This year’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L was on April 21-25 and was the first five-star event to take place in the U.S. since 2019. The entry list had the best riders in the world, previous Kentucky champions, Olympic hopefuls, and horses who have been eventing in the U.S. since they were 4 years old.
To help introduce young horses to the sport of eventing, a popular program among competitors is the USEA Young Event Horse Program (YEH). This well-established program was founded in 2004, and the program’s goal is to identify 4- and 5-year-old horses that possess the talent and disposition that, with proper training, can excel in the four and five-star levels of eventing.
A total of six YEH graduates successfully completed their weekend at Kentucky, whether they were in the CCI5*-L or in the inaugural CCI4*-S. Three YEH graduates completed the CCI5*-L (Mai Baum, Off the Record, and Quantum Leap), and three completed the CCI4*-S (FE Golden Eye, Let It Be Lee, and Woodford Reserve).
All three YEH graduates who finished the CCI5*-L were five-star first-timers, and two of the three finished within the top 15. The highest placed YEH graduate was Mai Baum (Loredano x Ramira), a 15-year-old German Sport Horse gelding owned by Alexandra Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell, and ridden by Tamra Smith.
“A horse of a lifetime,” said Smith when describing Mai Baum, aka Lexus, after his impressive performance at his first five-star event. The pair scored a 21.8 to sit second after dressage, put in a strong cross-country round, and had a double clear show jumping to finish ninth overall on a score of 38.8. They were also the third highest placed American pair.
The 2011 YEH graduate went to his first event in 2010 as a 4-year-old and finished 4th in the YEH 4-year-old division at Rebecca Farm. The following year, Mai Baum finished 5th in the YEH 5-year-old division at Rebecca Farm both years, he was ridden by Michele Pestl. Now, as a 15-year-old, the newly minted five-star horse has earned 11 international wins and a top 10 finish at Kentucky.
“Lexus, you in my eyes were the winner this weekend. Your focus, bravery, trust, and heart are like no other horse I’ve ever known. You danced, you ran across the country like a tiger, and today you jumped out of your skin! You are in a class all of your own and I’m so lucky to be sitting on for the ride!” said Smith in her Facebook post.
Off the Record, a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (VDL Arkansas x Drumagoland Bay) ridden by William Coleman and owned by the Off the Record Syndicate put in three competitive phases to finish 15th in his very first five-star event. The newly minted five-star horse scored a 29.1 in dressage, jumped clear on cross-country, adding a handful of time penalties, and only had one rail down on Sunday’s show jumping.
Six years prior to his five-star performance, the 2014 YEH graduate finished second in the YEH 5-year-old division at Waredaca and ninth at the 2014 USEA YEH East Coast 5-year-old Championship with Coleman as the rider. Since 2014, he has earned 11 top-three finishes in a CCI event and now has a top 15 finish at Kentucky.
Quantum Leap (Quite Capitol x Report to Sloopy), a 2011 Holsteiner gelding bred by Elizabeth Callahan and owned and ridden by Doug Payne, was one of the youngest horses in the field. Putting in three strong phases, Payne and Quantum Leap were only one of seven pairs who jumped double clear in show jumping on the final day.
The 2016 YEH graduate competed in the 2015 USEA YEH East Coast Championships as a 4-year-old where he finished third and again as a 5-year-old in 2016, where he finished seventh. Two years later, Quantum Leap was the 2018 Holekamp/Turner grant recipient where he and Payne represented the U.S. at the FEI World Breeding Eventing 7-year-old Championships at Le Lion d’Angers. Now, at just 10 years old, Quantum Leap already has a successful five-star completion under his belt.
“Double Clear! No better way to wrap up his 5* debut than with a double clear jumping round at Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event! I couldn’t be more proud of him; he will be a dominant force in the coming years!” said Doug Payne in his Facebook post.
The five-star cross-country course track proved to be challenging, and Dondante, Business Ben, and Tsetserleg TSF, unfortunately, didn’t finish. All horses and riders were okay. The seventh YEH graduate in the CCI5*-L field, Covert Rights withdrew from the competition after dressage.
In the inaugural CCI4*-S, there were three YEH graduates who completed the difficult CCI4*-S. The highest placed YEH graduate was FE Golden Eye (Goldfever x Cascade), a 2012 Holsteiner gelding owned and ridden by Colleen Loach, who finished 12th. Let It Be Lee (Bernstein x Sugaree), a 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by the Five Pine Partnership and ridden by Elisa Wallace, finished 17th. Rounding out the top 20 was Woodford Reserve (Tinarana's Inspector x Laharns Laughton), a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding bred by Frank Hickey and ridden and owned by Erin Kellerhouse, who finished 20th.
About the USEA Young Event Horse Program
The 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 aged four and five 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, Parker Equine Insurance, Etalon Diagnostics for sponsoring the Young Event Horse Program. Additionally, the USEA would like to thank The Dutta Corp., Title Sponsor of the Young Event Horse Championships.
The 18th annual Jersey Fresh International (JFI) gets underway this afternoon at the Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown, N.J. The CCI4*-L is the final selection trial for the Olympic Games in Tokyo later this summer so all eyes will be on the stacked field.
US Equestrian is seeking applications of employment for their Director of Eventing Sport Management & Administration position.
Please join the Equine High Performance Sports Group for their new Sport Horse Series. Interact with human athlete trainers, champions in equestrian sport, and their coaches, veterinarians, farriers, and grooms to translate and apply their knowledge in training, treatment, preventative medicine, services, etc. of equine athletes under your care.
Horses have so much power over us. They don’t know that, of course, but, unwittingly, they expose our personal weaknesses – and bring out our hidden strengths. This is something Allison Smith, a 28-year-old from Warrenton, Va., knows very well. Her passion for eventing and the pressure she put on herself to succeed in this many-layered, ultimately demanding sport exacerbated her anxiety and perfectionist tendencies. Yet one horse has changed her life in a way she never could have anticipated.