Every horse who participated this year in the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) program has a story—a background that involves a breeder who labored over bloodlines, veterinary care, initial training, and so much more. This year’s highest-placing U.S.-bred horse in the 5-year-old division at the Dutta Corp./USEA Young Event Horse Championships, Arden Augustus, is no exception. His breeder and owner, Anita Antenucci of Arden Farms in Upperville, Virginia, started her program nine years ago and said that the Warmblood gelding was a more emotionally driven breeding for her than others due to his connections with Antenucci’s long-time friend Sharon White.
“She is one of my best friends,” said Antenucci, who first connected with White over 20 years ago when she sent a horse to White’s to sell. “I admire her so immensely on every level, including her horsemanship and her love for the sport and the horses.”
White echoed the same sentiments of Antenucci. “Anita is so unbelievably special to me. She is one of my dearest friends. She is as hardworking and horse-driven as I am, so we just get along so well.”
That friendship turned into a partnership of sorts, and the pair have bred a few foals jointly with the understanding that White has the opportunity to call dibs on any foal produced that catches her eye, which is how Arden Augustus, or “Gus” as he is lovingly known, came to be.
“His dam, Juneau, was a horse that Sharon bred and was out of a line of mares that Peter Barry and his wife had bred, one of whom Sharon had ridden up to the Advanced level,” said Antenucci. For his sire, Antenucci, who really emphasizes the pairing of Thoroughbred lines in her breeding selections, opted to utilize the popular Selle Français stallion Jaguar Mail because of his nearly full Thoroughbred bloodlines.
“We picked him for Juneau because we wanted to introduce both more blood and more height, and we got a lot of height!” Antenucci reflected. There were two embryos from that breeding, so interestingly enough “Gus” has a full sister, Arden Juliet, of the same age, both of whom she describes as very tall and very quiet.
As Gus and Juliet matured, White earmarked Gus as the one she wanted the ride on.
“She’s had her eye on him from the get-go,” said Antenucci.
Gus got his start with Melissa Baumann, who lives on Antenucci’s farm and rides for her, and transitioned over to White’s program a month before this year’s Dutta Corp. USEA YEH East Coast Championships (Elkton, Maryland). During the entire time Baumann was bringing Gus along, White was very involved in the process, so despite only just having him in her barn for a few months, she still felt as though she knew Gus and already had a relationship with him.
Having the progeny of a horse she had loved so dearly in her string was an exciting opportunity for White.
“I love Gus’s mother,” said White, “and Gus is way better than his mother, so he has exceeded all expectations, which doesn’t normally happen. Like his mother, he is an unbelievably good jumper, but he is much sweeter than Juneau since he is a boy. They have some eerie similarities in that Juneau was very spooky, not with jumping, but just at normal everyday things, and Gus is exactly the same way which I find highly entertaining.”
After a super successful outing at this year’s East Coast Championships where Gus placed 10th among a field of horses whom the judges described as “the best crop of young horses they have ever seen before,” White and Antenucci have big dreams for the homebred.
“The goal is absolutely for him to be a top-level event horse,” said White. For his immediate development, White will let Gus tell her what the next steps in the 2024 season might look like, but she hopes that he will compete at the Training level in the spring, experience a few Modifieds, and maybe a one-star, before potentially ending the year at the Preliminary level.
For Antenucci, seeing her horses thrive in the young horse programs made available here in the States is a huge reward, especially when looking back at where it all started.
“I grew up in Frankfort, Kentucky, and while I never owned a horse as a child and always wanted one, my bedroom window was about 10 feet from a 50-acre field with Thoroughbred mares and foals. So, not a surprise that as a grown-up building a dream house, I built it with a view of a 50-acre field with mares and foals,” she said.
That early introduction to Thoroughbreds continues to play a big influence on her breeding goals today. Antenucci has established several relationships with Thoroughbred breeders who have helped her source quality Thoroughbred mares off the track for her breeding efforts.
“I never set out to become the breeder who breeds the next Olympic team,” said Antennuci. “That is a numbers game—you have to breed a lot of horses to find that raw talent. I like to breed something with good bloodlines and some blood because I like the Thoroughbreds, and think we should be showing the American Thoroughbred and their usefulness in our sport. I am really, really happy if what I breed are horses that I, as an adult amateur who used to be competitive, wanted to ride.”
While some of her crosses are straight Thoroughbred to performance horse types, Antenucci now has her own homebred mares as well and has two second-generation yearlings on the ground out of those mares. One of those yearlings, whom Antenucci calls JoJo, is out of one of her homebred mares and by her homebred Arden JuJu, whom Antenucci collected before having him gelded and is currently being ridden by Kim Severson.
“Of course, I am in love with them both,” gushed Antenucci. “The emotional attachment just doubles because you know their parents.”
With all of her foals, Antenucci is very hands-on from day one. After all, her broodmare barn also doubles as her house.
“I live upstairs and there are two broodmare stalls underneath,” she shared. “We have cameras so that we can all keep an eye on the mare’s when they get close. I can run down in my pajamas to check on them. And when the foals are tiny babies, they’re going out in a little, tiny paddock behind my house. They get a lot of attention. They are handled multiple times every single day.”
Antenucci typically foals out just a couple of foals a year, although in the past she has had as many as four.
“In my case, you don’t own them for just a couple of months. I hold on to them until they are under saddle and going and kind of show us what they want to do,” she said.
She has sold three horses so far, all to adult amateurs which Antenucci is very proud of. She also has a few for sale now and looks forward to finding them their perfect placement. In addition, Antenucci has several horses being produced successfully through the levels including Arden JuJu who this year won his first CCI3*-S at Chattahoochee Hills (Fairburn, Georgia) with Kim Severson, Baumann is showing Arden Juliet, Arden Calliope, and Arden Janeway, and in addition to Gus, White also has the ride on Vintage Chanel.
Almost all of Antenucci’s horses have gotten their start through the USEA’s YEH program.
“I am really thankful for the YEH program for educating me as a breeder, and it’s not just the competitions themselves. It’s the kindness and generosity of the people that are involved in the program,” she stated. “Susan Graham White, for example, came out to my farm and looked at my broodmares and talked to me about the program before I even really started just out of kindness and real support for the sport. The community that the program has created, I have benefitted enormously from, and I am grateful for it. I think the USEA has been a great catalyst to programs that are both funded by it, but also programs that are not funded by it but can be supported by the same community.”
That passion for continuing the growth of this community is what fueled Antenucci to assist with the development of the 6- and 7-year-old classes held at Morven Park (Leesburg, Virginia) each fall. She hopes to see Gus compete there perhaps in his 6- or 7-year-old year, or maybe even tackle the 7-year-old Championships at Le Lion in France. She believes that his experience through the YEH program will have set him on the right track to tackle whatever goals come next.
“You know when Caroline Pamukcu went to Chile this year [for the Pan American Games], she was quick to call out that the reason her 8-year-old was prepared to represent the U.S. on a team was that it had done the 5-year-old YEH Championships at Fair Hill, it had done the 6-year-old FEI class at Morven that was designed to be a season-ending chance to prove amongst the best 6-year-olds, and then it had been over to Le Lion. Not every horse is ready at 6, 7, or 8 to do that, but starting at 5 is an important first step to getting your horse educated, exposed, and strong enough to do those classes.”
About the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) 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-years-old, 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, Parker Equine Insurance, Capital Square, Kerrits, HorseWeek, and The Jockey Club 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.
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