Area X’s leg of the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award took place at the Coconino Summer I Horse Trials in Flagstaff, Arizona on July 5-7, 2019. Over the course of the year, the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award is presented at one event in each of the 10 USEA Areas, rewarding riders for their safe and effective cross-country riding. Kimberly Storm and Leslie Villela walked away winners of the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award at Coconino.
Kimberly Storm and Bucky O’Hanilan (Sempatico x Kentucky Gamble), her 14-year-old German Warmblood gelding, scored a 30.0 in dressage, pulled a single rail in show jumping, and added 3.6 time faults to their score to finish their weekend in 4th place on 37.6. They also received the Adult Amateur Charles Owen Technical Merit Award for their effective and appropriate cross-country riding.
Storm began riding at age five on her mother’s leopard Appaloosa named Prince. “That was when my family decided to get me a Shetland pony name Furry so my mom can have her ‘Prince’ back,” Storm said. “I did a lot of riding between 4H shows and Central Ohio Saddle Club Association (COSCA) shows and showed in hunt seat, western, and side saddle classes.”
When she was 15 years old, Storm joined the Chargrin Valley Hunt Pony Club (CVHPC) and was introduced to eventing. “I competed in pony club rallies like dressage, show jumping, eventing, games, and tetrathlons!”
Storm and Bucky O’Hanilan, or “Lil’ Buckaroo,” as her sons call him, have been together since Bucky was born as Storm bred him. “I bred my Thoroughbred cross mare named Kentucky Gamble with Sempatico M. We have been doing trail riding and eventing together. We are currently in training with Dore Vlatten-Schmitz of Central Arizona Riding Academy for dressage and Manuela Propfe of Jumping Cholla Stable for cross-country and stadium training.”
Storm said that her varied equestrian background has been very beneficial to her riding, particularly cross-country. “Being versatile in every kind of saddle helps. I’ve also been riding for over 40 years, maintaining secured seat all the time.”
Two years ago, Storm broke her leg and had to take six months off from riding to recover. “It has been quite challenging juggling with work and animal and physical therapies. Now I think my seat is stronger and even better than before! I finally have the courage to move up to Training level this year. We had been stuck at Novice level on and off for the last 10 years!"
Leslie Villela and Diesel, Gayle Miller’s 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, scored a 34.8 in dressage, added one rail and two seconds time to their dressage score in show jumping, and then picked up another 3.6 time penalties on cross-country to finish their weekend in fourth place on a score of 43.2. Villela also won the Junior Charles Owen Technical Merit Award.
Villela was introduced to riding at Carefree Farms, where Villela’s father was employed. “I saw how much fun it would be to jump and ride a horse. At the time I didn’t know much English and with what I knew I went up to Alice [Sarno] and asked her for lessons!”
“I started when I was 6 years old on a pony named Cover Girl,” Villela continued. “With her I learned how to jump, do some dressage, and just learned how to ride in general! She took me to my first three-day event at Coconino. After that we did a couple more Intro level events together until I actually grew out of her. In that time, Alice had found a pony to for me to do some work on and one of my friends had a pony that she grew out of and let me ride him as well. Both ponies took me to do Beginner Novice, also at Coconino! Then Diesel came along and we are now doing Training!”
“The feedback I received was very helpful,” Villela said. “I really thought about it on the second weekend [the Coconino Summer II Horse Trials and Three-Day Event]. One of his tips was to sit light and not heavy and that was one I really kept in mind the whole way. My cross-country has improved so much – I feel like I can go around a course and not worry about timing so much. I understand more of when to speed up and or slow down during courses.”
“I’m just so I overly excited that I was able to get this award. Thank you!”
About the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award
In 2009, the Professional Horseman’s Council and Charles Owen founded the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award to reward juniors and adult amateurs for demonstrating safe and appropriate cross-country riding technique and educate riders and trainers as to what constitutes safe cross-country riding.
The Charles Owen Technical Merit Award is presented at one event in each of the 10 USEA Areas at the Training level to one junior rider and one adult amateur rider who have not competed at the Intermediate level or above. Every eligible rider at the Training level is automatically judged during their cross-country round and receives a score sheet with written comments, providing valuable feedback on their cross-country riding technique. ICP Certified Level III and IV Instructors, USEF licensed eventing officials, and USET Senior Team riders are all qualified to judge the Award. Click here to learn more about the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award.
The USEA would like to thank Charles Owen for sponsoring the Technical Merit Award.
All the major contenders passed the eventing final horse inspection at the Tokyo Olympics and will carry on to contest the show jumping phase in a few hours’ time.
The ground jury (Nick Burton, GBR, Christina Klingspor, SWE, and the U.S.A.’s Jane Hamlin) and vets only failed to accept one horse - Fantastic Frieda, ridden by Poland’s Joanna Pawlak, who had completed the cross-country in 41st place with a refusal and 25.2 time-faults.
The FEI has announced that the Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel has had to be euthanized after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest Cross Country Course during Equestrian Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 1, 2021.
In 2002, at the age of 15, I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Maine while Tremaine Cooper was there building some cross-country jumps. I helped him build a trakehner, not realizing that this day would set the course for my future. A few weeks later he called asking if I could help him at Millbrook Horse Trials. From there I helped Tremaine during most of my school vacations and throughout the summers. After graduating high school I kept at it never looking back. I lived the gypsy lifestyle for about six years going from coast to coast and event to event. In 2013 my wife Kathryn and I settled down in Lexington, Kentucky. These days I spend roughly 60-75 percent of my time on the road preparing events or building private schooling areas. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some really great events around the states and have cultivated many friendships all over the country. In 2019 I was asked to be a part of Team Evans Olympic cross-country building crew. As I write this I am on my third trip to Tokyo. Here’s a day in Tokyo . . .
The British team cemented their gold medal position at the Tokyo Olympics with three magnificent cross-country performances, all clear inside the time. Added to that, their first rider, Oliver Townend, holds pole position individually after the dressage leader, Germany’s Michael Jung, picked up 11 penalties for triggering a frangible device.