The Shepherd Ranch SYVPC Horse Trials hosted the Area VI leg of the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award, which is presented to one junior and one adult amateur rider based on their safe and effective cross-country riding. Bridget London and Anika Baker were the recipients of the adult amateur and junior awards, respectively.
Bridget London and Max Attraction (Dixie Chatter x Ban), her 6-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred, scored a 35.5 for ninth place after dressage, picking up 16 time penalties on cross-country and jumping a double clear show jumping round to finish the weekend in 11th place in the Training Rider division.
London started riding western at age 7 and made the switch to eventing at age 12 when she was at a barn that offered eventing. “[I was] immediately was hooked and then started taking lessons a few times a week and haven’t stopped since,” London explained. “[At the eventing barn] I got to ride a pony named Bug – I only did Intro and Beginner Novice on her but I loved it!”
London and Max Attraction have been partnered together since she got Max off the track in June of 2017. “I’ve been retraining him since with the help of Tamie Smith, which has been amazing since it was my first time getting a horse directly off the track,” London said. “I’ve had him for some time now and we have a pretty strong partnership but he is quite tricky so it’s taken a long time to get where we are!”
“I think being on a really sensitive off-the-track Thoroughbred has made me be more aware of my body position since he reacts to any movement,” she continued. “I’ve really developed in the last year by watching the best of the best ride every day and just getting to practice. The judges commented on my upper body position being strong which is something I work on a lot, that was good reassurance that I keep that around the course!”
London admitted to not knowing much about the award before receiving it but appreciates that it acknowledges proper cross-country riding. “I still have so much to work on but It’s a helpful way to have people want to be better!”
Anika Baker and Abright Star (Pavarotti x A Bid for Stardom), Tara Baker’s 7-year-old Trakehner/Thoroughbred mare, also competed in the Training Rider division at Shepherd Ranch, scoring a 31.6 to be tied for second place after dressage. A double clear cross-country round maintained their position, and a single rail in show jumping dropped them to sixth place.
“Being a trainer's daughter, I began riding as soon as I was able to sit up on my own,” Baker said. “My mom, Tara Baker, taught me the ropes of riding and horse care at a young age. When I was 8 years old, my family bought Bouncer, a scruffy 5-year-old Quarter Pony/Arabian cross. He taught me how to ride a buck, a bolt, a lazy school pony, and everything in between. We began eventing Beginner Novice when I was 11 and did our first Training when I was 15.”
After outgrowing Bouncer, Baker went hunting for something that could take her up the levels. “I thought I was ready for a going Preliminary horse (I wasn’t). After realizing that no going Preliminary horses were in my family’s price range, I tried a 4-year-old mare that Andrea Baxter had for sale at Twin Rivers. I liked the mare, but at the time I wanted something that was ready to bring me to upper levels quickly. Two weeks later of unsuccessful horse shopping, Andrea had posted on Facebook the mare’s recent success at the YEH Championships. I tried her again that week, and she came home with us in the trailer.”
Abright Star, or “Eve” as she’s known in the barn, was bred by Michlynn Sterling in San Luis Obispo. “For the first year of riding Eve, I mostly rode her in a halter and lead rope and cantered around for a little bit,” Baker said. “She has a huge heart and jumped anything I pointed her at. In a quick two years we were successfully competing at Training level. Looking back, I am so thankful for the decision to purchase Eve. Clean legs, no bad habits, pure talent, and great bloodlines. The time was worth it. I've learned just as much as she has in these past three years.”
Now living in San Luis Obispo while attending college, Shepherd Ranch was Baker’s first event after a summer spent backpacking – “I went the longest without sitting on a horse's back in my life,” Baker said. “After a very long month of not being able to ride, as soon as I got back I spent all my time and effort into riding.”
“I thought the feedback of my ride was spot on,” Baker commented. “The parts of the course I thought I could have ridden better had clear and useful comments, while the parts I thought rode nicely had great comments as well. My mom comes from a hunter/jumper background, and with that influence, I have always strived for a solid position and a graceful ride.”
“I really appreciated the organization of the Shepherd Ranch event and the efforts made to make the Technical Merit Award possible,” Baker concluded. “I am very grateful to have achieved this award, and I am so excited for my new cross-country vest!”
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 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.
Tamie Smith’s year has been nothing short of action-packed as she packed up all 25 of her competition horses and made her way to the East Coast for the first part of the year before hopping on a jet to Tokyo where she served as the U.S. team reserve for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She then stayed overseas and competed abroad for a little while before returning home to the West Coast. While this year has been full of opportunities to show, her aspirations are bigger than just competition. The 2021 Bates USEA Lady Rider of the Year has been full steam ahead chasing goals in both her riding career as well as in her impact on the sport’s future.
Get to know each United States Eventing Association (USEA) Areas a little better in this new series, Meet the Areas! This month’s feature is USEA Area I which is comprised of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Founded in the 1960s, Area I was the birthplace of the United States Combined Training Association (USCTA) which was founded in 1959 and would later evolve into the USEA in 2001. In 2021 just under 800 members made up the membership count in Area I.
Trainers, riders, parents, and more are in for a real treat when the all-new USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is officially released. Those participating in the 2022 USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) Symposium at Barnstaple South Farm in Ocala, Florida on February 8-9 will be the first to set eyes on this all-encompassing guide that has been two years in the making.
The USEA established the Young Event Horse (YEH) program in 2004 to identify young horses that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. While the goal of the YEH program is to identify horses that will be successful at the four- and five-star levels, horses with the potential for lower-level success are also showcased by the program.