The first of 10 Charles Owen Technical Merit competitions took place February 21-24 at the Pine Top Horse Trials in Thompson, Georgia. Over the course of the year, the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award will be presented at one event in each of the 10 USEA Areas, rewarding riders for their safe and effective cross-country riding.
The Junior Charles Owen Technical Merit Award winner at Pine Top was Campbell Jones and Patras VR (Carino x Palma Nigra), her own 18-year-old Trakehner gelding. The pair were placed seventh after dressage on a score of 42.7 and went double clear in both jumping phases to finish in fourth place.
“I got into eventing by accident,” Jones explained, who grew up in a “horsey” family and started riding at age 5. “We had recently moved to Cobblestone Farms in Dexter, Michigan. I had been competing in the pony hunters and my pony was injured right before I was scheduled to go to Pony Finals. Since my pony needed some rehab, my parents decided to buy me a small horse named Sophie so I could keep riding that year. She was amazing at eventing, and she gave me a love of riding cross-country. I finally made the permanent switch in 2017 when I was 12.”
Jones’ partner, Patras VR, competed to the CCI3* level with Jessica Phoenix and then through the CIC2* level with Alexa Gartenberg. “My trainer, Courtney Cooper, knew he was possibly for sale and I was fortunate enough to buy him in October 2018. My ride at Pine Top in February was my second time competing him (and second time cross-country on him ever). He will be 18 this year and is a star. I feel so lucky to have him as a teacher and partner!”
“I have a good role model in Courtney and have been fortunate enough to have her as my cross-country trainer,” Jones continued. “Coming from the hunters, it has been a bit of work to make the changes in my position and style of riding. I know I have to work hard to remain effective and thoughtful out on cross-country.”
“It was very helpful to have judging and written feedback of my cross-country at Pine Top,” Jones noted. “It allowed me to see what the judges were seeing from the ground. I especially want to make sure I am safe and thoughtful when I am riding cross-country. I will be working on all the points they mentioned so I can make it easier on my horses.”
Alison Kroviak walked away with the Adult Amateur Charles Owen Technical Merit Award at Pine Top aboard her own Dolce (Exsar x American Pie), a 14-year-old Trakehner mare. Kroviak and Dolce sat tied for second after dressage on a score of 30.50, picked up one rail in stadium, and jumped double clear on cross-country to finish in third place.
Kroviak, like Jones, grew up riding in the hunter/jumper world before making the switch to eventing. “I got sort of bored with it,” Kroviak admitted. “I stopped going to my lessons, and my mom was smart enough to realize I still needed instruction and she found a woman named Leah Vecker, and she did eventing. My mom said, ‘Just go take a lesson from her,’ and I was there for the rest of my high school time and summers during college.”
Kroviak went to college in Ohio and rode with Cathy Henry, staying on after graduation as Henry’s assistant trainer. Eighteen years after Kroviak started riding with Henry, life took her from Ohio to Tennessee. It was around that time that one of her horses became injured and the other passed away, leaving Kroviak horseless. So, Henry called her up and said she had two mares that Kroviak could come and pick up and take back to Tennessee. One of those mares was Dolce. “It just kind of happened,” Kroviak described. “It was funny because when I took the horses Cathy actually said, ‘I’m telling you, Dolce is your event horse.’ She knew from day one that this was my horse, and she is my heart horse. I’ll never have another horse like this.”
Kroviak has actually known Dolce for her entire life as she was bred at Henry’s farm while Kroviak was still living in Ohio. Kroviak’s friend Courtney Parks owned an American Warmblood mare that they bred to Henry’s stallion, Exsar. “I actually helped break [Dolce] when she was a baby. I even rode her in her very first show in Ohio.”
Kroviak credited both Henry and her current trainer, Allina Bell, with helping her develop her technique on cross-country. “[Henry] had to change my whole mindset because I was a hunter/jumper rider and that was ‘perch and look pretty,’ not ‘sit up and be effective,’” Kroviak explained. “Both these women have been incredibly supportive. The best thing that’s ever happened to me are my horses. They put up with my mistakes. I couldn’t have learned how to be as good as I am without Dolce.”
“It feels amazing [to receive the award,]” Kroviak said. “[Amateurs] are part of the sport, the backbone of the sport, so it’s good to get the recognition. I’m very blessed that I have been really successful at the lower levels, but I’m an amateur and I got lucky – I got a really good horse. This is our hobby and we love it, so to get even a small pat on the back is very rewarding. I’ve done some of the other equestrian sports and I really feel like the people in eventing are kinder, we help each other, and we don’t have a lot of that cutthroat [mentality] that you see in some of the other industries. It’s really cool that [Charles Owen] supports the lower levels – they give kudos to us amateurs. It’s really rewarding to have that recognition, and it’s very much appreciated."
“I would like to send a very grateful thank you to Charles Owen for my prize package, and to the judges who spent time to provide me with a critique,” Jones concluded. “I am most grateful to be honored with the recognition, and again, would like to thank everyone involved with the Technical Merit Award!”
About the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award
In 2009, the Professional Horseman’s Council and 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 of the 10 USEA Areas 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 and receives a score sheet with written comments, providing valuable feedback on their cross-country riding technique. ICP Certified Level III and IV Instructors, USEF licensed eventing officials, and USET Senior Team riders are all qualified to judge the Award. Click hereto learn more about the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award.
The USEA would like to thank Charles Owen for sponsoring the Technical Merit Award.
It’s the turn of the world’s best Eventing athletes to stand under the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games spotlight over the next few days as all but one of the horses presented at this morning’s horse inspection at Baji Koen Equestrian Park were confirmed for action by the Ground Jury.
And they're off! Eventing kicks off today in Tokyo (Thursday, July 29 – 7:30 p.m. ET), with the first of three Olympic dressage sessions. Competitors from 29 nations will go head to head, vying for a spot on the coveted Olympic podium.
There were a few last-minute dramas at the first horse inspection for the Tokyo Olympics which took place in the main equestrian park at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre at 9:30 a.m. JST today.