Oct 18, 2021

Rider Reflections: Riders Tackle All New Cross-Country Courses at Area IV Championships

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Photos by JJ Sillman

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 and Finnegan. Photo by JJ Sillman.


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 Long Legs Lenore. Photo by JJ Sillman

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

Renee Senter and Regina. Photo by JJ Sillman

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.

Sep 29, 2022 Instructors

The Eventing Coaches Program: Phyllis Dawson on Training Horses and Riders

Ninety percent of training a horse is getting the horse to understand exactly what you want them to do. In general, horses are generous and willing creatures who want to please us; very seldom do they behave badly on purpose. Horses don’t come out and say, ‘Let’s make Mom’s (or Dad’s) life miserable today by going as poorly as possible - most prefer to do the right thing, as long as they know what that is.

Sep 28, 2022 Education

A Veterinarian’s Tips for Maximizing Longevity and Soundness

Regardless of the level at which a horse is competing, its veterinary team is at the forefront of most decisions regarding its career and well-being. Liz Arbittier, VMD, CVA, has been working with equine athletes for over two decades. Graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) in 2001, she worked in private practice with a focus on sports medicine and pre-purchase exams until joining Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center Field Service team in 2013. Situated in the heart of Area II’s eventing scene, the team provides ambulatory services to the surrounding area, which is home to multiple Olympians.

Sep 27, 2022

US Equestrian Announces the Appointment of David O’Connor to the New Position of Chief of Sport

US Equestrian (USEF) announces the appointment of David O’Connor to the newly created position of Chief of Sport beginning October 3, 2022.

Sep 27, 2022 Area Championships

Ten Horse and Rider Pairs Rise to the Occasion at Area VII Championships

Aspen Farms in Yelm, Washington was host to this year’s USEA Area VII Championships on September 16-18 and put on a spectacular show where 10 horse and rider pairs celebrated victory by being awarded the title of Area VII Champion in their respective divisions. Hear about each pair’s weekend below.

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