Jun 25, 2021

The Memories of Steeplechase from USEA Classic Series Competitors

By Claire Kelley - USEA Staff
Berkley Gardner. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo

The thrill of the chase is a fan favorite among the USEA Classic Series competitors. The adrenaline-pumping phase of steeplechase is offered at every USEA Classic Series Event from Beginner Novice through the Preliminary level. While the long format was removed from the upper levels of eventing in the late 2000s, it still lives on in the USEA Classic Series. So, what makes steeplechase so special? The USEA asked social media followers and wanted to share some of the organization's top picks of favorite steeplechase memories!

Jamie Merrill at the Waredaca Training Three-Day Event (T3D) in 2016:

Jamie Merrill Photo

“This was the last event I would ever have with my once-in-a-lifetime horse. We retired him after this event (he was 18!) it was our third time at the Waredaca T3D and the best weekend all year. Going into day two (endurance day) he was fitter than ever. The one year he even got [the] fittest horse [award]! I remember going into phase B and, at that point, he knew what his job was. All I had to do was cluck and he was game on. Every jump just comes out of stride at that kind of gallop it almost looks harder than it actually is - the hardest part is getting them to pull up after that much fun! Then you still have cross-country after that! It is one of my fondest memories with my best friend, my rock, my soul. He passed away in late 2018. [I’m] glad his last trip around at an event was at what he loved best - a T3D.”

Lucy Leff on Amarillo at the Coconino Western Underground Novice Three-Day Event (N3D) in 2019:

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo

“My name is Lucy Leff and I ride my palomino pony named Amarillo! My favorite steeplechase memory is from the Coconino Western Underground three-day event. Coming off roads and tracks onto steeplechase was an amazing feeling and very rewarding to see all our fitness work being paid off as my pony was doing everything easily. [He had] plenty more and maybe even too much energy for the rest of the roads and tracks and later on our cross-country.”

“I will always remember how ready my pony was for everything, how well he was jumping and how excited we both were to finally be doing what we worked towards for months to get to.”

Berkley Gardner on Chillie at the Waredaca Novice Three-Day Event (N3D) in 2020:

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo

“I remember very clearly competing at the 2020 Waredaca Classic Series Event. I was in the N3D on my 14.2hh pony named Chillie. I had never competed in anything like a Classic Series Event before. I had passed my friend, Liv when doing my first trot as she was coming back from steeplechase. All Liv said was how much fun she had doing the steeplechase. I was instantly less worried.”

“I got up to the steeplechase and they started me almost immediately. All I knew was I had to balance Chillie, jump, and go faster. I knew that because I was riding a smaller horse, it would be harder. I went up to brush jump 2. Balance, jump, go faster. I ran up the hill back to the first jump. I repeated the process until my number 4 jump. We got a perfect distance and took off for the finish flags. I had the biggest smile on my face. I was 13 years old and had just completed my first steeplechase. My trainer and step-dad met me at the end. I got high fives and I most importantly gave Chillie all the love. We checked his legs and feet, and then I was off for my second and last trot. It was the best run ever.”

Gretel Frew on Union Commander at the Waredaca Novice Three-Day Event (N3D) in 2020:

USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo

“My name is Gretel Frew and I competed at the 2020 Waredaca N3D with my horse Union Commander. My absolute favorite memory from steeplechase was when I was starting my second lap and began to feel a bit sick after chugging half a Gatorade prior. I yelled out, ‘I feel like I’m going to puke!’ and proceeded to take the brush at a long spot with the crowd cheering and laughing. In the video, you can hear a woman in the back say, ‘That’s what it’s all about!’. I will always cherish that run with my favorite horse!”

Rebecca Brown on Twinkle Toes in one of the last long format events at the upper levels, the Jersey Fresh CCI2* (now CCI3*-L) in 2005:

“My favorite steeplechase memory was at the 2005 Jersey Fresh CCI**(now called CCI3*-L). Radnor would eventually get rained out later that fall, making the 2005 Jersey Fresh CCI** the last long format of its level to be held in the United States; things were already transitioning away from the classic endurance day format. My horse, an off-the-track Thoroughbred aptly named Twinkle Toes, was doing his third classic long format and he knew the drill. Once we came over the hill on Phase A and he could see the start box for Phase B (steeplechase) he dragged me down the hill and proceeded to stand on his hind legs the entire time we circled the box in preparation to start. Even the starting timer jumped out of her seat and ran the other way. We were given the countdown and Twinkie shot out of the start like a cannon and made record time to the first fence.”

“Growing up riding with Jim Wofford, he always instructed that if your inside foot wasn’t over the wire as you galloped in between the jumps, your turns were too wide, you were being inefficient and you weren’t on fresh turf, aka give your horse every advantage. I ended up winning this event and, while all the other phases and the victory gallop are blurry memories, the steeple chase is still vivid in my mind. I had done steeplechase at other classic events before, but this was the first time I really rode it well—and it’s a feeling I can’t forget!”

Want to experience the thrill of the ‘chase like these competitors did? Click here for the 2021 USEA Classic Series calendar.

About the USEA Classic Series

The USEA Classic Series keeps the spirit of the classic long ­format three­-day events alive for Beginner Novice through the Preliminary levels. Competitors can experience the rush of endurance day, including roads and tracks, steeplechase, the vet box, and cross­-country, as well as participate in formal veterinary inspections and educational activities with experts on the ins and outs of competing in a long ­format three-­day event. Riders who compete in a USEA Classic Series event during the year will have the chance to win a variety of prizes at the events from USEA sponsors. Click here to learn more about the USEA Classic Series.

The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, FITS, SmartPak Equine, Parker Equine Insurance, and Stackhouse & Ellis Saddles for sponsoring the USEA Classic Series.

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