The third annual Fall Spokane Sport Horse Farm Horse Trials in Spokane, Wash., September 28-October 1, offered riders the opportunity to participate in the Novice and Beginner Novice Three-Day events as part of the USEA Classic Series. Ten horse-and-rider combinations contested the Novice Three-Day while eight pairs competed in the Beginner Novice Three-Day, one of just two competitions of its kind in the United States this year. Most impressively, the winners of both divisions are just 14 years old and 13 years old, respectively.
Fourteen-year-old Ella Clifford and her own Grin and Bear it, an 11-year-old Appaloosa/Thoroughbred gelding (Rivendell’s Will x Zav April Showers), were in third place after dressage on a score of 29.4 and moved up to take the lead after putting in four clean endurance day phases. The pair jumped double clear on the final day of competition to secure the win in the Novice Three-Day.
Clifford bought “Bear” a year and a half ago after leasing him for six months. “He is my first horse and we seem to work really well together,” she said. “We competed at Beginner Novice in 2015, then moved up to Novice last year at Galway Downs in November. We are planning to move up to Training at Galway at the end of this month!”
“I decided to compete in the Novice Three-Day because I was excited about the long format,” explained Clifford. “Cross-country is of course my favorite phase and this just made it that much more fun . . . I really loved the roads and tracks because it was out in the forest. You got to go up and down really steep hills and it was so much fun being out there with just my horse.”
“Make sure you spend time to understand the courses and what you’re supposed to do,” advised Clifford. “At least for me it was really confusing what I was supposed to do, but after I walked everything and had a lot of explanations it was really simple.”
Ella Clifford and Grin and Bear It's cross-country round from Spokane Farm. Video courtesy of RideOnVideo.
Shruti Bona capped off her 13th birthday weekend by winning the Spokane Sport Horse Farm Beginner Novice Three-Day from start to finish aboard Dr. Linda Kirsch’s 17-year-old Oldenburg/Morgan gelding, Luke, on their dressage score of 25.5.
Bona began riding when she was seven years old and got into eventing when she started working with her trainer, Bianca Linder. “I’ve always been interested in horses and other animals," said Bona, “and I’m also very competitive, so I enjoy the challenge of eventing.”
Luke hadn’t competed for three years when Bona began leasing him from Kirsch a little over a year ago. “We are finally figuring out each other’s buttons,” said Bona. Spokane Sport Horse Farm Horse Trials marks the end of their first full season competing together, during which they’ve finished outside the top five only once.
Shruti Bona and Luke. Photo courtesy of Shruti Bona.
Bona and Luke only completed three Novice level horse trials together this season and weren’t qualified for the Novice Three-Day so they decided to compete in the Beginner Novice Three-Day instead. “This was a whole new experience for me and I enjoyed learning from it,” said Bona.
“[Endurance] day was by far my favorite part of the competition,” said Bona. “Starting out with roads and tracks, following up with steeplechase, and ending with another roads and tracks was a great way to warm up and get Luke moving for cross-country. Luke had no issue with the physical fitness required for the day. I was so proud of how he handled the terrain and finished with energy to do more!”
“The Three-Day Event definitely does require that your horse is in good shape,” Bona observed. “You can’t just stop with the riding portion; you have to keep in mind that the aftercare is just as important. I iced Luke’s hocks, stifles, and front tendons for almost an hour after the cross-country phase, then put liniment and wraps on his legs, walked him every two hours after, and rewrapped his legs that night. This was all precaution to make sure that he didn’t stock up and give him the best chance for a successful stadium round the next day.”
“This event was very rewarding for me because Luke’s owner was able to watch us compete and help out as the “pit crew” in the vet box on cross-country day,” concluded Bona.
Watch Shruti and Luke's cross-country round in the Beginner Novice Three-Day at Spokane Farm! Video courtesy of RideOnVideo.
View full scores from the competition by clicking here.
About the USEA Classic Series
The thrill of the 'chase lives on for those who want to experience the unforgettable rush of the classic long format three-day event!
Long-format events from the Beginner Novice to Preliminary levels are still a reality with the USEA Classic Series and include roads and tracks, steeplechase, and cross-country on "endurance day," as well as horse inspections. Educational activities are offered at the Classic Series Events. Visit the USEA Classic Series page to learn more about the Series and see upcoming classic format events in your area, and check here to see if you are qualified!
Thanks to our generous sponsors, the USEA Classic Series Event winners have the opportunity to compete for a variety of prizes including SmartPak engraved halters and leadshanks; the chance to win a year of SmartPaks; Point Two Air Jackets; online subscriptions to Eventing Training Online; USEA logowear; Fleeceworks saddle pads; and Stackhouse Saddles!
This story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Sidelines Magazine.
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