Elkton, Md.—Oct. 19— Caroline Pamukcu is no stranger to the winner’s circle in the Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) East Coast Championships, having won the 4- and 5-year-old Championships in 2020 and the 4-year-old Championships in 2021. She and her 2020 5-year-old champion, HSH Blake, are heading out to the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, later this week. But before loading up and flying out, Pamukcu guided her and Sherrie Martin's 4-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding HSH Afterglow (Hype x Ringwood Genius), bred by Peter Leonard, to the win in the 2023 Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse East Coast 4-Year-Old Championships.
Pamukcu attributes her continued success in the YEH divisions to her partnership with Kelly Hutchinson of HSH Sport Horses, who helps source all of Pamukcu’s horses.
“Caroline and I started when we were like 19 together,” recalled Hutchinson, “and we have always had a similar type. We have such a trust in each other, which is awesome. I'll find something and send it to her and every now and again; we disagree, and then it might be one that suits Lee [Maher, who is riding several YEH horses this week], which is great, but she likes what I like. We like something with a lot of blood. Jump is first, and then presence and ability but also the trainability.”
Regarding HSH Afterglow, Pamukcu shared: “He is lovely. He is such a worker, and he wants to win. And he's funny–he reminds me a lot of my Blake and my [HSH] Connor horse because he goes in the arena, and he performs 10 times better. He just loves to show off.”
Which is exactly what he did today. The gelding started off in third following his dressage test but quickly moved up to first after the conformation phase. He held onto that score throughout the various judged elements in the jumping and galloping phases. HSH Afterglow received the highest marks in the cross-country and overall impression category to finish on a score of 90.27.
In addition to being crowned champion, HSH Afterglow also received the Go Get ‘Em Award in memory of Donald Trotter provided by Stillwater Farm. This award is presented to the 4-year-old on the East Coast with the highest gallop score.
One of today’s jumping judges, Peter Gray, commented on what set the horses in the top three, especially HSH Afterglow, apart from the rest of the field.
“Sometimes I think our goal should be looking at top four-star horses because that's the level of competition for Olympic, Pan Am Games, Nations Cups–they are all four-stars. Five-star horses are freaks of nature, and we're supposed to give a general impression with the hopes of them being a five-star horse, and we actually saw two or three today. [HSH Afterglow] was just so impressive. The way it covered ground and its ears were forward. It was like a mature horse. It had very, very good footwork like a 6-year-old. It was quite amazing, very elastic in its stride and ability to shorten them. Caroline is such a master in this division. She knows how to show horses but the winning horse is truly one-of-a-kind.”
Second-place honors went to the 4-year-old Holsteiner gelding Blacklist (Balvenie x F-Pasco Dame) owned by Katherine O’Brien and ridden by Jennie Brannigan. Spectators of the YEH division were in for quite a treat with this young horse, who showed off his impressive jumping abilities throughout the final phases of the competition. That eye-catching jump form factored into Blacklist’s high marks from the judges which ultimately led to him finishing in second on a final score of 86.90.
Brannigan snagged Blacklist as a catch ride from good friend Alexandra Knowles, but she has a unique history with this horse which made this result even more special.
“This horse is out of [my three-star horse] Pascal’s full sister so that is very special to me,” she shared. “Philipp Kolossa and I brought him over, and I was just obsessed with the horse. My friend Allie Knowles purchased him because I didn’t have the money to buy him myself. Now the O’Briens own him for her.”
With Knowles competing at the Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event in Lexington, Kentucky, this week, she sent Blacklist up to Brannigan to campaign in this year’s 4-year-old championships. Brannigan had the opportunity to ride the horse twice heading into the competition this week.
“I cross-country schooled him at Boyd [Martin's] yesterday, and I rode him at 5:00 when I got here the night before. He actually had five days before leading into this, so that is a testament to him. He is a very young 4-year-old as well. I wish I could have ridden him a few more times myself, honestly.”
Pamukcu concluded another successful year in the 4-year-old championships with a second horse rounding out the top three: Wendy Furlong and Sherrie Martin’s 4-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare After Hours (Tolan R x Mystic Touch). After Hours is a full sibling to HSH Blake and will undoubtedly be another exciting one to see come up the levels.
Both Gray and fellow jumping judge Pam Wiedemann were thoroughly impressed with the quality of horses presented before them today. As Wiedemann looked back on the crop of 4-year-olds as a whole, she shared what they were ultimately looking for in today’s winner.
“I think the athleticism is what we're really looking for," she said. "The horses can make some minor mistakes, and we try not to hold that against them. It will knock their individual fence score down a little bit, but in terms of the overall impressions, it doesn't mean that it has an influence on that. With the young horses, we expect them to make little mistakes. I think that they have to be efficient over the ground. They have to have power, strength, flexibility, all the things we look for in a good athlete. And the difference with an event horse, I think, is they have to be brave. They have to be really brave and have confidence in themselves.”
The Thoroughbred Incentive Program Champion of this year’s Dutta Corp. USEA YEH 4-year-old East Coast Championships was presented to Smokeonthehorizon (Mizzen Mast x Jersey Tango), owned by Dionne Benson and ridden by Jhett Jenkins.
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United States Eventing Association (USEA) members at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention were in for a treat on Friday as the U.S. Eventing Team was on hand to discuss their accomplishments this year at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
“Test the best without hurting the rest,” said show jumping course designer Chris Barnard as he and fellow designer Marc Donovan led a lively discussion for nearly 50 participants at the Show Jumping Seminar on the first day of the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.
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Welcome to the Show Me state and to Area IV USEA members! The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention kicks of tomorrow and features four full days of educational seminars, committee meetings, and social gatherings all with one aim—to bring the eventing community together to continue to improve upon and celebrate the sport that we all love. This year’s Convention takes place in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis from Dec. 7-10, and we have rounded up everything you need to know to make the most of your time in the heartland.