Sep 25, 2021

Rider Reflections: Area VII Champions Conquer Rainy Weather and Championship Courses

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff

The Area VII Championships were one of three Area Championships to run over the weekend of September 18-19. The Aspen Farms Horse Trials of Yelm, Washington was host to the over 150 combinations who qualified for the Area VII year-end Championships presented by Tin Men Supply. With ten Championship divisions running over the course of the weekend, the team of staff and volunteers putting on the event were quite busy ensuring that the Championship atmosphere was top-notch! There were over $35,000 in cash and prizes distributed thanks to the amazing sponsors of the Area VII Championships: Tin Men Supply, Gallops Saddlery, Toklas Originals, Kerrits Equestrian, Tack Room Too, SeraKul, Olson’s Tack Shop, Ice Horse, Auburn Laboratories, Stubben, Devoucoux, Chubby-Cov, Bemer, Ride-On-Video, Revitavet, Delta S Designs, Sparkly Pony, and Voltaire. We caught up with some of the champions to share their thoughts on the weekend’s celebrations.

Open Intermediate Champion: Marc Grandia & Sunsprite Seryndipity | 42.5

Marc Grandia and Sunsprite Seryndipity. Photo by Cortney Drake Photography.

Marc Grandia has had the ride on Sunsprite Ranch LLC's 9-year-old Trakehner mare Sunsprite Seryndipity (Steinburg x Symplicity) for three years now with the intention of establishing her eventing career before she retires and becomes a member of Sunsprite Ranch's top-tier breeding program. "We are lucky to have great breeders like Pam [Duffy] continuing on the legacies of successful Event horses and carefully choosing bloodlines for the future of US Eventing," Grandia said of the Sunpsrite breeding program.

On his experience at the Area VII Championships at Aspen Farms, Grandia shared: "Competing in the Area VII champs is always a lot of fun because we have such a great group of people here in Area VII. Aspen Farms always does such a great job putting on the event. They make the championship classes special but don’t overlook the open divisions either. It’s always a super competitive, fun event."

Open Preliminary Champion: Jordan Lindstedt & Lovely Lola | 25.4

Jordan Lindstedt and Lovely Lola. Photo by Courtney Drake photography.

The win in the Open Preliminary Championship was awarded to Jordan Lindstedt riding the 7-year-old Hanoverian mare that she co-owns with Bridget Brewer, Lovely Lola. When asked to describe "Lola," Lindstedt reflected that she is a sweetheart of a mare who is wonderful with Lindstedt's daughter Payton. But she does have a bit of an odd quirk, "She loves alcohol," Lindstedt joked, "especially red wine and beer, but she will try to drink anything I have!"

Regarding their performance at Aspen Farms, Lindstedt couldn't pick a phase where Lola stood out more than the others. "She was lovely to ride on the flat, bold and full of run on xc, and jumped with so much scope and power on Sunday. I am absolutely thrilled with her finish as I think she is an exceptional young horse and she really deserves the win!"

Open Training Champion: Amber Birtcil & Le Top F | 23.6

Amber Birtcil and Le Top F. Photo by Ride On Photo.

Le Top F (Emir R x Zakiya F) may only be 5-years-old, but Amber Birtcil says the Cellar Farm Corporation owned Dutch Warmblood gelding is exceptionally brave and loves cross-country. The duo's dressage score of 23.6 initially had them sitting in second place following dressage and cross-country, but a double clear effort in show jumping would shake up the standings and skyrocket them into the lead position.

Of the weekend, Birtcil shared, "It was a beautiful cross-country track and rode quite well. Aspen Farm does an amazing job with the championships. They make it incredibly special and really shine the light on these divisions!"

Training Rider Champion: Julie Williams & Dark Horse | 24.1

Julie Williams and Dark Horse. Photo courtesy of Julie Williams.

While on a horse-shopping trip for himself, Julie Williams's husband saw Dark Horse tied to the hitching post with several other geldings and liked the look of the now 13-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse cross gelding. Seven years later, Williams still says how thankful she is that her husband picked "Montana" out of that lineup! Working alongside her trainer Mary Burke of Burkeridge Farms, Williams has seen the greatest changes in Montana's confidence and attitude over the last two years and attributes that to his recent performances at shows.

"This year has been very consistent for us and I wanted to give Montana the ride he deserved at Championships and I felt we got that done finishing on our dressage score!" Williams commented. "Aspen Farms is such a beautiful and unique venue and everyone is so hospitable. It is an honor to be able to ride there. A really big thank you to the Elliots and all the others behind the scenes for putting together such a fabulous event!"

Junior Training Champion: Lizzie Hoff & HSH Explosion | 22.1

Lizzie Hoff and HSH Explosion. Photo courtesy of Mollie Hoff.

It was a start-to-finish win for Lizzie Hoff and her 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare HSH Explosion (Sligo Candy Boy x Tireragh Lady) in the Junior Training Championship. The duo laid out a competitive dressage test which earned them the lowest score of the field, a 22.1. With the reserve champion just fractions of a point behind them, there was no room for error in order to maintain their lead.

"It was fun to be in a competitive division that didn't really give us room for any mistakes," Hoff shared as she looked back on the weekend. "Doing well at Championships made it feel like we're starting to have a real partnership after only having HSH Explosion for a couple of months. She was amazing out on cross-country. She is a phenomenal cross-country horse and is so game for everything. It's always really fun and feels easy with her."

Open Novice Champion: Kelsey Horn & Konnan O | 21.2

Kelsey Horn and Konnan O. Photo by Courtney Drake photography.

Winning the Open Novice Championship on the lowest score of the weekend in the championship divisions was Kelsey Horn and Mark Schreiber's 6-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Konnan O (Global Express VDL x Ammaretto CL). Horn described the massive 18h gelding as a "real character" and shared that he often puts on quite the show each morning upon being turned out in his paddock, bucking in place and turning to see if anyone was watching! Luckily, he leaves that behavior behind when under saddle.

In regard to this year's Championship at Aspen Farms, Horn shared, "The cross-country course at the Area VII Championships this year was a blast! I really liked that all levels got to start out in the back field near the C barns because it made it feel like you got to cover more ground. The best part of the Championship cross-country courses at Aspen Farm was the use of the terrain, even the lower levels got to gallop up and down some of the big hills on course. It makes it challenging but also exciting!"

Novice Rider Champion: Katy Hood & Padric | 24.0

Katy Hood and Padric. Photo by Cortney Drake Photography.

Shortly after Katy Hood purchased the Connemara gelding Padric (Valleywhim Un x Bella Sleck) in 2017, she found herself facing a string of difficult personal challenges in which Padric was her one constant. She and the now 15-year-old gelding had a bit of a rocky start as Hood introduced Padric to his eventing career, but they began to grow as a team over the course of the next few years. "Pad and I grew as a team, had our wins, and so much fun. At a time in my life when I had given up much that was important to me and faced some very big unknowns, I found a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I found community. I was beyond challenged, both physically and mentally. I felt very much alive and there was finally a lot of joy in my life."

Hood and Padric relocated to Oregon where they began riding with Judy Klus of Full Circle Farm, a move that she believes led she and her faithful partner to the successful season which they have had this year. "Pad and I finally arrived at this moment because of Judy's dedication and belief in us," she said as she looked back on her win in the Area VII Novice Rider Championship. "Her training, and the support of my dear friends Michelle Cameron & Nick Ames, completely changed my attitude going into the dressage court - I finally believed anything was possible and a top finish was within our grasp."

Junior Novice Champion: Stella Wright and Balladeer Kilbrickens Lad | 27.9

Stella Wright and Balladeer Kilbrickens Lad. Photo by Cortney Drake Photography.

An exciting move-up following a double clear show jumping round allowed Stella Wright and Patricia Culleton's 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Balladeer Kilbrickens Lad (A. Umonia 60 x Aubane Girl) to capture the coveted champion tricolor in the Junior Novice Championship. Wright reflected that despite his young age, "Jerry" is a very willing horse who took to the dressage phase with ease so their primary focus has been on perfecting his efforts over fences. She also shared that her trainer Karen O'Neal has been an integral part in the young horse's development and that she is extremely appreciative of all of her guidance and efforts as they further their partnership. Looking back on the weekend's championship, Wright was delighted with how Jerry took to the atmosphere and challenging weather.

"Aspen is such a lovely facility and it’s always a pleasure competing there, the rain is never ideal but I’m super grateful to the Elliott’s for hosting us. Being in a Championship division adds a fun competitive edge and I couldn’t be happier with Jerry for his performance."

Open Beginner Novice Champion: Chris Gianini & Athena | 29.5

Chris Gianini and Athena. Photo by Cortney Drake Photography.

Former show hunter Athena (R. Anubertha x Tiaraella) proved that her career change was a fruitful one by earning the Champion title in the Open Beginner Novice division with owner Chris Gianini in the irons. Gianini shared that the 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare was unfazed about switching disciplines thanks to her wonderful temperament.

On their weekend as a whole, Gianini shared the following sentiments: "What made this weekend special is again experiencing the supportive and positive attitude of eventers. Stadium was ridden in an absolute downpour with most competitors showing a great sense of humor. Aspen Farms kept the footing safe and as groomed as possible throughout!"

Junior Beginner Novice Champion: Hayden Brown & Cooley Merrywell Mint | 31.3

Hayden Brown and Cooley Merrywell Mint. Photo by Marcus Greene Outdoor Photography.

The scores were tight between the Champion and Reserve Champion in the Junior Beginner Novice Championship, but Hayden Brown and her 4-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Merrywell Mint (Cormint x Merrywell Dancer) would take home top honors after adding just one rail in the show jumping phase to their dressage score of 27.3 for an overall score of 31.3.

Brown adores "Wellie's" amazing attitude and mind for being such a young horse and felt that they both excelled across the cross-country track over the Championship weekend. "It was our smoothest round yet, and Wellie seemed really happy to be out there," Brown reflected. "We were totally on the same page start to finish."

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