Aug 30, 2023

Partnership Prevails: Leaderboard Shakeup in the Bates USEA Preliminary Championships at AEC

By Chelsea Lyn Agro - USEA | Press Release
Ashton Hays and A Boy Named Rozy. USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo

Lexington, Ky.—August 30—Horse and rider pairs in the Bates USEA Preliminary Championship divisions tackled cross-country as the competition for the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds progressed into the second phase. There are four championship divisions offered at the Preliminary level this week: Bates USEA Preliminary Horse, Bates USEA Preliminary Amateur, Bates USEA Preliminary Rider, and Bates USEA Preliminary Junior/Young Rider.

Bates USEA Preliminary Rider Championship

“We spent two years in marriage counseling,” said Ashton Hays, rider and owner of 11-year-old gelding A Boy Named Rozy (pronounced Rah-zee) (Distorted Reality x Rozys Account). And she’s referring to her big handsome gelding, not a human partner and not an actual marriage per se, but a meaningful partnership nonetheless. “We went to a dressage barn and got our act together,” she said.

And Hays, Nicholasville, Kentucky, said the same for show jumping—which is where they’ve been in their training as of recently, honing in on that partnership and knitting together all the intricacies of each phase individually before trying to stitch them all together. Today, they secured the leading position, making an impressive leap from seventh place on their dressage score of 31.9.

“He hasn’t always been the easiest…we’ve got some clear rounds under our belt now, so tomorrow is just another show jump round. I’m not going to think about who’s in first,” said Hays. As for cross-country, there’s never been any “tutoring” or extra attention given to the phase in which they shined so brightly today. Hays claims that she could toss her reins away—so long as he’s between the flags—and he’d jump anything in front of him on any cross-country trip. And that’s been a nice change of pace and a welcomed perspective for Hays because that confidence and trust haven’t always been part of the picture.

“I had an Intermediate horse before him who was great—taught me a lot—but definitely didn’t want to play the game. I’ve had him stop like 20 strides out from a fence and was just like, ‘I’m done.' I definitely thought I was going to quit eventing. I was 19-years-old, I was frustrated, I tried for Young Riders over and over again…getting [Rozy] was really refreshing.”

Susan Moessner, rider and owner of Satin Art, fell to second-place standing from dressage due to 7.6 time penalties, bringing her score to a 33.3 heading into their show jumping round. Sarah Ross, rider and co-owner with Peta Ross, of the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Fernhill Heart Throb (Heartbreaker x Unknown) incurred 4.8 time penalties during her cross-country trip, bringing her score up to a 35.5 as the competition moves on to the third and final phase.

Bates USEA Preliminary Junior/Young Rider Championship

Annabelle Sprague and Da Vinci Code. Tina Fitch for Erin Gilmore Photography photo

Former Vermonter, rider Annabelle Sprague aboard the 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse Da Vinci Code (Master Imp x Clovers Appollo), owned by Kylie Lyman, made the short trip to the Park with personal goals at the helm. The big environment is a welcomed atmosphere for college-goer Sprague who now lives in Kentucky and is beaming with joy at the opportunity to continue riding “Da Vinci.” This partnership wasn’t planned but that doesn’t mean it didn’t perfectly fall into place, and that foundation in mutual trust and respect is a big part of why they made the leap from third to first-place standing after today’s cross-country trip, keeping their overnight dressage score of 29.2.

“He’s done a couple of seasons of Advanced, so he knows more than I do. He’s the best teacher for me,” said Sprague. "He has shown me what a partnership with a horse can do. I just feel like we know each other really well, and we always have each other’s backs. It’s a good feeling.”

And that feeling of comfort and reliability remains constant. For Sprague, show jumping evokes some mixed feelings fueled by both passion and adrenaline. “I am really looking forward to it [show jumping]. I’m a bit nervous with the pressure. But no matter what happens I’m just happy to be here and happy to ride such a nice horse,” said Sprague. With the demands of both college and competition, Sprague is handling each challenge with grace.

Chloe Johnson, rider and owner of the 8-year-old bay New Zealand Sport Horse mare Chilli Bean (Chilli Morning x Curtain Call) retained their dressage score of 33.1, making the jump from fifth to second-place standing after an enthusiastic cross-country round. Emily Hedberg, rider and owner of Quasar, a 16-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Quando Quando x Fanessa) also white-knuckled their dressage score of 34.7, going from ninth to third-place as the competition makes a leap into the third and final phase.

Bates USEA Preliminary Amateur Championship

Kelly Beaver and Excel Star Pluto. USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo

Kelly Beaver, rider and owner of Excel Star Pluto (Clarucci C x Fortuna-R), made the trek from Elverson, Pennsylvania, with her trusted 8-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding.

“Looking at the course—there was a lot to do out there. It was question after question, it would be like big table, A, B, C, big table, A, B, C, and he’s been tough to get a good gallop on because he’s up and down so I was worried about time…I’m just going to go out, I’m going to be efficient, and it’ll fall where it is,” said Beaver.

But obviously time wasn’t too much of a factor for the pair as they only incurred 0.4 time penalties, bringing their overnight dressage score up to 33.9, which took them from fourth to first-place standing. “From the get-go, he just came out guns blazing—I hardly had to touch him," she said. "He was like, ‘I got it, Mom. Where to next? He was a true partner. It was a really cool experience.”

Thanks to a longstanding relationship with Courtney Cooper, Beaver was introduced to “Pluto” after she imported a mare that just wasn’t the right fit. “I traded her for him four years ago now,” said Beaver. “It’s funny because I rode an off-the-track Thoroughbred that was like, you could bully him, and he liked for you to take control, but this horse—he has to be part of the decision as well. To me, it makes it a bit of a better partnership because he makes some decisions out there, too. It’s not just all me.”

Beavers admits that she’s relishing this time before show jumping tomorrow (she doesn’t go until 3 p.m.) and is enjoying this high of emotions and hard work. “I know it’s going to be a big atmosphere, which can work to our benefit,” said Beavers. “I think if I can find a good rhythm then, you know, if he ticks a rail, and it comes down, so be it. I just want it to be a smooth round, and that’s really all it can be now to say that this is an incredible weekend.”

Kathleen Bertuna, rider and owner of the 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Excel Star Harry (Luidam x Moysella Cool Diamond) bumped up from third to second, adding 5.6 time penalties to make a score of 35.7 as the pair heads into their show jumping round. Rory Frangos, rider and owner of the 9-year-old Hanoverian-Thoroughbred mare Citigirl (Unknown x Unknown) took an impressive leap from 13th to third, adding only 0.8 time penalties resulting in a score of 36.6.

Bates USEA Preliminary Horse Championship

Liz Halliday and Maybach. USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo

Liz Halliday sat at the top of the leaderboard in the Bates USEA Preliminary Horse Championship following dressage yesterday, and that fact still remains true today only she now holds the lead with a different horse.

Halliday and the Newmarket Syndicate’s Irish Sport Horse gelding Newmarket Cooley (Newmarket Venture x Kilderry Clover) were the first out of the startbox in their championship division today, but the 7-year-old Halliday calls “Albie” had a bit of a young horse moment at the second water complex where the pair picked up two refusals.

But Halliday got it done with her second entry in the division, the 7-year-old German Sport Horse gelding Maybach (Millenium x Hillary), owned by Deborah Palmer. A double-clear trip around Jay Hambly’s cross-country track moved the pair up from second to first as they held onto their dressage score of 25.8.

Sharon White sits three points behind Halliday and Maybach on a score of 28.5 riding her own 7-year-old Westphalian mare Jaguar Duende (Jaguar Mail x Latina). Maintaining the third place position going into show jumping is Hannah Sue Hollberg aboard Christa Schmidt’s 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding “J” (Farfan M x Fairway).

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About the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC)

The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC), presented by Nutrena Feeds, is the pinnacle of the sport at 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 combinations 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. In fact, the 2021 AEC garnered over 1,000 entries and now stands as the largest eventing competition in North American history. The 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds will be held Aug. 29—Sept. 3 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 Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena Feeds; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsor: Bates Saddles; Gold Level Sponsors: Capital Square, Horse & Country, Parker Equine Insurance, Smartpak, Standlee; Silver Level Sponsors: Auburn Labs, Ecogold, Kerrits, The Jockey Club; Bronze Level Sponsors: 70 Degrees, Athletux, Black Petticoat, The Chronicle of the Horse, Devoucoux, D.G. Stackhouse and Ellis, Dubarry of Ireland, Equestrian Team Apparel, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Horseware Ireland, Majyk Equipe, Retired Racehorse Project, Ride EquiSafe; Contributing Level Sponsor: CrossCountry App, Georgetown – Scott County Tourism, Lexmark, L.V. Harkness, Mountain Horse, Mrs. Pastures Cookies, #WeRideTogether; Prize Level Sponsors: Coach Daniel Stewart, EquiFit, Equilab, Equiluxe Tack, Equine Essentials, Equine Pulse Performance, FarmVet, Achieve Equine/FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips, Horses 4 Your Consideration, Hound & Hare, I Love My Horse Eventing Boutique, Jack’s Favorites, Jane Heart Jewelry, Kinetic Equine Services, LeMieux, Levade Kentucky, Mare Modern Goods, OneTouch Fly Spray, Parkmore Supplements, Practical Horseman, Sidelines Magazine, Spy Coast Farm, Strides for Equality Equestrians, and VTO Saddlery.

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