In preparation for this year’s Area IV Championships, the team that hosts the Heritage Park Horse Trials in Olathe, Kansas invested in a new course of cross-country jumps for their competitors and championship qualifiers to enjoy. The new courses and jumps received rave reviews from competitors and spectators alike and paired with picture-perfect weather and the championships were a huge success. We caught up with the riders who topped the leaderboards following their year-end performances.
Preliminary Champion: Kristina Whorton & Finnegan | 35.0
Kristina Whorton purchased the now 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding when he was just 4 years old and they have had to learn and grow together. “I got Finn as a very green 4-year-old who didn't really even know that he had four legs or what to do with them,” she joked. “With the help of Julie Wolfert and her incredible program, we've moved up the levels over the years. We are competing at levels I could only dream of as a kid, and even now have goals that were never on my radar. He can be quirky and opinionated at times, but he is a horse with so much personality that is just so much fun to be around and he just loves people!”
The pair would close out the weekend as the only partnership in their division who would put in double-clear cross-country and show jumping efforts to finish in first on their dressage score of 35. While the victory was obviously a sweet moment, Whorton thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the hard work put in by the strong Area IV community pay off at this year’s event. “My favorite part of competing in the Area IV Championships was seeing all of the countless hours spent by volunteers pay off in the end with the well-run show, beautiful and fun cross-country courses, and so many smiling faces! Heritage Horse Park had completely redesigned courses this year complete with great challenging questions that were used on the champs courses that everyone will benefit from when schoolings next year!”
Training Champion: Katie Sisk & Long Legs Lenore | 31.4
Katie Sisk and her homebred 5-year-old Hanoverian mare Long Legs Lenore (Rapture R x Demonet’s Darling) concluded an impressive 2021 season with back-to-back victories in the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds and the Area IV Championships. “She only completed three Training level events prior to the AEC,” Katie reflected, “and this year was the first time I have been back at the level since high school. Up to that point, she had finished every event in 2021 in the top three so going into the AEC, that was my goal- to try to finish in the top three. The fact that she won the dang thing is utterly surreal, especially for her to handle that type of atmosphere at just five with an amateur rider. I was a little nervous going into the area champs, but she came through for me once again.”
Those nerves may have stemmed from what Sisk describes as a hate/hate relationship with the venue Heritage Park due to her uncanny ability to part ways with “Lenny” in every phase while at the park, even dressage! Her ultimate goal while at Area IV Championships? To not fall off. And she did just that and more when she and Lenny wrapped up their weekend in first on their dressage score of 3.14 “I’m just so stinking proud of this nugget and how hard she tries for me. We are currently sitting on top of the USEA leaderboards, and I am just floored. She is never what I would have bought for myself, and it took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get us to this point, but I would not trade that sassy little rhino for a million bucks!”
Novice Champion: Renee Senter & Regina | 32.6
In the Area IV Novice Championship, it was adult amateur rider Renee Senter and her own 14-year-old Holsteiner mare Regina (Regulus x Nellina) who would ride to the top of the podium. The pair set the standard in dressage earning a 28.6 to lead the class and issued a double-clear cross-country round to hold the lead. They added one rail to their dressage score to finish with champion honors. “She’s quite the sports car ride!” Senter shared of the mare with who she has been partnered with for a little over two years now. “She was my answer to an empty nest when our two daughters, who also rode, went away to college. Now it was my turn!”
Winning at Heritage Park was extra special for Senter, who serves on the board of the Mid America Eventing Association, the organization that puts on the Heritage Park Horse Trials. “This win at Area IV Championships means so much to me for so many reasons. This is my home show, literally fifteen minutes from my home. So much time and effort goes into this show. I am so proud of this show and what it has become, so it is extra special to win an area championship here. This is a show put on by riders for riders. Five of our six board members competed at the 2021 Heritage Horse Trials, with three winning their divisions.”
Beginner Novice Champion: Judi Dietz & Rearcross Clover Q | 30.8
It was a start-to-finish win for Judie Dietz and her 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Rearcross Clover Q by Clover Hill. The pair have been together since 2017 and have come close to clinching the win in the Area IV Championships once before in 2019 where they placed second, but this was their first championship win together. “Personally, it was a dream come true,” Dietz said. “Q can easily do it, I just did enough right for once!”
Dietz described her experience at the 2021 Area IV Championships as wonderful, and like many others reflected on the beautiful courses and grounds. Having recently competed at the AEC, Dietz and Q had a recent championship experience to compare their time at the Area IV Championships too. “The cross-country was tougher than the AEC!” She commented. “Stadium was a beautiful course, overall it was a wonderful experience.” Dietz and Q brought home the victory after adding no penalties throughout the weekend to their dressage score of 30.8.
After a one-year gap, eventers from all over are ready to gather together and engage in four days of seminars, presentations, and gatherings at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention. This year’s convention begins Thursday morning at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Hotel and continues through the weekend.
Over 40 horses competed in the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) 5-year-old East and West Coast Championships in 2015. The YEH East Coast Championships were held during the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International in Elkton, Maryland, while the YEH West Coast Championships took place at Galway Downs in Temecula, California. Following 2015’s YEH finale, many of the graduating class of the 2015 USEA Young Event Horse Championships have gone on to make their mark on the upper levels of eventing.
Nicole Brown is joined by a panel of experts including top FEI veterinarian Dr. Emily Sandler-Burtness, five-star eventer Will Faudree, and professional eventer and horsemanship expert Tik Maynard to answer all of your biggest questions.
I’d like to start my Holiday Pressure Proof Tip with an excerpt from my new book Bolder Braver Brighter.
"Imagine leaning against a tree while your horse grazes happily beside you. You feel the warm sunshine and breeze on your cheek, hear the chirping of nearby birds, and smell the fragrance of the grass and wildflowers. Your horse nickers quietly and all you can think about is how lucky you are to have this horse and this sport and this life… right here, right now.