The USEA Area IX Championships took place during two different horse trials this summer, with the Modified Championships as part of the The Event at Archer (Cheyenne, Wymoming) in August and the Preliminary, Training, Novice, and Beginner Novice Championships taking place during The Event at Skyline (Mount Pleasant, Utah) in September. In addition, Area IX offered additional championship tests at the Starter and Tadpole levels at Skyline.
Open Preliminary Champions: Kimberley Castro & Athenian Conqueror | 38.6
For this year’s Open Preliminary Champion Kimberley Castro, winning the Area IX Championship at Skyline had an extra special feel to it.
“Skyline is a special place because it’s the brainchild of a group of people who care a whole lot about our community and about supporting this sport in our area,” she commented. “They work tirelessly, they cheer emphatically, they support endlessly, it’s an atmosphere that makes you feel like you can do absolutely anything. It’s a joy to be there.”
Castro won this year’s Area IX Preliminary Championships with her 11-year-old Thoroughbred mare Athenian Conquerer (Sky Conquerer x Rose of Athens). Castro refers to her partner as an “odd duck.”
“She spends the majority of her time in some sort of sleepy, zen-state, and yet when it’s time to get to work, she does exactly that,” said Castro. “I’m getting to know her, and our relationship has grown tremendously. I try to give her room to be herself, and we’re both learning to trust that we share similar priorities.”
Area IX provided their champions with beautiful trophies, which Castro was extremely appreciative of.
“The beauty of this sport is that we’re all in it for the love of the game, so coming back with something to show for all the nights you’ve spent awake thinking of jump exercises or conditioning regimens, well that trophy is just the cherry on top!” she said
Open Modified Champions: Finley Powell & Fernhill G.I. Joe | 50.2
Finley Powell was so grateful for her experience at the Area IX Championships, especially the fact that a Modified level was offered during The Event at Archer this past August.
Powell and Fernhill G.I. Joe (Maximum Joe x Seyclover), also known as “Ferb,” is a now 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding that Powell purchased three years ago when she was a working student for Joe Meyer.
“Ferb has helped me reach so many of my dreams and goals with so much more left ahead of us,” she reflected.
Going into show jumping, Powell was hoping to improve on past performances. “Show jumping has always been the phase with some missing screws, but we have been working hard, and it all came together. That is all thanks to my wonderful trainers Ashley Carr and Vicki Baker,” she said.
Powell felt like The Event at Archer was not lacking in the “championship buzz” and was very grateful to all of the volunteers and those behind the scenes who worked so hard to make the event special.
Open Training Champions: Ryleigh Leavitt & Gemini Ferrari Red | 34.2
Just .9 points separated first, second, and third place in the Open Training Championship which left little room for error as the competitors moved through the three phases of competition. Ryleigh Leavitt and her 11-year-old Holsteiner mare Gemini Ferrari Red (Lieutenant Kije x Pam’s Folly) started off their weekend in second place but ultimately moved up to claim the title of champion thanks to two double-clear rounds in both jumping phases.
“I bought ‘Ari’ in November of 2022 from Todd and Adrienne Smyrl’s Gemini farm after retiring my four-star horse,” said Leavitt. “Ari had been out on cross-country one time with Todd before I bought her. Todd has been working with me on our show jump this year, and luckily it paid off this weekend over the course that he designed. It was so fun to share the win with him!”
While Leavitt was beyond happy with Ari’s show jumping, there was another standout division for her from the championship weekend.
“I was thrilled with Ari’s show jumping, but on her cross-country run something clicked. She was galloping great and knew where to rate herself, but was game through the whole course. It was the first course I’ve really felt her do that the whole time. It was awesome!”
Open Novice Champions: Britany Chism & Mr. Popcorn | 32.5
In the Open Novice Championship it was Britany Chism and her 7-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Mr. Popcorn (Sidney’s Candy x Captivating Cathy) who led the division from start to finish. "Nettle" was a sale horse fail that Chism purchased with the intent of selling after her experience at the 2022 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover.
"I fell in love in a matter of weeks," said Chism with a laugh. "He went on to earn our team, Green Thumb Thoroughbreds, a top-5 finish in Field Hunters at the 2022 Makeover and qualify me for the 2022 American Eventing Championships. My friend and co-owner, Autumn Sorensen, knew he was my heart horse and fully supported me keeping him and selling my 2021 Makeover horse in his place. He officially became mine in June 2023."
The duo started their championship weekend off with a dressage score of 26.9 and added just 1.6 time penalties to their score to maintain their lead after cross-country. Even though they had one down in show jumping, they still concluded their week in the same place that they started, finishing out with a final score of 32.5.
"Coming out of the ring, I thought I’d lost the win with one rail down," said Chism, "but Sara Windley, who finished in second, met me at the out gate with congratulations. I just stared at her dumbfounded, I thought she went clean, and I was ready to congratulate her! And that’s why I love this sport; support and kudos from a perfect stranger, but a stranger no more. Now, I’m over the moon; I’ve never won a championship, let alone with one I’ve produced straight from the track."
This was Chism's first ever time competing at Skyline, and it was an experience she is glad she did not miss out on. "It was such a blast," she shared. "A very well produced show top to bottom, and they know how to have a good time! The competitor party was particularly festive with pioneer games—think bale chucking, spearing Swedish Fish, and wheelbarrow races."
Open Beginner Novice Champions: Elizabeth Gillmor & Expecto Patronum | 27.8
Elizabeth Gillmor’s 21-year-old Holsteiner cross gelding Expecto Patronum (Cento x Ceres Rouge) didn’t get his start in eventing until he was 17 years old.
“Cyrus is an ex-show jumper,” shared Gillmor, “but once he figured out how to jump things that you couldn't see through, he was hooked!”
The pair competed at the Novice level in 2021, but an injury led to Cyrus’ semi-retirement to a dressage career for that season.
“He tolerated that, and it was good for him, but he was bored,” Gillmor reflected. So the plan was made to bring Cyrus back into the eventing world, but just at the Beginner Novice level. He had his first event back this season in August at The Event at Archer and Gillmor shared he felt amazing.
“He was so full of joy and enthusiasm to be back out there, I had a huge grin on my face during every ride!” she said. The duo won their division, earning their qualification for the championships at Skyline.
Gillmor had two horses entered in the Beginner Novice Championship and found herself in an interesting position after the first phase.
“They were in first and second place after dressage, and that has never, ever happened before,” she said. Unfortunately, her second horse, Felix Felicis (all of Gillmor’s horses have Harry Potter-themed names), who started the weekend out leading the division had a bit of a look at a cross-country obstacle leading to 20 penalties being added to their score and moving Cyrus up to first. “Like any mom though, I can't play favorites, I'm so very proud of them both!” she said.
Because every horse is different, caring for some senior equines is easy while caring for others can be a challenge. When does a horse become senior, how does the body change, which health conditions become more prevalent, and what can owners do to compensate for their horse’s aging body?
United States Eventing Association (USEA) members from all over the country gathered on Saturday night for the 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention Year End Awards Ceremony. The evening’s ceremony was led by Master of Ceremonies Jim Wolf and recognized riders, horses, and game-changers in the sport of eventing with multiple awards and grants.
Hosting the Annual Meeting of Members each December has been a requirement set forth by the United States Eventing Association (USEA) by-laws (then the United States Combined Training Association) since 1959. This year, USEA members are gathering in St. Louis, Missouri, for the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention from Dec. 7 - Dec. 10 for four jam-packed days of educational seminars and open forums full of conversation surrounding our sport. Lunch on Friday, however, served as an opportunity for attendees to gather together for the USEA Meeting of Members once again.
As the 2023 competition year draws to a close and many of the high-performance and other riders are connecting at this year‘s USEA annual convention, the Great Meadow International organizers would like to update you on GMI.