The Area VI Championships took place recently from October 21-23 at the Ram Tap Horse Trials in Fresno, California. Nine championship divisions were offered from the Introductory level through Preliminary and nine horse and rider pairs rose to the occasion to bring home the title of Champion in their respective divisions.
Preliminary Champions: Gabriella Ringer and Get Wild | 28.1
The competition for the Champion title was tight in the Preliminary Championship at the Area VI Championships. Gabriella Ringer and her 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Get Wild (Plot-Blue x Cantana) started off the weekend in a tie for first place on a score of 28.1 As if the pressure of a tie wasn’t enough, Ringer found herself competing against her trainer James Alliston for top honors!
“All of Area VI is so grateful to Terry Hilst and the whole team at Ram Tap for including our championships in their October Horse Trials. I was so thrilled to have won the Preliminary Championship division,” shared Ringer. “It was a bit intimidating to compete against such strong riders including my trainer, James Alliston, whom I admire so much. It was very exciting to know that when we perform our best, we are very competitive. I’m so proud and lucky to have Get Wild as my partner. He is a horse of a lifetime!”
Ultimately, it was Ringer and Get Wild’s double-clear cross-country trip that would give them the nudge they needed to break the tie after Alliston added 0.8 time penalties to his score, knocking him to second place. While cross-country was the tiebreaker, Ringer couldn’t pick a standout phase for the gelding and was thrilled with his performances throughout the weekend.
“I can’t really single out a phase in which I was most happy with him because he was all class for all three phases,” stated Ringer. “Our dressage has been pretty consistent, and I was pleased that we could lay down a nice test to start the competition. On cross-country, he was everything I needed him to be; receptive to my aids, very brave, and helped me out when I needed it. In the stadium, he was all business and jumped a lovely clear round. I really couldn’t have asked more of him!”
Modified Champions: Kim Goto Miner and Milagro NBS | 38.5
This year’s Area VI Modified Champion Kim Goto Miner was playing double-duty throughout the weekend, serving as the horse show secretary while also competing with her 7-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Milagro NBS (Kafwain x Krazypapaya).
“We were super lucky to be able to host the Area VI Championships at Ram Tap this past weekend. It was an absolutely fabulous turnout for our event and I was happy to be a part of it as a competitor and secretary,” shared Goto Miner.
Her partnership with Milagro NBS began four years ago when Goto Miner purchased him from the New Beginnings Sporthorse Foundation as a three-year-old. Fun fact - “Milo” was the nonprofit foundation’s first adoptee! Over the course of the past few months, Milo has stepped up to be Goto Miner’s primary competition horse and has truly fulfilled his new role.
“The cross-country phase was our strongest improvement this show,” Goto Miner shared. “We’ve struggled with making optimum time, but in the past month Milo and I have found a new gallop and it’s truly made all the difference.”
For Goto Miner, their result this weekend was truly meaningful. “Becoming the Area VI Modified Champion has meant a great deal to me this year. It’s been a bit of a difficult year for me and this win has brought back confidence and made me feel ready to take on Preliminary at Ram Tap next month. Modified has become my new favorite level with all of the Preliminary questions miniaturized. It really shows you when you and/or your horse are ready for the next level.”
Training Champions: Chloe Smyth and Top Quirada | 29.5
Chloe Smyth piloted Lori Matukas and Kelson Frieden’s 7-year-old Holsteiner mare Top Quirada (Casstender x Quirada) to the win in the Open Training Championship at Ram Tap this weekend, adding no faults to their dressage score of 29.5.
“I have not been to Ram Tap since Terri [Hilst] purchased it and was impressed by the improvements in stabling and organization, as well as the course and footing,” shared Smyth. Their weekend at the Area VI Championships was truly a team event, with Matukas grooming for Smyth as she rode “Catalina” to the win in their Championship division and Frieden brought home the victory in the non-Championship Training Rider division.
“Catalina has been with us since January this year and has quickly proved herself to be quite the competitor,” Smyth said. “She’s got the talent, scope, and fierce attitude that will keep her in the top placings. I am greatly proud of how much she has progressed in her dressage and has become much more elastic and supple. Her gigantic heart and competitive energy always makes me feel that we’re ready to take on the world. Clinching this win was a big feather to add to her hat and I’m sure we will have many more great results in the future.”
Training Rider Champion: Sarah Ross and Fernhill Heart Throb | 30.5
Sarah Ross and her 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Fernhill Heart Throb (by Heartbreaker) added their second Champion title to their resume this season at the Area VI Championships. The pair were the USEA Training Rider Champions at the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds earlier this season and piggybacked that win with the win in their Area VI Training Rider Championships at Ram Tap this past weekend.
“We are still fairly new to each other but we’ve had a pretty successful season together so far,” commented Ross. “It was nice to continue solidifying our partnership.” The pair executed three faultless phases to lead the division all weekend long and finish on their dressage score of 30.5.
“The show jumping was one of our best rounds to date,” Ross continued. “The course was set really well because it had a few questions that rewarded you if you rode accurately and positively, but caught you out if you didn’t.”
Novice Champion: Josey Thompson and GW Express | 27.1
Josey Thompson's partnership with her 5-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding GW Express (Giacomo W x Something to Talk About), with who Thompson brought home the win in the Area VI Novice Championship, was a bit of a chance encounter. "Two years ago, my mom fell in love with 'Express' off of a Facebook ad and bought him sight unseen. Luckily for us, he isn’t only good looking, but he’s also a total ham," said Thompson. "He’s been an absolute joy to produce so far and when he’s not eventing, my boyfriend gathers cows off of him and rides him at the beach alongside my Intermediate horse as we do canter sets. He’s big guy who has taken his time to mature, but I’m confident for his future as an event horse!"
The duo started their weekend in third place following dressage after producing a test judges deemed worthy of a 27.1, but double-clear performances in both jumping phases would move them up one position each time, ultimately resulting in the win on their unmarked dressage score.
"I couldn’t chose which phase I am most proud of," said Thompson. "For still being young, Express is such a fun, easy ride. I was happy to see that our training translated to a quality dressage score and then he was an absolute professional in the jumping phases. I knew the show jumping course was a lot for the young horses to focus on, but he jumped out of his skin for me and landed us in the top spot. Everything about producing a young horse is so rewarding, but milestones like winning an Area Championship are particularly memorable. Express tries his heart out and lives to please, so I felt this win was well-deserved by him. I’m excited to see where the future takes us!"
Thompson was wowed by the effort put on by the team at Ram Tap to make the Area VI Championships such a special event. "Ram Tap does a great job putting on their events and the championship was particularly exciting as such a large show! Everything from the dressage courts to the show jumping and cross country courses were very well presented. We are so appreciative of Terry and the rest of the Ram Tap crew for all of the upgrades to the horse park and for holding this show!"
Novice Rider Champion: Paige Beauchamp Crandon and I Love Lucy | 24.4
Going into this weekend, Paige Beauchamp Crandon just wanted to have a good time in her final show with KC Sporthorses’ 14-year-old Gypsy Vanner cross mare I Love Lucy. The pair have been partnered together for two years now, but Crandon has unfortunately outgrown the 13.3 hand pony.
“I have had Lucy since August of 2020,” said Crandon. “COVID had just started so what better to do than spend all day at the barn! Lucy and I quickly made a connection and the rest was history. In October 2020, I competed in my first event ever at the Twin Rivers Halloween Show at the Intro level. We quickly realized that Lucy was quite talented and it was time to move up the levels. Just recently at Twin Rivers in July, Lucy and I competed successfully at the Training Level. It’s crazy to think that a 13.3 hand pony can jump something the size of her!”
A phenomenal dressage score of 23.2 would put the pair in the early lead after dressage, but Crandon admits that she was filled with nerves kicking the competition off. “Going into the show rings at Ram Tap, I was feeling quite nervous as this was our final show together, but as soon as I went down the center line it all went away. Once we moved onto show jumping and eventually cross-country, I gave Lucy her time to shine and she did.”
Crandon shared that all three phases during the Area VI Championships were strong, confident rounds for the two of them, but it was show jumping that really filled her with pride. “Show jumping made me most proud of Lucy because it reflects how far she has come and how much she trusts me now. She got distances and strides that were just right for her and showed how she has developed in her jumping phases to consistently jump double clear.”
It’s never easy knowing this is your last event with a beloved partner, but ending your competitive relationship together on such a high note was a special moment for Crandon. “After galloping through the cross-country finish line and realizing that we took home first place, I felt like we had just accomplished something that’s been a goal since Lucy and I started competing together. Lucy is the pony of a lifetime and I feel fortunate to have spent two and half years doing what I love with my best friend.”
Beginner Novice Champions: Lisa Sires and Even More Impressive | 25.9
It was a wire-to-wire win for Lisa Sires and her 8-year-old Hanoverian/Welsh cross gelding Even More Impressive (Escudo II x Way More Impressive) in the Area VI Beginner Novice Championship. The pair ended their weekend on the same score they started on, a 25.9.
“I purchased ‘Eli’ as an unbroken rising 3-year-old from his breeder Wine Country Sport Ponies back in 2017,” shared Sires. “I started him myself, and we had a fantastic competition year in 2019, but in 2020 I gave birth to my son Caden so showing was on hold. 2021 turned out to be a rough competition year juggling the balance of a baby, a non-horsey career, and horse showing. I am so grateful that we found our groove again this year and it made our successes in 2022 mean so much more.”
That redemption feeling translated into each phase of the competition during the Area VI Championships. “I’m not sure I can pick just one phase of the competition that I am most proud of, as they each had their own little ‘wins’ that I was happy about,” commented Sires. “I knew the competition was going to be tight, so of course, I was happy to be in the lead after dressage! When I crossed the finish flags after cross-county and knew we had jumped clean and won the championship, I had the biggest smile on my face. I knew all the hard work this pony and I put into getting ourselves back in the game had come to fruition and I was so proud of both of us.”
Sires spoke highly of the 2022 Area VI Championships: “The Area VI Championships were fantastic this year! Ram Tap Horse Park did an excellent job of organizing and running this event and we are so grateful to have them as part of Area VI. The hospitality was great, the volunteers were wonderful, and the entire show was run so smoothly.”
Beginner Novice Rider Champion: Kate Flaherty and Eli’s Coming | 28.6
Three fault-free performances would secure Kate Flaherty’s victory in the Area VI Beginner Novice Rider Championship riding her 10-year-old Cheval Canadien gelding Eli’s Coming (Sorybook Kurt William-Elite x Storms Aglo).
“My horse was calm and happy on Friday afternoon and decided that was his moment to cooperate with dressage,” joked Flaherty. “He was also on his game for stadium on Saturday and we headed into Sunday hoping for the best.”
A drastic 20-degree temperature drop overnight Saturday night meant that Flaherty was met with a very fresh, very fit horse for cross-country morning. She found herself questioning what the right decision was in regard to continuing on with the weekend.
“It was one of those times when all things being equal, you'd get off and come back later,” said Flaherty. “But without that option, we did it and got it done, with a whole lot of leaping around, reacting to everything. He jumped the drop fence #6 like we were at Badminton. It was crazy! But we made the time, with three seconds to spare, and finished on our dressage score.”
Flaherty credits her success over the course of the weekend to the help and calm support of her trainer Olivia Loicano Putrino of OKL Eventing.
Introductory Champions: Janet Nelson and Phantom Spanish Pants | 30.2
After a six-year hiatus from riding, it was Janet Nelson who rose to the top of the field in the Introductory Championship aboard Ava Chase’s 19-year-old Pony of Americas gelding Phantom Spanish Pants (Santee Spanish Nicka x Feather in my Pants).
“I have only been back to eventing this year,” shared Nelson. “So to qualify for the Area VI Championships and then to win was out of this world for me.”
Phantom Spanish Pants, who is known by Ben around the barn but received the adorable nickname of Spotty from Boyd Martin during a recent clinic that the pair attended, belongs to the family of Nelson’s trainer Jordan Chase.
The duo started out their weekend on a score of 30.2 and added no faults throughout the jumping phases to move up from second to first and bring home the blue ribbon. “All the phases were great and I was beyond pleased we finished on our dressage score,” commented Nelson.
When super groom Max Corcoran mentioned in 2005 that it would be fun to participate in a USEA Classic Series event, her employer and eventing legend Karen O’Connor took that to heart. “I did a lot of grooming for the classic format when Kentucky and all those other competitions were proper long format,” Corcoran shared. “When Gretchen [Butts] started offering the Classic Series at Waredaca [Gaithersburg, Maryland,] she asked if I would come up and do some lectures to help people understand what the 10-minute box was and how to pack for it. I did that a few times and said to Karen, ‘Man, it would be so fun to do one of these.’ And so Karen's like, 'You want to do one? Yeah, you're gonna do one next year.'”
Has this horse quality? The answer is definitely yes. This first impression is so important. As a selector for the Goresbridge Go for Gold Event horse sale, I have an abbreviation ‘GPO’ which stands for "Good Pull Out." It means that the first look prompts the potential client the need to bring the horse out of his box for a further look.
It was a beautiful but chilly weekend in the pines at the Setters' Run Farm Carolina International. After a record-setting 19.4 in the CCI4*-S dressage, Will Coleman became the first three-time winner in the event's history when he led from start to finish on Hyperion Stud's Chin Tonic HS.
West Coast eventers experienced tremendous success in 2022. Tamie Smith recorded top-10 finishes at Badminton in England, at the FEI World Championships at Pratoni in Italy, and at the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill. Helen Alliston won the $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final, and Tommy Greengard captured the USEA Intermediate Championship at the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC), presented by Nutrena Feeds. James Alliston returned to the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event for the first time since 2017 and finished third in the CCI4*-S.