Wednesday saw five more divisions dancing in the Kentucky Horse Park dressage rings at the 2019 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds. With two judges presiding over each ring the competition was fierce to get ahead of the pack heading into cross-country.
Katie Malensek has two horses competing in the Equistro Modified/Training division this weekend, but it was the younger of her two horses, the 5-year-old Oldenburg gelding Landjaeger (Landkonig x Drink of Die xx), that outshone the other 30 competitors to sit in first place on a score of 27.1.
“He’s generally a pretty cool-minded horse so I tried to just not expel too much energy in the warmup and he ended up going in and he was a solid citizen who just put in a good test,” Malensek said of “Brewster.” “I’m really proud of him.”
Malensek purchased Brewster as yearling with a penchant for jumping out of his field. “I keep my horses at home so my horses are like my babies – we spend a lot of time together,” she elaborated. “He’s a sweet horse, he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and he’s just a little pushy but easy to get along with. He loves his food and his treats. He’s just a really sweet horse and he’s been an easy horse to bring along.”
With two young horses competing well at Training level but not quite ready for Preliminary, Melansek went looking for alternative options and ended up entering the Modified division. “Both of my horses are young and they’d had a good winter season around the Training level and I just wasn’t thinking they were quite ready as 5-year-olds to go up to Preliminary, so I started looking for some alternatives,” she said. “Thankfully, Area III has a ton of Modifieds and I’d never done them before so I just thought let’s just give it a whirl. It’s the perfect in-between level for them. A little more challenging than Training and not so hard on them as youngsters as Preliminary.
“Coming here, I thought 'I want do a little harder dressage test and a little harder show jumping,'” Melansek shared. “I was hoping the cross-country would be Modified, but that’s alright, we’ll have some fun around the Training level. [The course] looks fantastic. We’re from Florida where everything’s flat – this horse has hardly ever left the flat sand so he’ll have some fun on the hills I’m sure. It’ll be a little different for him, that’s for sure. I love him, he’s a good boy.”
Kendyl Tracy and Alexandra Tatham’s Bobbie Burns (Balanchine x Harriet), a 6-year-old Oldenburg gelding, scored a 27.5, which is good enough for second place overnight. Kimmy Cecere and Jacqueline Mars’s 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Hindine (Campbell x Lundiroodnoot) lie in third place on a score of 29.9.
Kiersten Miller and her own Mama Mia (Indoctro x Lysienne II), a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, scored a 24.3 to take the early lead in the Junior Training division.
“She was amazing,” Miller said. “I knew that if I kept my head on straight and went in did what I know how to do it would be fine. I definitely felt more nervous than usual so I was kind of worried about that because she can tend to feed off that because she’s quite electric in these environments. It all ended up going well though.”
Miller purchased Mama Mia in Ocala last April but made the decision to leave her there with her trainer for two months instead of subjecting her to the Michigan spring weather. “We just recently started our partnership back in June – I got her back in April. I got a few rides in here and there but she was in a different state than me so I wasn’t able to rider her very much for the first two months. Then in June she came home to Michigan with me and we kind of hit the ground running and we got a few events in and are building a partnership as we go and getting better and better at each event . . . It was difficult to start learning about each other but I did my best to spend some time on the ground with her and just get to know her in that way.”
Mama Mia is still quite new to cross-country – she only started eventing over the winter – but Miller said she has taken to it like a fish to water. “I remember for my first event with her back in June I was nervous, I had no clue how she was really going to react because obviously we haven’t done much together. She just ate it up – every fence I was just smiling. She loves cross-country – that’s definitely her favorite part. It’s fun out there with her.”
Looking to tomorrow, Miller said the course looks, “absolutely amazing. I think it’s cool how in the beginning he kind of lets you feel your horse out before he gives you anything too technical and then he slowly amps it up, especially at the head of the lake – I really like the questions there. I’m pretty excited.”
Drew Cheek and Princeton Pride, Peter Berk’s 17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, scored a 26.8 to sit in second place overnight. Abigail Mazzatta and Samantha Lendl’s Woodstock's Little Nev (Luftikus x One Lucky One), a 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, and Darcy Drury and Fernhill Bijzonder (Indoctro x Grafin), her own 13-year-old Holsteiner mare, are tied for third place on 28.8.
Reflektion’s Rio (Reggasoni x L.A. Baltic Reflektion), Lynn Roberts’ 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding is a pure dressage horse, but with Madeline Backus he has turned his focus to eventing. “He’s really good at dressage, but he prefers the jumping – we event to keep him happy and he loves it,” said Backus about her test that scored a 27.0 to lead the Training Horse Championship. “I was really pleased with his test today. He stayed focused, which doesn’t always happen, and he was just really rideable. He put in a really nice test I couldn’t be happier.”
Roberts, Rio’s owner, is a client of Backus’ mom’s Pendragon Stud Equestrian Center in Larkspur, Colorado, and Backus has had the ride for about four years on an off while she traveled and competed overseas. Luckily Backus’ mom has helped with a lot of his training. “The last two years we’ve been doing really well and moving up the levels and taking our time and keeping him happy,” said Backus.
Backus and Rio have their turn on cross-country tomorrow which Backus says is his favorite phase. “It’s a great championship course I’m really excited to get out there. There’s a lot of good questions but at the same time, it’s super fair. It’s just a really good course,” she concluded.
Kimmy Cecere and Landmark’s Vegas Vision, a 5-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Vegs x Tyrell), owned by Jacqueline Mars sit in striking distance of the leader on a 28.2, while third place belongs to Paige Crotty and Excel Star Armina Z (Air Jordan Z x Cromina Z), a 7-year-old Zangersheide mare owned by Crotty Equine Venture.
Elizabeth Sauter and Giana, Cindy Burke’s 8-year-old Oldenburg mare by Gatsby, lead the Training Rider division on a 24.6. “It went really well today, I was super happy with her,” said Sauter. “We’ve had kind of an up and down season, but she just went in there today feeling very relaxed and was with me the entire way.”
She continued, “I’ve been lucky enough to ride her for her whole career, I backed her when she was three. I’m very lucky, my coach owns her and allows me to rider her, and she is an incredible horse. She’s so fun, very honest, and loves her job. She’s a pleasure to work with every day.”
Going into tomorrow’s cross-country phase, Sauter noted the mare’s compatibility with the course, and how well thought out the track is. She said, “The course looks great. It looks really fun, and there’s certainly a lot to do. The terrain is great and it’s all beautifully presented. I think it’s certainly within her capabilities if I do my job and allow her to do hers.”
Norah Springgate and her own Jaywalker (Flying with Eagles x Dynamatch), a 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, sit in second place on a score of 26.1. Angelika Beutel and Alwin (Acorado’s Ass x Positana), Stephanie Hopkins’s 12-year-old Rheinland Pfalz-Saar gelding, round out the top three on a score of 26.8.
The Training Amateur division went to Eleanor Leonard and Daphne Leonard’s 10-year-old British Sport Horse mare (Marcolas Gx Alvescot Professional Spook), Alvescot Moneymaker, who are leading the field on a 26.6.
“We imported ‘Maisie’ from England three years ago,” Leonard said, “and we’ve just been kind of getting to know each other. She’s really great.”
She continued on to say of the pair’s dressage test. “It was really good. It felt like one of our stronger tests so I was really excited that we were able to go in and be bolder and more confident than we have before. She was really good though, she was more expressive than she’s been in the past.”
This is Leonard’s first AEC, though she has been longing to participate in the event for several years. “I’ve wanted to come to the AEC for a few years,” she said, “but it’s never really been the right timing. I just had a gap year in Virginia working for Chris Talley and Hannah Salazar so I was coming this way anyway and I thought it would be a good pit stop on the way home to California. I’ve always wanted to come to AEC because it looks like a really special experience and having it in Kentucky at the Horse Park was really exciting so I wanted to be here.”
Second-place in the Training Amateur division is currently held by Rebecca Hunt and her own 7-year-old Thoroughbred mare (Dunkirk x Correoso) Snowflake Lane (27.8), while Jodie Potts and her own 14-year-old Appaloosa gelding (Jokers Measleyone x Tooyoungtohonkytonk) Island Fever trail just behind in third (28.4).
Cross-country gets underway for the Equistro Modified/Training and Training divisions at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.
About the USEA American Eventing Championships
The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds is the pinnacle of the sport for 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 horses and riders 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. This year, the AEC will be held August 27 – September 1 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 the following sponsors for their support of the AEC: Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsors: Bates Saddles, Equistro; Gold Level Sponsors: Charles Owen, Standlee Hay, Parker Equine Insurance; Silver Level Sponsors: Mountain Horse; The Jockey Club, Park Equine; Bronze Level Sponsors: Arnall’s Naturals, State Line Tack, Black Petticoat, Devoucoux, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Horseware Ireland, LandSafe SmartPak, Dubarry, The Chronicle of the Horse, Stackhouse and Ellis Saddles, Auburn Laboratories, FITS Riding, Ovation, Lanier Sand and Soil, Event Cooling Solutions, Farm House Tack; Contributing Level Sponsors: Ariat, Meanwhile Back on the Farm, L.V. Harkness, Lexmark, GLC Direct, Georgetown Tourism, FarmVet, FLAIR Nasal Strips, Nunn Finer, RevitaVet, Resvantage Equine, CrossCountry App; Prize Level Sponsors: GumBits, Ride Heels Down, C4 Belts, I Love My Horse, Mare Modern Goods, Bluegrass Vibershield, Bluegrass Animal Products, Caracol, Active Interest Media, Astrid’s Oil, Baekgaard, On The Bit Horse Supplies, Luxe EQ, EQ AM Magazine, Jetti Spa, Great British Equinery, Foxden Equine, The Scoring Chix, Pure Form Equine; Competitor’s Party Sponsors:Jacqueline Mars, Kat and Roberto Cuca, United States Hunter Jumper Association, and United States Dressage Federation.
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USEA podcast host Nicole Brown chats with Interim Eventing Chef d’Equipe and Team Manager of the U.S. Eventing Team Bobby Costello about the Silver Medal Performance put forward by the U.S. Team at the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships.
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This story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Sidelines Magazine.
I have had many young horses in my time, and one thing I’ve learned is that it’s rarely the perfect, easy baby that becomes the next superstar. In fact, I’ve always considered it a positive to have the well-behaved youngster throw a little bit of attitude my way, as I believe that it takes fight to become a great event horse.