Sep 01, 2023

Loyal to the Leaderboard: Cross-Country Offered a Fair and Fun Trip for Novice Riders

By Chelsea Lyn Agro - USEA | Press Release
Katherine Holzrichter and Idlehour Center Stage. USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo

Lexington, Ky.—September 1— Two hundred and forty Novice pairs took off on Jay Hambly’s cross-country course today as the temperature and competition started heating up at the 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds. Riders and horses covered six divisions that spanned the entire length of the day, and five out of six riders managed to keep their overnight standings.

USEA Novice Rider Championship

Moving from second-place standing to first on the leaderboard coming out of cross-country today was Katherine Holzrichter aboard her own 16-year-old bay Cleveland Bay-Thoroughbred mare Idlehour Center Stage (Idlehour Yorktown x Opening Night), taking her overnight dressage score of 28.9 with her to take the lead. And what a fine time to shine—it’s the Annapolis, Maryland, resident’s first AEC experience and first time ever in Kentucky.

“Everything felt just incredible. The course was amazing; she’s just amazing. Everything felt super easy, all the distances came great,” said Holzrichter. And while the pair is having a great start to the weekend, it’s bittersweet to know that this might be one of the last events they get to ride in together.

“She’s for sale because I’m looking to move up and find a new partner, so I wanted to have one of my last shows with her be super special. She’s been really nice, and we’ve been going super well all season. Our barn wanted to go, so I figured why not make the trek?” Holzrichter and “Cali” have a great group of support here with them from home rooting them on.

Madeline Bletzacker aboard the 23-year-old chestnut Danish Warmblood Landtino S (Solos Lantinus x Chess S) went from first to second-place standing after incurring 1.6 time faults during her cross-country trip, bumping their score up to a 29.2. Holding onto their third-place position on the leaderboard is Kalie Beckers on her own Calla GBF (by Carush), the 8-year-old palomino American Warmblood mare, keeping their overnight score of 29.3.

USEA Novice Horse Championship

Elissa Gibbs and Cooley Valentine. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

Elissa Gibbs (Georgetown, Kentucky) hung onto her overnight dressage score of 27.6 aboard her gray 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Valentine (OBOS Quality x Curraghgraigue Coevers Z). For Gibbs, it’s all about bringing home a more educated horse. She’s confident that with her successful cross-country trip today, that’ll be the case no matter how this level plays out.

“The horse was perfect, the course was beautiful, everything is done to the nine’s, so it was really just a fun experience. I have a second horse in the same division and I think they are going home more educated and more grown up than when they got there,” said Gibbs.

With show jumping on the horizon, Gibbs is feeling pretty good considering her history here. “We live locally so we have been able to jump in the stadium before, so I think that’s helpful to kind of rule that out as a factor but you just never really know until you’re in it.” And that’s part of the fun and nature of this sport. “The horse is typically a good jumper so we’ve also played in the jumpers a little bit so I feel good about it.”

Second and third-place riders also held tightly to their overnight dressage scores. Booli Selmayr on her own Uptown Girl (Uriko x Effina), the bay 5-year-old Holsteiner mare, is secure in second with her score of 28.1. In third-place standing is Katarzyna Jachymczyk riding her own 15-year-old chestnut Thoroughbred gelding Sock Monkey (Van Nistelrooy x Candy Cane Delight) and maintaining her score of 29.2.

USEA Novice Junior 15 & Under Championship

Kendal Fansler and Delilah's Boy. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

Kendal Fansler (Clarkesville, Maryland) kept her overnight score of 28.3 after a successful cross-country trip on Hedgerow Farm’s Delilah’s Boy, the gray 13-year-old Connemara-cross gelding. Camp chairs were clustered outside of her pony’s stall where her support system collectively agreed: This fills our cup of good.

When it comes to strategy, Fransler loves sticking to her competition routine for preparation. “Me and my trainer John Secan walk, and he tells me where I should ride and all the lines I should hit, and where I need to trot and slow down,” said Fansler. The Connemara-cross pony was taking a much needed nap and nodded his head just in time to politely agree with his rider—he indeed has a need for speed and requires some slowing down. Fansler isn’t too worried about retaining and implementing everything she needs to do as a rider aboard her trusty steed; her memorization skills are sharp.

Area II young rider Fransler loves riding cross-country and said, “It depends how the phases go but if cross-country goes well it’s my favorite.” Naturally, she’s leaving room for the third and final phase to be out-of-this-world special. “I feel very good about [show jumping]. He’s very good at show jumping. He likes to leave very long sometimes but he still just totally kills it. He’s very honest, too. Nothing really scares him.”

The overnight scores stand steady for the second and third place leaders as we head into show jumping tomorrow. Riley Mueller and Wendy Mueller’s 15-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse mare Gemily kept their score of 29.7. Ashby Hunt aboard Brighton Craig’s 5-year-old chestnut Thoroughbred-Cleveland Bay mare Riot’s Fabulous (A Fine Romance x Simplicity) held onto their score of 30.1.

USEA Novice Junior Championship

Emerson Padgett and MSH Giant Jac’ka. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

Emerson Padgett kept a tight grasp on her dressage score of 24.9 as she piloted her own 7-year-old chestnut gelding MSH Giant Jac’ka (Quebracho Semilly x Loupaline Du Haul) around the cross-country course today.

The Akron, Ohio, based rider has only had “Jack” for about nine months but that short timeframe hasn’t stopped them from developing a strong and meaningful bond. After all, he’s a pretty happy camper so long as he’s got plenty of hay on his travels and wherever he arrives. “He’s very happy,” said Padgett, whose mother exited “Jack’s” stall for another refill.

As far as personality goes, Jack is just a swell guy to be around. He doesn’t let the thrill of a big event atmosphere get into his head, which is why dressage has become a fast favorite for Padgett. “Throughout the summer we’ve just been improving on dressage at every event,” said Padgett. And when the scenery and situation lends more joy, she sure soaks it in. “He was really good; he felt great," she said. "It was fun. I really liked the ring we were in—it was just really fun to be up there.

Cross-country can be a greener phase for Jack, and not necessarily due to those grassy miles, but he shone bright today with Padgett’s confident cues. “He was so good today and felt so confident, and the course was so fun. I think it was our best cross-country run together so far,” said Padgett. “It was really fun toward the first half of the course. I think it was five to six to seven, and we galloped up the big hill, and that’s always fun to me because I got to let his stride go. All the combinations were really fun—the more technical stuff is always fun.”

With scores this close, there’s bound to be a shakeup. Caroline Burkhardt aboard Erika Burkhardt’s 14-year-old bay Holsteiner mare Stonehavens Dream (by Caricello) now sits in second place—retaining her overnight dressage score of 25.8—after Katie Johnson, aboard her own 14-year-old bay Thoroughbred gelding Darth Raider (Gray Raider x Amy’s Starr) incurred 1.2 time penalties, bumping her down to third-place standing following cross-country. She now has a score of 26.9 going into show jumping.

USEA Novice Master Amateur Championship

Jane Musselman and Engapore. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

Louisville, Kentucky's Jane Musselman held onto her overnight dressage score of 23.8 after her cross-country trip riding her own Engapore (Singapore x Orize), the 14-year-old gray Dutch Warmblood gelding.

“It was great; he was really fun. We’re pretty seasoned at this level so luckily that’s always nice. It’s just fun to get out there and run around—he loves to run,” said Musselman of her cross-country trip. With many riders raving about the uphill nature of the course, Musselman claimed that “Frosty” doesn’t care if it’s uphill or downhill—he just wants to run. “A lot of times at this level I’d have to trot but we were starting to get a good gallop that’s not just him running off.

“It’s all about me, I think. I think it’s my nerves. We have been in this spot two times before and lost it—both times in the show jumping—probably I think due to me,” said Musselman. “I just have to try to relax and trust that we can put in a good round.”

Right now, the calming thought of being somewhere mid-pack (instead of sitting in first) is relieving some of the obvious pressure that a leader always faces when the third and final phase arrives, therefore proving that mindset and perspective really are half the battle when it comes to performance.

Our leaderboard is holding strong for second and third-place standings as we set sights on show jumping with Ashley Allison riding her own 11-year-old dark bay Dutch Warmblood mare Sophie’s Story (Calido I x Utivia M), keeping her score of 29.2. Megan Beachler riding her own Cooley Sligo (Sligo Candy boy x Townland Pride), the 11-year-old gray Irish Sport Horse gelding, held onto a 29.4.

USEA Novice Amateur Championship

Hannah Reeser and Ltl Ireland Summr Soldier. USEA/Lindsay Berreth photo

Hannah Reeeser (Whiteville, Tennessee) rode for keeps when she mounted Ltl Ireland Summr Soldier (October Fox x Abby Darling), the 9-year-old bay Morgan mare owned by Virginia Reeser, for cross-country today. She managed to keep her overnight dressage score 26.3.

“She was perfect on cross-country. I couldn’t have faulted her at all. It was just a blast to run her around,” said Reeser. “I wouldn’t say the nerves have gone away. I’m super nervous for tomorrow, but we’ll see—that’s the sport of eventing.”

It can feel like a ton of pressure to sit in the lead but Reeser knows that it will ultimately come down to her against herself, the way it is for every rider who’s riding to win. Show jumping is not a friendly phase for this Tennessee resident. “I would have to say that it’s my weakest phase, so it doesn’t help leading…I tend to override a little bit, so as long as I don’t override her and just let her do her job, she’ll jump a clear round every day. It all comes down to me.”

Samantha Reinbold is close behind today’s leader by .4 of a point, making her score 26.7, aboard her own 6-year-old bay Holsteiner gelding Donald Drake (Diarado x Ninett). Mandolin Whitten is even closer on the heels of second place rider with a score of 26.8, aboard her own 12-year-old bay Hanoverian gelding, setting her up in third place position going into cross-country.

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About the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC)

The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC), presented by Nutrena Feeds, is the pinnacle of the sport at the national levels. Held annually, the best junior, adult amateur, and professional competitors gather to vie for national championship titles at every level from Beginner Novice to Advanced. This ultimate test of horse and rider draws hundreds of combinations from around the country to compete for fabulous prizes, a piece of the substantial prize money, and the chance to be named the National Champion at their respective levels. In fact, the 2021 AEC garnered over 1,000 entries and now stands as the largest eventing competition in North American history. The 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds will be held Aug. 29—Sept. 3 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.

The USEA would like to thank Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena Feeds; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsor: Bates Saddles; Gold Level Sponsors: Capital Square, Horse & Country, Parker Equine Insurance, Smartpak, Standlee; Silver Level Sponsors: Auburn Labs, Ecogold, Kerrits, The Jockey Club; Bronze Level Sponsors: 70 Degrees, Athletux, Black Petticoat, The Chronicle of the Horse, Devoucoux, D.G. Stackhouse and Ellis, Dubarry of Ireland, Equestrian Team Apparel, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Horseware Ireland, Majyk Equipe, Retired Racehorse Project, Ride EquiSafe; Contributing Level Sponsor: CrossCountry App, Georgetown – Scott County Tourism, Lexmark, L.V. Harkness, Mountain Horse, Mrs. Pastures Cookies, #WeRideTogether; Prize Level Sponsors: Coach Daniel Stewart, EquiFit, Equilab, Equiluxe Tack, Equine Essentials, Equine Pulse Performance, FarmVet, Achieve Equine/FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips, Horses 4 Your Consideration, Hound & Hare, I Love My Horse Eventing Boutique, Jack’s Favorites, Jane Heart Jewelry, Kinetic Equine Services, LeMieux, Levade Kentucky, Mare Modern Goods, OneTouch Fly Spray, Parkmore Supplements, Practical Horseman, Sidelines Magazine, Spy Coast Farm, Strides for Equality Equestrians, and VTO Saddlery.

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Weekend Quick Links: July 13-14

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