The Area V Championships were split into two action-packed weekends with the Novice and Beginner Novice sections taking place during the Meadowcreek Park event in Kosse, Texas in September, and the Preliminary and Training sections running during the Holly Hill Horse Trials in Benton, Louisiana in late October. Four horse and rider pairs rose to the occasion and claimed Champion honors, and we caught up with each pair to recap their thoughts on their successful weekends.
Preliminary Champion: Lauren Hoover & Atlanta VII | 34.0
Lauren Hoover describes her relationship with her 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Atlanta VII (Vancouver x Phildelphia GHR), a.k.a. Blackie, as that of an old married couple. “He’s been the most consistent part of my life through college and work,” Hoover recalled. “Competing with him now is like hanging out with a best friend. As long as I point him in the right direction, he'll take me wherever I want to be.”
Hoover and Blackie have had a successful 2021 so far, but the first-place finish at the Area V Championships was the icing on the cake. After delivering a dressage test worthy of a 32.0, the pair put in a double-clear show jumping round to sit in third. It all boiled down to cross-country, and after a clear round with only 2.0 time penalties, the duo moved up to first to finish on a 34.0. On their experience at Area V Championships, Hoover shared, “Holly Hill Farms is a fantastic event venue, and the owners always put on a top-rated show. For Halloween this year, the rider/horse costumes out on cross-country were especially creative, which just added to the festive energy always present at Holly Hill Horse Trials.”
Training Champion: Madyx Guidry & Dancin’With Thunder | 37.6
Adding just one rail to their dressage score to finish on a 37.6 in the Training Championship was Madyx Guidry aboard her 7-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse gelding Dancin’With Thunder. Guidry and “Dirk” have been together since the summer of 2020 and she most admires the gelding’s personality. “He is one of the goofiest horses I know,” she shared. “He can always brighten up my day with the little things he does, whether it’s his grumpy moods, lip quivers, or wanting to eat 24/7. He also always tries to please me even if he isn’t sure. We may have had our ups and downs, but his attitude through it all is amazing. He can be challenging, but is also so rewarding.”
The highlight of Guidry’s weekend was overcoming obstacles that the pair have worked on all season long. “This was our first Training show back after coming back from a setback in the spring and it went perfectly. I am so proud of the hard work that Dirk put in. My favorite memory would have to be crossing the finish line after cross-country, knowing that not only did we go double clear but that we won!”
Novice Champion: Laura McEvoy & Visconti | 26.2
Laura McEvoy took a chance in 2017 and purchased her now 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding Visconti (Viscount x Passionata) based on his free jump video. “I thought, 'wow – this horse could be a phenomenal event horse,’” she reflected. “But after working with him for several months, I started to worry he might not be cut out for eventing. While he had tons of scope and great form, he was not particularly brave.” Hoping that Visconti’s show-off type attitude would excel in a competitive atmosphere and schooling the course at Willow Draw a few times, she decided to enter him in the 2018 Willow Draw Charity Show. While the duo won their first outing together, McEvoy claimed cross-country was a struggle and she steered Visconti to a career in the show jumping ring.
“Over the next two years, we competed at a few jumper shows and a dressage show, which he seemed more suited to,” she continued. “I didn’t have any real plan to try eventing him again. It was more a result of my getting tired of traipsing around after my students cross-country schooling. I thought, ‘I’ll just bring him along next time and hack him about and maybe play in the water.’” To McEvoy’s amazement, Visconti seemed to enjoy the work in the cross-country field this time around, and so his eventing career began again. A decision that seems to have paid off as the horse has won every event he has entered in 2021, including the very competitive Area V Novice Championships where he added a single rail to his dressage score of 26.0 to lead the victory gallop on a final score of 30.0.
Beginner Novice Champion: Eleanor McClain & Abbigael | 32.0
Eleanor McClain keeps her new horse, the 15-year-old Warmblood mare Abbigael, at her small barn and is solely responsible for her care, a fact that McClain believes has allowed her to know the gray mare in a much deeper way. “It was a difficult transition at first,” McClain said of her relationship with her new mount. “Month after month I worked, desperately trying to connect with her.” The pair has overcome a huge learning curve as they got to know one another, but despite some bumps in the road, McClain left each show with a positive mentality and asked herself, “What did I learn from that, and how can I fix it?”
After all of the triumphs and tribulations, crossing the finish line at the Area V championships and knowing they had won the event from start to finish on their dressage score of 28.3 felt unbelievable. “I was hesitant to do the championships because I would be competing against adults, but it ended up being an incredible experience,” McClain shared. “ I am so thankful for the opportunity, so thankful to Meadowcreek for hosting, to my trainer Mrs. Lisa Phillips for always believing in me, and for Abbigael, for always giving me her absolute best and teaching me so well.”
The USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) has initiated a renewed focus on the diverse challenges coaches in various regions of the country may be facing. To this end, the program is in the process of enlisting representatives in each of the 10 USEA areas to help guide the program as warranted for the unique needs of each specific area.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) has opened nominations for the annual appreciation awards through Oct. 29. This is an opportunity for the sport to recognize those horses and riders who excelled in eventing throughout the year. It is also an opportunity to recognize and honor the very important people who have served the sport tirelessly both in a non-riding capacity and riding capacity during their golden years.
Anticipation for the 2024 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship and inaugural USEA Interscholastic Eventing League (IEL) Championship is growing, and the host venue, Stable View, is up for the task of making both events an unforgettable experience for all involved. For the first time, the Intercollegiate and IEL program championships will be hosted on the same weekend at the Stable View H.T. in Aiken, South Carolina, on May 4-5, 2024, creating greater unity between the programs and demonstrating a clear pipeline of participation in the sport from grade school through college and beyond.
The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has made five rule changes which will go into effect October 1, 2023. Familiarize yourself with these rule changes below to make sure you are in compliance before heading out for your next event.