Oct 08, 2021

Rider Reflections: Area VIII Champions Gallop to Victory Across Famed Kentucky Horse Park

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
From left: Photo courtesy of Maggie Hahn, photo courtesy of Kelly Baugh, JJ Sillman photo, Xpress Foto

What better way to wrap up a successful eventing season than by being crowned champion on the same grounds that host the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event? The Jump Start Horse Trials at the Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) in Lexington, Kentucky was the location for the 2021 Area VIII Championships from October 1-3 where riders from Beginner Novice to Intermediate had the opportunity to be crowned king or queen in their respective divisions. What did this year’s Area VIII champions have to say regarding their weekend at the KHP? Read on to find out!

Intermediate Champion: Dan Kreitl & Horales | 46.0

Dan Kreitl and Horales. JJ Sillman photo.

While Dan Kreitl describes Kay Dixon’s Trakehner gelding Horales (Sixtus x Paola-Go) as a bit temperamental to train in his younger days, their patience has paid off as the 8-year-old snagged the win in the Intermediate division of the Area VIII Championships. “As he's getting older, he is getting easier to ride and has a bright future ahead!” commented Kreitl. “He did his first Advanced earlier this year, and is headed to Chattahoochee Hills at the end of this month to do the Advanced there, and will finish the season with the CCI3*-L at Tryon in November.”

Looking back on the weekend, Kreitl shared that “Atticus” was ready for the job ahead when it came time to leave the start box. “Our best phase of the weekend was definitely cross-country! It was a super fun course and Atticus was on it, making easy work of the questions asked. He's got a huge stride, and we both really enjoy cross country!”

Preliminary Champion: Maxine Preston & Wants to Be Cooley | 32.2

Maxine Preston and Wants to Be Cooley. JJ Sillman photo.

Adding just 2.8 seconds of time to their dressage score of 29.4, Maxine Preston and Jerry Barnette Jr.’s 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Wants to Be Cooley (El Primero x Biolga) moved up from second to first to seal the deal in the Preliminary Championship. Accompanied by trainer Jennifer Carter, Preston, Barnette and his wife Christy found “Henry” in Ireland two years ago where it was love at first sight. While all of the other horses were busy munching on their hay, Henry stuck his face out in the aisle as if to say, “pick me!” Barnette has a long history in the sport and in the later stages of his career has decided to invest in the next generation, graciously granting Preston the ride.

On their experience at the Championship, Preston commented on the level of prestige that the Kentucky Horse Park has to offer. “Having your area championships at the Kentucky Horse Park is such a unique opportunity for those of us in Area VIII. Being able to gallop on the same footing as Land Rover [Kentucky Three-Day Event] is always special. I thought the courses were quite good and much different than I had seen at the horse park before, which is not always an easy thing to do because of the number of horse trials that take place there in a year!”

Open Training Champion: Adalee Ladwig & Diego | 29.1

Adalee Ladwig and Diego. Image courtesy of Xpress Foto

It was a whirlwind of a weekend for Adalee Ladwig who brought home the win in not just one, but two Area VIII Championship divisions. In the Open Training Championship, Ladwig and her 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Diego by Balta Czar scored a 29.1 which they would add no faults to over both jumping phases to earn the blue ribbon. Her journey with Diego has been a work in progress over the past three years. “My partnership with Diego has been a long, but rewarding journey,” Ladwig commented. “He was originally going to be my project horse but turned out to be an amazing jumper so I kept him. I can always trust him to take care of me in a show. He never fails to give it his all, especially when it counts. He truly is one of a kind and I'm very lucky to call him mine.”

While she found the Championship cross-country course to be challenging, Ladwig reflected that it was also quite fun to ride. “I expected it to be a little tough once I walked it. I had no doubt that Diego would fly over all of the jumps. He is great on course and never questions anything. My favorite part of the course was the coffin element. It rode quite well and Diego had no problem getting over each element in that sequence. I always enjoy the last jump as well, there's just something about getting to the last jump and knowing you finished a tough course with your best friend.”

Open Training Junior Champion: Lydia Eifler & Hans Christian | 25.0

Lydia Eifler and Hans Christian. Photo courtesy of Lydia Eifler.

Over their two-year-long relationship, Lydia Eifler and her 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Hans Christian (Christ x Gracia) have had several top-five finishes together. Eifler chalks their success as a partnership up to two things: “I really love how much he loves the sport and how honest he is in jumping.”

After scoring a 25 in dressage to land them in second, the pair executed a double-clear cross-country round to move them up to the top of the leaderboard. Their performance in cross-country was by far the highlight of their weekend according to Eifler. “he listened to my aides very well and was confident with every fence,” she reflected. Going into the final phase in first can put the pressure on, but the duo kept it consistent and delivered a double clear show jumping round to seal their victory in the Area VIII Open Training Junior Championship.

Training Amateur Champion: Cora Severs & Cuervo | 25.2

Cora Severs and Cuervo. JJ Sillman photo.

Colorado native Cora Severs has been on the mend this year following a second operation on her shoulder, but that didn’t hold her back from navigating Stacey Severs’ 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Cuervo (Judgement ISF x Alexis Titty 11 Z) to a score of 25.2 in the Training Amateur Championship. After going double clear across the country and in the show jumping arena, the duo moved up from second to first to claim victory. Severs describes her partner as a 1500lb puppy who is easily bribed by treats and scratches. Getting to the Kentucky Horse Park wasn’t a challenge for the duo, seeing as Cuervo enjoys trailer rides so much that he will pull Severs onto the trailer with him.

Getting back in the saddle after any time off is challenging but Severs aimed to come back strong. “We have been improving in the dressage and Cuervo is a wicked fun cross-country horse,” she shared. “I’m very thankful coming from Colorado to have a facility such as the Kentucky Horse Park in our backyard and having the support of the UK Eventing team.”

Novice Amateur Champion: Jane Musselman & Bentley’s Best | 25.5

Jane Musselman and Bentley’s Best. Image courtesy of Xpress Foto

It’s been quite the year for Jane Musselman. Coming off of a win in the Novice Rider Championships at the 2021 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds, Musselman and new partner Bentley’s Best (Hirtentanz x Hauptstutbuch Baronesse) also won the Area VIII Novice Amateur Championships from start-to-finish on a dressage score of 25.5. “It feels amazing to have won at both the AEC and our Area Championships,” she beamed, “especially in our first year as partners. I am so lucky to have a horse like Benny.”

What drew Musselman to the 14-year-old Trakehner gelding was his work ethic both at home and the show. No matter where he is, he is always ready to put on a performance. “My favorite thing about Benny is his love for his job. He truly loves all three phases and is such a fierce competitor.”

Novice Junior Champion: Victoria Baugh & Curioso | 28.3

Victoria Baugh and Curioso. Photo courtesy of Kelly Baugh.

After helping now four-star level eventer Alexandra Baugh grow from Beginner Novice to Preliminary, Alexandra passed the reins on the Altorac Farm owned 17-year-old Andalusian cross gelding Curioso (Nishkito x Bright Easy Jet) to her younger sister Victoria. “Curioso is a unicorn,” shared a proud Victoria. “He is a very special horse and we are best friends. We have competed from Starter through Novice and he never lets me down. He has taught me so much and allowed me to have the confidence to do my best.”

Together, Victoria and Curioso have won almost every single outing in 2021, including taking home the win in the Area VIII Novice Junior Championships. The win is extra sentimental for Victoria, who is sadly outgrowing her beloved Curioso. “This will be my final year on him as I am getting too tall,” she shared. “It is time for him to help another person as they pursue their love of eventing!” Curioso is a beloved member of the Baugh family for his impact on both daughters. Kelly Baugh, Alexandra and Victoria’s mother, reflected, “​​He is one in a billion and we just wish he could grow with Victoria. He is a member of the family and we love him and his huge heart!”

Open Novice Champion: Adalee Ladwig & Argenta MSF | 19.8

Adalee Ladwig and Argenta MSF. Alex Banks Photography.

There is nothing quite as rewarding as bringing a homebred along through the levels, which is exactly what Ladwig has gotten to experience with the 8-year-old Hanoverian mare Argenta MSF (Jesper x Callie). “She was born on the farm and I started her as a 3-year-old. We've been showing ever since,” Ladwig said. “Argenta is the sweetest horse you'll ever meet and has a very outgoing personality. She loves to give it her all as well when it comes to competitions. I love riding this horse and to win the Area Championship with two horses that I produced is a dream come true.”

After receiving a 19.8 in the dressage phase, it was time for cross-country. The Novice cross-country track was set like a true championship course, but Ladwig knew Argenta would be game. “Argenta and I had a blast on the novice cross-country course. She handled everything very well, even the scary ditch,” commented the Junior Rider. “The course definitely had technical aspects to it but I would have to say my favorite part was jumping over a jump out of the water.” Their double-clear performance on cross-country would bump them from third to first where they would remain for the rest of the competition.

Beginner Novice Amateur Champion: Hannah Reeser & Ltl Ireland Summr Soldier | 19.3

Hannah Reeser and Ltl Ireland Summr Soldier. Photo courtesy of Hannah Reeser.

Finishing in the top three at a national championship can put a lot of pressure on your next event, but Hannah Reeser tried to keep a steady head as she and Virginia Reeser’s 7-year-old Morgan Mare Ltl Ireland Summr Soldier (October Fox x Abby Darling) contested the Area VIII Beginner Novice Amateur Championships. “I honestly tried not to think about the AEC result coming into the Area Championships,” Reeser shared. “Based on my past experience, you have to tackle each event separately and not let any previous results cloud your mind because that is when mistakes start happening. Ltl Ireland Summr Soldier is a super talented pony who knows her job very well now, so I knew coming into this championship that all I needed to do was stay out of her way and ride to the best of my ability for a top finish.”

After delivering what Reeser claims was some of their best rides all season, the pair closed out the championship adding no additional penalties to their phenomenal dressage score of 19.3, the lowest winning score of all the championship divisions. “​​I love that she always gives you 110% at shows,” she said of the mare. “You could have the absolute worst ride the day before an event, but come time to go down the centerline, leave the start box, and leave the poles up, she is suddenly and completely in tune with you. This is the best feeling in the world, especially at big events. She may be small, but she has the stride, scope, and heart of horses twice her size.”

Beginner Novice Junior Champion: Maggie Hahn & Dutchess | 32.0

Maggie Hahn and Dutchess. Photo courtesy of Maggie Hahn.

After her previous horse suffered a career-ending injury at the start of this year, Maggie Hahn found herself horse shopping in Ocala, Florida in hopes of finding a new four-legged teammate. With the help of Chelsey Sawtell, Hahn found Dutchess, an 8-year-old American Warmblood mare. The duo may have only been partnered for six months now, but she couldn’t ask for more of her new partner. “I’ve spent the last six months getting to know her and learn from her with a busy show schedule. Looking forward to moving up to Novice and appreciate the opportunity to soak up as much learning as possible. I am beyond blessed to have her!” Of their seven outings together, the new duo have had a top-five placing at four events.

Their dressage score of 32 initially landed them in third place, but consistency paid off and the pair moved up after double-clear efforts in each division. While the entire weekend was an experience that Hahn will cherish, there definitely was a standout moment in her mind. “My favorite part of the weekend was crossing the finish line on cross country knowing that I jumped clean! I am just so super proud of my mare who jumped her heart out!”

Open Beginner Novice Champion: Anika Hawes & Can Do Man | 27.3

Anika Hawes and Can Do Man. Image courtesy of Xpress Foto

Anika Hawes decided to give working with her first young horse a go in July of 2020 when she saw the now 4-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Can Do Man (Can the Man x Quality Miss) listed with Second Stride, Inc. “When we first got him, he was curious yet unsure about people and what they entailed,” said Hawes looking back, “but after just a few days he became one of the friendliest and happiest horses. He always seems to be in a good mood, and nickers every time someone walks into the barn. It is so much fun for me to ride him because he is always experiencing something new, and I get to work on always giving him a positive ride that he can grow from.”

Hawes especially enjoys working with “Dewey” on their cross-country efforts, but not just because cross-country is the phase that most eventers naturally gravitate towards. “He doesn't have a lot of course experience yet, and I get to feel how his confidence grows from the first to the last jump. How he gets braver each time he approaches a new course is such a rewarding feeling for me.” Their hard work as a pair has paid off as the duo placed first in the Open Beginner Novice Championship, adding nothing to their dressage score of 27.3.

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