Mya Poulos and Vanessa Stroh were the junior and adult amateur recipient of the award at the Otter Creek Farm Fall Horse Trials, September 13-15, 2019, which hosted the Area IV leg of the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award. The Charles Owen Technical Merit Award takes place in each of the 10 USEA Areas and rewards one junior and one adult amateur riders for their safe and effective cross-country riding.
Poulos and Sir Duke (Colestus x Cynthia), her 7-year-old German Sport Horse gelding, led the Junior Training Rider division from start to finish on their dressage score of 27.5.
Poulos has loved animals her whole life, especially horses. “I used to make my mom take me out of preschool so I could go ride the ponies at the pumpkin patch and wouldn’t have to wait in a long line,” she recalled. “After my mom and dad realized how much I loved horses they signed me up for some lessons and then I started my love for horses.”
Poulos started out riding at a hunter/jumper barn but made the switch to eventing when she was 10 years old after watching videos of event riders on YouTube. “I was absolutely amazed and thought it looked so fun,” she said. “I started telling my parents I wanted to switch to eventing. They were all for it and I switched to it and have been addicted and loved the discipline ever since.”
“I switched a couple eventing trainers and then found Julie Poveromo who is my trainer now,” Poulos continued. “She has helped me tremendously with my horses and problems I couldn’t do it without her. My dressage coach Claire Yates has benefited my riding so much. I also had the chance to train with Jessica Phoenix in the winter – she is the most genuine, kind person I have ever met and helped me a ton too.”
“I devote so much time and energy into my riding because it is my passion and love,” Poulos explained. “I constantly watch videos of myself riding and try to think how to improve myself and give my horses a more correct ride. I also like to watch five-star riders and watch how they ride and what they do in sticky situations and how they handle their horses.”
Poulos and Sir Duke have only been partnered together since March of this year, having found him with Caroline Martin. Sir Duke had been imported from Europe but had only ever done hunter/jumpers. “I had already tried about seven horses that day and I just knew he was the one,” Poulos said. “At first he was kind of confused about what cross-country and dressage were but now he is a very serious competitor. He is one of the most intelligent, willing, and responsive horses I have ever sat on. He constantly impresses me with new things and I just can’t wait to see how far we will go and how much more he will progress. He’s quite the unicorn and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”
For Poulos, the feedback she received as part of the award was the most valuable part of the experience. “I found the feedback super cool to read and see what they wrote about Duke and me,” she said. “It was very beneficial to see how they thought I rode and how I reacted to different questions and jumps. I love hearing feedback and asking questions so it was very beneficial for me to be able to read what the judges thought.”
Stroh and I’m Good (Langfur x Kurima), her 9-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred mare, scored a 39.6 on the flat in the Senior Training Rider division, jumped double clear on cross-country, and had one rail down in show jumping to finish the weekend in eighth place on a score of 43.6.
Stroh was first introduced to horses by her aunt, who would bring Stroh to the barn to visit her horse. “I happened to begin taking lessons at a local stable that was one of the grassroots eventing trainers of our area, Mary Schenck,” Stroh recalled. “She was very involved with the local Pony Clubs and hosted many combined training schooling shows in our area. I was hooked.” Stroh remained active in Pony Club through high school, achieving her “C2” rating.
“Without my childhood trainer, I absolutely not have the solid base I have today,” Stroh continued. “She insisted on a high quality base of support. She would not allow you to move forward to larger jumps until it was thoroughly in place. I've recently met a lovely rider, Cindy Sellin, that has encouraged me to develop a 'balanced gallop' achieved through actually practicing the gallop on the trail – imagining fences coming to you and practicing setting the horse up, and then asking the horse to move out after 'the jump.' So helpful!”
Stroh purchased I’m Good, or “Catalina” as she’s known in the barn, straight off the track sight unseen through Amy Lynn Paulus. “I loved her breeding and how she was put together,” Stroh said. “She raced 42 times! She proved to be the bravest, hardest-working little Thoroughbred mare I have ever sat on.”
“I was unaware of this award, and was completely caught off guard to receive the award,” Stroh explained. “It is such an honor. What a wonderful and positive concept to award! To encourage riders to develop the secure foundation to ride across the country safely, correctly and boldly. It was so wonderful to read the comments – like a dressage test, only way cooler!”
About the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award
In 2009, the Professional Horseman’s Council and Charles Owen founded the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award to reward juniors and adult amateurs for demonstrating safe and appropriate cross-country riding technique and educate riders and trainers as to what constitutes safe cross-country riding.
The Charles Owen Technical Merit Award is presented at one event in each of the 10 USEA Areas at the Training level to one junior rider and one adult amateur rider who have not competed at the Intermediate level or above. Every eligible rider at the Training level is automatically judged during their cross-country round and receives a score sheet with written comments, providing valuable feedback on their cross-country riding technique. ICP Certified Level III and IV Instructors, USEF licensed eventing officials, and USET Senior Team riders are all qualified to judge the Award. Click here to learn more about the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award.
The USEA would like to thank Charles Owen for sponsoring the Technical Merit Award.
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Attention USEA members! Registration for the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention is now open! The convention will be held in person on December 7-11, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency Savannah Hotel in Savannah, Georgia.