May 28, 2024

Woodside Spring Horse Trials Spotlight Development of Eventing’s Future Stars

By Jonathan Horowitz - Edited Press Release
Laughing Monk Modified Match Rider winner Sophie Tice and Viva La Vida. Tina Fitch Photography photos

Woodside, Ca—May 28— The Horse Park at Woodside created a five-star atmosphere for the inaugural Laughing Monk Modified Match that took place at the 2024 Woodside Spring Horse Trials. The goal of the Modified Match was to spotlight the Modified level that was introduced to competition at The Horse Park in 2023 and has made a significant impact on the progression of eventing’s rising stars since the level was introduced to the sport in 2017.

Amber Birtcil and Milagro (Good Fellow VDL x Easter) won the Modified Match Horse Challenge (31.6 finishing score) for their fourth blue ribbon in a row in the horse’s first year of eventing, and Sophie Tice and Viva La Vida (Versache x Daydream) captured the Modified Match Rider Challenge (26.0) after finishing second in The Horse Park’s inaugural Modified level held at the 2023 Woodside Summer Horse Trials. Approximately 450 spectators enjoyed Saturday night’s competitor dinner that took place in conjunction with the show jumping rounds that decided the Modified Match.

In addition, Taren Hoffos and Master Class (Cree x Night Destiny) captured the challenging Advanced level (71.0) in a victory that Hoffos said she hopes will be a stepping stone to future success at the four- and five-star levels. Elsa Warble and FE Unlimited (Uriko x Viona III) followed up their success in the CCI3*-S at the Twin Rivers Spring International with a win in Woodside’s Intermediate level (35.6).

There were a total of 347 competitors across 22 divisions from Starter to Advanced, and a waitlist was needed for the first time in many years, according to organizers.

From the Winners

Modified Match Horse | Amber Birtcil about Cellar Farm Corp's 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Milagro:

Amber Birtcil and Milagro.

“The Modified Match is such a fun showcase for bringing horses up the levels. As it is, the Modified has been such a fantastic addition to our sport. Being able to showcase young horses in a feature class like this really helps with their education.

I imported Milagro from Holland last fall where he had done the 1.10-meter jumpers previously. I didn’t start eventing him until this spring where he has really thrived. This will be his fourth win in a row, as he is turning into quite the competitor. ‘Mike,’ as we call him, has really been a joy to work with. I truly love getting to ride and develop him and am planning a move up to Prelim later this year with hopes of keeping him for a bit for myself to ride.

Woodside does such a superb job of putting on a well-run and beautiful event. I look forward to returning this fall to hopefully add another ribbon to Mike’s winning record.”

Modified Match Rider | Sophie Tice about her own 7-year-old Oldenburg mare Viva La Vida:

Sophie Tice and Viva La Vida.

“The Modified Match at Woodside was an incredible experience for Viva La Vida and me. Having a competition that is willing to hold a division that creates this kind of atmosphere is so beneficial to both the riders and the horses competing. This division was a big test to see how my young horse would handle such a huge atmosphere and the fatigue of stadium jumping after cross country, but I felt that she rose to the occasion in every way possible. ‘Viva’ gave me a very rideable dressage test, brave cross country, and a super careful stadium round. I couldn’t be happier with how she performed and the professionalism she displayed on a bigger stage.

Helen and James Alliston helped me acquire Viva in June of 2020 from Garyn Heidemann in Washington. She was turning 3 and just broke, but Garyn described her as one of the best-minded young horses she had come across. I had never personally trained a young horse from scratch and was very anxious to see if I had the knowledge and ability to do so successfully. Prior to Viva, I had only ridden a very experienced horse at the upper levels [Mojo]. With the incredible guidance from the Allistons, Viva is now successfully competing at the Modified level. She is incredibly smart, trainable, and, as red-headed mares can be, passionate about her job. I’m so grateful to have found a young horse that has made this development process so fun and educational. When it comes to the future with Viva, I plan on taking our time, listening to her, and enjoying the journey of progressing a young horse up the levels."

Advanced | Taren Hoffos about her and the Copperstrong Group LLC's 15-year-old Canadian Warmblood gelding Master Class:

Taren Hoffos and Master Class

“‘Chester’ was a true champion. I’m so proud of him. We’ve been working hard on our dressage, which he finds hard, so I was pleased with a sub-40 score to start off the show. His canter work was better than his trot work for the first time ever, which gives me a lot of hope for the future. Credit for the gentle upswing in our scores goes to my dressage coach at home, Tiffany Silverman, who has given me lots of great insight into how to ride the big, sensitive guy.

Cross-country was truly the best thing. I walked the course and was pretty intimidated with the size and questions out there. I’ve never ridden a tougher track. Luckily, he’s as brave as they come and very honest, so I know that if I do my job, he’ll do his. I felt like I rode decisively and bravely, and he answered all the questions just as he should have. I’m still riding the high of that round!

Show jumping was fun, another super tough track, but I feel so confident riding him. He makes the jumps feel easy. He was quite rideable but definitely a little tired; I think one rail was mine and two were his. He doesn’t have the most conventional style, so a lot of the show jumping is keeping the rideability, which was a little hard with him feeling the task from the day before.

Overall, I’m thrilled. This is our fourth Advanced together and certainly the hardest challenge we’ve had. I feel so confident for my future plan of running the CCI4*-S at Rebecca Farm this July, and the CCI-4*L at Galway Downs in the fall. Plan A looks like a trip to Kentucky for the CCI4*-S next April, the CCI4*L- at Rebecca Farm 2025, and then the CCI5*-L at Maryland next October. Fingers, eyes, and toes all crossed for the big guy to stay happy and healthy!”

Intermediate | Elsa Warble about Anna Meegan's 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding FE Unlimited:

Elsa Warble and FE Unlimited.

“Thrilling to win at our home event, one exit down the highway. I’m so proud of ‘Axel’ and all the work we’ve put in to get here. I’m so glad he got the recognition he deserves; he’s my horse of a lifetime. Of course, there are things to improve on, especially in dressage, but it was exactly what we hoped for—a confidence-building weekend, and the win was the cherry on top. A big thank you to everyone who supports us, especially my coach Mickayla Howard, and my parents who make all of this possible. And also The Horse Park for putting on such a great event. We are looking forward to Aspen in a couple of weeks, and if everything goes to plan, perhaps a trip to the East Coast in the fall!”

From the Organizers

Steve Roon, Executive Director of The Horse Park at Woodside:

“The inaugural Laughing Monk Modified Match represents the growing commitment The Horse Park at Woodside has to the level we introduced last year, along with the addition of a CCI1*-S we ran for the first time at the Woodside Fall International. It represents a stepping stone between the lower and upper levels of eventing that’s approachable for a lot more members of our sport. Plus, we place a huge emphasis on the experience horses and riders can take away from our events, so our goal was to highlight the level as our signature show jumping class with a five-star presentation for horses, riders, and spectators is a way we felt we could make a positive impact for the sport. We’re so pleased with the execution and response. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Laughing Monk Brewing and the dedication of all involved.

In addition, we appreciate the turnout across all levels for a capacity show. It’s the first time in years that we’ve had a waitlist at one of our shows or seen a waitlist for a show in Area VI. We also appreciate that the USEA sent Margaret Marcus so that we could test their ShowConnect event management system at our event and provide feedback that will be helpful in enhancing the platform developed by the sport’s governing body. As a facility, The Horse Park at Woodside could not operate without Fernando Ramirez and his marvelous crew. They once again showed their dedication and commitment during this very busy weekend.”

Victoria Klein, Board of Governors of The Horse Park at Woodside:

“Eventing at The Horse Park at Woodside wouldn’t be possible without the local eventing community, and we pride ourselves on the fact that the events we host are truly community events. Because of the community support, we’ve been able to build new show jumps and cross-country fences. We’re committed to presenting them in the most effective way for the growth of our horses and riders thanks to the expertise of cross-country designers Derek di Grazia and Bert Wood, along with their team of builders, and show jump designer William Robertson. Plus, Christina Gray and her team from Gray Area Events are essential to our success with all they do to run our horse trials that continue to get bigger and bigger. We’re grateful to play a significant role in how important the West Coast is to the sport of eventing as a whole in the United States.”

Looking Ahead

The Horse Park will next host the Woodside Summer Horse Trials from August 9-11. In addition to national levels offered from Starter through Advanced-Intermediate, there will be team challenges for adult, intercollegiate, and interscholastic eventers.

Then, the Woodside Fall International will take place from October 4-6 with short-format FEI levels offered from one-star through four-star, along with national levels from Starter through Intermediate. The CCI3*-S and CCI4*-S will be part of the 2024 USEF Futures Team Challenge, matching Team Bobby, led by U.S. Chef d’Equipe/Technical Advisor Bobby Costello, against Team Leslie, led by U.S. Emerging and Development Coach Leslie Law. The goal of the USEF Futures Team Challenge is to provide riders with an experience through education and competition that will prepare them to represent America on senior national teams.

View full results here.

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