Wathen and Cortez had multiple completions at the Training and Preliminary levels on their way to their first event at Intermediate at the Ocala International Festival of Eventing in Ocala, Florida this April, where they finished fourth out of 15 competitors. “To finally have the opportunity to move up was very emotional and a very special moment,” said Wathen. “This horse has given me everything and is such a fighter.”

Building on their success, Wathen made the decision to enter the Intermediate division at the 2023 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina, this May, where she competed on the Auburn University Weagle team. Wathen explained that “running a championship track helped prepare both Cortez and I for the AEC. The course was the right balance between challenging and rewarding, and for us it was very rewarding. The atmosphere at Tryon was also similar to how it will be at the AEC. Cortez can be very spooky, so it was a great preparation. The Intercollegiate Championship was the best week of my life, and I cannot wait for 2024.”

In preparation for the AEC, Wathen has been focusing on show jumping with Cortez, as it is their weakest phase, by taking lessons with Allie Knowles and keeping a consistent training schedule.

Transylvania University

Liz Howell and Aunt Tipsy on cross-country at the 2023 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship. USEA/Shelby Allen photo

The small but mighty team from Transylvania University will have one member representing them at the 2023 AEC in the Novice Rider division. Liz Howell and her own Aunt Tipsy, a 13-year-old Thoroughbred mare (Western Expression x Point Spread), have been together for over seven years, but this will be their first time competing at the AEC since switching disciplines from hunters to eventing a couple of years ago. Howell said competing in the Intercollegiate Eventing Championship this year was instrumental in preparing her for the upcoming Championship.

“The cross-country course at Tryon was the most challenging one we have run so far, but Tippy loved it and we ended up having a blast,” explained Howell as she recounted her experience. “On top of that, it was our first trip to Tryon’s facilities, and I was so proud of the way Tippy handled the sights and scenes. We’ve competed at the Kentucky Horse Park many times in the 2.5 years we’ve been eventing, but the AEC will be our first experience in the Rolex Arena, and I’m grateful to have already had the chance to school in similar venues.”

Since returning home from Tryon, Howell and "Tippy" have abided by a rigorous training schedule with weekly goals to achieve in the lead up to the AEC. She’s already seen an improvement in their dressage, as the pair shaved off over 6 points from their Intercollegiate Championship score at their most recent event at the Hoosier Horse Trials. Howell is counting on her teammates unending support and team manager, Kelly Shore’s guidance to help her conquer the AEC.

University of Findlay

The University of Findlay’s Intercollegiate Eventing Team could be considered unique within the program, as it is one of the few universities that owns their own herd of school horses for their intercollegiate members to ride and compete. At this year’s AEC, two University of Findlay horses and their riders will be contesting the Championships.

Eva Reynolds and Ballyknock On Time at the Millbrook Horse Trials. Brant Gamma Photography

University of Findlay’s Ballyknock On Time, a 19-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, is entered to compete in the USEA Beginner Novice Rider Championship with Eva Reynolds. Reynolds and Ballyknock On Time were paired during Reynold’s sophomore year at Findlay when she switched from the hunter/jumper emphasis to the eventing emphasis of the school’s equestrian studies program. Reynolds had never competed in eventing before switching her concentration and being assigned to Ballyknock On Time, but she took to it quickly with her trustworthy partner and gained her qualifications for the AEC in less than a year.

The gelding was imported from Ireland as a 12-year-old and spent several years foxhunting before coming to the University of Findlay, which gave him a strong foundation when he transitioned to eventing. “Anytime we go out on cross-country, it is his favorite phase,” said Reynolds. “He just lights up and gets so excited. We could be at a one-day, and he could be tired, but as soon as we get on the cross-country field, he’s so excited and I can totally feel all of his energy.”

Reynolds’ continued by explaining that “I joined the eventing team as a freshman, but I didn’t compete right away. I groomed at my first event during my freshman spring semester, loved the energy, and I got the eventing bug.” Reynolds looks forward to continuing to pursue her newfound love for the sport and eventually plans to work as a professional in the industry finishing and selling show jumpers and eventers.

Grace Ransom and Bright Prince. Xpress Photo

The second pair representing the University of Findlay at the 2023 AEC are the university’s Bright Prince, a 16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Eddington x Queen of Money) and Grace Ransom. Bright Prince and Ransom started their partnership in January of 2022, and she noted how impressed she is that they’ve made it this far in such a short period of time. “We’ve had a couple of setbacks, and he was very hot-headed when we started,” explained Ransom. Despite that, the pair has qualified to compete in the USEA Training Rider division at the AEC.

Ransom spent the last two summers interning for Carol Kozlowski, which has allowed her to gain invaluable knowledge and experience within the industry as she works on her equestrian studies degree. Due in part to her busy schedule and the cancellation of the Larkin Hill H.T. in July, Ransom just finished her qualifications for the AEC at the Training level a couple of short weeks ago at the Huntington Farm H.T. where her and Bright Prince finished in third place. In the lead up to the AEC, Ransom plans to maintain her conditioning schedule and focus on keeping Bright Prince relaxed, as he can get quite keen under pressure.

Looking beyond the AEC, Ransom explained that she can’t wait for the 2024 Intercollegiate & Interscholastic Eventing Championships at Stable View Farm. “I really wanted to compete the past couple of years, but it never panned out with my schedule,” said Ransom. “We’re planning on running it next year, since it is earlier, which is fantastic.” Ransom thanks her coach Sue King and her family unending support as she pursues her dreams.

University of Georgia

Crockett Miller, an incoming freshman at the University of Georgia, will be making her first official start as a member of the UGA Eventing Team at the AEC. Miller spent her senior year of high school campaigning not one, but two horses, at the Modified level and both have qualified to compete in the USEA Modified Rider Championship next week. Miller's first horse, whom she's had since she was 12 years old and can be best described as a "big dog," is Mr Panda (Abbeyfield Comet x Clooneen Tara Lady), a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Miller. The pair has grown up and moved up the levels together, forging a strong connection along the way. "He knows me way too well," said Miller. "This can be a blessing and a curse in the sense that he knows exactly what I'm asking of him with the most subtle aids, but also can sometimes be more in tune to a bad habit of mine than a better way of riding."

Miller's second entry in the Modified rider division is Swell Continental, an 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Camillo VDL x Crackin Rosie) that Miller also owns. "Connor" has only been in Miller's stable for a year and a half now, but she says he is one of the most talented horses she's ever sat on. Originally bred to for show jumping, Miller says that Connor can be quite exuberant over fences, which led to a steep learning curve when she first bought him in terms of sticking with him as he made his opinions known.

Though balancing her eventing dreams with her senior year was difficult, Miller found ways to work her schedule around cross-country schoolings and evening rides. She also spent most of the summer as a working student for Mary Bess Davis, providing insightful, in-depth help with both of her horses as she made the final push towards the AEC.

Miller is a Georgia native with two UGA Alumni for parents, so it's no surprise that she was drawn to Athens when making college plans, but she did say that the UGA Eventing Team played a large role in her decision as well. "The fact that I had already met and loved several team members, and the school spirit within the team did play a role in my decision to attend UGA," noted Miller. "I hope to ride on a team at the national and international level one day, so I'm excited to work on building my teamwork skills and gaining team experience!"

University of Kentucky

Callia Englund and Boss Indy are cheered home by their University of Kentucky teammates. Ali Otipoby Photography

With the 2023 AEC practically in the University of Kentucky’s backyard this year, it is no surprise the UK Eventing Team will be represented by multiple riders at the event. Callia Englund and Boss Indy, a 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding(Indygo Mountain x Three Sisters) are the first pair that you will likely see sporting Kentucky Blue at the AEC.

This spring, Englund and Boss Indy successfully competed in the Open Modified division at the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship, finishing in the top 5 overall, and they will be stepping up to the USEA Bates Preliminary Junior/Young Rider Championship at the AEC. “He has been going back and forth between Preliminary and Modified for the past year,” explained Englund. “After Intercollegiate Champs, we bumped him back up to Prelim here in Kentucky for the summer, and he’s been doing fantastic, so we’re really excited to run around the Prelim at the AEC.”

Englund and Boss Indy gained a lot of experience competing at the Kentucky Horse Park this year by completing the Midsouth Pony Club H.T. and several show jumping competitions on site. “The AEC definitely uses parts of the course that aren’t offered at our local horse trials, like the Head of the Lake,” said Englund. “Even though I’ve competed here a lot, it’s usually on different parts of the course, so it will still be a challenge.”

Kiera Delahanty and BGS Silver Lining in the show jumping arena at the Intercollegiate Eventing Championship. USEA/Shelby Allen photo

Kiera Delahanty is the second University of Kentucky teammate that is set to leave the startbox at the AEC with her own BGS Silver Lining, an Irish Sport Horse mare (Bread and Butter x Newmarket Striker). Hot on the heels of their sixth-place finish at the USEA Intercollegiate Championship at Tryon, Delahanty and “Lassy” will again compete in the Training Rider division at the AEC.

“I felt like my ride at the Intercollegiate Championship gave us a fantastic confidence boost,” said Delahanty. “My last event I had moved up to Modified, so we will be bumping back down at the Championships and finishing the Training level this season.”

Delahanty just purchased Lassy a year ago in preparation to join the UK Eventing Team in the fall of 2022 after her other horse had to be retired. Since arriving in the U.S. from Ireland, Lassy has really come out of her shell, now appreciating the simple things in life like ear scratches and horse cookies. Delehanty said that they’re both learning a lot from each other as they build their partnership, and they have plans to compete in their first FEI event at the one-star level this fall.

The USEA wishes all of the Intercollegiate members competing at the AEC the best of luck! Don’t forget to attend the Carnival Adult & Young Rider Party on Thursday, August 31 at 6:30 p.m. in the VIP Hospitality Ringside Tent to mix and mingle with other Intercollegiate and Interscholastic teams. Spirit wear is encouraged!

About the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC)

The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC), presented by Nutrena Feeds, is the pinnacle of the sport at the national levels. Held annually, the best junior, adult amateur, and professional competitors gather to vie for national championship titles at every level from Beginner Novice to Advanced. This ultimate test of horse and rider draws hundreds of combinations from around the country to compete for fabulous prizes, a piece of the substantial prize money, and the chance to be named the National Champion at their respective levels. In fact, the 2021 AEC garnered over 1,000 entries and now stands as the largest eventing competition in North American history. The 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds will be held Aug. 29—Sept. 3 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.

The USEA would like to thank Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena Feeds; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsor: Bates Saddles; Gold Level Sponsors: Capital Square, Horse & Country, Parker Equine Insurance, Smartpak, Standlee; Silver Level Sponsors: Auburn Labs, Ecogold, Kerrits, The Jockey Club; Bronze Level Sponsors: 70 Degrees, Athletux, Black Petticoat, The Chronicle of the Horse, Devoucoux, D.G. Stackhouse and Ellis, Dubarry of Ireland, Equestrian Team Apparel, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Horseware Ireland, Majyk Equipe, Retired Racehorse Project, Ride EquiSafe; Contributing Level Sponsor: CrossCountry App, Georgetown – Scott County Tourism, Lexmark, L.V. Harkness, Mountain Horse, Mrs. Pastures Cookies, #WeRideTogether; Prize Level Sponsors: Coach Daniel Stewart, EquiFit, Equilab, Equiluxe Tack, Equine Essentials, Equine Pulse Performance, FarmVet, Achieve Equine/FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips, Horses 4 Your Consideration, Hound & Hare, I Love My Horse Eventing Boutique, Jack’s Favorites, Jane Heart Jewelry, Kinetic Equine Services, LeMieux, Levade Kentucky, Mare Modern Goods, OneTouch Fly Spray, Parkmore Supplements, Practical Horseman, Sidelines Magazine, Spy Coast Farm, Strides for Equality Equestrians, and VTO Saddlery.

About the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program

The USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program was established in 2014 to provide a framework within which eventing teams and individual competitors could flourish at universities and colleges across the country. The USEA offers a discount of $25 on annual USEA memberships for current students of universities and colleges registered as Affiliates with the USEA. Many events across the country now offer Intercollegiate Team Challenges where collegiate eventers can compete individually as well as on teams with their fellow students. In Intercollegiate Team Challenges, each rider’s score is multiplied by a coefficient appropriate for their level to account for differences in level difficulty, and then the individual scores are added together to determine the team score. Click here to learn more about the Intercollegiate Eventing Program.

The USEA would like to thank this year's USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships Sponsors: Bates Saddles, FITS, Horse & Country, Kerrits, U.S. Equestrian, and World Equestrian Brands.

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The Event at Rebecca Farm (Kalispell, Montana) is renowned amongst members of the eventing community for its exceptional competition venue, genuine hospitality, and stunning backdrops. The Broussard Family Charitable Foundation and USEA Foundation are excited to share that travel grants to this iconic venue are returning once again for 2024 to assist riders traveling to Montana to compete in the CCI3* and CCI4* divisions at this year’s competition which takes place July 17-21.

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Heads Up Competitors! Important Information Surrounding Entry Form and Liability Waiver Requirements for USEA/USEF Eventing Competitions

When aiming to compete in a United States Eventing Association (USEA) recognized competition (national competition or international competition), licensed or endorsed by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), understanding and fulfilling the specific requirements for entry forms and liability waivers is crucial.

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The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is pleased to announce the athletes selected for the 2024 USEA Emerging Athlete U21 Program (EA21). USEA Young Rider program members aged 21 and under are eligible for the program. The purpose of the USEA EA21 Program is to identify and provide consistent quality instruction to the next generation of elite event riders.

Apr 11, 2024 News

Weekend Quick Links: April 13-14

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.

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