Jul 29, 2022

Nielsen and Egdes Celebrate Rewarding Victories at USEA Classic Series Event at Rebecca Farm

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Left: Marissa Nielsen and Ozzie with his owners, photo courtesy of Marissa Nielsen. Right: Raquel Edges, Courtney Drake photography

The Event at Rebecca Farm, which took place July 20 -24, was host to the third USEA Classic Series event of 2022, offering both Training Three-Day (T3D) and Novice Three-Day (N3D) divisions. Traveling from Wilton, California, it was Marissa Nielsen who emerged victorious in the T3D with Black DiAmond Partner’s 6-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Ozzie (Well Done x Zina), while the Kirkland, Washington native, Raquel Egdes brought home the win in the N3D aboard her own 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Ardeo Refined (Numero Cruise x Mountain Beauty).

Pony Club was what sparked Nielsen’s love for eventing at an early age. The former Graduate A Pony Clubber even rode in Europe for a few years before transitioning to the show jumping ring for 10 years. When the Grand Prix show jumpers that she was working for relocated to New Zealand, Nielsen decided to dive right back into eventing head-first eight years ago.

Nielsen is no stranger to the long-format event, having competed in the original long-format one-star back in her high school years, but this year’s Rebecca Farm USEA Classic Series event was her first time returning to a long-format event since. She was hoping that the classic long-format would suit Ozzie, her ride for this year’s T3D since he has a bit of a nervous temperament at shows.

“We bought him as a 4-year-old while horse shopping in Ocala,” reflected Nielsen. “He had done a couple of Beginner Novices before we bought him, so I have brought him up through where he is now. My owner Becky really fell in love with him and had to have him. I liked him too, but she is the one that really loved him. We thought that we were going to share him a little bit. He was pretty quiet at the time and we thought she could take him Beginner Novice and I could get him going and see what he could do, but he came home and wound up being a lot more horse than we thought we were buying, so he has become more of just my ride. I am super thankful to my owners Becky and Jim for giving me the opportunity to ride this horse.”

She describes the young horse as one who tries hard, but his goofiness and spooky nature can get in his own way sometimes. “He gets a bit nervous so I have had to kind of baby him along, but he has really kind of stepped up to the plate in the last four or five months. I actually gave him an ultimatum a few months back that he better step it up. He is a great jumper so I told him if he wanted to be an event horse and not to be sold as a hunter, he had two more shows to get it together. I guess he is showing me he can! He really impressed me at Montana. We got eliminated at fence six on cross-country here last year so he has come a long way since then.”

Following dressage, Nielsen and Ozzie were sitting in second place on their dressage score of 28.7 and Nielsen was hoping to use the additional phases of the long format to help the young horse find his confidence and rhythm. “A lot of times at the regular shows it sometimes takes him half the course to finally settle in and feel like he can focus on his job. He is really focused on the other horses and is pretty insecure, so he will go out of the startbox screaming halfway around. I thought that the Classic Series would be a good format for him because he had the additional roads and tracks and steeplechase phases to find his own. I was hoping that by the time he went out on the cross-country course and have his head in the game, which he really did.”

Of all of the phases, Nielsen reflected that Ozzie seemed to really enjoy steeplechase. “I really came out of the box in steeplechase and kicked him and said ‘come on boy, let’s go!’ And he was so excited to get to run as fast as he wanted to run. I pretty much just said ‘let’s do it!’ I think doing that and then getting to go out and trot again in Phase C for a long time gave him a bit of time to digest it and think about it. We hope in the future that he is going to be a serious horse, so teaching him how to do the jog-ups and the vet box and handle the big environment at Montana really just puts another notch in his belt.”

Over the course of the weekend, the duo held their second-place position and would ultimately move up to the leading spot following a double-clear round in the show jumping phase. The win was extra special for Nielsen and Ozzie’s connections, as it felt like it was a direct reflection of the work put into Ozzie during their time together. “I was really proud of him. He has come a long way. Sometimes in eventing, you put in all the work and it doesn’t always pan out. You have to put all three phases together at the same time. Rebecca Farm is always our big goal for the year and a lot of times you try really hard, but you can’t always bring it all together in time for the one event, so I was pretty excited to see how much he has grown up and that he is truly the event horse that we hope that he can be and to have that all come together at Rebecca. His owners were there and a bunch of their friends were there and it was really special.”

For those with FEI dreams or those who just want to set a fun and challenging goal for themselves for the season, Nielsen thinks the USEA Classic Series is a great goal to work towards. “I think everyone should definitely do it. It is so fun. It is a program I believe in. It is great for the greener riders and teaches you how to do the jog-ups and have a little pressure on you before FEI, and then for the green horses it does the same thing and it is great to add the long-format on some of these Warmblood’s base of fitness is really beneficial for them as well.”

Young rider Egdes got her start in eventing around the age of 10 in a 4-H program which allowed her to ride even though she didn’t have a horse of her own. As she grew, the competitive desire kicked in and after an extended process of researching all of her local eventing barns, she connected with her current trainer Meg Finn who just so happened to have a horse that Egdes could lease.

“Shortly after I began lessons, COVID hit Washington and my lease horse had to move barns,” Egdes reflected. “This sparked the discussion of purchasing my own horse.” Egdes purchased her first horse and began competing in September of 2020, before an unfortunate diagnosis of kissing spine put Egdes back on the market for her next competition mount. She found Ardeo Refined “Rory” through Ardeo Sport Horses based in Ireland in May of 2021.

“Rory and I had a bit of a rough start because although he was extremely talented and had a good brain, he was very green. I always love a good challenge, but I recently found out that my first horse was diagnosed with kissing spine, and I would have to sell him, which was heartbreaking. Having to completely restart under circumstances like that is never easy. Although Rory and I have had lots of rough patches, I do appreciate them as it makes the good times so much better.”

Slowly but surely, the pair began to understand one another on a deeper level. After receiving the necessary MERs at the Novice level, they became qualified to compete in the long-format event. It was Egdes’ trainer that encouraged her to pursue the three-day at Rebecca Farm. “My trainer thought the long format would be good for both Rory and me and that we would thoroughly enjoy it- which we did. I thoroughly enjoyed the long format and hope I have the opportunity to participate in it again.”

While Rory was fit and ready to go from the competition season, Edges knew that extra conditioning was required to prepare her partner for the many phases of the long format. The young rider found a great way to work on fitness together with what their training facility had to offer. “My horse and I were both fit enough to complete the long format with no problems, but it can take its toll on you. Conditioning horses can be difficult if you don’t have facilities that can help aid your horse's performance, like a place to practice gallop sets. One way to condition with limited resources is to do trot sets. I would set a timer for 20 minutes and trot Rory until the time ran out. I did this as often as possible leading up to the event, which seemed to be very helpful, especially during roads and tracks.”

Egdes describes Rory as a bit of an anxious horse, but the N3D format really seemed to suit him. “Having roads and tracks seemed to help calm his, and my, nerves down quite a bit as we were able to have a nice hack-like warm up,” she said. “It’s so hard to just pick one favorite as all of the phases were a ton of fun. I really enjoyed the steeplechase portion, as it was nice to let Rory have a good gallop and jump out of stride. I was also fond of the standard-size dressage court. The bigger court made it easier for me, and therefore my horse, to relax. It gave us more time to prepare between each movement, which aided our dressage score.”

That dressage score, 32.4, would put them in first from the get-go, a lead they would maintain through all of the phases as Rory showed off his fitness and athletic ability throughout the weekend. Edges commented that their win in the N3D was one of the most rewarding points in their partnership this year. “I took Rory to his first event at the 2021 Rebecca Farms Horse Trials, where we came second to last in the Jr. Novice division. Although we still have off days, I think it’s safe to say we have come a long way.”

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