Green grass, blooming flowers, and perfect New York weather, rewind to late summer where Fitch's Corner Horse Trials celebrated their 25th year on July 21 – 23, 2018. Alongside their 25th anniversary, Fitch's Corner hosted Area I’s Charles Owen Technical Merit Award. Judged by the USEA president Carol Kozlowski, Erin Johnson and Cadence Clucas were rewarded for their safe, effective cross-country riding.
Johnson and her own FE Sparkling Diamond are on the right track for success and plenty of exceptional cross-country rounds as she is dedicated to her riding. “Now that I am out of college, I am focusing fully on riding with the hopes of making this a career one day,” said Johnson.
Sourced and imported from Clayton Fredricks, hence the ‘FE’ abbreviation, ‘Sparky’ a 7-year-old German Sport Horse who started his U.S. eventing career in 2017. Johnson, who trains with Jeanie Clarke, described how she found her trusted partner. “Clayton’s farm is right down the road from Jeanie [Clarke]’s, and when Jeanie and I started looking for a potential upper level event horse, she asked Clayton if he had any options. Sparky had done one Training [level event] with Clayton, and as of February 2018 [Sparky] was mine."
“Since then we have done two Novice horse trials in Ocala, Florida, and made the move up to Training level at Loudon Hunt Pony Club Horse Trials. Our goal is the Waredaca Classic Series Training Three-Day in October before heading back down to Ocala.”
A first timer at Fitch's Corner, Johnson enjoyed her experience in the Empire State. “I was thrilled with the course design/decorations and how it rode. It’s been an ongoing goal for [us] to work on rebalancing enough, but not too much, before fences. To have someone recognize our efforts was really rewarding! I also loved that the helmet case I won happened to be in my colors.”
“I think it’s an awesome award with a great focus on safety. I am definitely a fan of this award,” emphasized Johnson.
A Shetland pony named Fluffy was how Cadence Clucas, the junior recipient of the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award, learned how to ride. “My mom introduced me to eventing, and I grew up with horses and ponies in my backyard. When I first got Fluffy, she was really a tough, fun, and safe pony to ride. She did not know how to canter or turn really well, and we grew up together (since I did not know what I was doing either). I spent a long time on the lunge line practicing my position and getting confident. When I started to get more into riding, I rode bareback most of the time. I learned how to jump courses bareback, and canter and gallop. Through that, I got a strong lower leg, and at that point I was eager to run and jump all the time.”
From the starter level to steeplechase, Clucas describes a life of adventure with Fluffy the 10-hand super pony. “Fluffy and I competed at the starter level. We really grew and learned together which was perfect as a first pony. When I was starting to grow out of her, I started doing the Shetland Pony Steeplechase Races, and traveled all over to the big horse shows. We went to Washington International Horse Show, The Royal Horse Show in Canada, the Devon Horse Show, and The Central Park Horse Show. After I stopped competing Fluffy, I competed a very knowledgeable event pony who took me around my first Beginner Novice and Novice [horse trials] which was great to learn the ropes.” Transitioning from one pony to the next, Clucas found herself aboard Lookover Erin, the Connemara mare who helped Clucas win the Charles Owen Technical Merit award.
“She absolutely LOVES to jump,” emphasized Clucas when describing Lookover Erin, who is owned by Cadence’s mother, Patty Clucas. Sired by Erin Go Bragh, the Clucas were naturally drawn to the 15.3 hand Connemara mare. “Riding Lookover Erin was not exactly planned. My mom bought Erin from Courtney Cooper over three years ago so that she could get back competing. This spring I had nothing to ride, so my mom allowed me to compete her, and she has been great.”
Hours of riding ponies, jumping bareback, and practicing her position, Clucas found her experience beneficial because, “I was rewarded for having a correct position which I have worked hard to achieve. It was a really pleasant surprise and was the cherry on top after having a good cross-country ride. Since Carol [Kozlowski] was judging, I was really happy that she thought highly of me,” said Clucas.
Congratulations to both Erin Johnson and Cadence Clucas on their excellent cross-country riding at Fitch's Corner!
About the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award
In 2009, the Professional Horseman’s Council in partnership with Charles Owen founded the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award to reward juniors and adult amateurs for demonstrating safe and appropriate cross-country riding technique and educate riders and trainers as to what constitutes safe cross-country riding.
The Charles Owen Technical Merit Award is presented at one event in each USEA Area each year at the Training level to one junior rider and one adult amateur rider who have not competed at the Intermediate level or above. Every eligible rider at the Training level is automatically judged during their cross-country round on the five criteria listed below and receives a score sheet with written comments, providing valuable feedback on their cross-country riding technique. Level III and IV ICP instructors, USEF licensed eventing officials, and USET Senior Team riders are all qualified to judge the Award. Click here to learn more about the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award.
The USEA would like to thank Charles Owen for sponsoring the Technical Merit Award.
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This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).