The Area III Championships kicked off the 2022 USEA Area Championship season June 24-26 at the Stable View Summer H.T. in Aiken, South Carolina. Offering 12 different championship divisions from Intermediate to Beginner Novice, the championships were highly contested as riders from all across Area III put in a gallant effort in hopes of being deemed division champion. The USEA caught up with many of the individual champions to look back on their performances in Aiken that helped them bring home the top prize.
Intermediate Champion: Jennie Jarnstrom-Dennis & Flower Girl | 34.9
It was a wire-to-wire finish for Jennie Jarnstrom-Dennis and her 10-year-old Hanoverian mare Flower Girl (Futurist x Lucy) in the Area III Intermediate Championship. Jarnstrom-Dennis and “Lily” started their weekend with a dressage score of 30.9 and added just one rail in show jumping to hold their leading position on a total score of 34.9.
“I brought her here earlier in the spring for the four-star but I didn’t give her the best ride using the frangible system at the big oxers, so I thought it important to come back and zoom around the lovely well built solid intermediate track,” Jarnstrom-Dennis said. “She is so careful and it can be a bit tricky to make time with her so really pleased running inside the optimum.”
Breeding and bringing along young stock is nothing new for Jarnstrom-Dennis who often produces her own horses through the levels from a young age. She purchased both her Intermediate Championship mount Lily and her winning Preliminary Championship mount Splash Dance straight from the breeder. Her love for Lily runs strong, strong enough that she decided she wanted more of her genetics on the farm.
“I love this mare so much I wanted foals out of her, but I still wanted to be able to compete. So last year I got two recipients mares who are carrying her foals and one of them was born the same weekend that Lily won the Intermediate Championship.”
Preliminary Champion: Jennie Jarnstrom-Dennis & Splash Dance | 30.5
Rounding out her winning weekend, Jarnstron-Dennis also claimed the title of champion in the Preliminary Championship division riding the 8-year-old Trakehner mare Splash Dance (Stiletto PGE x Sue’s Dancer) that she co-owns with her husband Mike Dennis.
“My husband likes to claim her, but luckily he allows me to have most of the rides”, joked Jarnstrom-Dennis. “She really is a lovely up-and-coming young horse that has talent for all three phases.”
Their dressage test landed them in third on a respectable 30.5, but it was the jumping phases where the mare continued to shine. Double-clear efforts in both cross-country and show jumping would move the pair up one spot at a time to close the weekend out in first place on the same score in which they started.
Modified Champion: Breeana Robinette & Cape Kimberly | 26.4
Leading the Modified Championships from day one was Breeana Robinette and her 7-year-old Thoroughbred mare Cape Kimberly (Fort Prado x Charlotte’s Cape) who stole the show in dressage with a remarkable 22.4, eight points ahead of the rider sitting in second place. A double-clear effort in cross-country would hold their lead and that large gap in scores gave them the cushion they needed to still hold onto the champion title despite having one rail down in the final phase.
“It felt amazing as she is young and this was only her fourth Modified show,” reflected Robinette. “My ultimate goal for the weekend was three solid rides and she knocked it out of the park. I also knew if we could have those solid rounds, we could keep our placing. It all really sank in after show jumping of how well of a performance we put in. She is such a nice mare so being able to win a championship division for her is one of the best feelings.”
Robinette has brought the mare along since her first outing at the Beginner Novice level in 2020. Together they have a nearly spotless cross-country record and their championship victory marks their eighth win as a pair. Robinette shared that it is her attitude that makes her such a pleasure to bring along. “My favorite thing about riding her is her attitude, she always tries to do what I am asking of her. She might let her opinions be known sometimes, but she never fails to try her hardest for me.”
Junior Training Rider Champion: Devon Tresan & Zavallo | 31.9
Devon Tresan and her 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Zavallo (Zavall VDL x Ava) came into this year’s Area III Championships with a little bit of pressure. Not only were they the returning champions of the Area III Junior Training Rider Championship in 2021, but they were coming to this year’s championships following what Tresan described as a challenging winter season as they really worked to solidify their partnership in the ring. But the duo put on their best performance to lead their division from start to finish and secure their second consecutive Area III Junior Training Rider Championship title.
“This past winter was difficult,” Tresan said looking back, “but it’s extremely rewarding to see it pay off this past weekend. He’s so willing and wants everything just as badly as I do, which really strengthened our partnership from the beginning to now. He’s truly my heart horse in every way and I wouldn’t change a thing about him!”
Their weekend would kick off with a bang after judges rewarded their dressage performance with a 27.9, nearly 7 points ahead of the second-place rider. Cross-country was a breeze for the pair resulting in no additional penalties being added to their score in the second phase. In show jumping, one rail would bring their final score to 31.8 which thanks to their impressive lead following dressage was good enough to clinch the title.
“My favorite memory from this past weekend was approaching the last fence in show jumping and realizing he had just won the Junior Training Rider Championship division for the second year in a row with me,” said the proud young rider.
Senior Training Rider Champion: Cindy Phillips & Third Times The Charm | 25
Being dubbed the Senior Training Rider Champion of Area III is a lot more special for Cindy Phillips as she has brought along her 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Third Times The Charm (DeCaprio x Gossip Time) since he was just a 2-year-old. The pair competed through the Modified level last year, but Phillips decided to take some time this season to focus on “Trey’s” dressage skills.
“He’s been successful through Third Level,” commented Phillips. “We did a couple of events this year, but I wasn’t thinking about Championships until I was asked to come back as the Area III Adult Rider Coordinator. I thought, if I’m going to go to the show to help promote our program and organize the team competition, I might as well compete. I was excited to see Trey and I were qualified for the Training Championships!”
That extra time spent in the sandbox worked in Phillps’s and Trey’s favor as they earned danced their way to the lead position on a score of 25. It was a tight race through all of the phases with the second-place rider just behind the pair on a score of 25.5, leaving no margin for error. The duo would issue two double-clear rounds in both jumping phases to hold on to their lead. “Trey was a rock star this weekend,” reflected Phillips. “We have had other successes, but he has never felt so good.”
Phillips was quick to recognize everyone who helped her and Trey have such a successful season, especially her husband, Gregg Kennedy, who she just married on December 31, 2021. “I never knew life could be so fun,” she shared. And her positive sentiments didn't stop there. Phillips had a lot of positive things to say about the host of this year’s Area III Championships. “Stable View is an awesome place for an event. Cindy and Barry [Oliff] go out of their way to make everyone feel at home. Truly an exceptional facility and staff second to none.”
Training Horse Champion: Jessica Schultz & Angelic Warrior | 27.3
For rider Jessica Schultz and owner Barry Doss, the 6-year-old Thoroughbred mare Angelic Warrior’s win in the Area III Training Horse Championship was quite a special one. The pair added one rail to their dressage score of 23.3 to steal the show in the Training Horse Championship on a total score of 27.3.
“The win at the Area III Championships was particularly special because of Barry’s ownership and partnership with the horse. Barry is a retired racehorse trainer and picked Angelic Warrior out himself as a yearling with the hopes of her being a top racehorse. She had an unfortunate incident at the track that kept her from progressing without injury and his commitment to the horse herself is special. He has been very involved and comes to watch her train at the farm every day. The win was special for him in that he believed and loves the horse to watch her continue to progress in a sport that wasn't his initial hope for her but she has shown to be quite successful at. We need more Barrys in the sport!”
Schultz had a lot of positive things to say about this year’s Championships and venue. “Stable View is a top-notch facility and the track was well laid out, challenging, and well-run with some great volunteers. We are fortunate to have Barry and Cindy [Oliff] and a facility like theirs in our area!”
Junior Novice Rider Champion: Claire Roddy & Goodness Gracious | 27.3
A dressage score of 23.3 would put Claire Roddy and her 12-year-old Thoroughbred mare Goodness Gracious in the lead in the Junior Novice Rider Championship at Stable View. The duo held an impressive 8.1 lead through the first two phases of the competition. Even with a rail in show jumping, Roddy and Goodness Gracious were able to lead the victory gallop on a final score of 27.3.
“Coming into show jumping we had a two-rail leeway, but after ticking out the fourth fence there was a bit more pressure to make sure I jumped the rest clear. Coming around to the last fence knowing even if we did knock it down, which I am happy we didn’t, we had won was such a surreal moment and nothing could wipe the smile I had on my face.”
Roddy might describe Goodness Gracious as quirky, but she says there is a lot to love about the Thoroughbred mare. “The saying ‘a good mare will move heaven and earth for you’ stands true to her for me.”
Novice Horse Champion: Lara Roberts & Fernhill Show Biz | 20
What is better than leading your division after dressage with a nearly nine-point margin between yourself and the second pair? Holding that lead on a score of 20, a score that many eventers dream of seeing on their scorecard one day. Lara Roberts and her own 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Fernhill Show Biz (Good Fellow VDL x Tilandra) did just that this past weekend in the Area III Novice Horse Championship at Stable View.
“I’ve had the pleasure of producing ‘Jax’ in the barn since he was a 4-year-old,” Roberts commented. “This past weekend felt incredible that he put all three phases together so well. I think that he is a very talented young horse, and I am excited for his future.”
The pair were untouchable following their stellar dressage test. Two double-clear rounds in both jumping phases finalized the win for Roberts and Jax. Looking back at the Championships, Roberts reflected on the great efforts made by the team at Stable View to make the competition fun and well-rounded for all of the competitors.
“Overall, our experience at Area III Champs was fantastic,” she shared. “It is always a pleasure to be at a state-of-the-art facility such as Stable View. Additionally, the effort they put into making the ground on cross-country softer by watering was appreciated by all riders. With the extreme temperatures, the water offered to riders, fans in the barns, and the rider's lounge goes such a long way. Stable View is one of my favorite venues to attend because of the kind, hardworking staff, and the accommodations to horses and riders.”
Senior Novice Rider Champion: Deirdre Vaillancourt & Invictus | 23.3
Deirdre Vaillancourt’s relationship with her 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding Invictus (Ibisco x Viness SH) is a fairly new one, having just purchased the gelding in December of 2021. Slowly but surely as the pair have grown accustomed to one another, they began seeing progress in their placings as a pair. Their last outing in April saw them finish their weekend in second place, and this weekend’s win was their first blue-ribbon result together - pretty special since it was at their Area Championships.
Vaillancourt and Invictus finished on their dressage score of 23.3, which would lead the division from day one. It was a tight race and there was no cushion for Vaillancourt and Invictus to have a rail on the final day, but that was cushion this pair wouldn’t wind up needing anyway.
“I’m thrilled with our results this past weekend at the Area III Championships at Stable View,” shared Vaillancourt. “It is particularly meaningful to win in my hometown of Aiken. I am a Business Sponsor of Stable View and applaud their enduring efforts to provide our national eventing community with an international quality facility.”
Beginner Novice Horse Championships: Carla Jimmerson & Tag You’re It | 24.4
Not many riders have the pleasure of saying that they have brought their horses along from when they were a baby, but Carla Jimmerson has had her 6-year-old Connemara gelding BDF Tag You’re It since she purchased him from his breeder, Beth Davidson when he was just 10 months old.
“I have mostly ridden Connemara ponies and decided to buy a Thoroughbred/Connemara cross,” Jimmerson said looking back on how she and “Tag” came to be together. “I like getting the babies and starting them myself even though it takes years and lots of patience and hard work. Tag and I started our relationship right when I bought him as a 10-month-old. I spent every day developing a bond with him and doing lots of groundwork and just handling him.”
The pair did a few Beginner Novices last year but came into the 2022 season with a goal of placing consistently at the top at each show. A goal they have easily met having never placed outside of first or second this season out of five outings so far. With the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships taking place in Kalispell, Montana this year, Jimmerson decided to aim high for the Area III Championships. They stole the show from the get-go, resting on their dressage score of 24.4 to wear the crown.
“I was thrilled to win our division,” shared Jimmerson. “The atmosphere was very exciting because so many people came to compete. The classes were full and everyone was so helpful at Stable View offering water when needed which helped with the 90-degree weather. Everything ran smoothly and was very professional and the cross-country course was so much fun. I was surprised at the wonderful prizes and appreciate the sponsors so much for making the show feel very special.”
Junior Beginner Novice Rider Champion: Madison Zgutowics & My Valentine | 26.3
Last year’s 2021 SmartPak USEA Pony of the Year My Valentine, an 18-year-old Welsh mare owned by Sidnee Milner, is back at it for the 2022 season, but this time with new rider Madison Zguotowics. The superstar little pony and her new jockey have had quite a successful year so far with one third-place finish, three second-place finishes, and now two first-place finishes, including their win in the Area III Junior Beginner Novice Rider Championship, in all of their six outings thus far.
“I am so grateful to my trainers Halliea Milner and Meg Bowers and my family for their support,” said Zgutowicz. “Our whole team has spent a lot of time and effort competing this spring and preparing for the Area II Championships and the American Eventing Championships in Montana in the fall! I love eventing and competing in Beginner Novice. I have been challenged this year, and it makes me happy and excited to compete. I am only 11, and I have big goals!”
My Valentine is definitely prepared to help Zgutowics’ big goals become a reality. Together they earned a 26.3 in dressage to lead their division, a score they would hold onto for the remainder of the competition to seal the deal. When asked what she loves most about My Valentine, the answer was easy: “Everything! I love that she is so sweet, gentle, and the perfect height for me. She gives me so much joy in dressage and confidence on the cross-country course. I trust her, and we understand each other. My goal is that she will be Pony of the Year for two years in a row!”
Senior Beginner Novice Rider Champion: Tiffany Stewart & Crimson Clover | 25.7
“Every win on Clover is a gift,” shared Tiffany Stewart of her 11-year-old roan gelding of unknown breeding Crimson Clover. Clover was discovered as a 10-month-old tied to a cinder block in the backyard of a meth lab and was impounded by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. At first, no one expected Clover to pull through due to his severe emaciation, but he proved how tough he really was and after spending time in a prisoner rehabilitation program was sent to an auction where Stewart first connected with him. You can learn more about their amazing story together here.
Clover is living proof that it isn’t all about pedigree. He continues to impress dressage judges, regularly scoring sub-30 marks, and lives for the thrill of the jumping phases. In the 2022 Area III Championships, the pair earned a personal best dressage score together with a 25.3. They added just 0.4-time penalties to their score and emerged from the weekend victorious on a total score of 25.7.
“I never forget where he came from,” Stewart continued. “He puts his whole heart into each ride and you can feel it when you are on his back. He is so special to me and to win the championships means the world to me!”
One of my passions is continuing to be a good student, because I think no matter how old I get, there are multiple reasons learning new things inspires me. First and foremost, it helps me be a better rider and trainer, so my horses benefit. Second, it helps me be a better teacher by exposing me to different ways to have a relationship with a horse or a student.
This month we’re going to begin a three-part series on how to create positive riding experiences by making sure the words you say to yourself and the thoughts you think to yourself are positive. Referred to as self-talk, internal dialogue, or brain babble; the words you say to yourself can have a huge impact on your performance. In fact, your thoughts and voice are actually considered behaviors, and just like how positive physical behaviors (i.e. a balanced transition) can create success, your verbal behaviors can also accomplish the very same thing. So let's spend the next few months talking about how to talk to yourself!
Being spontaneous has paid off for Kevin Keane and Sportsfield Candy. “I bought him on a Wednesday and showed him on a Thursday,” Keane recalls about his first event with his Irish Sport Horse gelding, then 9 years old, at Plantation Field Horse Trials (Unionville, Pennsylvania) in September 2016. “I owned him for part of a day, and the next morning I showed up at a CCI and jogged him up for a two-star, and we went clean and clean and clean.”
THANK YOU to everyone who has already entered the USEF/USEA Recognized CDCTA Spring Horse Trials scheduled for Sunday, April 9 in Berryville, VA. We will continue to take late entries through Friday, March 24 using USEA’s Xentry system. If you still want to come compete, please enter! The late fee has been waived through Friday, March 24.