Lexington, Ky.—September 3— After a week of competition, the 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds drew to a close on Sunday evening at the conclusion of the six Beginner Novice Championship divisions.
USEA Beginner Novice Horse Championship
Sara Sherter’s 6-year-old Thoroughbred/Holsteiner cross gelding Excel Star Cast Away (Ulysses x Lost In Glann) led the division from start to finish with Amie Loring in the tack in the USEA Beginner Novice Horse Championship on their dressage score of 25.6. Hailing from Oxford, Connecticut, Loring wasn’t even sure initially if she was going to make the trek to Kentucky to compete in this year’s AEC.
“I honestly wasn't going to come because I always thought you shouldn’t make a trip that is this long if you didn’t think you could win it and I didn’t think I could win it,” she recalled. “Someone said to me, ‘you don’t know where you are going to be this time next year. You don’t know if you are going to qualify. You don't know if your horse is going to be sound. Go.’ Thank god she did. This whole weekend was very exciting.”
Loring’s last AEC experience was memorable, but not in the same way this one will undoubtedly be. “I did the AEC at North Carolina years ago, and I fabulously crashed and didn’t complete it,” she joked.
Coming into the final phase this morning, both Loring and her mount was feeling the excitement. “I have never been so nervous. He was very, very, very spooky. He was spooky about walking down the ramp. He was spooky in there. That didn’t help the prettiness of the round, but I do think it helped the cleanliness of the round.”
Loring balances motherhood and a successful business with her own personal eventing goals. Just before packing up the truck and trailer to head to Kentucky for this year’s championship, she dropped her oldest son off at college.
The Reserve Champion pair, Deborah Snyder (Goshen, Kentucky) and her 10-year-old Thoroughbred mare Eagle Eyed Lady (Elite Squadron x War Eagle Lady) have had a long history together thanks to her husband’s involvement in the Thoroughbred industry. Her husband, Mike Snyder, owns her dam and his racing trainer, Jimmy Baker, trained the stallion. They decided to pair the two together and the rest is history.
“They have a farm, Patton’s Creek Farm, and they breed some racehorses and try to make it to the sales and race them,” shared Deborah. “I am lucky enough that if they don’t make it, I have a little influx of horses to play with. She had a condyler fracture that ended her racing career, so they did a surgery to repair it and then retired her and turned her into a show horse.”
Deborah gave the mare to an amateur client who just wanted a nice horse to ride when she was a 3-year-old, but when COVID hit the horse found its way back under Deborah’s ownership. Just shortly after, the Snyder’s experienced a detrimental loss as a result of a catastrophic barn fire. Thankfully, only one horse perished, but the 32-stall barn was gone. During that time, Eagle Eyed Lady enjoyed some downtime, but Jan Bynny, who Deborah rides with, encouraged her to pick back up with riding the mare.
While it wasn’t a match made in heaven at first between Deborah and Eagle Eyed Lady, the duo have come to really enjoy one another, which was made apparent by their success at the AEC this year.
In addition to being named Reserve Champion, Eagle Eyed Lady was also honored as the Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP) Champion for this division.
Moving up from fifth after dressage to third overall on their untouched dressage score of 28.0 was Alexandria Wheelwright’s 6-year-old Czech Warmblood gelding Millionn ridden by Megan Correia-Bittner. This was Correia-Bittner’s first time competing at the Kentucky Horse Park, as she resides in Magnolia, Texas, and made the trip up just for this year’s championships.
“I was very pleased with him,” she said. “He was imported about a year and a half ago and was newly broke. He has moved along quite quickly. He was very brave cross-country and in stadium here. I wasn’t sure if he would be a little looky at things since he has not been anywhere quite this big. I was very pleased, he was very brave and tried really hard. It was a fun weekend and it was great to have the owners here as well with me."
The Reserve TIP Champion was awarded to the 6-year-old gelding Ameristen (Cosa Vera x Seeking Allie), owned by Tessa Geven and ridden by Warner Geven.
USEA Beginner Novice Rider Championship
Sue Goepfert (Circle Pines, Minnesota) and Susan Coleman’s 11-year-old Oldenburg/Hanoverian cross mare Isabeau VT (Ideal x Flambeau) held onto their dressage lead to finish on 27.5 and take home the Beginner Novice Rider championship.
“It feels really good [to be champion.] I think it’s going to figure it out even more later. I’m still in a little bit of shock!” she said. “It was very daunting walking down [to the Rolex Arena],” she said. “They let us go halfway, which was nice so you could stand there and watch. That was super helpful. I don’t know that I’ve ever ridden in an arena this big before. Even though there’s nobody in the stands, the atmosphere is crazy. It was a little overwhelming, but my friends were really supportive and gave me a lot of great advice. ‘It’s only another horse show, and you’ve been doing this your whole life.’”
Goepfert hadn’t ridden for two weeks since she and her husband went on a two-week cruise to Greenland, but that didn’t phase her or “Izzy.” “She’s a barn favorite,” she said. “ I had no trouble having friends offer to ride her while I was gone. We had five sea days in Greenland, so I worked out every day in the gym to try to at least stay in some short of shape, because at my age you lose it really quickly!”
Izzy was bred by Virginia Tech and showed at Dressage at Devon (Devon, Pennsylvania) as a foal. Goepfert’s leased her for two years.
Callie Blackford Winders (Knoxville, Tennessee) and her own 21-year-old Quarter Horse gelding Teaspoon (Jae Bar Steven x Miss Connies Star) finished as Reserve Champions on a score of 31.6, moving up from fourth after cross-cuountry.
“It was the best dressage we’ve gotten to do at an event, and we had a blast on the cross-country. Finishing up in the Rolex Arena was like a dream come true,” said Winders, who revealed that this is Teaspoon’s last event. “He’s the coolest horse. I’m devastated that this is our last time, but he deserves it. He’s taken me to all the events, and I rode him in my wedding. He’s the coolest horse ever.”
She’s had the gelding for 12 years. He was born on her uncle’s ranch in Nebraska. “When he was born his little blaze looked like a teaspoon,” she said. “ He’s a cutting-bred Quarter Horse. My uncle has a cutting ranch in Nebraska, and Teaspoon was just not safe enough to be on the ranch. He was too unpredictable, so they sent him down to us!”
Winders’ whole family was on hand to watch this weekend, including her 2-year-old daughter. ”She has a tiny pony she told me she’s going to go jump the Advanced on!” she said.
Third place went to Nicola Tucker (Manchester, Michigan) and her own Pandora, a 15-year-old Belgian-Thoroughbred. They dropped from second with 1.2 time penalties, “I checked too much to the last fence!”
Both horse and rider have only been eventing for 18 months. Tucker, who’s from the U.K., got back into riding after a 20-year hiatus. “I was never going to event,” she said with a laugh. “ I’m frightened to death of cross-country fences. I’d go fox hunting and go jump 5’ fences, and dressage was never my forte. I started [eventing] not really knowing I was going to start, and we’ve been at it for 18 months. She’s been doing really well. This has been a phenomenal year. This is just the icing on the cake.”
She trains with Robin Walker and Kara Andrew and credits them with helping her start eventing on her Amish buggy horse. She had the mare for three years before she started her due to her own back issues. She taught her to canter and how to longe and used lots of ground work.
“We’ve both come so far,” she said adding advice for other riders who want to get into eventing.. “It doesn’t matter what breed the horse is. You don’t have to have a $50,000 horse. You’ve got to make the commitment if you want to do this. If you work hard, you’ll get there. I had a 20-year break. Yes, the nerves went, but I got through them. You can do it. It’s not easy, but you can do it."
The Adult Pony Rider Award in Memory of Avery Dudasch was presented to the highest placed Adult Rider, on a pony (14.2 and under) in the Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training Rider and Amateur divisions at the AEC. The award honors the memory of Avery Dudasch, who showed tremendous courage and grace in her battle with cancer. Avery passed at the tender age of 11, but the memory of her short, bright life lives on in her pony, Gracefully Dun, who is now ridden and competed by Avery’s mother, Vicki Dudasch. The Adult Pony Rider Award recipient for this division was Jessica Boesch riding her own 21-year-old Dutch Warmblood pony cross mare Top Secret by President II.
The TIP Grand Champion in this division was awarded to Louise Gillam's 6-year-old gelding Wicked Worry (Wicked Strong x Wall of Worry). Reserve went to Laura Mann's 10-year-old gelding Problem Solved (Affirmatif x Couple Whiles).
USEA Beginner Novice Amateur Championship
All of the top-3 Beginner Novice Amateur riders were making their first trip to the AEC. Ryan Ballou (Lewisburg, Ohio) and his own 7-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Astaire (Egescovs Habibi x Karet) maintained their dressage lead to win the championship title on 26.6.
“The goal this morning was to get here, get everything situated, and to come out and watch as many horses before I needed to go back to the ring,” he said. “ I sat there and started getting pretty nervous. I could feel all the emotions; there’s a lot of emotions that go into this weekend. I got to a point where I felt really confident about the course. I went back [to the barn] at that point, and it was back to work; the emotion side took a back seat.”
Ballou said “Fred” was rideable throughout the whole course. “I really felt comfortable,” he said. “I felt like I knew my job. I was proud of him and all that we have done this weekend, and I’m proud of the team of people who have come out to support me, so [I thought], ‘let’s just go out and have some fun.’ I thought, ‘It’s a great day to ride your horse.’ I got to ride him in one of the best venues ever.”
Ballou’s trainer Julie Richards told him to be confident, but remember you’re still working as he headed into the ring. “Don’t get comfortable. Go out there, have a mission and follow it.”
Ballou’s brought the gelding along over the last year from his first event. “Over the past few months he has really matured in so many different ways where he loves his job, he wants to go out there and do it,” he said. “He is thinking for himself and sometimes a little bit for me too. But we are working so well together.”
Reserve Champion Nancy Braghirol has struggled this season with Elizabeth Coulter’s Chakola In Style as the mare was diagnosed with Lyme Disease.. Their last event was in April, and the AEC was their first event back.
“It was a lot of emotions for sure. We really just wanted to come here and have fun because there were no expectations,” she said. “But knowing that we were doing so well, you know you really want to stay there but you also just really want to have fun. So I just wanted to find that canter and show them what a great mare she is.”
Braghirol (Cornish, New Hampshire) and the 16-year-old Cleveland Bay mare (Knaresborough Fusilier x Chakolas Calgary) finished on a score of 30.5. This was Braghirol’s first time competing outside of Area I.
She’s had the ride on “Style” for two years. “She’s the most athletic horse I’ve ever ridden, but she’s a very particular ride, and she’s really made me a better rider because you have to be so particular. If you don’t ride her the way she wants to be ridden, she shows all of your flaws! She really takes care of me. I was super sick yesterday before cross-country. I had a migraine from the day before. My team got her ready, and I hadn’t run cross-country since April but she got in warmup, and she turned right on. She’s such a beast.”
Shannon Bower (Weyer’s Cave, Virginia) moved up from fifth after cross-country to third on her own 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (OBourg x Kara BC) with a final score of 31.7.
“The weekend was great,” she said. “I brought two horses out. I had one in Novice and then her in Beginner Novice. I had a little bit of time on cross-country with my first horse. He was a freight train, and we had to have a couple of discussions on how to be a little more polite out there, but he was very good, and it set me up really well for her. He was double-clear out here in the show jump yesterday.”
Bower said she’s a bit of an “odd duck” and doesn’t check her scores all weekend. “I don’t want to know,” she said. “It makes it so I just come out here and have fun. I get stressed if I look at the scores so I just go into it and wing it.”
She describes her mare as spookier on cross-country but very solid on show jumping. “I was really excited to get in here,” she said. “I felt like we had a great canter in the warmup. I was finding all of my spots out there so it was nice to come in here and feel comfortable that we could do the job we needed to do.”
Michaela Holmes was presented with the Adult Pony Rider Award in memory of Avery Dudasch for this division. Holmes competed with her 16-year-old Welsh mare Stonewall Georgia by Hillcrest's Top Hat.
Jennifer Perkins' 11-year-old gelding Conquest Playmisty (Proud Citizen x Misty Run) was awarded the honor of TIP Champion. The 8-year-old gelding Union Chaser (Union Rags x Recognizethestreet) was presented with the Reserve Champion title.
USEA Beginner Novice Master Amateur Championship
Show jumping proved to be quite influential in the USEA Beginner Novice Master Championship as rails fell left and right, causing some major shakeups to the standings which had stayed rock solid through the first two phases. As the morning went on, and more penalties were acquired, former third-place pair Anna Wallace of Knoxville, Tennessee, and her 8-year-old Trakehner mare Kalaska (Ivanhoe x Koko K) saw themselves leaping up on the leaderboard to claim the Champion title.
“Stadium has kind of been our nemesis,” shared Wallace. “So our goal was to just go in and go clear. She did her job and got it done.” And got it done they did. After putting in what Wallace described as a solid dressage test and the best cross-country run the pair have had to date, she and Kalaska made their way into the Rolex Stadium this morning and executed a double-clear round.
Wallace, who is normally a dressage rider, took 11 years off from eventing after high school. Since returning to the sport, show jumping has been a bit of her nemesis, primarily to what she attributes as her “own limited education there.”
Wallace and Kalaska are leaving the AEC and putting their dressage hat back on to prepare for their dressage regionals in a month. Perhaps the pair can acquire two championship titles in a months time!
After holding tightly to fifth place all weekend, Tiffany Stewart (Atlanta, Georgia) and her rescue horse of unknown breeding Crimson Clover inched up to claim Reserve Champion honors thanks to a double-clear show jumping round. Stewart acquired Clover when he was 20 months old and has spent her time with the now 12-year-old just helping him overcome his own fears related to his past.
“I always had a stall open for a foster horse,” Stewart shared. “Nobody wanted him, and I thought he had a cute trot so I took him and threw him out in the field for a year. Then I had him broke and sold my big fancy hunter. He thinks he is so fancy. He goes in there, and I swear he thinks, ‘I am in the Olympics, look at me, I am amazing.’ You can feel that when you are on him, and he just makes me smile.”
Placing second in a National Championship is a long way from where Stewart and Clover started their partnership all those years ago. “I thought I was going to die for the first two years,” she said with a chuckle. “It was a new sport for me too. When I first got him, you couldn't touch his face. If you were on him and waved, he would run away. We think he was abused from behind, so you can’t come at him from behind. So just to see him come along is amazing. We are a great partnership.”
Another new face to the top-3 of this division was that of the Washington, D.C. resident Carissa Gavin riding Krysta Paradis’ 12-year-old Irish Draught/Connemara cross mare The Flying Fox (Cradilo x Sparrows Spring Mist). Gavin was elated with the placing, seeing how this is her first year giving the sport a go.
“This is my fifth event,” she said. “I just started eventing this spring at Waredaca [Laytonsville, Maryland] where we placed first at our first show. 'Foxy”' is a rockstar. She is such a game horse. She is sweet, she is sassy, but she makes you work for it.”
Departing the Kentucky Horse Park with a top-three ribbon in her hands was not at the forefront of Gavin’s mind coming into the final phase today, but it’s a welcome change for sure.
“It was exciting,” said Gavin. “It maybe wasn’t the prettiest round, but it was effective. I think I get more nervous in stadium. In cross-country, you see it and you go and you lock in and trust you are going to get over it. Stadium is more technical. Stadium can be deceptive. It was really fun today and I didn’t expect for this to happen.”
The Adult Pony Rider Award in Memory of Avery Dudasch for this division was presented to Leslie van der Wal riding her own 9-year-old Connemara gelding Doonhill Dancer (Currachamore Cashel x April Dawn Lady).
For the TIP Awards for this division, the 6-year-old mare Ambitionslastgirl (Mark Valeski x Ambition Unbridled) owned and ridden by Rachel Whitcomb was awarded TIP Champion. Reserve honors went to Lori Mullen's 10-year-old gelding Fantastic Flair (Western Expression x Coracao Beijo).
USEA Beginner Novice Junior Championship
Kelsie Goodare and Carli 13 had a tense moment in the Beginner Novice Junior division when they dropped a rail, but luckily they could afford it and still keep their lead. They finished on a 27.0 to take home the championship.
“It was super cool walking down because that’s where all the big names go,” she said. “Going into it, I knew with my horse he’s kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s everything happening.’ I wasn’t expecting this great of an outcome. He was super good the whole time. I was definitely very surprised, but we worked very hard.”
Goodare (Rockford, Michigan) and the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Crunch x Herri) have been paired for 11 months.
“We’ve been doing a ton together and focusing on working together and building more of a trust. He’s super spooky and careful, so having that trust with him helps,” she said. “He’s definitely been one of the most challenging horses I’ve ridden because he has so many buttons. He’s a super cool horse.”
Jaxin Credeur (Georgetown, Texas) moved up from fourth after cross-country to the Reserve Championship on a score of 27.0.
“I did not expect it, so I’m very happy,” she said. “ [This weekend] was a lot, but it was definitely worth it. It was such an experience to be able to bring him here. It was both our first AEC, so to be able to learn together was an incredible experience.”
She’s had her horse, HSH Rocketman, a 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tabasco van Erkpekom x Clonmore Tiffani) for 1 ½ years after buying him from Carolina Pamukcu. “I just love him to bits. He’s my favorite thing to ever exist on this planet!” she said. “He has a heart of gold, and he shows up to work every day.”
Third place went to Jack Brennan and Paladin, a 17-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Pandorra x Anastazia)
“The weekend was a lot of fun. I got here kind of nervous, but I turned that nervous energy into some confidence and drive to get it done,” he said. “It was learning how to manage that energy and turn it into something good instead of something bad.”
Brennan is from New York but is a freshman at Auburn University in Alabama and recently joined their Intercollegiate Eventing Team.
Paladin, or “Dan,” came from Michelle Kulak. “It’s a pretty fun partnership,” said Brennan. “We do a lot of interesting things but spend a lot of time hanging out and being friends and partners. It’s a good balance to the competitive partnership.”
The Captain Mark Phillips Pony Rider Awards was presented to the highest placed Pony Rider in the Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training Junior divisions at the American Eventing Championships. Junior competitors are eligible for the award if they are competing a pony (registered in the USEA database as 14.2 and under) who is at least four years old. The Captain Mark Phillips Pony Rider award for the Beginner Novice Junior Championship was presented to Aspen van der Zee riding Carol Von Michaelis' 14-year-old Sport Pony gelding Ricochet.
Eliza Klaitman's 13-year-old gelding Tekkenistic (Tek x Antaganostic) was presented with the awards for TIP Champion for this division. I Am Wednesday (March Twelth x Conquistaprofit), the 6-year-old gelding owned and ridden by Kenzie Richardson, was named Reserve TIP Champion.
USEA Beginner Novice Junior 14 & Under Championship
The top three of the Beginner Novice Junior 14 & Under division all stayed the same with Georgia
Gobos (Larkspur, California) riding Barb Crabo’s 20-year-old German Sport Pony Black Gold to the championship title on a score of 24.1.
“It was really exciting and all I ever wanted because our lease is up with him,” she said. “I got to do my first victory lap on him, and it just made it even better that it was in the Rolex Stadium. The warmup was a little rough. He just got a little excited, but then he was good before the end.”
Gobos trains with Maddie and Beth Temkin and rides at a show jumping barn at home. She’s hoping to find her next horse to continue on to Novice. She was also the recipient of the Captain Mark Phillips Pony Rider Award.
Reserve championship honors went to Charlotte Schaef and Georgia Dillard’s Normandy’s Cole Clover, Georgia Dillard’s 19-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Normandy’s Four Leaf Clover x Racin’ Rosa). They finished on a score of 25.5. Schaef (Roland, Arkansas) has had her mare for 9 months and trains with Lisa Phillips.
“I feel like our personalities are pretty similar and we just kind of go with each other,” she said. “Well, she can be a little bit of a diva!”
Willa Newell rode her 9-year-old gelding Take a Chance (Grand Chance x Monhegan Island) to the title of TIP Champion. Remember Me (Ide x Santaka), the 17-year-old gelding owned and ridden by Bailie Roesch, was named Reserve TIP Champion.
About the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC)
The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC), presented by Nutrena Feeds, is the pinnacle of the sport at the national levels. Held annually, the best junior, adult amateur, and professional competitors gather to vie for national championship titles at every level from Beginner Novice to Advanced. This ultimate test of horse and rider draws hundreds of combinations from around the country to compete for fabulous prizes, a piece of the substantial prize money, and the chance to be named the National Champion at their respective levels. In fact, the 2021 AEC garnered over 1,000 entries and now stands as the largest eventing competition in North American history. The 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds will be held Aug. 29—Sept. 3 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.
The USEA would like to thank Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena Feeds; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsor: Bates Saddles; Gold Level Sponsors: Capital Square, Horse & Country, Parker Equine Insurance, Smartpak, Standlee; Silver Level Sponsors: Auburn Labs, Ecogold, Kerrits, The Jockey Club; Bronze Level Sponsors: 70 Degrees, Athletux, Black Petticoat, The Chronicle of the Horse, Devoucoux, D.G. Stackhouse and Ellis, Dubarry of Ireland, Equestrian Team Apparel, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Horseware Ireland, Majyk Equipe, Retired Racehorse Project, Ride EquiSafe; Contributing Level Sponsor: CrossCountry App, Georgetown – Scott County Tourism, Lexmark, L.V. Harkness, Mountain Horse, Mrs. Pastures Cookies, #WeRideTogether; Prize Level Sponsors: Coach Daniel Stewart, EquiFit, Equilab, Equiluxe Tack, Equine Essentials, Equine Pulse Performance, FarmVet, Achieve Equine/FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips, Horses 4 Your Consideration, Hound & Hare, I Love My Horse Eventing Boutique, Jack’s Favorites, Jane Heart Jewelry, Kinetic Equine Services, LeMieux, Levade Kentucky, Mare Modern Goods, OneTouch Fly Spray, Parkmore Supplements, Practical Horseman, Sidelines Magazine, Spy Coast Farm, Strides for Equality Equestrians, and VTO Saddlery.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation has announced the host location and dates for the 2024 and 2025 USEF Eventing Young Rider Championships (CCI1*, CCI2*-S, CCI3*-S). The Maryland International and Horse Trials will host the Championships in Adamstown, Maryland, on July 5-7, 2024, and July 6-8, 2025.
For the second year of the program, the United States Eventing Association (USEA) is proud to award free Digital Memberships to qualified participants of the Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) that completed 10 or more hours of volunteer service through EventingVolunteers.com in 2023. The Digital Membership, which was introduced in January of last year, serves as a “thank you” to the loyal volunteers in our sport for their dedication to supporting events around the country throughout the year.
Spend the day immersing yourself in the intricacies of producing Young Event Horses at the 2024 Ocala Horse Properties USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Symposium tomorrow, Feb. 20, in Ocala, Florida. A star-studded list of presenters and demonstrators will be on-hand to educate the audience on the proper training and evaluation of the next generation of 4- and 5-star horses. Click here to register!