Competition at the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Land Rover and Nutrena at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) kicked off today with eight divisions taking their turn in the sandbox in Mill Spring, N.C. Ten and a half hours of dressage competition concluded with an exciting welcome party at the Legends Club. #AEC17 is off to a fantastic start!
Professional’s Choice Training Amateur
Who says off-the-track-Thoroughbreds (OTTB) can’t do dressage? The 6-year-old OTTB, Black Label (Judith's wild rush x Lovely Keri) bested a field of 49 other horses in the Professional’s Choice Training Amateur division. “Tito” as he is known in the barn, earned a 26.6 with owner/rider Carolyn Johnson.
“I thought he was really good today,” Johnson said of Tito’s dressage test. “I was a little nervous about how he would react to the atmosphere. This is the first time he has been in a big atmosphere like this, and he handled it really, really well and I was really pleased with all of it.”
Johnson has owned Tito since he came off of Penn National as a 3-year-old. He was sourced through CANTER Pennsylvania by Chris Talley and Johnson has slowly brought him up the levels. “This is his first year out at Training, but he has been really, really good,” continued Johnson. “He has taken to it and really likes eventing.”
While Tito may be a ham in the barn who gets himself in quite a bit of trouble, Johnson said he wasn’t too difficult to bring along because he has such a great brain.
Looking towards tomorrow’s cross-country, Johnson said, “There is a lot to do. I think the jumps are really very fair, the questions are really fair, but there is just a lot to look at. I think that is going to be his biggest challenge – keeping focused on the fences and not everything around them.”
While from South Carolina originally, Johnson now lives in Virginia and is based out of Morningside Training Farm. This is her first trip to the Tryon International Equestrian Center and she is glad for the opportunity to get Tito in atmosphere not seen anywhere else. “I heard it was beautiful and I wanted to see it. And I also wanted to get him out in atmosphere like this, this probably the only place on the East Coast that has any atmosphere like this! So I thought it would be good to see how he reacted to all of it.”
A fellow Morningside barnmate, Brittany Hebets, is hot on Johnson’s heels – with just 0.5 seperating the two. Hebets rode Leighann Hazel-Groux’s MTF Bugatti, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Wisconchin x Jessica) to second. In third place is Sandra Holden and Cano Cristales, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Conteur x Hauptstupbuch Konny) on a 28.0. Holden and Cano Cristales led following dressage last year in the Master Training Amateur, but some show jumping trouble kept them from the win, so the pair will likely be looking for redemption this year!
Jordan Good and Danito. Sportfot Photo.
Professional's Choice Training Rider
Jordan Good and Danito, an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Dancier x Wie Musik) owned by Ruth Bley, currently sit atop the Professional’s Choice Training Rider division, as they head into cross-country tomorrow on a 28.0.
“It was a really good ride. My horse is just really great. As soon as he goes in the box he just does his thing and does well. I just try to stay out of his way,” said Good.
As for her plan tomorrow, Good commented, “Kick! I think it’s a beefy Training level course, which it should be, but the course seems really fun. He’s got a huge stride, so he’ll cover some ground. I’ll kick on, go in between the flags, and hopefully it all goes well.”
Looking to continue with their consistency throughout the rest of the competition, Good is excited to be at TIEC for the AEC. She concluded, “It’s amazing. I absolutely love it here. The footing is amazing and it’s so cool to be on grass. The venue is a world-class facility, so it’s really awesome to be here. We came out early for the jumper show and it’s been really fun.”
Christina McKitrick and her own 6-year-old Hanoverian mare, Lotte Lenya Q, (Loerke x Feiner Star) hold second place on a 28.9, while Darrin Mollett and Beverly’s Get Even, an 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Bustique x Acordia), owned by Beverly Equestrian, secured third place with a score of 29.8.
Madeline Hartsock and Prinz S.W. Sportfot Photo.
Professional’s Choice Junior Training
Madeline Hartsock proved that age doesn’t matter as the 12-year-old took on some older competitiors to come out on top in the Professional’s Choice Junior Training division. Riding her own 8-year-old German Riding Pony gelding, Prinz S.W. (PR. H. Principal Boy x St. Pr. St. Hauptstutbuch Bienchen), Hartsock scored a 25.0 for the lead. “He definitely felt a lot better,” said Hartsock of her test with Prinz. “He didn’t break in his lengthenings, and felt more connected than normal.”
Hartsock has had Prinz S.W. for two years now. He was bred and competed in Germany, going up to the equivalent of the Training level. With only 1.1 points in the lead, Hartsock will have to go all out on cross-country. “My goal for tomorrow is to really get him off that drop in the water and to make the time.”
Hartsock’s other horse, Highlife's Je T'aime, is currently leading the Preliminary Rider division with her trainer, Denise Goyea, riding. “It feels really cool to have both of my horses doing awesome.”
Isabel Finemore and Craig Mor Tom, a 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding of unknown breeding is currently in second on a 26.1, while Isabella Gunningham and Leroy, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Lucio Silla x Hetty) owned by Lisa Gunningham scored a 26.8 for third – making their long journey from Washington state worth it!
Megan Sykes and Classic's Mojah. Sportfot Photo.
Professional’s Choice Training Horse
Classic's Mojah started out his life as a dressage horse and in his entire career with Megan Sykes, the 8-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Chambertin x Sevillano) has never scored outside of the 20s. Today Sykes and Classic’s Mojah laid down a personal best score, a 21.1, to lead the Professional’s Choice Training Horse division by a full three points.
“I thought [the test] was awesome,” said Sykes. “I was really happy with it. He was very relaxed and didn’t seem to mind much about the atmosphere or anything.”
About a year and a half ago Sykes sold her previous horse, Ghypsy, with whom she won the 2014 Junior/Young Rider Division at the AEC, while was a working student for Tamra Smith and Heather Morris. They had Classic’s Mojah and Sykes decided to purchase him from them.
“I got married a couple months ago and actually broke my arm a few months after that so we have had a slow season,” said Sykes. “But we are really happy to be here and get going again. Hopefully this fall we can do more shows.”
As for her thoughts on the cross-country course, Sykes thinks: “It’s good; I think time could be quite challenging, but I think he will handle it well. It’s something he’s never seen before; it’s bright; it’s new. It will be a good challenge.”
Nancy Holowesko’s 7-year-old Oldenburg mare, Aura CF, (Belissimo x Aussprache) was the final horse of the division and with Chris Talley riding she moved into second on a 24.1. Courtney Cooper and Caia Z, a 6-year-old Zangersheide mare (Calato Z x Djerba Z) owned by the Caia Z Group, rounds out the top three spots on a 24.8.
The Training riders will have their turn on Capt. Mark Phillips' cross-country course from 1:00 - 6:20 p.m. tomorrow.
Mia Petersen and Parc Cooley. Sportfot Photo.
Preliminary Amateur Division
Last year Mia Petersen and Parc Cooley finished in ninth place in the Preliminary Amateur division at the AEC, and this year they have returned looking for an even better ribbon. Petersen and the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Cavalier Royale x Wellfields Allegro) scored a 31.7 to sit atop the 19-competitor Preliminary Amateur division, the first division to finish with their dressage phase at the 2017 AEC.
“I was thrilled with the ride,” said Petersen. “Somedays he struggles a little bit with the tension, but today he came out and was very relaxed. It was just a matter of making sure that I had him uphill enough, but once we got that nicely in warmup, he really had a great flow.”
Petersen has been partnered with “Parker” since 2013, and the pair moved up to Intermediate at the end of 2016. Parker can be spooky, however, so Petersen decided to enter the Preliminary Amateur. Looking ahead to tomorrow’s cross-country, Petersen goals are “to get a good flow, to jump the fences with a good rhythm, and to get all of my distances!”
“It’s so fun to be here at AEC,” continued Petersen. “There’s a great energy about it, and everyone is just happy to be here. You get to see all of your friends, all of mine are from New England, but I’m from Tennessee so it’s awesome to spend time with everyone. It’s an awesome place to be.”
Petersen and Parker don’t have much time in hand as they set off on cross-country tomorrow as Jill Bobel and Big Time, a 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Zagor x Rullah's Zec) are a mere 0.6 behind on a 32.3. Kathy Cain and Legal Limit, also a 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Secret Prince x Cheese Blintze) are sitting in a familiar position as the pair finished third last year in the Preliminary Amateur and are currently in third on a 33.8.
Denise Goyea and Highlife's Je T'aime. Sportfot Photo.
Denise Goyea rode Highlife's Je T'aime, a 9-year-old Oldenburg mare (Highlife's Der Dollar x Jeunesse D'or) to the top of the leaderboard in the Preliminary Rider division, scoring a 27.5. The mare is owned by 12-year-old Madeline Hartsock, who is currently leading the Junior Training division aboard her pony, Prinz S.W.
“I’ve had [Highlife's Je T'aime] in my program for three years,” explained Goyea. “Her rider is young so the plan for her is to be her move-up horse after she outgrows her pony. I had her here in the Training Horse [division] last year, and now she is my Preliminary ride for this year.”
“She stayed really relaxed and forward,” Goyea said of her winning dressage test. “She can get a little shy in the dressage arena, but she didn’t today and that was really nice to have her feel that she was calm but still ground-covering.”
Goyea competed in the AEC last year and is pleased with the changes made to the course design: “I think that the course looks great,” continued Goyea. “The footing looks great, the jumps look amazing, I love the new layout and like how it starts out very inviting and then begins to ask you the harder questions as you go further into the course. It’s a course that will really make sense to the horses.”
It is a 17-hour drive from her home in Massachusetts to North Carolina, but with a stop over at her trainer, Sharon White’s, farm in West Virginia for a last minute cross-country school, it made the journey manageable. “We love being here at AEC,” said Goyea. “We were here last year and right when we left, my clients were trying to make house reservations for this year because we knew that we wanted to come back. It’s a fantastic venue and it’s a great place for the riders as well as the spectators.”
Goyea was the only competitor in the Preliminary Rider division to break into the 20s, but the next group of riders are tightly packed. Caitlin Silliman scored a 31.2 riding Q-Brook Stables, LLC’s Ally KGO, a 6-year-old Trakehner mare (Hirtentanz *E* x Annabel Lee) and Rachel Jurgens is hot on her heels with Ziggy (Ziggy’s Boy x Berry Blush), a 21-year-old Thoroughbred gelding who scored a 31.6.
Audrie Stanka and Coughar. Sportfot Photo.
Junior/Young Rider Preliminary
Audrie Stanka and her own 7-year-old Swedish Warmblood, Coughar (Camaro M x Cortina), were the very last pair in the ring today, but they made it count and scored a personal best of 25.1 to sit atop the leaderboard of the Junior/Young Rider Preliminary division. “He was perfect,” said Stanka simply. “He was really forward, which is good, because that’s what we’ve been working on all summer. He was super responsive and did everything I asked him to do and more.”
A relatively new partnership, Stanka imported Coughar from Germany at the end of last year. “I went with my coach Leslie [Law] and [we tried him] and he was perfect. I did my first Preliminary with him ever in March...My first ride on him was in late December.” Stanka's goal for tomorrow is to be as quick and accurate as possible around Captain Mark Phillips' cross-country course.
Adriana Beruvides and Julie Norman’s 17-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Consensus (Contucci x Miss Me Not), sit in second on a score of 26.7, and Katherine Knowles and her own Cillnabradden Ceonna, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare by Creevagh Grey Rebel out of Willow Garden, are less than a point behind on 27.4 for third place.
Holly Payne-Caravella and CharmKing. Sportfot Photo.
Holly Payne-Caravella and CharmKing rode into the lead in the very competitive Preliminary Horse division. The 2011 Holsteiner gelding (Cassito x O-Heraldika) owned by FARM CharmKing LLC, held strong in their first-place position, besting second-place by more than two points on a 21.3.
“He hasn’t been in such a big atmosphere before,” said Payne-Caravella. “He was here at TIEC for The Fork in the spring, but he didn’t go in the main arena for the dressage. He’s usually pretty consistent on the flat, but today he definitely felt a little bit more up than normal. I kind of put in a conservative test for him, but he’s really obedient, tried really hard, and handled the atmosphere great. I was really pleased with him.”
Commenting on her plan moving into cross-country, Payne-Caravella continued, “I’m used to riding a lot of Thoroughbreds and he didn’t race, so he didn’t really know how to gallop. He’s a good jumper, but I’ve been taking him out with my other Thoroughbreds and making him gallop and train with them. He has a good gallop in him, it’s just wasn’t brought out as a three- and four-year-old like the other horses. I think that this track is hard and derby-like with lots of twists and turns, so I think the course will suit him well."
“My goal is to go out and make the time with him. He’s at that place now where I can push him a bit, so I’m going to see how much he has matured over the summer,” she added.
Bella Mowbray and En Vouge, a 12-year-old Hanoverian mare (Earl x Laurena) owned by Ruth Bley, are currently sitting in second place heading into cross-country tomorrow after earning a 23.5, while Kelli Temple and Metallica, a 7-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Kara Angulo rounded out the top three with a 23.6 for third as they head into the second day of competition.
The Preliminary riders will be the first to christen Capt. Mark Phillips' at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. Check out the courses in yesterday's preview.
About the AEC
The USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Land Rover and Nutrena® is the pinnacle of the sport for the national levels. Held annually, this event draws together the best competitors from across the country vying for national titles from the Beginner Novice through the Advanced level. This year's AEC is being held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) in Mill Spring, N.C. August 30-September 3, 2017.
The 2017 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Land Rover and Nutrena would not be possible without our wonderful sponsors: Presenting Sponsors: Land Rover and Nutrena, Gold Cup Advanced Title Sponsor: Adequan, Intermediate Division Title Sponsor: Boehringer Ingelheim, Training Level Title Sponsor: Professional’s Choice Platinum Sponsor: Devoucoux Gold Level Sponsors: Charles Owen, Standlee Hay, Merck Animal Health, Noble Outfitters Silver Level Sponsors: VTO Saddlery, Point Two Air Jackets, Mountain HorseBronze Level Sponsors: Back on Track, SmartPak, Chronicle of the Horse, Dubarry of Ireland, Stackhouse & Ellis, Auburn Laboratories, FITS,CWD, FLAIR. Contributing Level Sponsors: Eventing Training Online, The Jockey Club, Ovation, Nelson Manufacturing, and Prize Level Sponsors: I Love My Horse, GumBits, Exceptional Equestrian, The Scoring Chix, Horse Hydrator, C4 Belts, Ride Heels Down, Ride Safe, LM Custom Boots.
*Many of these sponsors are in attendance at the AEC with vendor spaces in the USEA Sponsor Village, located directly next to the George Morris Arena at TIEC. Get ready to shop!