Aug 25, 2023

Seven New Area I Champions Crowned for 2023

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff

There were seven championship divisions offered at the Area I Championships which took place Aug. 19-20 during the Genesee Valley Riding & Driving Club (GVRDC) H.T. in Geneseo, New York. From Beginner Novice to Preliminary, competitors had the opportunity to not only enjoy the beautiful venue and aerated turf at GVRDC but also had the chance to vie for the title of Area I champion. Meet the 2023 Area I Champions below:

Preliminary Champions: Rachael Gill & Chance for Love | 43.39

Photo courtesy of Rachael Gill

After starting out the weekend in a tie for third on their dressage score of 39.1, Rachael Gill and her 7-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Chance for Love (Wilburn x Chance Review) climbed their way up the placings in the Area I Preliminary Championships to snag the win.

Gill has been working with the race-bred Thoroughbred gelding since he was three. “He was bred for the racetrack,” she shared, “but the trainer took one look at his gangly body and decided he needed time to mature before starting race training. He has come a long way in four years. He has been learning to use his body efficiently and athletically and is developing so much confidence.”

Gill and “Cody” recently moved up to Preliminary at the start of the 2023 season and have since placed second three times, but their win at the Area I Championships at the level.

“I am so proud of the way Cody stepped up for all three phases,” said Gill. “He was extremely well-behaved and reasonably relaxed in dressage, which is his hardest phase. He demonstrated tremendous bravery and heart on a really challenging cross-country course, and even though he was a little tired after his 6-minute gallop on cross-country, he got good distances to his stadium fences and put in a solid performance. This was his first championship course, and the phases were very challenging, so winning the championship was icing on the cake. Of course, with the AEC coming up next week, I haven’t really savored the win. I’m already deep in packing and planning for Kentucky!”

Modified Champions: Carol Kozlowski & Welbourne | 50.9

Paul Rehock photo

Carol Kozlowski had quite the busy weekend at the Area I Championships, and not only because she had three horses entered. Kozlowski was heavily involved in the event preparations and organization at GVRDC.

“I was proud of the event we put forward and was privileged to take the last-minute grounds prep hat off and put on my helmet and ride around three beautiful cross-country courses,” shared Kozlowski. “We had nearly perfect conditions, aerated turf with great weather, the atmosphere was one of excitement and good humor, and everyone seemed enthusiastic about being there. GVRDC is in the far reaches of Area I so we were thrilled when competitors who’d never been were blown away and swore they’d be back; we had quite a large entry for this event.”

Kozlowski’s winning mount in the Modified Championships, Welbourne, belongs to her former student and long-time friend Juli Sebring. Kozlowski took over the ride on the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding in late 2021 when Sebring and her husband started their family. For Kozlowski, getting to ride “Wells” opened up some doors for her competitively that she hasn’t had in a while.

“Wells is an experienced horse, and I’m really enjoying running and jumping again,” she commented. “It’s been a dog’s age since I’ve ridden above Prelim, and my goal is to get back to two-star level on him.”

With her sights laser-focused on the future with Wells, as well as two other horses to compete over the course of the weekend, Kozlowski wasn’t paying too much attention to scoring.

“I have to say, I’m focused on the AEC with Welbourne and actually a two-star this fall, so I wasn’t hugely disappointed to be lacking in the dressage at the Area I champs,’” she reflected. “As I was riding three horses, I had no idea what the other riders were up to, so imagine my surprise going into show jumping in the lead! It was not our best show jump round but a very educational opportunity for me, and we prevailed in the end. Certainly not our prettiest win, but I’ll take it!”

Training Champions: Melissa Alaimo & Fascinating Rhythm | 42.7

Photo courtesy of Melissa Alaimo

It was a win from start to finish for Melissa Alaimo and her 15-year-old Thoroughbred/Clydesdale cross mare Fascinating Rhythm in the Area I Training Championships, which was the icing on the cake of a successful season. So far this year the pair have had three second-place finishes at the level leading up to the championships.

With "Molly's" age, Alaimo hesitated to enter the Area I Championships as she wasn't sure how Molly would handle the over seven hour trip to GVRDC, but ultimately decided to give it a go and wasn't disappointed.

"What surprised me the most is what a beautiful venue GVRDC is," sai Alaimo. "It really did remind me of eventing back in the '70s: large gallopy track, stadium on grass, and add in that the volunteers and organizers were amazing and so welcoming and well, it is a true gem."

After walking cross-country, Alaimo wasn't quite sure what to think.

"Cross-country was big! It had a trakhener and a Weldon's wall, and did I mention it was big?" she said. "I was truly worried that I might have been over facing us both, but she was game. I have to admit that I may have broken the sound ordinance out there as I urged her on quite loudly after each fence and before each of the up banks. I was told 'Good Girl Molly' was heard back in the dressage warmup."

Looking back on her weekend overall, Alaimo said, "Meeting new competitors while hanging with a great group of competitors who are now friends there made the seven-plus hour trip worthwhile. Oh and the blue ribbon was just an added bonus."

Novice Horse Champions: Carol Kozlowski and Kieren | 24.4

Brant Gamma photo

In addition to her win in the Modified Championships, Kozlowski also brought home the blue ribbon in the Novice Horse Championships riding Linda Walnes’ 10-year-old Connemara gelding Kieran.

Kozlowski has been competing Kieren for his owner for almost three years now and has had quite a successful run with him since the fall of 2021, garnering seven top-2 finishes with him out of nine outings together so far. It wasn’t always easy going with Kieren, however, as Kozlowski notes that he was always quite sensitive in dressage and show jumping.

“It’s taken us a few years to strengthen his confidence but he’s now quite a showman in the ring and has become a reliable competitor,” she shared. “I was most proud of his show jumping at the Area I Championships. He was tired and had to dig a little deeper. He surprised me when he kept the ping in his jump and made all the distances. There were very few clear rounds, and he delivered when we needed him to. He’s been a challenge at times but he acted like a pro, very settled in his job. There were some nice horses nipping at our heels, so winning on his dressage score was nice.”

The pair led the Novice Horse Championships from start to finish on their dressage score of 24.4 to be crowned champion.

Novice Rider Champions: Siri Carr & Foxtrot Treacle | 33.9

Brant Gamma photo.

Two-and-a-half years ago Siri Carr and her family made a huge decision—they imported the now 11-year-old Connemara mare Foxtrot Treacle (Grange Finian Sparrow x Dangan Cailin) from Ireland sight unseen to be Carr’s first pony.

“We had lots of video and pictures, and a friend of a friend of a friend told us all about her,” shared Carr’s mother, Lisl Warren. “Less than ideal, but given the circumstances it is what we did and ended up with a one-in-a-million pony!”

That one-in-a-million pony has since taken Carr from elementary level to Novice, and the pair have the intentions of moving up to Training next season. But before they made that move up, they decided to compete in the Area I Championships first.

“Out of the three phases at the championships, I was the most proud of my dressage test,” Carr reflected. “This summer I’ve been working hard to improve my dressage skills. The jumping phases are definitely our favorite! However, the dressage phase is key if you want to be competitive. I still have a lot to work on, but was happy to lay down a more consistent and accurate test.”

Their dressage score of 33.9 put them in sixth following dressage, but a double-clear cross-country round would move them up to second as the weekend progressed. When the pair laid down a double-clear show jumping round, however, Carr didn’t have a clue that they had won.

“I don’t really like to look at the scoring while I am competing,” she said, “so I was surprised to find out that I won. I was happy and excited, especially given I was competing in the championship division against other strong, qualified riders!”

Beginner Novice Horse Champions: Laurie Hudson and Falco | 26.3

Photo courtesy of Laurie Hudson

After qualifying for the Area I championships in July, Laurie Hudson and friend Taylor Faccio decided to make the long trek to GVRDC from their home base in Vermont. Hudson’s mount of choice was Freya Von Moltke’s 8-year-old Haflinger gelding Falco.

“Falco has been in my barn for a little more than a year,” Hudson said. “He competes with his junior owner in the summers and has done a few events with a couple of riders in the barn, but I decided to take him to Florida this winter, and we have done three events together and he’s so much fun.”

Hudson and Faccio were not disappointed after their travels to GVRDC. She stated, “The event has the most beautiful, open rolling fields with really nice jumps, lovely dressage rings, and a very nice atmosphere.”

The duo started their weekend in third place on a score of 26.3 but moved up to first after double-clear performances on both cross-country and show jumping.

“It’s so exciting to know I won!” said Hudson. “It’s a long drive and for Taylor and I, and to both do so well was an added bonus to competing at such a lovely event.”

Beginner Novice Rider Champions: Clara Bond & Beaverwoods Dandelion | 29.4

Clara Bond piloted her own 8-year-old Welsh gelding Beaverwoods Dandelion (Beaverwoods Mystique x Beaverwoods Strawberry) to the win in the Area I Beginner Novice Rider Championship. After their dressage score of 29.4 landed them in third, they crept up one spot on the leaderboard at a time through the following two phases to bring home the win in their third event of their 2023 season.

For full results, click here.

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