Mar 23, 2024

Melypsa and Ariel Grald Set Their Sights on the Dutta Corp. USEA YEH Championships

By Kaleigh Collett - USEA Staff
Ariel Grald and Dr. Lisa Casinella discuss Melypsa's conformation at the 2024 Ocala Horse Properties USEA YEH Symposium at Majestic Oaks in Ocala, Florida. USEA/Kaleigh Collett photo

After an impressive showing at the 2024 Ocala Horse Properties USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Symposium in February, the USEA caught up with Ariel Grald to chat about her upcoming plans for Annie Eldridge's coming 5-year-old Holsteiner mare, Melypsa (Barcley x Elypsa), whom she expertly piloted around the Symposium course to become one of the panelists’ favorite demonstrations. The feedback that Grald received at the event, coupled with the mare’s quick progress throughout the winter season in Florida, has spurred her to set her sights on qualifying for the Dutta Corp. USEA YEH East Coast 5-Year-Old Championships later this year.

Though Grald has ample experience bringing along young horses, this could be her first appearance at the YEH Championships since 2020, when she competed Eldrige’s now 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding bred by Patrick Smith, Corraghoe Brilliant (Tolan R x Corraghoe Dreamer), in the 5-year-old division. While some of her upper-level horses have been the focus in recent years, Grald is ready to dedicate time to the YEH series with this talented mare.

"Mera," as she is known around the barn, spent much of her 4-year-old year growing and maturing, but now Grald is ready to up the ante on her training plans. “She’s very brave jumping, so improving her flatwork is going to be the biggest thing,” she explained when asked about plans for Mera’s progression over the coming months. “From what I’ve seen and experienced in the YEH Championships, they really need to be quite broke even though they’re only 5.”

Grald has four categories that she focuses on when she is working to improve a young horse’s work on the flat: suppleness, lateral work, strength, and hill work. She works to achieve suppleness through the use of lateral work, stating that “a big focus of mine—that I do with all of my young horses—is that she needs to be able to learn leg yielding, haunches-in. and shoulder-in. There’s no reason why she can’t do all the lateral movements in her training.” Going back to the basics, she also incorporates tons of transitions to improve the horse’s strength and impulsion from behind.

Once these core principles are achieved, Grald leans on the natural terrain at her farm to enhance the flatwork. “I do a lot of flat work on a hill in the big cross-country field in North Carolina just to get the horses balancing on their own, pushing up the hill, and then sitting and collecting down the hill,” she described. “I use that with a lot of poles and cavaletti work. Incorporating some hill work in the dressage is where I’m going next with her.”

With limited local opportunities to compete in the series in North Carolina, Grald plans to debut Melypsa at a YEH Qualifier that coincides with an event that her upper-level horses are attending later this spring or early summer. She noted that in her preparations for the Championships, exposure to new experiences and locations will be critical to ensure success at such a major event. “There is a lot for the young horses to look at [at the Championships], so I will definitely make sure to pick different venues for her to compete at, or even if she just comes along to different venues as a non-compete horse with some of my older horses, it will be super important to get the mileage traveling and getting used to new places,” she noted. “It’s not always just about horse shows. It’s that they get on a trailer, go to a new place; they settle, they work, and they’re able to deal with the change in routine. I think that is as important as exposing them to a horse show atmosphere, that they are mentally okay with change.”

Though preparation is key, Grald said that Mera has been incredibly level-headed in her outings thus far, leading her to believe that she will take to the excitement of competing quite naturally. “The way I always describe her is that she’s very sensitive, but she’s sensible,” she said with a laugh. “She sees and hears everything, she’s always listening to you, her senses are always on overdrive, but she’s still so sensible. She has a way of perceiving everything around her in her environment, but not reacting in an overly emotional way.”

Before being imported from Germany, Mera participated in several in-hand shows for her breeder Sönke Eggers, including winning the 2022 Champion Mare Bred for Jumping title at the Elmshorn Verband Mare Show. Grald credits some of the horse’s temperament to these experiences. “She likes the stimulation, and she likes getting out there. She knows what a horse show is, so she likes to pose and have people tell her she’s beautiful. She’s a horse that likes to show off.”

Melypsa wins Champion Mare Bred for Jumping at the 2022 Elmshorn Verband Mare Show in Germany. Janne Bugtrup photo

Participating in the Ocala Horse Properties USEA YEH Symposium opened Grald’s eyes in more ways than one. Mera tends to be a naturally powerful, high-intensity horse at home, but she really zeroed in on the task at hand when she was at Majestic Oaks (Reddick, Florida) and didn’t let the atmosphere undo her. Grald also noted that the panelists’ comments allowed her to assess her current progress and start setting goals for the rest of the year.

“Hearing Debbie [Adams] and Marilyn [Payne] analyze her gallop, I realized ‘Oh, I need to actually practice her gallop,’ because she has a very good gallop, but I don’t think I showed that as well as I could have because I’ve never gone that fast on her under saddle, at least not intentionally,” Grald explained when asked what her major takeaways were from the symposium. “Riding in the Young Event Horse Series is not like going to an event, it’s a very different mentality and approach about how you show your horse off the best. It’s how you can put on that different lens on and show your horse in a different way that is important.”

The USEA wishes Grald and Mera a successful season as they work towards qualifying for the East Coast Championships. As a reminder, on the East Coast, horses must earn one score of a 75% or higher at any YEH qualifier event to be eligible for the East Coast Championships. To be eligible for the West Coast Championships, horses must earn one score of a 70% or higher at any YEH qualifier event. To view the 2024 USEA Young Event Horse Calendar, click here.

About the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program

The Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses aged four- and five-years-old, that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the four- and five-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.

The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to learn more about the Young Event Horse Program.

The USEA would like to thank ARMA, Bates Saddles, Capital Square, HorseWeek, Kerrits, Parker Equine Insurance, SmartPak, Standlee, and The Jockey Club for sponsoring the Young Event Horse Program. Additionally, the USEA would like to thank The Dutta Corp., Title Sponsor of the Young Event Horse Championships.

May 25, 2024 Eventing News

Caitlin Silliman: The Roller Coaster World of Eventing

As both an eventer and business owner, Caitlin Silliman is well aware of the need for a solid team behind her. Not only has she had supportive family and friends cheering her on, she has ridden and worked under top-notch professionals such as Susie Beale and Silva and Boyd Martin, and now runs her business side by side with her good friend and fellow eventer Erin Kanara at Erin’s farm in Pennsylvania, the state Caitlin has always called home.

May 24, 2024 AEC

Three Months Until the Start of the 20th Anniversary USEA American Eventing Championships

The 2024 United States Eventing Association (USEA) American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds is just over three months away, which means it is time to start planning your trip to Lexington, Kentucky! For the second year in a row, the AEC, which is brought to you by the USEA and its organizing partners at Equestrian Events, Inc and Mary Fike, will return to the iconic Kentucky Horse Park from Aug. 27 to Sept. 1.

May 24, 2024 News

Athletux Signs on as Bronze Sponsor for 2024 USEA American Eventing Championships

The United States Eventing Association, Inc. (USEA) is pleased to announce Athletux as a “Bronze Level Sponsor for the 2024 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC)” taking place at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, Aug. 27- Sept. 1. Athletux will also be the “Official Commentary Provider” at the AEC, offering commentary for the upper levels at the event. All levels of the AEC will be live streamed.

May 23, 2024 Eventing News

Weekend Quick Links: May 25-26

Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.

Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

Official Saddle of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Competition & Training Apparel of the USEA

Official Horse Boot of the USEA