Aiken, SC—September 30— The second and final day of competition at the 2023 USEF/USEA Developing Horse Eventing National Championships was all about precision as the 6-year-old CCI2*-S Championship competitors tackled both jumping phases and the 7-year-old CCI3*-S Championship pairs conquered Mogie Bearden-Muller’s cross-country track at Stable View in Aiken, South Carolina.
Lots of Love for P.S. I Love You After Winning 7-year-old Championship
With two horses in the CCI3*-S Championship and one in the Open Intermediate, Alexandra Knowles had the opportunity to ride Bearden-Muller’s Intermediate and three-star track twice before hopping on her overnight leader P.S. I Love You (FSS Correlli Bravo x Woodmount Queen).
She and “Jerry,” the 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Katherine O’Brien, went into the final phase on a four-point lead, but as it was the horse’s first time at the level, Knowles wanted to go into cross-country today with an open mind. She cruised around the Intermediate track comfortably on her five-star mount Morswood and then had a bit of a green moment at fence seven with her second championship mount Boo Radley resulting in an added 20, but she felt like both rounds really prepared her for what was ahead with Jerry.
“I started on Morswood, who is unbelievably experienced and then I went out on Boo Radley who is totally opposite. So I had every variation of kind of horse, so that was a really good advantage. I just had so much faith in Jerry, he’s a machine. He just went out of the box with ears pricked the whole time and acted like he's done this level for a year. It was incredible.”
Knowles knew that time was typically her enemy: “I knew I could have some time, historically I am not the fastest rider. So I was like, ‘You know what, Allie, you need to just prove this to yourself that you can go and go fast.’ And so each round I did today I went faster than the last. I definitely put the pedal down on Jerry and he answered, and he was full of running in the end.”
The duo added just 0.8 time penalties to their dressage score to finish in first with a score of 33.4.
Second-place honors went to Cornelia Fletcher and her 7-year-old Zangersheide mare DHI Qyaracolle Z (Quinnar Z x Celiacolle Z). Fletcher partnered up with “Qyra” in 2021 after purchasing her off of a video and the recommendation of Kevin McNabb.
“Kevin McNabb, who I spent last year in England with, sent Jacob, my husband, videos of this horse and was like, ‘this horse is really cool, but she's a pony. Would it be something Cornelia could ride?’ I'm much smaller than Jacob, and he thought Jacob would look weird on her with how small she was. But, actually, now she's grown so much. Now we laugh all the time that Jacob missed out.”
According to Fletcher, Qyra is your typical mare, but don’t let that fool you.
“Everything she does, she's a bit aggressive and very serious about her job. And that's just how she's always been. She's kind of a character, you know, in the classic mare way. You give her a hug, and she pins her ears and rolls her neck, but she does love it and she loves us. She’s always been really, really thoughtful and smart about the jumps. She probably has the best jumping brain I've ever sat on. Like she just reads it so quickly and so well and so brave.”
The pair concluded their championship weekend adding just 4 time penalties to their dressage score to finish out with a score of 40.8.
Moving up from seventh to third at the end of the Championship was Sarah Kuhn riding Deborah Kuhn’s Irish Sport Horse gelding Hashtag Trending (Future Trend x Silvanos Lift). This was the horse’s debut at the three-star level. The pair added two rails in show jumping and a bit of time on cross-country to their score to end the weekend on a 58.8 to take home third.
Monbeg Zebedee Holds Tightly to Overnight Lead to Win 6-year-old Championship
After taking the lead following dressage in the CCI2*-S 6-year-old Championship, The Zebedee Group’s 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Monbeg Zebedee (Dignified Van't Zorgvliet x Bolacreane Dolly) and Allison Springer delivered a beautiful, double-clear show jumping round early Saturday morning to hold onto that lead. With only 0.6 penalties separating Zebedee and Springer from second-place pair Gabby Dickerson and Top Carrera (Carridam x Cecil), the 6-year-old Hanoverian gelding whom Dickerson co-owns with Roland Millican, Springer knew that every second would count on cross-country.
" I knew that girls that were right up there, Kim Severson and Gabby Dickerson and I know they have very, very nice young horses," Springer shared. "And they're obviously very competitive and very good. So I knew that they were going for it. I knew he would probably jump a clean round. I thought it was a nice challenging course, but I felt like everything this year has led up for him to be prepared for this. But this is the first time I really kicked on right out of the box and had him be right on pace thinking I'd be going for time. That's a really fun place to get to because these horses are young, you know, they're only six."
Springer noted that earlier this season, Zebedee picked up a 20 on cross-country at Tryon because he was a bit spooky due to the atmosphere, but that in the past few months, he has really matured and it showed this weekend.
"I feel like today was just as much atmosphere with all the people and it was windy and tough," Springer noted. "He just felt like he's grown so much in the last couple of months. It's been really fun."
"I really felt like it was the true 6-year-old championship," she continued. "I think the U.S. should be really excited about that because I think they're really nice 6-year-olds."
When Gabby Dickerson first sat on the Hanoverian gelding Top Carrera (Carridam x Cecil) as a 4-year-old, she knew he was going to be special.
"I went over to Germany and Alexandra Von Beverfoerde with Pegazon Horses took us around to look at some horses," Dickerson recalled. "I sat on him and just immediately thought somebody in my barn needs to buy this horse."
Initially, a student of Dickerson's purchased Top Carrera, but when that student decided to pursue other interests last year, Dickerson came together with Roland Millican to purchase the young horse for her own string.
"He pretty much had a couple of runs on him and then we took him to the [YEH East Coast] 5-year-old Championships last year, where he did very well and was third," she said. "So that was kind of our first glimpse of how special he might be. And then this season, he's had quite a few wins. He had a Training level win and a Modified win. He's done very well and stepped up to the Preliminary level really well and then this is his first two-star, so I couldn't be happier with him."
The future is bright for Top Carrera and Dickerson, as she aims to continue to produce the horse in hopes of competing at Le Lion D'Angers next year. When it comes to bringing along her next four or five-star horse, having them in the barn from a young age and producing them each step of the way as she has with Top Carrera is Dickerson's preferred method.
"You just formed that partnership," she shared. "We trust each other. He's a little bit of an inverted, shy horse and he kind of has some internal stress that you wouldn't see outwardly. We've kind of gotten to know that and do a couple of things to try and help him deal with that. You get the advantage of knowing the horses inside and out and they just probably, I would assume, have so much more trust in us as well. So it's definitely, for me, the preferred way to end up with, hopefully, a four-star or five-star horse would be from the beginning. It just makes it extra special when they do well like today."
Also holding onto their ranking throughout the weekend were third-placed pair Cooley Corraghy Diamond (Diamond Roller x Seoladh), the 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Bill and Roslyn Johnson, ridden by Kim Severson.
All three of the 6-year-old Championship finalists are former USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) program graduates, fulfilling the program’s desire to be a stepping stone in the career of future U.S. eventing superstars. The USEF/USEA Eventing Developing Horse Championships is the next step on that mission to further develop promising young event horses in to proper competition mounts who may one day represent the U.S. on the world stage. To learn more about the USEF/USEA Eventing Developing Horse Championships please click here.
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