Sep 02, 2018

Preliminary and Training Competitors are First Champions Crowned of the 2018 USEA AEC

McKenzie Rollins and Excel Star Lord. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

The third day of competition of the USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena® Feeds at The Colorado Horse Park, saw the first 2018 champions crowned in both the Training and Preliminary divisions.

Training Horse

As the first division champion to be crowned at the 15th annual AEC, Training Horse winner McKenzie Rollins was nothing but smiles as she galloped around the Coors Arena in her lap of victory. “It’s just such an honor to be able to come here in the first place,” she said. “To compete at such a beautiful venue, to make the trek out from California, with my best friend. It was just so fun. It’s a dream come true.”

Rollins moved from first place after her dressage phase, into second place after cross-country with her own Excel Star Lord, a 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Non-Stop x Korea B), and clinched the final victory of the week on a score of 34.9.

“He’s still quite young,” Rollins continued, “so I really wanted to take my time to produce him, to not skip over anything. It’s really important to me that he’s happy and comfortable to do the job, and that I’m not over-facing him with anything and I feel like this is just such a feather in his cap. He’s my first young horse that I’ve brought along, and it’s been really fun. He’s such a pleasure to ride. He’s so lovely and he’s so kind and enjoys the work, which makes it that much more worth it.”

Sam Kelly and Robinstown Ballivor. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Second place was awarded to Sam Kelly of Minnesota, aboard her own 2009 Irish Sport Horse gelding, Robinstown Ballivor (Watermill Swatch x Coevers Dock), as the pair made a comeback from fifth place after their cross-country phase of competition, to end on 37.5 penalties. “It was a great weekend,” said Kelly. “We traveled 20 hours so it took forever for us to get here, and we’ve been here since last Saturday.” Of her weekend with her mount, she elaborated, “Dressage, he was amazing. He had a couple spooks, which is kind of unlike him, but with cross-country too, he was amazing. We had time, which was a bummer, but he’s a strong show jumper, so I knew he had it in the bag. It was just a strong overall weekend.”

Attila Rajnai and Maximus de la Tombe. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Idaho’s Attila Rajnai rounded out the top three with his own 2012 Belgian Warmblood gelding, Maximus de la Tombe (Esperanto van Paemel x Fidji de la Tombe), after earning a score of 39.9. Commenting on his horse’s overall performance this week, Rajnai said, “The dressage test was very good, he felt like he was pretty relaxed for him. He’s still a very young horse, so I thought he did a good job. On cross-country he was a little bit stronger than I wish he had been, so it took me a little time to prepare for the jumps and I feel like that cost us a little time. In the show jumping, he was very tight as well so through one turn he got a bit discombobulated and had a rail, but all in all I’m very happy with his performance.”

Junior Training

Madison Santley and Excellence. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

The Junior Training division concluded with Madison Santley of California, who moved to finish on top of the podium aboard Excellence, a 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Vaillant x Wolinda), after clear rounds in both cross-country and show jumping phases of competition.

Santley and her mount finished on their dressage score of 31.7, and she said, “This [AEC] has honestly been one of the best experiences of my life. It took a long time to get out here, we had a bumpy road. But he was so good. He was an angel and I love him with all of my heart. I couldn’t have asked for a better horse and a better week.”

Cora Severs and Cuervo. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Colorado native Cora Severs rode Stacey Severs’ 2010 Dutch Warmblood gelding Cuervo (Judgement ISF x Alexis Titty 11 Z), to the reserve champion title on their dressage score of 35.6. “I had a great AEC experience,” Severs said. “I’ve qualified every year, but this is the first time in four years that I have been able to go. Overall it went really well. I wasn’t able to ride him for two weeks leading up to the event, as I was at college, but all in all, he listened very well and I had a great time.”

Madison Flanders and Arwen II. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Madison Flanders of Oregon, finished in third place with Michele Flanders’ Arwen II, a 2008 Thoroughbred mare (Silver Patriarch x Sally Smith), after landing on a final 35.8. “I’ve had the greatest AEC experience,” Flanders said. “It’s really cool that it was close, here in Colorado this time. We usually can’t go because it’s on the East Coast. The whole entire weekend was really fun, especially cross-country. We went a little bit too fast, but it was so much fun, I don’t even care! My mare was just perfect the entire time.”

Training Rider

Tracy Alves and Romulus. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

The AEC is to be 20-year-old, Romulus’ last competition, so it is only fitting that he went out on top. Luckily, he and owner/rider, Tracy Alves, put in a double clear show jumping round to hold on to their overnight lead and win the Training Rider division. “The show jumping course was so fun,” said Alves of the Dutch Warmblood gelding (Contango x Divottii). “My strategy was to keep him in front of my leg. He sucks back really easily.”

Alves worked hard to prepare for the AEC in order to ensure that Romulus was in ideal condition and ready to take on the competition at his age. “I’m really glad we did our conditioning in the heat of the day,” said Alves. “In California, where I live, we don’t have the opportunity to train at elevation. We train at about 100 feet above sea level, which is nowhere near 5,280 feet. So, we purposefully did it in the hottest part of the day, just to see if we could get him to struggle a little bit.”

Alves came into the AEC with Romulus in top-notch condition, but also was prepared to withdraw him at any point. “He kept telling me ‘no way mom, we’re going,’” concluded Alves.

Jessica Maranto and Czardus. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Jessica Maranto used her home field advantage to take home the reserve championship in the Training Rider division. “I liked having the AEC here this year, because I live about five minutes from here,” said Maranto. She and Czardus, an 11-year-old American Warmblood gelding (Sweet’s Lucky Moondancer x Cadence) made a steady climb up the leaderboard throughout the weekend – they sat in seventh on a 32.8 after dressage and added nothing to that score in either jump phase.

Cindy Pavusko and Sir Walter Raleigh. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Third-placed Cindy Pavusko had a bit longer of a journey than Maranto, but didn’t let the trek from California stop her from moving up the leaderboard to finish on her dressage score of 34.1. “This is my first AEC, and it was such a great experience, and such an amazing opportunity to be able to come here and compete, said Pavusko who rode her own Sir Walter Raleigh, an 11-year-old American Warmblood gelding by Call Breeder. “I love it here, it’s beautiful. It’s HUGE! I’d never been here before, my parents have, but I was not expecting such a big venue. The cross-country course was a lot of fun.”

Training Amateur

Linda Quist and Belle Gambe. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Linda Quist of Colorado, led from start to finish aboard her own Belle Gambe, a 14-year-old Iberian Warmblood mare (Temerario VII x Mojave) in the Training Amateur division, as the pair finished their competition on a score of 27.3 to secure the top title. “I had a wonderful experience here this year,” Quist said. “This is my third AEC, I rode in Novice, Training, and now Training again. I thought the cross-country course was fabulous, I had a wonderful time out there. Going in to show jumping, all I could think of was ‘Leave the rails up please!’”

Dawn Robbins and Diablo Tejano. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Dawn Robbins of California, and her own Diablo Tejano, a 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Sandpit x Soar Like An Eagle) earned second place on a score of 31.1. Of her inaugural time at the AEC, she said, “The AEC has been the time of my life. I’ve had so much fun, I’ve heard about it for years and we’ve qualified for many years, but it was always too far away for me. I got this chance to come to Colorado and just had to grab ahold of it. I’ve enjoyed being with all of the competitors, and the facility is beautiful, and the course was challenging but not overly so. It was a real championship course.”

Cherye Huber and Sam I Am. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Texan Cherye Huber and her own Sam I Am, a 12-year-old British Sport Horse gelding (Cameo’s Reflection x Castle War Rebel), captured third place with a total score of 34.2. This is Huber’s fourth AEC, and the time surrounded by her fellow competitors was one she will remember fondly. She concluded, “I always love the AEC. It’s always such a festive group. Riding in the Amateur division, we always cheer each other on. I love it here, we had a nice trip and loved the cross-country.”

Preliminary Amateur

Julia Spatt and 5o1 Macintosh. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Julia Spatt of Arkansas and 5o1 Macintosh quietly stalked the leaders all weekend in the Preliminary Amateur division, sitting in a respectable tie for seventh place on a score of 34.3 following dressage and then moving up into second place after adding just 0.8 time faults to their score on cross-country. Finally, Spatt and her own 8-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding of unknown breeding turned in a double clean show jumping round this afternoon to take home the Preliminary Championship title.

“It was really exciting to come back to the AEC this year,” said Spatt, who competed in both the 2012 and 2018 AEC. “I’m actually from Colorado. I’ve been living in Arkansas and it was really fun to come back to my home turf and compete at the AEC, and especially to have such a good result. It was quite a homecoming. I love showing at CHP, It’s always been one of my favorite venues.”

Her familiarity with the venue served her well, as Spatt was able to adequately prepare 5o1 Macintosh for the challenge. “We did a lot of trot sets and gallop sets to get conditioned. We have a nice hill at the farm, so we did a lot of nice slow gallops, up a slow, gradual hill, to make sure he was fit and prepared for the altitude. I felt like my conditioning program paid off, he felt very good yesterday.”

Erin Hofmann and Darkwatch. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Second place in the Preliminary Amateur division went to Erin Hofmann and her own Darkwatch (Royal Academy x Without), a 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding. The pair moved from fifth to first with a double clear cross-country round and dropped back into second place after pulling a single rail in show jumping.

“The AEC has been wonderful,” commented Hofmann, for whom the Colorado Horse Park is home turf. “I’m from Utah and have a bit of home turf advantage. I’ve been coming here for a long time. I didn’t really think about the altitude being an issue for some people, but when I got here I heard a lot of people talking about it. But we didn’t really feel a difference.”

Ruthy Bley and Rodrigue Du Granit. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Ruth Bley and her own 13-year-old Selle Francais gelding Rodrigue Du Granit (Robin II Z x Delight Gee) started and finished the competition in third place, dropping back to fourth after cross-country with 6.0 time faults but moving back up into third with a flawless show jumping round.

“It’s been great!” said Bley of competing at the AEC. “It was a lot of fun. This is a great facility. I have loved the trails that we could ride on. We got here on Sunday and we hacked around and tried to acclimate our horses that were coming from [sea level] to altitude. Actually, I think the horses did better than I did. We forget that we need to acclimate too.”

Junior/Young Rider Preliminary

Madelyn Floyd and Clementine. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Rails were falling in the Junior/Young Rider Preliminary division, but each of the top three had one rail apiece so their placings remained unchanged, and Madelyn Floyd was able to lead the victory gallop aboard her own Clementine, a 9-year-old Hanoverian mare (Carrico x La Belle) – making her journey from Washington well worth it. “She’s a really good jumper, so I tried to stay out of her way,” explained Floyd. “I tried to give her her head, let her do her thing, and keep the tempo the same.”

The penalties were hard to track, so Floyd wasn’t sure if she had a rail in hand when she cantered into the ring. “Show jumping is our hardest phase, so I just tried to relax and jump a good round. She was great. I couldn’t have asked her to be any better, I made a mistake at fence 2 but she was awesome.”

Camryn Holcomb and Cloud Nine. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Floyd and Clementine finished on a 33.5 which was good enough to take the win over reserve champion Camryn Holcomb and Michaela Holcomb’s Cloud Nine, a 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding. Like Floyd’s Clementine, Holcomb said that show jumping isn’t the best phase for Cloud Nine. “He can be pretty tense,” said Holcomb who hails from Kansas. “He’s small and he’s shaped so weird, so if you ride him normally, that’s when he pulls a rail. You have to go really slow, take your time. I was trying to breathe and stay calm. I knew we could do it, we’ve had double clears before, so we just tried to take it in stride.”

Callia Englund and Xyder. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Rounding out the top three was Callia Englund and her own Xyder, an 8-year-old Cheval Canadien gelding (D D D-Cromwell Prince 2 I x Cosyland Start Kandi). “The AEC was so fun,” said Englund who traveled from Washington. “I’m so glad we made the trip up here. t’s my first time to the horse park and the AEC.”

“The cross-country course was difficult! But he’s such a good boy on cross-country, he just ate everything up and had a lot of fun with it,” concluded Englund.

Preliminary Horse

Tamra Smith and Fleeceworks Ghost. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Yesterday’s cross-country was influential in the Preliminary Horse division, which gave Tamra Smith the opportunity to climb up the leaderboard into first. Once Smith had the lead, she wasn’t letting go of it and a double clear show jumping round secured her the win. Riding Judith McSwain’s Fleeceworks Ghost, a 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse/Belgian Warmblood mare (Dhannondale Sarco x Riverlon Mist), Smith finished on her dressage score of 29.0.

“Ghost is just a sweetheart,” explained Smith. “My daughter has been riding her and producing her. In the victory gallop they even congratulated her, which was so exciting because she did all of the work! I just sat there on her, she’s just such a professional, so good and careful.”

She continued, “She was a little tired today from yesterday, because she’s not as bold, but she tries her heart out and she’s careful and you just keep on going.”

Gina Economou and Syntax. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Second place was captured by another California native, Gina Economou, riding Lauren Rath’s 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Syntax (Devil His Due x Synful Maid), who also finished her AEC on a dressage score of 30.4. Of her experience at CHP, Economou noted, “They did a fabulous job here. It’s so nice to have an AEC that is in the midwest, and to have one that we could make it to. It was wonderful this year. I came out with the expectations to put in some solid dressage and cross-country, which is kind of his forte. He met every expectation that I set, and went above that. He jumped very clean, and I’m so proud of him. Basically, his owner got pregnant, so I got to ride! It’s beautiful here. We haven’t been here in a long time, so it was really nice to come back.”

Tamra Smith and MaiBlume. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Smith also claimed third place honors in the Preliminary Horse division, this time aboard the MB Group LLC’s 8-year-old German Sport Horse/ Thoroughbred mare (Sir Schiwago x Free Lady) MaiBlume, also concluding on a dressage score of 31.9. Of her second Preliminary Horse mount, Smith elaborated, “She was absolutely super. Super rideable, she had a very beautiful round, I was really proud of her. Still full of energy, she’s never tired. She’s spicy so sometimes she can get a little funny in the lines to get to the next jump, but today she wasn’t, she was super and I couldn’t have asked her to be better.”

Smith credited the Horse Park and its facility as a valuable asset to the training of her competition string. “It’s so fun to come here and have both of them do so well. I love the ring, it’s so nice to be able to have those green horses handle that kind of atmosphere.”

Preliminary Rider

Whitney Tucker Billeter and Karvaleo. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Places shifted and changed once more in the Preliminary Rider division, which saw Californian Whitney Tucker Billeter guide her own 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, Karvaleo, (Kanna x Finod Cavalier) to the blue ribbon. The duo earned a collective score of 70.3. “This is my first AEC and it’s beautiful here. I want to come live here during the summer!” exclaimed Billeter.

Due to yesterday’s inclement weather, the Preliminary Rider division was sent back to the barn twice before they were set to run their cross-country phase. The group resumed on Saturday morning, and then contested their show jump phase later in the afternoon. Billeter continued, “I just had to work a little bit harder to get him in front of my leg in the warm-up but he answered everything. We had a little bobble, I got too tight coming into a combination and pushed him into the B element, but never got organized. If I had to do anything differently it would have been to ride the 9 a/b a bit better so I could be more organized to get him into the water. He felt tired, warming up twice yesterday, then doing cross-country and show jumping today. Luckily, he has had practice. He’s a really cool young horse that I’m super excited about.”

Travis Atkinson and Don Darco. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Travis Atkinson of Utah, rode his own 9-year-old Zweibrucker gelding Don Darco (Damarco x Gong Lee), to second place honors after completing the three phases with 74.7 penalties. Of his overall weekend with his mount, Atkinson said: “It didn’t go as planned, but it was alright. It was a tough cross-country course that eliminated a lot of our division, and we were the only two left, when it came to the show jumping, and unfortunately, it was mine to lose.”

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About the USEA American Eventing Championships
The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) 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 USEA American Eventing Championships will be held August 29-September 2, 2018 at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colorado. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.

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