Five-star international eventer Ashlynn Meuchel remembers her purchase of the now 13-year-old big grey Dutch Warmblood gelding named Emporium (Cartano x UPANA), whom she lovingly refers to as Theo. “He was affordable because he was feral,” Meuchel reflected. Ask her to say that again without laughing and it might prove difficult. All jokes aside, most of us know that challenging horses usually take us on the scenic route to success. They have big hearts, big strides and sometimes big fears or quirks, and charmingly, Emporium had everything.
We hear a lot of buzz about producing a horse—bringing along a baby and riding them up through the levels—but it’s rare to have a rider who is patient and passionate enough to stay the course with one steed, and also have their education remain parallel to the horse. But Meuchel has done just that, taking the quirky quartz colored gelding from novice level to five-star, with confidence being a key in their survival.
Tamie Smith played a pivotal role in Meuchel’s introduction to the 5-year-old gelding back when Meuchel was only a teenager. Smith had Emporium as a resident in her sale barn in Temecula, California around the time that Ashlynn was looking for her next partner. California was an easier trek from Montana—Meuchel’s home state—than the east coast and Meuchel graduated high school early to work for Smith and continued to travel on weekends or college breaks to train and compete. Smith recognized the potential in both horse and rider and quirks aside, Emporium showed great promise.
“Even as a 5-year-old, it was clear that he was quite talented jumping-wise, but he was needing some work so we bought him basically knowing that he could jump a big jump,” said Meuchel. “Otherwise there were a lot of questions for him as to whether he’d make a good eventer because he’s quite large—17.2, 17.3—and he’s not bred to event.” Meuchel didn’t shy away from the challenge of riding or even owning a horse that was a bit of a mystery package. In fact, she chased her dream of advanced level eventing and followed her nose to the east coast, unpacking his personality along their partnership and celebrating personal and professional success with Clayton Fredericks.
Now residing, training and competing in Ocala, Florida, Meuchel hasn’t forgotten her roots in the west, primarily Kalispell, Montana where the USAE American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds take place this August. “I’ve learned so much from [Emporium]…how to produce a horse, and how to produce a quirky horse,” said Meuchel. “So it’s been really nice to take some of that knowledge home to Montana. I went last year and this year and I’m trying to get on a regular schedule out there because I want to try to contribute to the community that I grew up riding in.”
Sharing her passion and skill with the riders in her home state is really about sharing an experience together and working on confidence building—something that Meuchel has a true passion for with both horses and riders. “I try to really focus on confidence because [Emporium] and I lacked that for a long time, so I try—through my teaching—to make people and horses feel like they can do it,” said Meuchel. And of course, reading a horse’s cues is a lifelong learning curve—knowing how they communicate when they’re fearful or when they need a little extra encouragement. Either way, Meuchel’s clinics are all about the exchange of questions between horse and rider, and learning how to answer each other really matters when it comes to trust.
“Maybe [the horse] doesn’t have a behavioral issue, maybe the root of it is a confidence problem,” said Meuchel, who had to tackle Emporium’s fear of jumping down into water from a place of understanding, not aggression. “Maybe the horse is missing a piece of its training somewhere and it’s easier to address the training issue rather than a behavioral issue…I think a lot of it was just that [Emporium] lacked confidence rather than he wanted to be a bad horse. Most horses don’t want to be bad, they’re just scared or worried.”
Meuchel is unofficially on an eventing talent search, producing young horses in what most consider to be the epicenter of the eventing industry and also passing down confidence building skills and positivity to her clinic participants and students. And Emporium is doing the same, setting an example for promising yet challenging horses with his early success as a USEA Young Event Horse Program (YEH) graduate.
“It’s a good program to have for our young horses in the states,” said Meuchel. “It’s nice to have a standard across the country to compare young horses.” The program’s goal is to identify young horses who possess the talent and disposition that, with proper training, can excel in the uppermost levels of eventing. Emporium is the product of following that sentiment to its fullest potential and, in turn, also producing a rider in the process—one who is capable, compassionate and as raw-edged as her Montana beginnings.
Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to compete in a traditional long format Three-Day Event? Can you imagine the thrill of three additional phases leading into cross-country? In the early 2000s, eventing began to shift away from long format events and toward modern short-format competitions. Not all is lost though! The United States Eventing Association (USEA) created the USEA Classic Series to give riders a taste of the old school experience. These competitions preserve eventing’s history and allow riders at the Beginner Novice through Preliminary levels to take on the challenge of traditional long format events.
As the cutoff date to qualify for Le Lion inches closer, talented young horses and riders in contention for the The Holekamp/Turner YEH Lion d’Angers Grant are gearing up for the final push in hopes of being selected as the grant recipient. Grant funds will assist the selected pair with costs associated with competing at the FEI Eventing World Breeding Championships in the 7-year-old CCIYH3*-L Championship slated to be held later this fall. 2020 Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championships competitors and their respective owners and riders have paid careful attention to this summer’s schedule making sure that they would meet the necessary qualifications for La Mondial du Lion in Le Lion d’Angers, France.
US Equestrian announced the four combinations selected to represent the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team at the FEI Eventing Nations Cup Canada CCIO4*-S, three of which are graduates of the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) program. Competition will take place from August 18-21, 2022, at Bromont Horse Park in Quebec, Canada. The team will be led by Chef d’Equipe Leslie Law.