For Immediate Release: The four divisions of Training had their turn to take on Bobby Murphy’s show jumping course in the Rolex Stadium to conclude their competition at the 2021 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds. Three of the overnight leaders jumped clear to take home the champion titles while one winner moved up from second to claim the top spot.
Lisa Niccolai was the first to don a champion ribbon as competitors in all divisions of the Training sections took to the Rolex Stadium for their final phase. Niccolai piloted the 7-year-old Zweibrucker gelding (Kharacter C x Tessa) KC’s Celtic Kharacter around Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course without fault to advance from second to first place on the second day of competition. The young horse then rose to the occasion to cross clean and efficiently through the timers of the show jumping phase for the win on 27.6.
“Honestly, we almost did not come this weekend because of some issues at home and then the hurricane, so I am beyond thrilled that we did in fact stick to our plans,” Niccolai emphasized.
“I’m speechless,” she continued. “I came with the goal of just finishing our event, and there have been a number of times as we’ve been walking around the property that I just couldn’t even believe we were here. So even more so for us to win at this point of our career, it is just an amazing experience I will always treasure.”
Kelly Beaver of Elverson, Pennsylvania also made the long journey from the north to compete with her 6-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Clarucci C x Fortuna-R) Excel Star Pluto. The pair headed into the final day with only their dressage score on their roster after a successful cross-country finish and maintained the score of 28.8 through to the very end.
“While we’ve had really strong preparation for this, I have never had him off property for even an overnight,” Beaver explained. “For his experience level, I couldn’t have been more pleased with him; he just marched right out there like a professional and did the job.”
After picking up an unfortunate 2.4 penalties in the cross-country phase, Lauren Nunn and HSH First Impression were determined to get redemption as they skillfully navigated the final track of their week. Determination paid off and the duo finished with their second-day score of 29.1 penalties which was good enough to move them up to the top three.
“This is definitely the biggest event he’s been to by far so he also really impressed me this weekend,” Nunn commented of the 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding. “This was a huge division with a lot of competitive pairings and he really took the lead and carried me through a lot of the harder questions.”
The TIP award for the Training Amateur division was awarded to Tracey Corey and the 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Byrnwyck West (Devil His Due x Heirloom Wish).
The top three combinations in the Training Horse division Lauren Lambert, Lauren Nicholson, and Lynn Symansky, all produced incredibly consistent results over the course of their three-day event to keep their individual podium positions from start to finish. Lambert had the peak dressage ride, finishing on a score of 24.3 in the opening phase with Elizabeth Rader’s Biscotti. Flawless performances across cross-country left the pair on their opening score for the champion ribbon.
“Things have really clicked for him over the past few months and he is beginning to feel more comfortable in his own skin,” Lambert described of the 9-year-old Rheinland Pfalz-Saar gelding (Benidetto x Hey Nurse). “He has only been competing in eventing for about a year, and before that he was showing in the jumpers which is where Mike Huber found him, so we thought it would be ideal for him to start seeing new venues.”
Lambert credits owner Rader with much of the gelding’s experience as she is an integral part of his weekly training.
“Elizabeth is actually the one who rides him during the week and takes lessons on him and I am on the ground teaching,” Lambert explained. “However, she does not have any desire to show so I am fortunate enough to get the ride on him and AEC has been a goal for us since the beginning of the year.”
Lauren Nicholson and Windchase Starfire followed suit in fault-free jumping efforts and with only 2.7 additional penalties to Lambert’s score were able to secure the overall second place.
“When I found him, I was actually trying him for an amateur friend of mine, but I ended up loving him,” Nicholson said of Jacqueline Mars’ 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Brandenburg’s Windstar x Thursday Country). “He has won his last three outings he’s had and to come in second here today is such an accomplishment. I am very much enjoying him so far and I’m excited for his future.”
Middleburg, Virginia’s Lynn Symansky stuck to her dressage result of 27.5 with Alice Lawaetz and Linda Graves’ 7-year-old Oldenburg gelding Bounce 6 (Balou Du Rouet x Fillana) for the podium wrap-up.
“This was his first away from home horse show but when you get the opportunity to get a young horse into this kind of atmosphere it is a no-brainer to take as much education from the opportunity as you can,” she stated. “I knew because of the quality of show and the horse park that the tracks were going to be top-notch and the footing would be excellent so I figured it would be a good experience for him.”
The TIP Award in the Training Horse division went to LNJ Encyclopedia, Caitlin Erwin’s 6-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Smart Strike x One World) ridden by Ashley Trier.
Equine Veterinarian and amateur competitor Katie Sisk steadily rose up the ranks over the course of the Training Rider division to overtake the previous leader on the final day of competition. Sisk navigated her homebred mare Long Legs Lenore around the stadium course flawlessly to wrap up with a 30.7.
The victory is one uniquely special for Sisk who bred, delivered, and developed the 5-year-old Hanoverian mare (Rapture R x Demonet’s Darling) herself at her home base of Carthage, Missouri.
“I am so incredibly proud of her, she is amazing,” Sisk gushed. “We were able to qualify for this at the very last minute and this was only her fourth Training event but we have had so much amazing help from my coach Julie Wolfert.”
“This is my hobby but I try to dedicate as much time to it as I can,” she continued. “I wake up most mornings at 5:00 a.m. to ride before I have to go to my appointments and I am just so proud that all of the hard work has paid off today.”
Casey Balloch Johnsey of New Market, Tennessee and Little Miss Tennessee advanced from the fourth position to the reserve champion with a final penalty score of 31.4.
“My mare can definitely be a bit of a chestnut mare,” Johnsey explained of the 12-year-old Hanoverian mare. “Luckily she is fantastic at the cross-country.”
“I’m starstruck right now,” Johnsey continued. “I can’t believe we’re here and this is just absolutely incredible, she’s super talented.”
Jessica Milam sat tied for fifth place heading into the show jumping phase but produced a picture-perfect round to end up with the third-place ribbon only 0.1 penalties behind Johnsey.
“He is just the laziest horse on the planet,” Milam laughed of her cleverly-named 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Carrick Diamond Lad x Foxglen Lass), Lieutenant Dan. “He takes 20 minutes to get from the barn to the ring but then he marches right in and does his job.”
Tonya Cummins Amato and her own 10-year-old Connemara Stallion Get Smart (Wylde Wytch Éclipse x Fairyhill Queen) received the Adult Pony Rider Award in memory of Avery Dudasch. Dudasch showed tremendous courage and grace in her battle with cancer and passed at the young age of 11 years old. The award honors the memory of her vivacious life and her love of her pony, Gracefully Dun who now competes with her mother, Vicki Dudasch.
The TIP award of the division was received by Kem Courtenay's Mr. Puff Higgens Jr., a 10-year-old gelding (Tiger Talk x Chukkaluk) and his rider, Carroll Courtenay.
The trip all the way from Fallbrook, California was well worth the effort for Shelby Murray who proved unbeatable in the Junior Training division. From the start, Murray led the chase for the championship title with Laurel Ritter’s 9-year-old Oldenburg mare (Rotspon x Chatari) Reverie GWF producing a respectable dressage score of 22.0 and only added 0.4 time penalties overall for a finishing score of 22.4.
The win was Murray’s sixth of the year.
“She was just truly awesome,” Murray gushed. “She was extremely bold cross-country and very confident in show jumping as well. She put on her game face and did everything I asked so I couldn’t be happier with her.”
The pair trekked across the country the previous week and debuted only their second time on grass turf.
“We competed in Montana last month and that was both of our’s first time riding on the grass, but if anything I think she rides a bit better on it,” Murray explained. “I couldn’t ask for a better horse, our partnership has blossomed so much over the past year.”
Juliana Cassar and her own 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding Cheranimo broke their second-place tie and emerged as the victors for the reserve honors finishing on their original score of 27.2.
“This is my first time competing here in the AEC or at Kentucky Horse Park and I am just very close to tears to be able to be a part of this,” Cassar expressed. “I am so grateful, he really has been just the best horse I have ever sat on.”
Marissa Griffin of Williamston, South Carolina piloted her own 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Van Gogh x Wisconsin) Conguistador into third. They joined Cassar and Murray in producing a fault-free stadium round carrying over only their dressage penalty of 28.2 to the winner's circle.
“He was like my diamond in the rough,” Griffin said. “When I was looking for my next horse, I tried about five horses and liked them all but not a single one passed the vetting. My trainer convinced me to try him and he saved my butt so many times that I was sold.”
Cape Kimberly, a 6-year-old gelding (Fort Prado x Charlotte's Cape) and Breeana Robinette earned the TIP award with a total of 31.1.
Adult Team Championships
3 Docs, 4 Shots earned the Training Adult Team Championships win on a score of 97.2. The team consisted of Eric Sampson/Pancho Villa; Kathleen Bertuna/Excel Star Harry; Elena Perea/B.E. Isabella; and Ashley Shoemaker/I.C. London.
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. With over 1,000 entries the 2021 AEC is set to be the largest eventing competition in North American history. The 2021 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds will be held August 31 – September 5 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Click here to learn more about the USEA American Eventing Championships.
The 2021 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds would not be possible without our wonderful sponsors! The USEA would like to thank the following sponsors for their support: Presenting Sponsor: Nutrena Feeds; Advanced Final Title Sponsor: Adequan; Platinum Level Sponsor: Bates Saddles, Vetoquinol; Gold Level Sponsors: Parker Equine Insurance, ShowConnect, Smartpak, Standlee Hay; Silver Level Sponsors: Auburn Labs, Park Equine Hospital, Mountain Horse, The Jockey Club; Saratoga Horseworks; Bronze Level Sponsors: 70 Degrees, Athletux, Black Petticoat, The Chronicle of the Horse, Devoucoux, Dubarry of Ireland, Equilume, FITS Riding, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, LandSafe Equestrian, Parks Tax & Consulting, Retired Racehorse Project, D.G. Stackhouse & Ellis Contributing Level Sponsors: Big Ass Fans, CrossCountry App, FarmVet, GLC Direct, Haygain, John Deere, L.V. Harkness, Santa Cruz Animal Health; Prize Level Sponsors: American Saddlebred Horse Association, Astrid’s Oil, Bluegrass Animal Products, Dressage TestPro, EQuine AMerica Magazine, Flexible Fit Equestrian, Achieve Equine/FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips, Great British Equinery, Horse & Country, Hound & Hare, I Love My Horse, Mare Modern Goods, Romitelli Riding Boots, Strides for Equality Equestrians, Tack of the Town, VetBlue, The Equine Network, and Horse&Country
Whether you are a rider preparing for a move-up or a trainer looking to ensure your training program is well-rounded, the soon-to-be released USEA Eventing Handbook by the Levels is the go-to guide to assist you in navigating key decisions. Lucky enough, attendees of the 2022 USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) Symposium at Barnstaple South Farm in Ocala, Florida on February 8-9 will be the first people outside of the those involved in its creation to access this passion project that the ICP Committee has put two years of research and hard work into developing.
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