Jan 27, 2021

Vandyke: 2020 USEA 6-Year-Old Horse of the Year

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Vandyke and Allison Springer at the 2020 Great Meadow International. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

In 2019, the USEA introduced two new national leaderboards: the 6-year-old horse and 7-year-old horse leaderboards. The 6-year-old horse leaderboard ranks 6-year-old horses at the Preliminary, CCI2*-S, and CCI2*-L levels and the 7-year-old horse leaderboard ranks 7-year-old horses at the Intermediate, CCI3*-S, and CCI3*-L levels.

Dr. Tim Holekamp, co-chair of the USEA Young Event Horse Committee, proposed the creation of these new leaderboards in 2018. The 6-year-old leaderboard focuses on Preliminary and the 7-year-old leaderboard focuses on Intermediate because these are the levels at which these age groups are tested at the FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships at Le Lion d’Angers each fall. The Holekamp/Turner Le Lion d’Angers Grant, created by Tim Holekamp and Christine Turner, awards the highest scoring horse of the USEA YEH 5-year-old Championships with a cash prize that enables them to travel to Le Lion d’Angers in France in their 7-year-old year to compete in the CCI3*-L Championship.

In 2019, the first year the 6-Year-Old Horse of the Year award was presented, it went to Crystal Crescent Moon (Catherston Dazzler x Ebony Moon), Nancy Winter's Connemara/British Sport Horse gelding ridden by Allison Springer. This year, another mount of Springer’s took home the title of 6-Year-Old Horse of the Year: Vandyke (Vancouver x Shannondale Willow), an Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by the Rico Syndicate.

Springer acquired Vandyke, or “Rico” as he is known in the barn, from Karen Dixon (née Straker) in Northern Ireland. “Karen was on many Team Great Britain squads and is best known best for her amazing cross-country rides on horses like Get Smart and Too Smart,” Springer said. “She has an incredible eye for a great cross-country horse, which is what Rico is. This is the second Irish horse that I have bought from Karen (Athlone Anto was the first).”

Springer and Vandyke at Morven Park International. Erin Gilmore Photography Photo courtesy of Allison Springer.

Springer said that while Rico is a great cross-country horses, his flatwork leaves something to be desired. “The beginning of the year was a bit rough and wild looking,” Springer said, “but Rico has always had a wonderful mind and a willingness to be trained, which has made this whole process so enjoyable.”

“Once things started clicking for him, his consistency and dependability were the biggest highlights,” Springer continued. “Competitively speaking, he didn’t win any events this year, but he always put in solid performances. I was really excited when he finished ninth in his first FEI at Great Meadow International, I was even more excited when he was second at Morven Park in the Preliminary, and I was over the moon when he finished fourth in the CCI2*-L at Tryon International. He just kept ticking away solid finishes in huge divisions. My favorite ride this year was his double clear cross-country in the Preliminary at Morven Park. The course was borderline Intermediate level and making time was not an easy task. He was so fun to ride around that course!”

Springer said she’s looking forward to continuing to work on Rico’s training in 2021 with the aim to move up to Intermediate. “He is a large child with a big future so I want to make sure his foundation is really solid as he progresses,” she elaborated. “His dressage is really consistent but not spectacular. There is actually a really fancy horse in there that I can develop in time. I'm certain he will follow in his barnmate Crystal Crescent Moon aka “Tally's” footsteps with a move up to Intermediate. As a 7-year-old he doesn't have a set competition goal of a CCI3*-L by year-end, but if he's ready for it, he will do it. If not, he can cook at whatever level is best for him to mature at.”

“Crystal Crescent Moon was last year's 6-Year-Old Horse of the Year, so it is a HUGE honor to receive this a second year in a row,” Springer acknowledged. “I really love bringing along young horses!”

Vandyke was honored along with all the other USEA year-end award winners in the USEA Year-End Awards Ceremony on Friday, January 8. You can view the awards ceremony on demand here. To view the 2020 6-Year-Old Horse of the Year leaderboard, click here.

About the USEA Young Event Horse Program

The USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the four- and five-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.

The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to learn more about the Young Event Horse Program.

The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, SmartPak, Standlee Hay Company, and Etalon Diagnostics for sponsoring the Young Event Horse Program.

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