Oct 30, 2023

Kelton and Bletzacker Build Stronger Bonds with their Horses in Classic Series Divisions at Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff

The Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event is a staple in the midwestern eventing calendar, one that often has an impressive waitlist if you didn’t get your entry in at 12:01 a.m. on opening day. This year the event, held Oct. 18-22 in Lexington, Kentucky, also hosted two USEA Classic Series Event divisions at the Novice and Training level, both of which were hotly contested.

In the Training Three-Day, Canadian Jacquie Kelton kicked off the weekend in second place after dressage with her own 6-year-old Canadian Warmblood mare Miss Something Special (Rash R x SELMA DE LA BATIA) on a score of 30.2. The pair moved up the leaderboard to first when they finished on that exact score after fault-free performances in the other phases of the long-format event.

Kelton first got her first taste of the eventing world 19 years ago thanks to Pony Club and has been hooked ever since. She purchased “Marigold” as a green 4-year-old in the spring of 2021 and has been bringing her along at her own pace.

“She hadn't done much of anything at that point,” shared Kelton of when she first connected with her new partner, “and we just played around with things that year to see what she would do with new experiences. We went to a few entry-level events, similar to Beginner Novice, last year and she just took everything in stride. I was lucky enough to get to go to Florida for a bit in February and March which gave us an early start to the season and made me think that we could actually get to the Training Three-Day at Midsouth at the end of this year. It felt like an optimistic goal but every time I asked something new of her she responded very positively.”

Jacquie Kelton and Miss Something Special. Xpress Foto photo courtesy of Kelton

While Kelton shared that she and Marigold had their fair share of ups and downs this season just due to the mare’s greenness across the country, she felt like the goal of the three-day grew more possible as their season continued.

“I thought this year [the long-format event] would be the perfect test for me to see where we were as a partnership because I knew the cross-country would be a little tougher than a normal horse trial, especially with the added phases on endurance day.”

Their preparation leading up to the event and then participating in the three-day itself lended Kelton and Marigold an opportunity to get to know one another on a deeper level. She was pleased to see how the mare handled the endurance phases and was especially proud of how the steeplechase played out. In hindsight, she says the steeplechase phase was her favorite and that other event riders should consider entering the traditional three-day format just to experience the unique feeling the steeplechase offers.

“She loved the steeplechase, and it really helps you get going and thinking forward for your cross-country ride later,” reflected Kelton. “I was also thrilled with her when she was getting a little tired at the end of the cross-country and I asked her to dig in a bit and she responded so well! All of that combined with the experience of show jumping the day after with a more tired horse than usual was really educational for me and provided great insight into what she might become in the future.”

Asking questions is Kelton’s biggest suggestion to those considering entering the long format for the first time.

“Have fun and ask lots of questions of the clinician and anyone who has done it before,” she said. “Also go to all the educational seminars because they do such a good job of finding experts like Erin Strader and Dorothy Crowell to provide guidance. It will make you way less stressed out for endurance day!”

Madeline Bletzacker and Landtino S pictured at the 2023 AEC. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

Madeline Bletzacker is no stranger to the USEA Classic Series. She won the Novice Three-Day at Waredaca (Laytonsville, Maryland) in 2022 aboard her other horse, Drummer Boy, and came in second with her longtime partner Landtino S (Solos Lantinus x Chess S). But this year, it was “Pumpkin’s” time to shine as Bletzacker and the 23-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding led the Novice Three-Day at the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event from start to finish on their dressage score of 25.4.

Bletzacker got her start in eventing in the 80s as she rehabbed ex-racehorses for new careers.

“I had to do something with the ones that were not hunter material,” said Bletzacker, “so I prepared them for eventing.”

And from there, she was bitten by the eventing bug. She recorded her first USEA win in 1996 and has recorded over 100 wins since.

Bletzacker acquired the 8-year-old Pumpkin as a failed dressage horse. He started his career as a hunter derby mount, but Bletzacker eased him into eventing and in 2014 he was named the USEA Novice Horse of the Year. Since then, he has had an impressive career eventing with Bletzacker, including winning the USEA Novice Master Amateur Championship at the 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships, presented by Nutrena Feeds.

While last year Pumpkin was second to Drummer Boy in a field of 44 at the Waredaca Three-Day, this year his stablemate took the backseat, finishing in third. Getting to ride both of her horses and have such a great finish in Kentucky meant a lot to Bletzacker.

She noted that Pumpkin’s favorite phase of the three-day is the steeplechase, but she has a different standout moment in mind.

“The victory gallop!” she shared excitedly. “My horse is 23, and I am 67. It gives hope to older horses and older riders.”

As someone who has contested the traditional format many times, Bletzacker encourages all who aim to participate in the future to really prioritize building your bond with your horse as you work towards getting fit together in preparation.

About the USEA Classic Series

The USEA Classic Series keeps the spirit of the classic long ­format three­-day events alive for Beginner Novice through the Preliminary levels. Competitors can experience the rush of endurance day, including roads and tracks, steeplechase, the vet box, and cross­-country, as well as participate in formal veterinary inspections and educational activities with experts on the ins and outs of competing in a long ­format three-­day event. Riders who compete in a USEA Classic Series event during the year will have the chance to win a variety of prizes at the events from USEA sponsors, and earn leaderboard points. Click here to learn more about the USEA Classic Series.

The USEA would like to thank bronze sponsors SmartPak Equine and D.G. Stackhouse & Ellis Saddles, as well as contributing sponsors Bates Saddles and Parker Equine Insurance for supporting the USEA Classic Series.

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