The 2020 United States Eventing Association (USEA) Future Event Horse (FEH) Central Championships took place yesterday, September 24 at Haras Hacienda in Magnolia, Texas. With four new champions crowned, this marked one of the first USEA Championships to be held in 2020. Jayne Lloyd, the organizer of the Championships shared, “Everyone had a nice day with their youngsters. The quality of horses is getting better and better. Haras [Hacienda] is a lovely facility to put this on – great stabling, great footing, all indoor because we’ve had some bad weather the past few days. But overall, I think it all went really well.”
After days of torrential downpour due to Tropical Storm Beta, a total of eight horses showed up to compete in the Central Championships. The Championships were judged by Wayne Quarles and started at 9:00 a.m. with the youngest division – the yearlings. Ann Shira O’Donnell’s Irish Draught Sport Horse filly TGS Lion’s Sunshine (Sea Lion x Windfield All Sunshine) scored a 79.6 percent to win the Yearling Championship. “She’s got a great temperament and a lot of personality – in all the right ways. She’s very willing to learn [and] I think she can go a long way. It’s been a great opportunity to work with her,” said Jessica Turner, the handler of TGS Lion’s Sunshine.
O’Donnell, the owner and breeder, described the thoughtful breeding behind TGS Lion’s Sunshine. “I have one broodmare and she’s pure Irish Draught, Windfield All Sunshine, and I’ve owned her since she was six months old. TGS Lion’s Sunshine (aka Rooney) is her second foal. Rooney is by Sea Lion, a Thoroughbred stallion, who is a retired event horse owned by Pam Fischer.”
For breeding a future event horse, O’Donnell shared, “I think a Thoroughbred is a good cross with an Irish Draught because Irish Draught horses are notably known to be sensible, levelheaded, and a steady ride. As a parent, you always want something that’s safe and sane.”
“I came to know the Irish Draught breed through my daughter’s first event mare who was an Irish Draught Sport Horse. My daughter [and I] are both very passionate about the sport. I think the Future Event Horse Series is one of the best introductions that a horse can have into the eventing world,” said O’Donnell.
The next division to go was the 2-year-old Championship made up of Robbie Peterson’s two homebreds, Flagmount’s Invincible and Flagmount’s Scandal, who are both out of the Irish Sport Horse stallion Flagmount’s Freedom. Handled by Jackie Ericksen, Flagmount’s Invincible came out on top to win the 2-year-old Championship with a score of 76.4 percent. The Irish Sport Horse gelding, Flagmount’s Scandal (Flagmount’s Freedom x Coaxing Halo), was close behind with a score of 75.1 percent.
Peterson, the owner and breeder of Flagmount’s Invincible, shared, “He’s by the stallion Flagmount’s Freedom that stands here in Texas and he’s out of a Thoroughbred mare named Devious Princess. He’s actually the fourth out of that breeding combination - I’ve bred that mare four times. I’ve retired her as a broodmare, so this is the last baby.”
The exact breeding combination has already proven to be successful as Flagmount’s Invincible’s full sister, Flagmount’s Mischief (Flagmount’s Freedom x Devious Princess), was a top event horse. Peterson explained, “A mare out of that combination is Flagmount’s Mischief, which I ran under Doug Payne who competed her up through the Advanced level.”
For Peterson, it was the owner of Flagmount’s Freedom, Dr. Janet Marden, who got her hooked on eventing. “She’s been in the sport for a long time and she’s been a dear friend of mine for many years. She’s actually the one who introduced me to eventing, she crossed me over from Western riding into eventing back in the mid-90s.”
Now a breeder and owner of event horses, Peterson shares her excitement for her newly minted FEH Central 2-year-old Champion. “He’s pretty cool - he’s got a great brain and a super attitude. He’s very willing, very keen, and very smart for a youngster. Of the four that I’ve had, he’s probably the nicest at this age out of all of them. Knowing what his sister did with Doug, I feel like the sky’s the limit for this guy.”
After the 2-year-old Championship, the 3-year-old Championship first started with the triangle and went onto the jump chute. The 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds are the only two age groups to compete in the jump chute at the Championships. Kelley Kay’s Irish Sport Horse stallion, Flagmount's Keen Ice (Flagmount's Freedom x Fire N' Ice), is a three-peat competitor at the FEH Central Championships. In 2018, Flagmount’s Keen Ice earned Reserve Champion in the FEH Central Yearling Championship. The following year, in 2019, Flagmount’s Keen Ice was the Reserve Champion in the FEH Central 2-year-old Championship. After two years of being the Reserve Champion, this year they won. Handled by Martin Douzant, the experienced 3-year-old earned his first Championship title with a score of 78.24 percent.
The breeder, owner, and practicing equine veterinarian Kelley Kays DVM shared, “[Flagmount’s Keen Ice] was very well mannered today. He didn’t touch any rails in the jump chute and was enthusiastic about it all. I haven’t gelded him yet because I think he is kind of nice. He’s got a very sweet disposition. I’m an amateur so I didn’t really plan to have a stallion and do any breeding, but he’s been so sweet.”
The breeding behind the 3-year-old Champion was carefully picked by Kays and her late husband, W.J. Everett. “I evented the mare [Fire and Ice] and we won the Training Master Amateur division at the 2009 USEA American Eventing Championships. I was excited to breed her.”
There were three horses by Flagmount’s Freedom that competed at this year’s FEH Central Championships, two in the 2-year-old Championship and one in the 3-year-old Championship. A popular stallion for event horse breeders, Kays remembers seeing the stallion event at the Intermediate level. “I had been to events where [Flagmount’s Freedom] competed and I watched his temperament quite a bit. I saw him jump in the Intermediate and he was good,” said Kays.
“We had a bunch of nice horses today. In the year of COVID-19 I think it’s great to have the Central Championships. It was a lot of fun and I had a great time,” said Kays. Kays' win carried a special sentiment as she shared how she and her husband bred Flagmount’s Keen Ice together, but her husband sadly passed away two years ago. “I know he would have been proud today,” reflected Kays.
The 2019 FEH Central 3-year-old Champion Dark Shadows d’Avalon, owned by Marcella Pinnell, came back this year to win another Championship title – the 4-year-old Championship. This age group is the only age group to have an under saddle portion. Handled and ridden by Cynthia Powell-Hall, the 4-year-old Oldenburg filly, who goes by the barn name of ‘Ella,’ scored a 78.87 percent to win the 4-year-old Championship. “She was super,” said Pinnell of Ella’s performance in the 4-year-old Championship. “She is really starting to mature and come into herself this year. I was really pleased with her demeanor and how she comes out and does her job. She’s been training with Cynthia [Powell-Hall] since the summer of her 3-year-old year. Cynthia has been putting a really solid dressage foundation on her this past year and I feel like that really showed today.”
Bred by Kathy St. Martin of Avalon Equine, Pinnell explained how she found Ella. “I wanted something athletic but with a good brain for me to ride. I found out about Kathy’s program and I ended up buying Ella in utero. I’ve had her since she was weaned.”
Building on the memories she had from last year, Pinnell decided to bring two 4-year-olds to show in the 4-year-old Championship. “I had a really good experience last year [at the 2019 USEA FEH Central Championships], so I decided to bring the second one for this year, Poison Ivy d’Avalon - and she did super today too.”
Congratulations to everyone who competed in the 2020 USEA FEH Central Championships! The 2020 USEA FEH East Coast Championships are next to take place on September 26-27 at Loch Moy Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. The USEA FEH West Coast Championships will take place next month on October 23-24 at Twin Rivers Ranch in Paso Robles, California.
For full results of the 2020 USEA FEH Central Championships, please see below.
The USEA introduced the Future Event Horse Program in 2007 in response to the popularity of the already established USEA Young Event Horse Program. Where the YEH program assesses 4- and 5-year-old prospective event horses based on their performance, the FEH program evaluates yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds for their potential for the sport based on conformation and type. Yearlings, 2-year-olds, and 3-year-olds are presented in-hand while 4-year-olds are presented under saddle at the walk, trot, and canter before being stripped of their tack and evaluated on their conformation. Divisions are separated by year and gender. At the Championships, 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds are also required to demonstrate their potential over fences in an additional free-jump division. Click here to learn more about the Future Event Horse Program.
Since the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program was founded in 2014, it has grown in popularity and participation each year. The USEA is excited to have 23 intercollegiate team challenges on the calendar in 2021 in addition to the 2021 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championships, which will be held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia on May 27-30.
In 2000 and with the support of Joan Iversen Goswell, the Worth the Trust Educational Scholarships were established to provide financial assistance to amateurs to pursue their education in eventing. The funds from the Worth the Trust Educational Scholarships may be used for training opportunities such as clinics, working student positions, and private or group instruction, or to learn from an official, course designer, technical delegate, judge, veterinarian, or organizer.
The Linda Moore Trophy was introduced in 1979 and awarded to the leading Young Rider in the country. After a strong showing during the 2020 season, 16-year-old Benjamin Noonan of Ballwin, Missouri was named the 2020 RevitaVet Young Rider of the Year.
The USEA is sorry to announce that there will be no USEA Educational Symposium held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The USEA Educational Symposium is hosted annually each February as a week of learning for participants and auditors.