This year's Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) West Coast 4- and 5-year-old Championships are officially in the books following a full day of jumping at Twin Rivers Ranch in Paso Robles, California. Judges Marilyn Payne and Christian Schacht saw 32 pairs across both championship divisions, but ultimately only one pair could rise to the top of the field in each age group to bring home the champion title.
Oxford K Crowned Dutta Corp. USEA YEH West Coast 4-year-old Champion
Holding onto their overnight lead after the dressage and conformation phases yesterday was Cellar Farm Corp’s Dutch Warmblood gelding Oxford K (Grand Slam VDL x Walzing Patty), ridden by Amber Birtcil.
Birtcil purchased “Oxford” from Holland as a 3-year-old, where he was bred by P. Kamphof, but he stayed there to be gelded and to grow up a bit more before she imported him this past summer.
She may only have had him a few months, but the pair have quickly become acquainted. They have had one recognized outing at the Beginner Novice level together where they finished third and they won their qualifier at Twin Rivers in September.
Oxford is appropriately named, Birtcil joked. "He's very serious; We joke that he wears a sweater vest every day and brings his books in a roller backpack. I love him; he's very quirky, he's a bit odd, and he's very serious, but he is just lovely."
Despite his quirks, Birtcil hopes to continue to produce Oxford with the future in mind.
“I have always really liked him and gotten along with him,” she shared. “He’s always been one that I have wanted to keep and obviously the quirkier ones are a little harder to sell, so he will likely stay with me.”
Oxford’s studious mindset paid off with a total score of 83.06 in a competitive field of youngsters. They had the highest score in both the conformation phase and jumping phases of the roster of 4-year-olds, which contributed to their three-point lead over the reserve champion.
Cellar Farm Corp.’s Olalandra (Falaise De Muze x Gilandra) might have been a catch ride for Bec Braitling, but that didn’t stop the West Coast-based professional eventer from showcasing the mare’s promise as an upper-level event horse as the duo brought home the reserve champion title.
"It was a little bit last minute," said Braitling of her opportunity to ride the Dutch Warmblood mare. "I got a call from Amber to see if I could catch ride one. I rode her for the first time the day before the show, and the first time I jumped her was in the warm-up. Then I went up to the ring and gave it a go."
Thankfully, the mare’s talent paired with Braitling’s expert horsemanship was all they needed to turn in a performance that the judges deemed worthy of a cumulative 80.97 score.
Birtcil also took home the Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP) Champion title with Cellar Farm Corp.’s Smarter World (Smart Bid x Circle the World), a Thoroughbred gelding bred by Linda Madsen. This award is presented to the overall highest-scored Thoroughbred in each age group to encourage the retraining of Thoroughbreds in other disciplines upon completion of careers in racing or breeding.
In total, Cellar Farm Corp. owned six of the top-10 horses in this year’s 4-year-old championships.
The pride and dedication to the program that the team at Twin Rivers Ranch demonstrates is clearly paying off with growing interest and support on the West Coast. Marilyn Payne, one of this year's judges and co-chair of the USEA Young Event Horse Committee, was quite pleased with the field presented this year.
"There were a lot of talented horses. It was very exciting to judge,” said Payne, who has judged this event on the West Coast in previous years. "There have always been quality horses out here, but now there are much more. A lot of good breeding."
In addition, one final award was presented to this year’s class of 4-year-olds: the Go Get ‘Em Award in Memory of Donald Trotter, provided by Stillwater Farm, which is presented to the 4-year-old with the highest gallop score in the field. This year’s recipient was Andrea Pfeiffer’s Thoroughbred gelding, Check the Boxes (Box Score x MultiplyingTheHeat), who was ridden by Tommy Greengard and bred by Linda Madsen.
Camelot PJ Shakes Up the Standings in Dutta Corp. USEA YEH 5-year-old Championships
As the end of the Dutta Corp. USEA YEH West Coast 5-year-old Championship approached, the competitors were on the edge of their seats as Estrella Equestrian’s Camelot PJ (Colman x Evita), a Hanoverian gelding bred by Pferdezucht Dr. Jacobs GbR, and ridden by Andrea Baxter narrowly edged out the overnight leader, Nevada (II Est Balou x Onile W), ridden by Birtcil, in the final ride of the division. Camelot PJ and Baxter were slated in sixth place after dressage and conformation.
Baxter imported Camelot PJ herself, and while she was quite pleased with the young horse’s final score, she wasn’t necessarily surprised by their result. After all, the pair have had quite the successful season leading up to their championship appearance, including winning their qualifier class at Shepherd Ranch at the start of the summer and having a solid season at the Training level which included two top-three finishes.
"'The Hustler' is my favorite," said Baxter. "I am ecstatic that he won. I rode him as well as I could. He got a couple of deep distances, but he is so quick and smart and powerful and everything you would look for in a five-star horse."
The judges clearly agreed, giving him the highest final score of the West Coast Championships with an 85.94, but ultimately it was the gelding’s conformation score of 8.87 from the first day that gave him the edge he needed to overtake Nevada today. Just 0.61 of a point separated the scores between first and second, and Camelot PJ’s conformation score gave him a 0.57 point lead going into the final phase that would result in the leaderboard switch-up.
The Reserve Champion title was claimed by another Cellar Farm Corp.-owned entry, Nevada, a Dutch Warmblood gelding bred by M.G.J. Jansman. Birtcil acquired the strapping young horse from Holland through a trade that clearly seems to have been in her favor.
"He's the most stunning horse in the barn," said Birtcil, "He is super athletic, and I think he will absolutely succeed in the sport as he progresses."
Another of Baxter's 5-year-old entries, The Big Easy (Mr. Lincoln B x PLS Hippo Q), an Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Estrella Equestrian and bred by William McDonnell Jr., was awarded the Safe Harbour award. This award is presented to the young horse who consistently exhibits the most graceful and rider-friendly performance throughout the competition.
"He is nicknamed Yoda around the barn because he is such a gentleman," said Baxter. "He's a gentle giant with scope and talent for any sport."
The final award of the event went to Ella Garcia’s Wynnville (Lakerville x Tebowing), the Thoroughbred gelding bred by David Chase & Nancy Probert, who received the Thoroughbred Incentive Program’s Award in the 5-year-old division. Many may remember Wynnville from the 2022 Dutta Corp. USEA YEH West Coast Championships, as he stunned the judges with his ground-covering gallop and was awarded the Go Get ‘Em Award in Memory of Don Trotter for receiving the highest galloping score in the 4-year-old division.
Christian Schacht, an expert of Sport Horse Conformation and guest judge from Germany for this year’s Young Event Horse Championships, was highly pleased with the quality of horses presented at the West Coast Championships.
"It is amazing what you guys are setting up with the young event horses, and this closes a huge gap for us as breeders and riders in the states," shared Schacht, who believes it is suitable for horses to do all three phases well no matter what they go on to do in the future.
Twin Rivers Ranch has hosted The Dutta Corp. USEA YEH West Coast Championships for four consecutive years, and the event continues to build momentum. Baxter, who owns and operates Twin Rivers with her parents Jeff and Connie Baxter, has always had an extensive interest in bringing along young horses and shows a true dedication to the Young Event Horse program.
“This program has been very special to me,” Andrea said. “I remember being able to compete Indy 500 when we first hosted the YEH championships at Twin Rivers in 2011, and that was so valuable early in her journey to becoming a five-star horse. When we gave the West Coast championships their own home here starting in 2020, we decided to turn it into a real FEI event where the young horses get to be showcased in the spotlight. It gives them an opportunity that hopefully prepares them for what they hopefully will become.”
The USEA would like to thank all the West Coast venues that stepped up to host USEA YEH qualifying events throughout the year. Thanks are also in order for the Baxter family and Twin Rivers Ranch for hosting this year's Championships, as well as Christina Gray of Gray Area Events and the countless volunteers that made this year’s Championships a success.
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About the Young Event Horse 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, 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 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.
About The Holekamp/Turner Grant
Founded in 2015 by Timothy and Cheryl Holekamp of New Spring Farm and Christine and T.J. Turner of Indian Creek Farm, the Holekamp/Turner Grant provides a USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championship competitor with the opportunity to represent the United States at the FEI Eventing World Breeding Championships in the 7-year-old CCIYH3*-L Championship at Mondial du Lion in Le Lion d’Angers, France. With the sole purpose of paving a clear pathway for U.S. team horses to progress in the sport of eventing, recipients who are North American-bred will be awarded the full cash grant of $17,500, while imported horses are awarded $8,000. Additionally, The Dutta Corp. offers a prize to the Holekamp/Turner Grant recipient, consisting of a round trip flight from the Eastern United States to Europe.
“Test the best without hurting the rest,” said show jumping course designer Chris Barnard as he and fellow designer Marc Donovan led a lively discussion for nearly 50 participants at the Show Jumping Seminar on the first day of the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.
This afternoon, USEA President Louise “Lou” Leslie welcomed U.S. Eventing Association (USEA) Board of Governors members, USEA staff, and USEA Annual Meeting & Convention attendees to the first of two Board meetings which will take place during this year’s Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, with the teaser that 2024 is going to be full of initiatives for more opportunities to access the eventing experience, some of which attendees might get first wind of during this year’s gathering. The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention takes place Dec. 7-10 at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel.
Welcome to the Show Me state and to Area IV USEA members! The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention kicks of tomorrow and features four full days of educational seminars, committee meetings, and social gatherings all with one aim—to bring the eventing community together to continue to improve upon and celebrate the sport that we all love. This year’s Convention takes place in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis from Dec. 7-10, and we have rounded up everything you need to know to make the most of your time in the heartland.
To accompany the 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention, USEA Educational Partner STRIDER has prepared Digital Resources to Maximize Education & Access for the Eventing Community. In keeping with the USEA’s mission to expand the sport of eventing, this webinar outlines ways in which digital tools can be leveraged to increase access and education across equestrian opportunities. As part of STRIDER’s popular Professional Development Webinar Series, this presentation aims to provide a quick overview of best practices and digital tools used across the equestrian industry to boost growth.