Nov 04, 2023

Meet the 2023 Waredaca Classic Three-Day Event Champions

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
GRC Photography photos

The Waredaca Classic Three-Day Event & H.T. is a destination location for many eventers seeking to complete a USEA Classic Series event. Waredaca was the first host of the USEA Classic Series Three-Day Event, and this year marked its 18th year offering the traditional long format. This year, three-day competition was offered at the Modified, Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice levels from Oct. 27-29 in Laytonsville, Maryland.

Kate Nolfi and Wild Pioneer. GRC Photo

Modified champion, Kate Nolfi of Hinesburg, Vermont, grew up in the hunter/jumper world but transitioned to eventing in her late 20s thanks to Jeanette Ford and a very special horse named Emily Bug. She has been hooked ever since. She acquired the horse that she won the Modified long-format with this weekend, the now 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Wild Pioneer (Pioneering x Miss Wildflower), eight years ago.

“Pi is a big off-the-track Thoroughbred with an even bigger personality,” shared Nolfi. “We have come a very long way together, and I am a better rider and a better person for all that he has taught me.”

Nolfi participated in her very first three-day event at the Training level with Emily Bug in 2014 at the Heart of the Carolina’s 3-Day Event & H.T. She knew that it was a goal she wanted to reach once more in her eventing career.

“It's been a dream of mine to do a long format again,” she shared. “This year the stars really just aligned to make it possible.”

True to his racing roots, Nolfi shared that Pi thrived in the steeplechase element.

“As soon as we got going on the steeplechase track, Pi was just so obviously in his element and having a blast. I felt so lucky that I got to be along for the ride while he did his thing out there!” she said.

The duo started their weekend out in second following dressage and left their original marks unharmed through all of the following phases to finish in first on their dressage score of 36.6. Nolfi is thrilled with the experience and encourages everyone to aim for a three-day event in the future.

“Definitely, definitely go for it!" she said. "There is nothing that builds your partnership with your horse in the way that training for and completing a long format will.”

Danielle Downing and Caribe PCH. GRC Photo

In the Training Three-Day, Danielle Downing and Nancy Read’s 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding Caribe PCH (Con Capilot x Rhonda) emerged victorious thanks to an impressive dressage score of 28.5 followed by a fault-free performance throughout the weekend.

Her partnership with Caribe is almost as unique as his backstory.

“Caribe, or as many people know him around here as my boyfriend, is a catch ride for me. We only meet at shows, sort of like dating,” joked Downing. “His owner’s sister got him pretty cheap as a baby due to his crooked face and buck teeth hoping he’d make a dressage horse. However it was soon discovered that he wanted to jump, and she gave him to her sister Nancy Read, his now owner.”

But, early in his career Caribe broke his leg and was not expected to survive the injury.

“He spent four months in the clinic and then six months of rehab where he beat the odds and made a full recovery,” said Downing.

Caribe and Read would get back their winning ways but ultimately had another bump in the road in 2019 when the horse lost his confidence jumping. Read called upon Alex Conrad for help and after a little bit of work, he was back at it again, but this time with Downing in the tack.

“I started riding him three summers ago at the Training level,” she reflected. “It wasn’t always easy at first, but over the years we have created a pretty cool partnership. He loves to compete now and really trusts me. He lets me know on our way to the start box.”

In their time together, Downing and Caribe have never not finished on their dressage score and have only finished outside of the top three once, which was at this year’s highly competitive USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (Lexington, Kentucky) where the pair still concluded the weekend on the same score on which they started.

“I feel very lucky to be able to ride and compete this amazing horse,” shared Downing. “I just love him and being a part of his journey.”

Downing, who has been a lifelong equestrian, first rode in a long-format in 1992 at the NAYRC.

“I loved it,” she commented. “I’m so grateful to have the classic series back! I’ve been going to Waredaca for the past five to six years now, and I always encourage all of my students to go. I love all of the horsemanship involved with getting there and competing. It’s a lost art for sure.”

This year marked Downing’s second three-day with Caribe. She finished in third place with him in the Training Three-Day last year, but this year was the duo’s time to shine.

“I can’t thank all of the organizers enough,” she reflected. “They work so hard to make this happen for all of us riders. It’s definitely the best event all year. I truly believe that anyone who events should do a long-format. It is so educational and rewarding. My advice for anyone wanting to compete is to do your homework! The fitness of horse and rider is a huge part and will make your whole experience so much better if you are both fit. But also, remember to have fun and enjoy all of this with your horse. It’s an amazing experience that you’ll never forget!”

Nancy Read and Classic Chrome PCH. GRC Photo

Making the weekend even more special for Caribe’s owner was that Read also claimed first place in the Novice Three-Day at Waredaca this past weekend aboard Caribe’s half-brother, Classic Chrome PCH (Con Capilot x Southern Belle). Read has collected a trio of Con Capilot babies, all born at Plum Creek Hollow Farm in Colorado, which includes a sister named Carolina PCH, whom she calls Malibu.

“We came to Waredaca last year and had so much fun we all wanted to come back,” shared Read. Read and “Classic” are repeat winners at this event, having won the Beginner Novice Three-Day at Waredaca in 2022. She first purchased Classic when he had just been started and her daughter, Annie, and Alex Conrad have been extremely helpful in bringing him along.

But it wasn’t just the fun they had last year that influenced Read’s decision to return to Waredaca for the traditional format this year.

“I evented Classic and did well when I wasn’t messing something up but he has always been tough to get in front of my leg,” she shared. “I have never owned a horse so laid back as Classic. This past summer in the soggy footing of New Hampshire, I ran into confidence issues that were my fault, I’m sure, but I was doubting our partnership. I was hoping that Waredaca Three-Day could get Classic motivated and help me to get my head in the game.”

And it did just that, according to Read.

“After the steeplechase, going up to the start of cross-country was the first time Classic seemed like he wanted to run instead of napping,” she said. “I still motivated him and had a few Pony Club kick moments, but he seemed pleased with himself.”

While they started in second on their dressage score of 25, their impeccable weekend of double-clear trips moved them up to first going into the final phase. They won the division just a half of a point ahead of the second-place pair.

“I would recommend everyone to do a three-day,” commented Read. “The officials, judges, and clinicians all support and help you. We had perfect weather and amazing staff, as well as all the volunteers. Thank you to all involved, how fortunate to have this opportunity!”

Emma Whitaker and HSH Golden Boy. GRC Photo

A score of 26.0 would put Emma Whitaker and Hedgerow Farm’s 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse HSH Golden Boy (Eastern Hero x Princess Boo) in third place at the start of the weekend, but all weekend long this pair proved to be the one to beat, delivering fault-free rounds to gradually move up to the top of the leaderboard.

Whitaker started riding at the age of five and in 2019 started riding with her current trainer, John Secan. She started in the hunter ring, but Secan thought it would be very educational for Whitaker to learn to ride outside the confines of an arena and set up some jumps in their fields. Eventually, Whitaker worked her way up to a cross-derby before competing at her first recognized Beginner Novice in 2021 at the age of 10 with her pony, Sammy, whom she recently outgrew.

“When I outgrew my pony this year, it was hard to find a horse that I loved as much as him, but ‘Oscar’ is the one!” shared Whitaker. “He is the sweetest horse, and he seems to want to work with me in every phase. My family lives on a horse farm, and I get to ride every day with my cousin, Kendal. I think our horses know us and work hard for us because we take care of them every day and see them every day so we get to have a great relationship with them.”

Emma and her cousin often compete side-by-side, and they both competed at the Waredaca Three-Day last year where Whitaker finished in ninth.

“We had so much fun!” she said of her experience in 2022. “We made friends we got to see at competitions all year and we left feeling proud of our weekend and excited to try again this year.”

Whitaker shared that last year was a great opportunity to introduce herself to the long-format and improve her skills as a rider, but she left with some areas she wanted to improve on this year.

“For me, the endurance day last year was really hard,” she said. “We both did not wear watches for cross-country since we were still fairly new to eventing and at 11, jumping the jumps well and remembering the courses were our main focus. We rode the rhythm that we practiced with John and were able to ride within time without watches all season. The Three-Day endurance day really requires the use of a watch. So we prepared for the show and did all the fitness work to make sure our ponies were prepared, but I messed up my cross-country time and got points added to my dressage score.”

In preparation, in addition to conditioning both Oscar and herself, Whitaker worked with her watch all year long leading up to Waredaca. But, as every eventer knows, even the best plans don’t always pan out.

“This year my goal was to not add any points to my dressage score and I worked with my watch all season. Of course, I hit the wrong button on my watch for steeplechase and had to do the math in my head to check my time, but I did and it all worked out! Oscar gave me his all in every phase and I was so proud of him, I'm already looking forward to next year!”

In fact, Whitaker and her cousin are already encouraging their friends to join them again at Waredaca next year. Her biggest piece of advice to three-day newcomers is to attend all of the educational events that the long-formats offer to help you prepare for success.

“This year, Tim Bourke was there to educate and help and we learned so much from him," she said. "Going to the course walks and dressage test demos are so helpful! Not only do they give you tips on how to ride the course or test for that weekend, but the tips they give are helpful for showing in the future. The dressage demos were helpful especially this year since the dressage tests were unique to the three-day event. You got to hear what the judges were looking for in your level's specific test and watch someone ride it and get feedback.”

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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