Sep 26, 2021

Rider Reflections: The Champions of Area I Championships

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff
Alexandra Kavouksorian & The Alchemist. Photo by Flatlandsfoto.

From Washington to Vermont, Championships were held on both coasts over the September 18-19 weekend. The Area I Championships took place at the GMHA September Horse Trials in South Woodstock, Vermont where over 60 pairs battled it out for the champion title. The organizers of the Area I Championships would like to thank Essex Equine Inc. for serving as the official pinny sponsors and North Bridge Equine for being the start box sponsor! Flatlandsfoto was the prize sponsor for the championship divisions, as well as the event’s official photographer. Following the weekend’s festivities, we chatted with some of the newly minted champions to share their thoughts on the weekend and their performance overall.

Open Preliminary Champion: Alexandra Kavouksorian & The Alchemist | 33.7

Finishing in first-place in the Open Preliminary Championship on a score of 33.7 was Alexandra Kavouksorian and her 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding The Alchemist (Domestic Dispute x Star Punch). Kavouksorian and "Topper" only recently moved up to Preliminary in June of this year, but she reflected that he has taken every run like an old pro!

"The course was perfectly appropriate for the championships with challenging questions, hills, and turns so I knew making time was going to be a factor," Kavouksorian shared. "Topper is such a good jumper and tries so hard for me. He never ran much on the track so he's still figuring out how to really gallop. He's a careful type, which makes me feel safe, but I have to really encourage him to keep moving forward on course. That's the biggest challenge for us right now, to ride on, especially now that the jumps are a bit bigger. There weren't many places to gallop between fences, so riding efficiently throughout the course was important for us. I was thrilled with our run this weekend."

Training Rider Champion: Sandra Holden & Cano Cristales | 30.3

Sandra Holden and Cano Cristales. Photo by Flatlandsfoto.

Topping the field in the Training Rider Championship was Sandra Holden and her 18-year-old Hanoverian gelding Cano Cristales (Conteur x Hauptstupbuch Konny). Holden and "Cristales" have been partners for 11 years now and have competed up to the Preliminary level in eventing and Intermediare in dressage. "I compete several horses, but he is my go-to, my number one partner," Holden said. "We do everything together — hunter paces, trail rides, trips to the beach, natural horsemanship, and of course competition riding."

But their win together this weekend is extremely sentimental, "This weekend was an unforgettable experience. The cross-country course was particularly fun and challenging. My horse really loves to run, so I especially enjoyed the long gallop opportunities. This victory was particularly meaningful to me because it is Cristales’ last event and a fitting end for his eventing career. He won his very first regional and national championship, and now, has won his last. I could not be more proud of this horse." Happy retirement Cristales!

Novice Horse Champion: Alexander Conrad & Amore | 26.9

Photo courtesy of Alexander Conrad.

Young professional Alexander Conrad had an extremely busy, but successful weekend at the GMHA September Horse Trials and Area I Championships. Not only did he have wins in the Open Training and Open Novice divisions, but he also had an impressive move-up to snag the win in the Novice Horse Championship aboard the Amore Group's 5-year-old Oldenburg mare Amore. Initially sitting in sixth following dressage on a score of 26.9, Conrad would add double-clear efforts in both cross-country and show jumping to earn the title of Champion.

"I really enjoyed being at the Area I Championships at GMHA. The courses were great, footing was excellent and the fall weather was beautiful," Conrad said. "There is something about that venue that is so special this time of year. I was lucky to have a lot of friends and family come along to watch. It made for a great weekend overall. Amore's owners Mark Jordan and Michelle Singer came up for the weekend. Those two have changed my career in this sport. It's easy to do well when you have such a nice horse and kind people around you. Surrounding yourself with supportive people makes all the difference."

Novice Rider Champion: Bella Maida & Titan | 26.4

Winning the Novice Rider Championship from start-to-finish was Bella Maida and Titan, her 19-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Yaros. The pair earned a 26.4 in the dressage phase and added no additional penalties to their score to win out of the 16 rider field. The duo hasn’t finished out of the top five in every outing they have had since September of 2019!

Beginner Novice Horse Champion: Emily Mainolfi & Tucker | 25.0

Emily Mainolfi guided Anna Schierioth’s 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Tucker to lead the victory gallop in the Beginner Novice Horse Championship. The pair wrapped up the weekend finishing on their dressage score of 25.0 after double clear efforts in both jumping phases.

Beginner Novice Rider Champion: Jack Brennan & Paladin | 21.5

Jack Brennan and Paladin. Photo courtesy of Jack Brennan.

Beginner Novice Rider Champion Jack Brennan did a lot of preparation leading up to the Area I Championships to make sure that he and his partner Paladin (Pandorra x Anastazia) were in top shape! Not only did he focus on “Dan’s” fitness through regular canter work and lessons, but he also wanted to make sure that he and the 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding had a strong bond by enjoying a little extra time caring for Dan on his own.

“I think this is what gives us a head start on these types of competitions,” said the wise young rider. “Dan and I have a really great friendship and we don’t do it for the sake of winning. When we got to Vermont instead of being nervous if we would perform well, I took confidence in our ability as a team to get the job done.” That confidence paid off for the partnership, not only earning the title of champion but also finishing the weekend on the lowest score of all of the championship divisions. “My favorite part about this weekend was being able to share a great experience with my horse, Dan, and my team,” he continued.

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