Six new champions were named today at the 2019 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds.
The Novice Junior division finished in dramatic fashion this evening when a lightning delay disrupted the class just as the top 10 were about to enter the arena. They returned nearly two hours later to jump under the lights, making for an exciting finale.
Kate Thresher and Silver Bop (Bop x Silver Concern), her 7-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, were the only pair in the top 10 to jump clear under the lights, catapulting them from fourth place to first place to take home the win on 31.8.
“It was incredible,” Thresher said. “I have always watched the live stream of [the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event] of them jumping in this stadium, so it was just incredible.”
“[My horse] was amazing,” she continued. “He was so attentive and just acting so great.”
The pair have only been together for a year and a half – she got him just off the track and has been producing him herself with help from her trainer, Rebecca Lee.
“[He was] a little strong [on cross-country]. We had a couple bumps, but he is a really brave and bold horse. We have a pretty good trust between us, so no hesitations at any of the obstacles.”
“I wanted to come [to the AEC] because obviously this is the Kentucky Horse Park, this is where [the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event] happens and it’s so cool to say I rode in the Rolex Stadium. My favorite part was probably tonight because he was so good, he listened every step of the moment and I just couldn’t be prouder of him.”
Emily Moore and her 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding I Solemnly Swear (UNK x Chestnut Creek) had a dramatic rise up the leaderboard, moving from 20th after dressage to 13th after a clear cross-country round, finally rocketing all the way up the leaderboard into second with a double clear show jumping round.
“It was awesome,” Moore said of her weekend. “I think that this stadium round was one of my best that I have ever ridden. I didn’t ride under the lights because I was 13th, but we went clear. I felt awful for all of [the riders] who had to ride after. That must have been so tough to get your horses back going, but my ride was really great. My horse was really awesome.”
Moore has had “Cosmo” for nearly a year, and the pair have been working to build a partnership. “He’s a pretty awesome horse,” she said. “I sold my past horse because I lost a lot of confidence and Cosmo really helped me gain that back again. He’s just been an awesome partner to have to gain confidence back on. He’s awesome.”
Stephanie Cordell and Amanda Tamminga’s Codename Toby (Treasure Cove x Go Bubby Go), a 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, had a single rail and 1.2 time penalties to drop them down in the standings from second to third place on a score of 34.0.
“My ride was awesome. I couldn’t be more proud of him. He has brought me along so much. I am just so happy to be here.”
Cordell and Toby have been together for four years. He was stabled at her barn and needed someone to exercise him over the winter and Cordell was looking for another horse to ride. “I started riding him just to exercise him, but then I fell in love with him and it just went from there. He has really help me to become who I am today.”
“At the beginning of the year we all decided to make it our goal to come to the AEC because it’s something fun to do and something we could do as a team, and of course it’s [where the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event is held]. It’s a really cool place to ride and to say that you’ve ridden here.”
Courtney Cooper and Dare to Dream Team’s 4-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Excel Star Time to Shine (Luidam x Lismore Bella) put in a flawless show jumping round to take home the win in the Novice Horse division on his dressage score of 29.3.
Cooper imported “David” as a 3-year-old last December after watching him free jump. “He came over just started in December and I think he did his first event in Aiken,” she said. “He’s quite green and quite young but he’s got a great brain and has come along. We’re excited for the future. The plan for him in the fall is Fair Hill [for the USEA Young Event Horse Championships]. He’ll move up to Training at his next event and then we’ll see where he goes from there. We have high hopes for him and hope in four or five years he’ll be back here to jump for real.”
“He’s the barn favorite now,” she continued. “He’s the barn pet. He’s very, very sweet. He has a little white around his eye which concerned me when I bought him because sometimes they can be a little crazy and a little hard but he has been the sweetest thing. He’s like an overgrown puppy.”
This week at the AEC, Cooper and her barnmates’ focus has been on making memories. “We’ve had a lot of friends who have died, been killed, been hurt, and who are sick, and you can do things to make memories and you can do things to be part of an environment and that’s why we came,” Cooper shared. “You look back and you think, ‘Well, what could I have done differently?’ and the fact of the matter is we’re here and it’s a beautiful day and the horses went beautifully and the competition is amazing and the USEA has done an incredible job with 1,000 horses running and the facility is fantastic and the weather has been brilliant. You can do lots and lots of things in this world but the fact of the matter is, it’s the people around you and the things that happen to you that you remember. Money won’t buy everything but the memories will. This will be a really good memory for a long time.”
Lauren Chumley and her own Santa Barbara Dash (San City x Barcarole), a 6-year-old Oldenburg mare, moved up one in the standings after a double clear round to take home the red ribbon on a score of 29.4.
“She was super good,” Chumley praised. “This is my first time jumping clear at AEC ever in my life – I’m a horrible show jumper. It was a really good time to not suck at jumping. I have lost two or three AECs where I come in in first and drop rails. She was brilliant. There were a couple of distances that weren’t there and I just sat back.”
A dressage trainer who moonlights as an eventer, Chumley and “Barbara” came straight here from the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions at the Lamplight Equestrian Center in Illinois. “Richard Picken helped me on Monday . . . He made such a huge difference. I hadn’t jumped and I came to AEC right from the dressage show . . . He helped me Monday with both of them and it was awesome.”
Santa Barbara Dash is also a graduate of both the USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) and Young Event Horse (YEH) Programs, having competed in the 2017 FEH Championships and the 2018 YEH Championships. “She’s not got the best jumping style but I kind of wanted to go do it and I’m glad that I did it because it was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. The jumps were so big!”
Third place went to Shanon Baker and her own Honor Society (Bernardini x Our Rite Of Spring), a 7-year-old OTTB gelding, on 29.7. Leading after dressage, the pair picked up two cross-country time penalties to drop to fourth, rising back up to third with a double clear show jumping round.
Madeline Bletzacker and her own 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Drummer Boy (Don Principe x Winterzauber) finished out their weekend in the Novice Rider division on their dressage score of 25.7. This competition marks Drummer Boy’s 48th USEA recognized event win.
“I came over [to warmup] and he was a little blah, blah, blah, and I’m like, ‘Okay, that’s fine,’ because I didn’t want him to be excited in here,” Bletzacker said. “When I was warming up I thought, ‘Well, I’m not going to do very many jumps,’ so I thought, ‘Let me just tap him up and gallop him around a little bit.’ He spooked at something they were doing out there so then I thought, ‘Uh oh,’ so then I was just trying to keep him calm. I had a lot of horse. I thought he was going to be medium, but I had a lot of horse. He was a good boy.”
Next, Bletzacker and Drummer Boy will compete in the Novice level at Stone Gate Farm Horse Trials before heading to the Area VIII Championships at the Jump Start Horse Trials here at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Lydia Anderson and Russell’s Reserve, her 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Loughehoe Guy x Conlons Diamonds) capped off their weekend with a double clear show jumping round, moving up from fourth to second on 28.1.
Anderson purchased Russell back in December, so their partnership is still fairly new. “He was really good,” Anderson said. “He’s either Lazy Russell or Spicy Boy Russell and he was a bit lazy today so I had to work a little harder. No matter what Russell he is, he literally will jump no matter what, the distance or how bad I screw up, he always jumps and I can’t thank him enough for that.”
The pair moved up to training earlier this year and plan to continue competing at Training level through the fall season. “First he’s going to get a little vacation and then I think Stable View at the end of September.”
“I’ve never been [to the AEC] before so I was really excited when I qualified,” Anderson said. “I was going to go last year on my other horse but he fractured his leg before I got the chance. So, we got to come this year and it was exciting. Hopefully, we’ll be back next year!”
Alyssa Cairo and her own Paddington, a 14-year-old Thoroughbred/Connemara gelding by Yavari, moved up from a tie for fifth place to third on a final score of 29.3.
“Paddington was wonderful, he is all business when it comes to shows,” Cairo revealed. “What you don’t know is that about four or five days ago he was bucking me around and I had some serious doubts about being here. When he comes to a show he knows his job and he buttons down and gets right to it. He was fabulous to ride today, I was very grateful.”
Cairo and Paddington have only been partnered together since November, and they’re still getting to know each other. “At some points, I’ve said, ‘Is it working? Is it not?’ and my first show – I’m not used to winning anything – so he won the first, he won the second, I was incredibly grateful and I realized what a find I have in this wonderful pony.”
“This is my first AEC as well,” she said. “It’s been an amazing experience. To be able to have the opportunity to ride a course designed by Derek di Grazia is unbelievable. To gallop through the head of the lake at my level, I mean, it was a dream come true. When it was presented that it was going to be here it was a no-brainer for me that I would hopefully be able to make it here.”
Novice Master Amateur
When the overnight leaders Jane Musselman and Engapore had a refusal in show jumping, Cherye Huber and her own Sam I Am (Cameo’s Reflection x Castle War Rebel), a 13-year-old British Sport Horse gelding, rose up to take home the win in the Novice Master Amateur division on a final score of 27.6.
Two falls this spring prompted Huber to come to the AEC at Novice level instead of Training, which she was also qualified for. “I kind of lost my confidence,” she admitted. “I’ve always loved the dressage and done fairly well in it. I’ve been taking some lessons from Peter Gray and he warmed me up this week. He has a wonderful eye for getting a horse soft and round and through. I just focused on each phase. I went in and had a great test, I really wasn’t focusing on where I placed – I was just focusing on having a good ride.”
“Then, of course, Mike [Huber] is amazing on the cross-country and that went very well but I was really worried about stadium because my horse is not very careful,” she continued. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been in first place after cross-country and then blown it in stadium. My dear friend Jennie Brannigan came down about a month ago and did a clinic and she really helped me get that horse in front of my leg and forward and that made a world of difference. I have those three people to thank for this and I’m just very grateful to be here. Of course, my horse is amazing.”
Cindy Deporter and Ana D, her 13-year-old Hanoverian mare by Waldord, rose from third place to second place on their dressage score of 28.8.
“The horse is incredible,” Deporter praised. “Stephanie Butts broke her and got her going and after a suspensory injury I got her back because she wasn’t going to be able to go upper levels anymore. Holly Hudspeth helped me. I couldn’t do this without Holly. She’s the one that’s provided guidance through this. My mare loves Holly.”
Along with Butts, Hudspeth, and Max Cocoran, who groomed for Deporter this weekend, Deporter wanted to thank one more person: Area III eventer Sandra McDonald. “She has cancer, and Saturday morning before I went cross-country she texted me. What a special person to say, ‘Go kick butt.’ That’s what adult riders are about. Cross-country was for Sandra yesterday.”
Cindi Moravec said she didn’t expect to move up in the placings, but was pleasantly surprised when she and her 8-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Holloway (Stonesider x Ionika) moved up from fifth to third on 30.6.
“I got my horse four years ago off the track from a video and a picture from Lexington, Kentucky, a place called Thoroughbred Sport Horses, and he’s just been an amazing ride ever since,” Moravec said. “I’ve been doing most of the training myself with help from my good friend Packy McGaughan.”
“This weekend it seemed like the easiest thing for me was dressage,” Moravec continued. “He warmed up really great and he did an awesome test, we were the first person in the ring. I was absolutely thrilled with what he gave me and how he moved and the energy level.
“Cross-country he warmed up great, he came out of the start box and he had no idea where to go,” she continued. “I can’t wait to see the video because I felt like we did a couple S turns and were going towards the Beginner Novice log and finally he saw our log . . . jumping into the Head of the Lake was absolutely thrilling and he galloped the whole way through the water. When I finished up with him, I felt like it was so different from the beginning to where he ended up.”
“Today he warmed up great, he was jumping really good. I don’t worry so much about his jumping, it all comes back to me. It’s me and my position and if I get nervous I jump up his neck and he still tries to help me out . . . we got it done and I’m fine with that.”
It was an emotional win for Kaitlyn Brittendall and Blyth's Madeline GS, who jumped double clear to maintain their score of 26.3 and take home the win in the Novice Amateur division. The 10-year-old Trakehner mare (Heling x Marionette GS) is for sale, and this is her and Brittendall’s last show together.
“There were so many places where she saved my butt,” Brittendall said. “Oh my god she shouldn’t have, but she did . . . I love that horse more than anything. I don’t know what I’m going to do without her. I won’t settle for anything but the perfect home.”
Brittendall said she’s not sure what’s next for her as far as what kind of horse she’ll get. “I’m not going to say I need a Preliminary packer, now, but if I get a young horse, fine, I’m still going to be so happy with that as long as it’s the perfect horse for me. I’m not going to rush into anything. I have the opportunity to ride Carl Bouckaert’s horse, one of his just for the time being and get going back at Training level and have fun until I find one for me.”
Brittendall had traveled to the AEC before but never completed. “On my gelding I tried to come back in Tryon and got through dressage and we were in like second to last place and we had to withdraw in cross-country warm-up, so this is actually my first time ever completing the AEC and it’s amazing, I love it. The atmosphere – [there’s] so much support.”
Erin Walker and Mth Shannondale Khaleesi (Shannondale Sarco ST Ghyvan x Greygrove Salle), her own 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare, finished out the weekend on their dressage score of 30.7, good enough for second place.
“I was real nervous and my leg was shrinking up to my ears,” Walker said, “and she was perfect. I was like, ‘Heels down!’ It hasn’t been quite a year [that we’ve been together] and she makes me earn it. We needed this, it’s a very good confidence booster for us. I wanted to come here all year, and I wanted to do really well and this is really well. Like I said, she’s made me earn everything, so this is amazing and good for us.”
Walker acquired Mth Shannondale Khaleesi through the Leslie and Lesley Law from Ireland last fall. “I’ve only been riding for about three and a half years. I love her dearly. I got really lucky. Someone was looking down on the day that she got sent to me. This has been really great.”
This is Walker’s second trip to the AEC. “I came at Beginner Novice two years ago at Tryon, completed, but didn’t get the place that I wanted, so this is everything. I love riding on the hallowed ground. It’s really cool. I come to watch Land Rover all the time and it’s so cool to be here.”
Cami Pease and Vibrant (Orlando x Fatima Van De Heffenk), her 19-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, rose up the leaderboard from fourth place to third on their dressage score of 31.4.
“Cal is 19, so lots of mileage,” Pease explained. “We kind of take it week by week on how he’s feeling. He was a little stiff last week – [we] brought him down, he felt great and put in a nice test. [He was the] best he’s felt this whole season on cross-country. [Today he] went in there, number two was a little scrappy, but luckily he’s a good show jumper so even with a rein and a half and not a whole lot of planning it was okay. That’s probably the horse I want to be on if something is going to go wrong.”
Cal and Pease have been together for eight years, since Cal was 11 years old. They did the junior equitation and amateur equitation together through college. “I was going to sell him but he had a different idea,” she recalled. “I put him on a plane to Florida to be sold and he went dead lame on the plane – had to be taken off in New Orleans. I called the guy to see what happen and he said, ‘I’ve never seen a horse behave as terribly as yours did, we had to take him off the plane.’ No vet could diagnose him, he spent two months in Florida, no one could figure it out. I brought him back home and he was sound in three weeks.”
The pair started eventing together to try something new after Cal had to retire from jumping anything more than 3 feet. “I didn’t think I was going to show,” she said, “I thought we’d just find a fun barn, maybe cross-country will be fun, at least it’ll be something new, we’ll just see what happens. He’s 16, so is he going to go through water, is he going to jump a ditch. He loves it, he’s having a great time. One thing led to another and here we are.”
Novice Junior 15 and Under
Crockett Miller and Mr. Panda (Abbeyfield Comet x Clooneen Tara Lady), her 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, led the Novice Junior 15 and Under division wire-to-wire, closing out the weekend on their dressage score of 26.5.
“Panda was great,” Miller said happily. “He usually is pretty good in warm-up, then we go in he feels my nerves and gets a bit more forward but he was pretty great. The second we walked in he spooked just a little bit but then that just went away and it just went like a dream. It was incredible. Just to ride here is incredible. It’s not an opportunity you pass up; it is one you miss three days of freshman year for.”
“The location [of the AEC this year] is the best part because in Tryon it was cool but then you are here where all the big time [riders] have been and you have only been able to sit and watch instead of getting to ride in [the Rolex Stadium]. Going to the in-gate, I remember seeing photos of this and remember being here, and it looks so different from down here. Just the qualification, everyone talks about it all year and you are always glancing at your record to see the “Y” under AEC qualification. It is always exciting no matter if it is January or August.”
Finley Habenicht and her 15-year-old Trakehner mare Aleta NSF (Windfall x Astra) finished 0.1 points behind Miller and Panda on a score of 26.6.
“It was awesome,” Habenicht said. “In warm-up, we started really loose and she was just ready to go. Sometimes we struggle her getting on the lazier side, but in warm-up, she was really pulling me to the jumps. I actually had to hold her back, which was a really nice feeling. Then, the minute we got in the ring, she was just ready to go. It was a really great feeling.”
Habenicht have been forming their partnership over the last three years, starting at the Green as Grass level. “We worked our way up to Novice. She is 15 years old and I just turned 14. She is just a great horse. I am so happy I have the opportunity to ride her. She is a good girl.”
Annabella Friend and Contessa, her 13-year-old Quarter Pony mare remained in third place after a double clean show jumping ride on 30.7.
“It was really good,” Friend said. “I have a problem with going too fast and her getting flat and then we get rails. She felt really good. We have been practicing triples for my C3 in Pony Club, so I had that more going through the two stride and she was like, ‘No, we have to back up.’ She really helped me there.”
Friend has had Contessa since she was born as she was bred by Friend’s father, who is a vet. “Both [her parents] are paint-colored; they both are not really athletic, bad conformation. She came out with really good conformation. She is super athletic; she’ll do whatever I ask of her and more. She always makes me happy. I have been riding her ever since I could. She is perfect. She just turned 13, and I just turned 15. I remember when she was born she was blue and white; it was super cool.”
About the USEA American Eventing Championships
The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds is the pinnacle of the sport for the national levels. Held annually, the best junior, adult amateur, and professional competitors gather to vie for national championship titles at every level from Beginner Novice to Advanced. This ultimate test of horse and rider draws hundreds of horses and riders from around the country to compete for fabulous prizes, a piece of the substantial prize money, and the chance to be named the National Champion at their respective levels. This year, the AEC will be held August 27 – September 1 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.
The USEA would like to thank the following sponsors for their support of the AEC: Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsors: Bates Saddles, Equistro; Gold Level Sponsors: Charles Owen, Standlee Hay, Parker Equine Insurance; Silver Level Sponsors: Mountain Horse; The Jockey Club, Park Equine; Bronze Level Sponsors: Arnall’s Naturals, State Line Tack, Black Petticoat, Devoucoux, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Horseware Ireland, LandSafe SmartPak, Dubarry, The Chronicle of the Horse, Stackhouse and Ellis Saddles, Auburn Laboratories, FITS Riding, Ovation, Lanier Sand and Soil, Event Cooling Solutions, Farm House Tack; Contributing Level Sponsors: Ariat, Meanwhile Back on the Farm, L.V. Harkness, Lexmark, GLC Direct, Georgetown Tourism, FarmVet, FLAIR Nasal Strips, Nunn Finer, RevitaVet, Resvantage Equine, CrossCountry App; Prize Level Sponsors: GumBits, Ride Heels Down, C4 Belts, I Love My Horse, Mare Modern Goods, Bluegrass Vibershield, Bluegrass Animal Products, Caracol, Active Interest Media, Astrid’s Oil, Baekgaard, On The Bit Horse Supplies, Luxe EQ, EQ AM Magazine, Jetti Spa, Great British Equinery, Foxden Equine, The Scoring Chix, Pure Form Equine; Competitor’s Party Sponsors:Jacqueline Mars, Kat and Roberto Cuca, United States Hunter Jumper Association, and United States Dressage Federation.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP), Young Event Horse (YEH) Program, and Future Event Horse (YEH) Program are joining forces yet again to bring the ultimate educational opportunity this winter. The 2020 USEA Educational Symposium will be at Barnstaple South in Ocala, Florida on February 17-20, 2020.
It was only recently that John Bandrofchak became involved in the eventing community - seven years, in fact. It all began when he decided he wanted to begin working with animals. After finding his way to a local equine therapy farm, his passion for horses and volunteering grew.
There are a number of ways to incur penalties on cross-country, from refusals and run-outs to exceeding the optimum time, and they sometimes vary depending on the level of competition. Make sure you're up to date with all the different ways to earn penalties on cross-country before you next step out of the startbox.
With the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention fast approaching, you’ll be anxiously planning which sessions you want to attend once you arrive at the Sheraton Boston Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. From educational talks, open forums, and even interactive sessions, there is something for everyone at the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention. Take a look at some of the sessions you won’t want to miss!