The last of the Area Championships took place this past weekend in Tucson, Arizona at the Southern Arizona Fall Horse Trials & Area X Championships. Riders from Area X came from all over in hopes of snagging the coveted champion title, but four riders rode to the top of their fields. The USEA caught up with each champion to relive their performances in Tucson.
Preliminary Champion: Ashley Fischer & Cimbria RC | 41.2
Area X’s Preliminary Champion pair partnered together in 2017 when Ashley Fischer bought the now 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding Cimbria RC (Cimarron x Tax Collection) as a project. While she admits that he challenges her every day, she also notes that he gives her his all each time she mounts up. “He has been one of the best horses I have owned. He is an absolute lover,” commented Fischer. “Recently becoming a new mom, I was unsure I could balance the adult amateur life but this horse reminds me daily that it is possible and has given me the confidence to keep going after our goals!”
The pair scored a 28.8 in dressage and the addition of a little time in cross-country and one rail in show jumping led the pair to finish in first place on a score of 41.2. When asked about her experience at this past weekend’s season-end event, Fischer shared: “Area X Championships is where you find an abundance of riders, horses, officials, and volunteers, all full of love for our sport!”
Training Champion: Jennifer Achilles & Excel Star Lance | 29.1
Finishing on their dressage score of 29.1 in the Training Championship was Jennifer Achilles and her 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Excel Star Lance (Lancelot x Curraghton Cruise) who she lovingly refers to as ‘Pants.’ “Pants and I have just had a terrific year,” commented Achilles. “He is the horse of a lifetime for me. I believe our success comes from having such a great relationship. He's not a horse you just put a saddle on and go. He needs me to check in first, tell me he's great, and then we can go to work. We also have a wonderful trainer and friend in Gilly Slayter at Via Nova Training. Pants and I love working with her. He always perks up when he hears her voice. Not all days are rosy, he is a big horse and can be a heavy ride. But every day we keep trying. Working with Gilly and using positive reinforcement has allowed our relationship to grow exponentially and our training to progress in ways that would have never been possible.”
Looking back on the Area X Championships held at the Southern Arizona Fall Horse Trials and Area X Championships, Achilles reflected highly on the experience. “I love competing in Tucson. The best part is always being around the folks who work so hard to put on such a great show. In eventing, it's really the other riders and volunteers that are the best part. The cross-country course is beautiful too. The show jumping course was very difficult so having a clean round was just so exciting.”
Novice Champions: Laura Worl Kober & Sterling Impression | 29.5
Laura Worl Kober has had her 14-year-old Rheinland Pfalz-saar gelding Sterling Impression (Landwerder x Merika) since he was five months old and has trained him over the years. Because of this, she feels that their partnership is extremely special. “Our first horse trial was when he was 10 years old after my three children were off to college and I had time to focus on some competitions,” shared Kober. “I have enjoyed both dressage and eventing competitions with ‘Simon’ under the careful eye of Kathleen Russell and Hobo Farm.” Kober shared that she is beyond proud of the growth and confidence that they have earned together in all three phases, especially at this year’s Area Championships. The pair added just one rail to their dressage score to finish the weekend on a final score of 29.5.
“We are a smaller eventing community and travel many miles to competitions where the competitors are extremely supportive of each other and have become friends and part of an eventing family,” Kober said of the community in Area X. “The venue at the Pima County Fairgrounds under the Southern Arizona Eventing Association has developed into a fabulous setting. The footing is very well prepared, and the jump courses have challenging questions at all the levels. The volunteers are wonderful and the announcer can always get a laugh. The galloping paths through the Arizona mesquite trees require special attention, and I certainly appreciate the arrows to guide our way. It was also a very wonderful weekend with my visiting daughter Erin Kober helping me keep a gray horse white.”
Beginner Novice Champion: Meghan Martin & Red Sunrise | 23.3
In the largest championship division at the Area X Championships, Meghan Martin rode Julia San Roman’s 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Red Sunrise (Memo x Kissy Kat) to the win. “Wrigley, as he’s known at the barn, is a big saint,” said Martin. “He is super easy to ride and is always right with you. Sometimes he is a little ahead of you so we really work on him being patient. Julia has been in Costa Rica for her first semester of college and I’ve been keeping Wrigley fit for her while she is gone.”
On their performance this weekend at the championships, Martin felt Wrigley’s dressage performance was the highlight of their three phases where he finished on his lowest dressage score to date, a 23.2. “He is a big long horse so he’s a lot to put together. He was very soft and relaxed through his dressage test. We also received the lowest dressage score for the whole show and received another perpetual trophy. He jumped super in the show jumping which is my favorite part and cross-country was great. He's just a super fun horse."
Tomorrow, the first of five regional clinics for the USEA Emerging Athletes U21 (EA21) Program kicks off in the central region of the country in Benton, Louisiana, at Holly Hill Farm. Throughout the summer, the remaining clinics on the East and West Coast will follow. At each clinic, 12 hand-selected riders will participate in a two-day clinic led by USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) coaches. The purpose of the EA21 program is to create a pipeline for potential team riders by identifying and developing young talent, improving horsemanship and riding skills, and training and improving skills and consistency. The intention is to provide young athletes with access to an added level of horsemanship and riding skills to further their training and skill development with greater consistency.
After the first day of competition, Canadian Olympian Colleen Loach and her horse FE Golden Eye lead an international field in the CCI4*-L division of the MARS Bromont CCI.
Stone Gate Farm Horse Trials, located in Hanoverton, Ohio, announced they would cancel their fall horse trials, which were scheduled for Sept. 23-24.
Morgan Rowsell had just wrapped up organizing a successful Essex H.T. in Far Hills, New Jersey, on June 4, but as he turned his attention to his next show two weeks later, he was faced with challenges presented by the effects that wildfires from Canada are now having on equestrian sports in the Northeast. “The very next day, the smoke came in,” he said. “It looks like a warm, humid, hazy day, but it’s not humid, it’s not warm, it’s actually quite cool. There’s no air. There’s very little breeze. There’s a northeast wind coming out of Canada that is bringing all the Novia Scotia and Quebec smoke to us, and it smells like smoke.”