The fillies were on fire at the 2018 USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) West Coast Championships at Twin Rivers Ranch in Paso Robles, California. Twain’s Fireflight DF, the Overall Yearling Champion, Iluminada, the Overall 2-Year-Old Champion, and Hallelujah DF, the FEH 3-year-old Grand Champion are all fillies that packed a powerful punch to come out on top. To add the cherry on top, Cheron Laboissonniere’s Holsteiner mare Hallelujah DF (Mighty Magic x Columbia BF) pulled off a hat trick as she earned her third consecutive FEH championship title.
It was a day filled with returning champions, girl power, and Dragonfire Farm that nearly cleaned house by claiming titles in three out of the four championship divisions. The fourth and final division was the 4-year-old FEH Championship with the title going to Coronado (Chilli Morning x Estrella), a chestnut stallion owned, bred, and ridden by Andrea Baxter. “I’m kind of a mare person, so we’ll see how this goes, but so far so good!” Baxter said with a smile. Hosting the championship in her backyard, Baxter explained her interest in the FEH program. “It’s fun to have all the babies here and the jump chute. I think it’s a great experience [for the young horses] and gives them training and experience.” The returning Grand Champion of the 2017 FEH West Coast Championships, Marta Petrenko’s Oldenburg mare, Lady Elegance (Lankonig x Ultimate Elegance) put in a competitive performance to finish as Reserve Champion in the 4-year-old division.
"We knew she was special right from the beginning,” Jennifer McFall said of Hallie, also known as Hallelujah DF, the Holsteiner mare owned by Cheron Laboissonniere. Hallie earned the Overall Yearling Champion in 2016, Overall 2-Year-Old Champion in 2017, and is this year’s Overall 2018 FEH 3-year-old Grand Champion. Her elastic movement, power, and scope impressed the judges to finish the championship on an impressive score of 90.19, the highest score of the day. “My mother bred [Hallelujah DF] and it was her dream to see her daughter on her, so I was lucky,” McFall emphasized.
"I think this program has set her up so well for the future,” McFall said. “She loves to show, and she knows when she’s showing,” Jennifer McFall’s husband, Earl McFall added. With regards to the FEH program, McFall explained that, “It gives you a leg up on the future with your horse, and your horse is ready to go and exposed in a low-pressure environment.” The 3-year-old Reserve Champion was Michlynn Sterling’s Kosmic Twist S (Corland x April’s Twist), a Dutch Warmblood mare with Andrea Baxter as handler. Rounding out the top three was Holger Hoetzel’s Terraplane Blues (Herbstkonig x Tanzdiva), a Trakehner gelding who finished third on a score of 83.51.
"She’s another super mare,” McFall said of Iluminada, the Overall 2-year-old Champion owned by Ann Patton. “All three of the mares have big personalities but are all quietly confident.” The 2-year-old Overall Reserve Champion was Sarah McCarthy’s Connemara Thoroughbred cross gelding, Bounce DFEN (Redbuds Blue Moon x Manzanita).
Twain’s Fireflight DF (The Twain x Dominga), an Oldenburg mare owned by Sarah Moseley and bred by the McFalls, won the Overall Yearling Championship. “She looked the judges right in the eye and really showed her quality today. She’s an exciting cross because she’s by our stallion, Twain, so she’s Thoroughbred on top and Hanoverian on bottom,” said McFall. Sarah Gross’s Royal Street (Bridon Beale Street x Delenn), an Irish Draught Sport Horse mare, earned Overall Reserve Champion in the Yearling Championship with a final score of 80.33.
Robin Walker and Peter Gray were the Championship judges, and in order to provide safety and efficiency, Klaus Schengber and his handling team facilitated the jump chute. The horses in the 3-year-old and 4-year-old age groups are given the opportunity to perform the jump chute up to six times, building to maximum height as they go, while keeping safety of paramount importance. If a horse is ever over faced, the judges will make the call to either let the horse be finished, or have the fences lowered for a final, confidence boosting jump line. For the 3-year-olds, the maximum height of the first fence is 2’7”, the second is 2’9”, and the last fence is 3’3” in the front and 3’7” in back. For the 4-year-olds, the maximum height increases by a couple of inches with the first fence at 2’9”, second fence at 3’ 3”, and the last fence is 3’7” in front and 3’9” in the back.
The USEA awarded the Born In America Award, which is presented to the highest scoring horse at the Championship that is American-bred, and this year’s winner was none other than the 3-year-old Grand Champion, Hallelujah DF. Congratulations to all the participants in the 2018 USEA FEH West Coast Championships! Stay tuned for the FEH East Coast Championships this weekend, September 22-23 at Loch Moy Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. The Central FEH Championships will take place at the Texas Rose Horse Park Saturday, September 29.
About the USEA Future Event Horse Program
The USEA introduced the Future Event Horse (FEH) Program in 2007 as a pilot program in response to the popularity of the already established USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program. Where the YEH program assesses 4- and 5-year-old prospective event horses based on their performance, the FEH program evaluates yearlings, 2-year-olds, and 3-year-olds for their potential for the sport based on conformation and type. Horses are presented in hand and divisions are separated by year and gender. At the Championships, 3-year-olds are also required to demonstrate their potential over fences in an additional free-jump division. New in 2017 was the FEH 4-year-old division, designed for youngsters not quite ready for the rigors of the Young Event Horse program. These horses are presented under saddle at the walk, trot, and canter before being stripped of their tack and evaluated for their conformation. Additionally, 4-year-olds also participate in the free-jump divisions at Championships to show their potential over fences. Click here to learn more about the Future Event Horse Program.
The USEA would like to thank SmartPak, Standlee Hay Company, and Merck Animal Health for sponsoring the Future Event Horse Program and Twin Rivers Ranch/Baxter family for hosting the 2018 West Coast FEH Championships!
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