Aug 29, 2023

The Scores are Tight in the Bates USEA Preliminary Championships at the AEC

By Meagan DeLisle - USEA Staff | Press Release
Lizzie Hoff and HSH Limited Edition. Allison Green for Erin Gilmore Photography photo

Lexington, Ky.—August 29— Competitors in the Bates USEA Preliminary divisions took to the centerline on Tuesday as competition for the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds kicked off first thing in the morning. There are four championship divisions offered at the Preliminary level this week: Bates USEA Preliminary Horse, Bates USEA Preliminary Amateur, Bates USEA Preliminary Rider, and Bates USEA Preliminary Junior/Young Rider.

Bates USEA Preliminary Junior/Young Rider

Lizzie Hoff (Gig Harbor, Washington), one of this year's USEA Emerging Athletes U21 (EA21) riders, and Caroline Pamucku’s 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding HSH Limited Edition (Sibon W x Tinirana Velvet) are no strangers to the AEC spotlight having won the Training Junior Championship at the AEC at Rebecca Farm (Kalispell, Montana) in 2022. The pair came into this year’s Championships after a summer of ups and downs due to hoof issues.

“The whole summer didn't really go to plan,” shared Hoff. “We did a two-long in the spring, and then he had a vacation and then came back and did a two-star, and then he had an abscess, and he was just not sound. It was just a conglomeration of things with his feet. Last season, we were going pretty consistently, and he was doing really, really well, and then it kind of wasn't quite as great. But coming back here [to the Kentucky Horse Park], he just feels back like he is 100%. He is going really super well and is super happy.”

After a prep run at Great Meadow (The Plains, Virginia) just last weekend where the pair had a second-place finish in the Preliminary, Hoff and “Roger” made the quick trip down to Kentucky to compete in this week’s Championships. They lead the 13-pair field after dressage on a score of 28.9, just one-tenth of a point higher than second-place pair Noah Stanlaske and his 9-year-old Warmblood gelding DHI Showman (Elvis Ter Putte x Bubertha) who will go into the second phase of the competition with a score of 29.0.

For Hoff, being in the lead is great but mostly, she's just happy to have her partner back in action and feeling himself again. “He is the sweetest horse in the world," she said. "He's like a puppy dog, and he loves to do his job so it's always so fun. He always goes into the ring and perks up, and you know he is just happy being there and working.”

Annabelle Sprague sits in third overnight on a score of 29.2 with Kylie Lyman’s 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Da Vinci Code (Master Imp x Clover Apollo).

Bates USEA Preliminary Horse

Liz Halliday and Newmarket Cooley. Kristin Lee for Erin Gilmore Photography photo.

Sitting in pole position in the Bates USEA Preliminary Horse Championship is the Newmarket Syndicate’s 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Newmarket Cooley (Newmarket Venture x Kilderry Clover). “Albie’s” rider Liz Halliday (Lexington, Kentucky), who has produced the horse since he was five, was extremely proud of the horse’s professional performance in the championship today, noting that his career has taken a bit longer to take off.

“He's kind of taken a bit of time to develop, which is fair enough,” said Halliday. “He's still young, and he's quite cheeky and opinionated. He’s become a real beast on cross-country now. He's suddenly just kind of figured it out and figured out that he's quite good at it. I think the world of him, and I think he's a real one for the future.”

Despite Albie’s somewhat spooky nature, he went into the dressage ring today ready to wow the judges, and that he did. His test earned him a score of 25.7, but barn mate Maybach (Millenium x Hilary), Deborah Palmer’s 7-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding, sits hot on his heels with Halliday in the tack on a score of 25.8.

Halliday has a busy week ahead of her with five horses across various championship divisions and a few students competing as well. With her farm here in town, she and her team are hauling the horses in each day so they can go back to their stalls and rest after each phase.

When asked how she juggles it all, Halliday joked, “Well, obviously, I wasn't able to ride any horses at home today, because I have so many courses to walk. But it's kind of working out OK. We've kind of been bouncing around, but we were expecting this weekend to be busy. You just set your mind into that and just put together a schedule and keep trucking along.”

In third place going into cross-country tomorrow is Christa Schmidt’s 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding “J” (Farfan M x Fairway) ridden by Hannah Sue Hollberg with a 28.2.

Bates USEA Preliminary Amateur

Lisa Borgia and Sillmarrion. Erin Gilmore photo
Lisa Borgia and Silmarillion. Allison Green for Erin Gilmore photo

Lisa Borgia (Wadesboro, North Carolina) purchased Silmarillion (Joey Franco x Lil Mo Rhythm) off the track when he was just four years old from the same person who had bred, trained, and still owned him. Physically, he reminded her a lot of another off-the-track Thoroughbred she owned, but it was ultimately his personality that sold her on him.

"He has a nice, balanced look to him," she shared. "He is nice and round and short-backed. But, he is also very interested in me, a very curious type, and I find that the easier they are to work with, the more you can get done."

Borgia brought the now 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding to the AEC this year to contest the Bates USEA Preliminary Amateur Championship but was afraid after her test that she hadn't stepped up her game enough as the horse's rider.

"I'm getting to that age where I have brain fog sometimes," she joked. "And I got in there, and he was fine, actually he was great, but I wasn't quite as sharp as I needed to be with what was coming up next. You get in that big ring in there all of a sudden C gets really far away. So that was my problem; that I just didn't feel like I was concentrating and focused enough, but we got it done!"

And got it done they did. The pair will go into cross-country tomorrow in the lead on their dressage score of 28.8. Borgia can't wait to tackle cross-country with her long-time partner and is hoping the hard work they have put in at home will pay off in the show jumping ring.

"I'm always a cross-country girl, and he's a game little horse," she said. "I look forward to doing cross-country always. He's done well here before, but it's always a question of being consistent in stadium. That's the thing that we really have been focusing on, and I'm really hoping that between the two of us we can get that phase done."

Audrey Morrissey is sitting in second place with her 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding Lord Limon (Limoncello II x Lady Yodeler) just a hair behind Borgia with a score of 29.3. Rounding out the top three after dressage with a score of 30.1 are Kathleen Bertuna and her 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Excel Star Harry (Luidam x Moysella Cool Diamond).

Bates USEA Preliminary Rider

Susan Moessner and Satin Art. Kristin Lee for Erin Gilmore photo

It felt a bit like deja vu for Susan Moessner (Ann Arbor, Michigan) when she saw that she and her 19-year-old homebred Warmblood stallion Satin Art (Indian Art x Epic Satin) were sitting in the lead after dressage. The pair led the Bates USEA Preliminary Rider Championship division at the 2021 AEC in Kentucky after dressage as well, but Moessner joked that "Artie," who people rarely realize is a stallion because of his wonderful temperament, had one of very few stallion moments on cross-country that led to an unfortunate stop.

"Unfortunately, that's where testosterone happened to get in the way," she said with a laugh. "It took me a while to figure it out after I had ridden the course because he normally just locks onto things and goes. But that year we came to the first water and just out of nowhere, he put on the brakes suddenly. I brought him back around, give them a tap on the butt, and then he cruised around the rest of the course. Well, the one thing I found is that a lot of times with stallions, the testosterone will come out when they see loose horses. So that year the start box was sort of at the top of the hill past the stabling, and there was a pasture of horses there. I think he had his eyeball on the pasture and not on his job."

Moessner referred to Artie's dam as her soulmate, and now she calls Artie the love of her life. He is the fourth generation that Moessner bred, and she even has three of his own daughters at home as well. After an accident in 2014 left him with a stifle injury, she backed the horse down to a dressage-only career, but when Moessner elected to take Artie on a fun, casual schooling opportunity, the horse showed his owner just how much he wanted to return to the sport.

"He started locking on everything in front of him," she reflected. "So I thought, you know, maybe we'll do a little eventing, so I basically take him out once or twice a year. Like this year, I took him out, just because he was already qualified to come here, and gave him a little prep run before we came here."

Even though two of Artie's daughters were qualified to compete this year as well, when it came down to just bringing one horse, Moessner decided to just bring the love of her life with her.

Moessner and Artie have a five-point lead over second-placed pair Michelle Kutcha and her one-eyed wonder horse, the 10-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Special Reserve (The Visualizer x Deco Jazz) who closed out the day on a score of 30.6. Just a fraction of a point behind in third place after dressage is Anna Fitzhugh and her 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Shirsheen Deal Me In (Silvano x Tradhearg Watt A Diamond) whose dressage test earned them a score of 30.7.

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About the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC)

The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC), presented by Nutrena Feeds, is the pinnacle of the sport at the national levels. Held annually, the best junior, adult amateur, and professional competitors gather to vie for national championship titles at every level from Beginner Novice to Advanced. This ultimate test of horse and rider draws hundreds of combinations from around the country to compete for fabulous prizes, a piece of the substantial prize money, and the chance to be named the National Champion at their respective levels. In fact, the 2021 AEC garnered over 1,000 entries and now stands as the largest eventing competition in North American history. The 2023 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds will be held Aug. 29—Sept. 3 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.

The USEA would like to thank Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena Feeds; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsor: Bates Saddles; Gold Level Sponsors: Capital Square, Horse & Country, Parker Equine Insurance, Smartpak, Standlee; Silver Level Sponsors: Auburn Labs, Ecogold, Kerrits, The Jockey Club; Bronze Level Sponsors: 70 Degrees, Athletux, Black Petticoat, The Chronicle of the Horse, Devoucoux, D.G. Stackhouse and Ellis, Dubarry of Ireland, Equestrian Team Apparel, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Horseware Ireland, Majyk Equipe, Retired Racehorse Project, Ride EquiSafe; Contributing Level Sponsor: CrossCountry App, Georgetown – Scott County Tourism, Lexmark, L.V. Harkness, Mountain Horse, Mrs. Pastures Cookies, #WeRideTogether; Prize Level Sponsors: Coach Daniel Stewart, EquiFit, Equilab, Equiluxe Tack, Equine Essentials, Equine Pulse Performance, FarmVet, Achieve Equine/FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips, Horses 4 Your Consideration, Hound & Hare, I Love My Horse Eventing Boutique, Jack’s Favorites, Jane Heart Jewelry, Kinetic Equine Services, LeMieux, Levade Kentucky, Mare Modern Goods, OneTouch Fly Spray, Parkmore Supplements, Practical Horseman, Sidelines Magazine, Spy Coast Farm, Strides for Equality Equestrians, and VTO Saddlery.

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