Tamra Smith Clinches USEA Gold Cup Final Championship Title, Concluding 2018 Annual USEA Eventing Championships
The fourth day of competition at the 2018 USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Nutrena Feeds (AEC) concluded at The Colorado Horse Park (CHP) as the final competitors in the Advanced, Intermediate, Novice, and Beginner Novice divisions took center stage to be recognized for their hard work. Divisional champions across eighteen divisions were crowned, as athletes from across the United States flocked to Colorado to compete at the world renowned equestrian venue.
Adequan USEA Advanced Gold Cup Final
You could hear a pin drop in the International Ring at CHP as California’s Tamra Smith maneuvered around the track in the final show jumping phase of competition aboard Alexandra Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn, and Eric Markell’s, Mai Baum. Smith and the 2006 German Sport Horse gelding rounded out their weekend on a score of 28.0, and their comeback was celebrated with a big blue ribbon and a round of applause, along with the title of Adequan USEA Advanced Gold Cup Final Champions.
“It just feels so good to be back on him,” exclaimed Smith, “it’s emotional because it’s been a long road to get him back.” The pair ceased competition after Mai Baum suffered a series of injuries that made for a long, three-year rehabilitation process. “He originally strained his tendon after Fair Hill,” explained Smith, “and we rehabbed him like a normal horse, and then he fell in the trailer, and he got a guttural pouch infection, and he had to be in a cast, and it was just one thing after another. And then he was huge, so it took me forever to get him fit again. He was couch potato so it took a while, but we took the time because he was worth it.” Smith continued, “It seems like yesterday, but it’s taken three years. Now he’s back and feeling 100%, and strong, and so happy to be here. I’m happier, but he’s happy.”
Smith also credited the staff at the Park and the event coordinators for their dedication to running a memorable AEC. “This whole experience has been wonderful,” she said. “My hat goes off to the course designers. I actually told the crew that I would give them a cut of my prize money if I won because they worked really hard. The footing felt phenomenal.”
Cruising into second place after dressage, Jordan Linstedt of Washington, and Revitavet Capato, Barbara and Gary Linstedt’s 2003 Hanoverian gelding, maintained their spot throughout the weekend to land on a final score of 39.5. “I didn’t go out of the start box with the plan to be super competitive,” said Linstedt, “I just went out there to let him run and I never kicked him once around the course, he flowed with it. I wanted to go out there and be efficient with inside turns. He came in pretty quick so I was happy with him.”
Smith also claimed podium spot number three after earning 45.4 penalties with Judith McSwain’s 2009 Holsteiner mare Fleeceworks Royal. “She got selected to go to Boekelo [Netherlands],” Smith summarized, “so I knew I was going to have a conservative weekend with her. She went fast at Rebecca Farm and I can’t go fast with her all of the time, so as much as I wanted to go for it yesterday, I had to think about the bigger picture.” “For cross-country we just took it easy and at a good pace and she was super over everything. I think today was her best show jump. When I ride her well, she jumps beautifully and it finally clicked,” Smith concluded.
Charlie Tango is used to being an AEC Champion, having won the honor a whopping three times—Preliminary in 2014, Intermediate in 2015, and once again at the Intermediate level this year. With all that experience, Heather Morris was able to ride Team Express Group, LLC’s 2008 Irish Sport Horse gelding to a perfect weekend. The pair added nothing to their Dressage score of 25.8 to win wire-to-wire by over five points. “He was great. I was a little rusty actually, I hadn’t ridden in three weeks because I threw my back out, but it all worked out in there,” said Morris.
Morris and ‘Chuck’ came into show jumping with a rail in hand, but they didn’t even need it as they easily cleared Marc Donovan’s course. “He was weird at the liverpool at Rebecca Farm, so I was a little worried about that, but he jumped great. I had a few errors, but he handled it well. It was lovely to be in the International Ring here, and the course was lovely. He loves the crowd and the atmosphere so it went well,” concluded Morris.
Bella Mowbray and Ruth Bley’s En Vogue, a 2005 Hanoverian mare, added a single time penalty to their dressage score, but were still able to hold on to the reserve champion title. “My highlight was definitely cross-country,” said Mowbray. “It was a real championship course. It was pretty imposing. I looked pretty technical and big and it rode really beautifully. I was just really proud of my horse. She ate it up.”
Third-placed Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve, her own 2009 Irish Sport Horse gelding started the weekend in second place, but some time on cross-country dropped them down to fourth. However, a double clear show jumping round boosted them up to finish in third. “He’s a really good show jumper and I knew if I didn’t mess up, we’d go clean. He’s really careful and he gives me a lot of confidence in there because he’s brave and careful and he just does his thing,” said Kellerhouse.
Junior/Young Rider Preliminary
Rails were falling in the Junior/Young Rider Preliminary division, but each of the top three had one rail apiece so their placings remained unchanged, and Madelyn Floyd was able to lead the victory gallop aboard her own Clementine, a 2009 Hanoverian mare, making her journey from Washington State well worth it. “She’s a really good jumper, so I tried to stay out of her way,” explained Floyd. “I tried to give her her head, let her do her thing, and keep the tempo the same.”
The penalties were hard to track, so Floyd wasn’t sure if she had a rail in hand when she cantered into the ring. “Show Jumping is our hardest phase, so I just tried to relax and jump a good round. She was great. I couldn’t have asked her to be any better. I made a mistake at fence two but she was awesome.”
Floyd and Clementine finished on a 33.5 which was good enough to take the win over reserve champion Camryn Holcomb and Michaela Holcomb’s Cloud Nine, a 2005 Thoroughbred gelding. Like Floyd’s Clementine, Holcomb said that Show Jumping isn’t the best phase for Cloud Nine. “He can be pretty tense,” said Holcomb who hails from Kansas. “He’s small and he’s shaped so weird, so if you ride him normally that’s when he pulls a rail. You have to go really slow, take your time. I was trying to breathe and stay calm. I knew we could do it. We’ve had double clears before, so we just tried to take it in stride.”
Rounding out the top three was Callia Englund and her own Xyder, a 2010 Cheval Canadien gelding. “The AEC was so fun,” said Englund who traveled from Washington State. “I’m so glad we made the trip up here. It’s my first time to the CHP and the AEC.”
Julia Spatt of Arkansas and 5o1 Macintosh quietly stalked the leaders all weekend in the Preliminary Amateur division, sitting in a respectable tie for seventh place on a score of 34.3 following dressage and then moving up into second-place after adding just 0.8 time faults to their score on cross-country day. Finally, Spatt and her own 2010 Belgian Warmblood gelding of unknown breeding turned in a double clean Show Jumping round this afternoon to take home the Preliminary Championship title at the 2018 USEA AEC.
“It was really exciting to come back to the AEC this year,” said Spatt, who competed in both the 2012 and 2018 AEC. “I’m actually from Colorado. I’ve been living in Arkansas and it was really fun to come back to my home turf and compete at the AEC, and especially to have such a good result. It was quite a homecoming. I love showing at CHP. It’s always been one of my favorite venues.”
Second place in the Preliminary Amateur division went to Erin Hofmann and her own Darkwatch, a 2008 Thoroughbred gelding. The pair moved from fifth to first with a double clear cross-country round and dropped back into second-place after pulling a single rail in Show Jumping. “The AEC has been wonderful,” commented Hofmann, for whom the Colorado Horse Park is home turf. “I’m from Utah and have a bit of home turf advantage. I’ve been coming here for a long time. I didn’t really think about the altitude being an issue for some people, but when I got here I heard a lot of people talking about it, but we didn’t really feel a difference.”
Ruth Bley and her own 2005 Selle Francais gelding Rodrigue Du Granit started and finished the competition in third-place, dropping back to fourth after cross-country with 6.0 time faults, but moving back up into third with a flawless show jumping round. “On Cross-Country I had to remind myself to breathe,” Bley said, “but my horse came off and acted like it wasn’t bad. I was like ‘Oh, I could have kicked you harder!’ It’s a very different course than we’re used to because there’s not a lot of track so, I actually got lost, which is why he has time penalties. I stumbled around for a while out there. If I could do it again, I would go walk that part of the course over and over and over again.”
Yesterday’s course was influential in the Preliminary Horse division, which gave Tamra Smith the opportunity to climb up the leaderboard into first. Once Smith had the lead, she wasn’t letting go of it and a double clear show jumping round secured her win. Riding Judith McSwain’s Fleeceworks Ghost, a 2012 Irish Sport Horse/Belgian Warmblood mare, Smith finished on her dressage score of 29.0. “Ghost is just a sweetheart,” explained Smith. “My daughter has been riding her and producing her. In the victory gallop they even congratulated her, which was so exciting because she did all of the work! I just sat there on her. She’s just such a professional, so good and careful.”
Second-place was captured by another California native, Gina Economou, riding Lauren Rath’s 2005 Thoroughbred gelding (Devil His Due x Synful Maid), who also finished her AEC on a dressage score of 30.4. Of her experience at CHP, Economou noted, “They did a fabulous job here. It’s so nice to have an AEC that is in the Midwest and to have one that we could make it to. It was wonderful this year. I came out with the expectations to put in some solid Dressage and Cross-Country, which is kind of his forte. He met every expectation that I set and went above that. He jumped very clean and I’m so proud of him. Basically, his owner got pregnant, so I got to ride! It’s beautiful here. We haven’t been here in a long time, so it was really nice to come back.”
Smith also claimed third-place honors in the Preliminary Horse division, this time aboard the MB Group LLC’s 2010 German Sport Horse/ Thoroughbred mare MaiBlume, also concluding on a dressage score of 31.9. Of her second Preliminary Horse mount, Smith elaborated, “She was absolutely super. Super rideable, she had a very beautiful round, I was really proud of her. Still full of energy, she’s never tired. She’s spicy so sometimes she can get a little funny in the lines to get to the next jump, but today she wasn’t. She was super and I couldn’t have asked her to be better.”
Places shifted and changed once more in the Preliminary Rider division, which saw Californian Whitney Tucker Billeter guide her own 2011 Irish Sport Horse gelding Karvaleo to the blue ribbon. The duo earned a collective score of 70.3. “This is my first AEC and it’s beautiful here. I want to come live here during the summer!” Exclaimed Billeter.
Due to inclement weather, the Preliminary Rider division was sent back to the barn before they were set to run their Cross-Country phase. The group resumed on Saturday morning, and then contested their final phase later in the afternoon. Billeter continued, “I just had to work a little bit harder to get him in front of my leg in the warm-up but he answered everything. We had a little bauble. I got too tight coming into a combination and pushed him into the B element, but never got organized. If I had to do anything differently it would have been to ride the 9 A/B a bit better so I could be more organized to get him into the water. He felt tired warming up twice yesterday and then doing Cross-Country and Show Jumping today. Luckily he has had practice. He’s a really cool young horse that I’m super excited about.”
Travis Atkinson of Utah, rode his own 2009 Zweibrucker gelding Don Darco (Damarco x Gong Lee), to second-place honors after completing the three phases with 74.7 penalties. Of his overall weekend with his mount, Atkinson said, “It didn’t go as planned, but it was alright. It was a tough Cross-Country course that eliminated a lot of our division and we were the only two left when it came to the Show Jumping. It was mine to lose.”
The Junior Training division concluded with Madison Santley of California, who moved to finish on top of the podium aboard Excellence, a 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding, after clear rounds in both Cross-Country and Show Jumping phases of competition. Santley and her mount finished on their Dressage score of 31.7, and she explained, “This [AEC] has honestly been one of the best experiences of my life. It took a long time to get out here. We had a bumpy road, but he was so good. He was an angel and I love him with all of my heart. I couldn’t have asked for a better horse and a better week.”
Colorado native Cora Severs rode Stacey Severs’ 2010 Dutch Warmblood gelding Cuervo, to the reserve champion title, piloting through the week on their original score of 35.6. “I had a great AEC experience,” Severs summarized. “I’ve qualified every year, but this is the first time in four years that I have been able to go. Overall it went really well. I wasn’t able to ride him for two weeks leading up to the event, as I was at college, but all in all, he listened very well and I had a great time.”
Madison Flanders of Oregon, finished in third-place with Michele Flanders’ Arwen II, a 2008 Thoroughbred mare, after landing on a final 35.8. “I’ve had the greatest AEC experience,” Flanders concluded. “It’s really cool that it was close, here in Colorado this time. We usually can’t go because it’s on the East Coast. The whole entire weekend was really fun, especially Cross-Country. We went a little bit too fast, but it was so much fun, I don’t even care! My mare was just perfect the entire time.”
Linda Quist of CO, led from start to finish aboard her own Belle Gambe, a 2004 Iberian Warmblood mare in the Training Amateur division, as the pair finished their competition on a score of 27.3 to secure the top title. “I had a wonderful experience here this year,” Quist said. “This is my third AEC, I rode in Novice, Training, and now Training again. I thought the Cross-Country course was fabulous, I had a wonderful time out there. Going into the last phase, all I could think of was ‘Leave the rails up please!'”
Dawn Robbins of CA, and her own Diablo Tejano, a 2003 Thoroughbred gelding earned second-place on a score of 31.1. Of her inaugural time at the AEC, she said, “The AEC has been the time of my life. I’ve had so much fun. I’ve heard about it for years and we’ve qualified for many years, but it was always too far away for me. I got this chance to come to Colorado and just had to grab ahold of it. I’ve enjoyed being with all of the competitors and the facility is beautiful. The course was challenging, but not overly so. It was a real championship course.”
Texan Cherye Huber and her own Sam I Am, a 2006 British Sport Horse gelding, captured third-place with a total score of 34.2. This is Huber’s fourth AEC and the time surrounded by her fellow competitors was one she will remember fondly. She concluded, “I always love the AEC. It’s always such a festive group. Riding in the Amateur division, we always cheer each other on. I love it here. We had a nice trip and loved the Cross-Country.”
As the first division champion to be crowned at the 15th annual AEC, Training Horse winner McKenzie Rollins was nothing but smiles as she galloped around the Coors Arena in her lap of victory. “It’s just such an honor to be able to come here in the first place,” she exclaimed. “To compete at such a beautiful venue, to make the trek out from California, with my best friend. It was just so fun. It’s a dream come true.”
Rollins moved from first-place after her Dressage phase, into second place in during Cross-Country with her own Excel Star Lord, a 2012 Irish Sport Horse gelding, and clinched the final victory of the week on a score of 34.9. “He’s still quite young,” Rollins continued, “so I really wanted to take my time to produce him, to not skip over anything. It’s really important to me that he’s happy and comfortable to do the job and that I’m not over-facing him with anything and I feel like this is just such a feather in his cap. He’s my first young horse that I’ve brought along and it’s been really fun. He’s such a pleasure to ride. He’s so lovely and he’s so kind and enjoys the work, which makes it that much more worth it.”
Second-place was awarded to Sam Kelly of Minnesota, aboard her own 2009 Irish Sport Horse gelding, Robinstown Ballivor, as the pair made a comeback from fifth-place after their Cross-Country phase of competition to end on 37.5 penalties. “It was a great weekend,” said Kelly. “We traveled 20 hours, so it took forever for us to get here and we’ve been here since last Saturday.” Of her weekend with her mount, she elaborated, “Dressage, he was amazing. He had a couple spooks, which is kind of unlike him, but with Cross-Country too, he was amazing. We had time, which was a bummer, but he’s a strong jumper, so I knew he had it in the bag. It was just a strong overall weekend.”
Idaho’s Attila Rajnai rounded out the top three with Maximus de la Tombe, his own 2012 Belgian Warmblood gelding, after earning a score of 39.9. Commenting on his horse’s overall performance this week, Rajnai stated, “The dressage test was very good. He felt like he was pretty relaxed for him. He’s still a very young horse, so I thought he did a good job. On cross-country he was a little bit stronger than I wish he had been, so it took me a little time to prepare for the jumps and I feel like that cost us a little time. In the last phase, he was very tight as well so through one turn he got a bit discombobulated and had a rail, but all in all I’m very happy with his performance.”
The AEC is to be Romulus’ last competition, so it is only fitting that he went out on top. Luckily, he and owner/rider, Tracy Alvez, put in a double clear Show Jumping round to hold on to their overnight lead and win the Training Rider division. “The show jumping course was so fun,” said Alvez of the Dutch Warmblood gelding. “My strategy was to keep him in front of my leg. He sucks back really easily.”
Jessica Maranto used her home field advantage to take home the reserve championship in the Training Rider division. “I liked having the AEC here this year because I live about five minutes from here,” said Maranto. She and Czardus, a 2007 American Warmblood gelding made a steady climb up the leaderboard throughout the weekend. They sat in seventh on a 32.8 after Dressage and added nothing to that score in either jump phase.
Third-placed Cindy Pavusko had a bit longer of a journey than Maranto, but didn’t let the trek from California stop her from moving up the leaderboard to finish on her Dressage score of 34.1. “This is my first AEC. It was such a great experience and such an amazing opportunity to be able to come here and compete,” said Pavusko who rode her own Sir Walter Raleigh, a 2007 American Warmblood gelding by Call Breeder. “I love it here. It’s beautiful. It’s HUGE! I’d never been here before, but my parents have and I was not expecting such a big venue. The course was a lot of fun.”
Amanda Boyce of California, and her own 2006 Welsh Cob gelding, Mercury by Machno Carwyn, went into today’s show jumping round sitting in second place and maintained her competitive edge to finish on top of the Junior Novice division. “My trainer and I have a system, which is zip (forward), counter bend, steady, and then quick- We’ve been practicing that a lot,” stated Boyce.
Julia Brittain of CA, aboard her own Haiku, a 2012 Dutch Warmblood gelding, fell from their first-place rank coming out of cross-country to finish in second. “I think it was the best he’s jumped all year,” Brittain described. “There was definitely a lot of pressure going in, but he’s jumped incredibly so I was happy with him. We did have a rail, but it happens. He was forward and he was focused. He was attentive, so I was happy with the outcome.”
Madison Boesch and her own Seamless, a 2009 Warmblood mare, moved into third on 33.3 with a clear round after cross-country, and concluded their weekend in that position. “It was my whole crew’s first time here,” Boesch said. “It was a really cool experience coming here. My favorite memory of the AEC is how hard my horse tried for me. Even though sometimes I got her into some harder spots, she tried her hardest and jumped out of it. Today, I just tried to keep ‘Felicity’ in a spot that she could jump out of, and if we get in a hard spot, just trying to help her out as much as I can.”
Colorado native Erin Contino maintained her three-phase lead, concluding the week with a blue ribbon in the Novice Amateur division aboard her own Handsome Ransom, a 2012 Thoroughbred gelding, on their original dressage score of 25.8. “My plan going into stadium was to be patient and keep my nerves under control,” Contino commented. “But in warm-up, I didn’t have very much horse, everything was just really dull, almost overly quiet. I just had to focus on keeping him in front of my leg, even if I didn’t see my distance. I just had to focus on keeping him coming, while I was sorting it out. I guess it worked out. I got a little lucky, but sometimes luck goes your way. He’s ready to go home and take a long nap!”
Michelle Meghrouni of California, and Swizzle, a 2011 Holsteiner mare, maintained their grip on second-place from start to finish on a score of 27.0. “This AEC has been a good challenge,” Meghrouni noted. “It was good, it’s all been very fun. We had more trouble on Cross-Country than I expected, but overall, my mare was good. She got over everything and she really stepped up.”
Third place was awarded to Texan Savannah Welch and her own Langcaster, a 2009 Oldenburg gelding, who climbed up the leaderboard from eighth place after Dressage, to end on 29.8 penalties. Of her final Show Jumping phase, Welch elaborated, “My horse likes to get a little wild in show jumping and he likes to drag me down the lines. So, getting a nice, steady rhythm, that was even throughout the course was really important, and he did that, so it was great.”
The Novice Horse division welcomed yet another victory for California native Tamra Smith, as the fierce competitor took to the final show jumping phase with the MB Group LLC’s 2013 Oldenburg gelding MB MaiStein. The duo scooped up the tri-colored ribbon after landing on 28.1 total penalties. “The stadium round today was fantastic,” Smith said. “He’s a little over-qualified for the show jumping because he’s so good at it. He was a little up in there and the lines are almost a little tight for him, so I had to kind of wrangle him in. His stride is naturally huge, but he’s so careful and such a good boy. I think I cross-cantered a few turns, but he’s five so it happens. I was just really pleased with how he handled the pressure. He’s just a good boy.”
Colorado’s own Madeline Backus was named the second-place winner, after she rode Lynn Roberts 2007 Swedish Warmblood gelding Reflektion’s Rio through the timers to also end on a dressage score of 29.5. Backus has been competing in England for the past six months, but was thrilled when she discovered that the timing would work, and her AEC schedule was set. “This horse has been in training with my mom for about three years,” she explained, “and I’ve been away in England for the last six months so I hadn’t ridden him in a little while. My mom kept him going and it worked out timing wise for me to bring him here. He’s been a really fun horse to work with. He came from a dressage background and then seemed keen about the Eventing and really took to it. It’s been great working with him.”
Third-place was rounded out by Whitney Tucker Billeter of California, who also kept a tight grip on her dressage score of 31.0, as she galloped to the finish aboard John Herich’s 2004 Hanoverian gelding, Bill’s Midnight Magic. “It’s been a super fun weekend here at AEC,” concluded Tucker Billeter. “I just want to thank this horse’s owners for allowing me to compete him here this week. It’s been wonderful to have the ride on him, and get to learn from him, and play with him. He’s just a really cool horse.”
Anna Howell and her own Bodacious Affair, a 2003 Thoroughbred/Shire gelding, steadily climbed the leaderboard all weekend, sitting in third after dressage on 25.2, adding nothing to their score on cross-country to move into second, and finally jumping double clear this afternoon to take home the win in the Novice Rider division.
Howell was one of the riders who was unable to ride at their scheduled time on Friday due to the rain delay and ultimately performed her dressage test on Saturday morning. “It worked out for us,” she stated. “He’s pretty easy. He’s kind of the same, every time he comes out. I think he would have put in just as good on Friday. I was a little upset with myself in dressage. My canter departs weren’t great, so I got a little bit hard in my hands. He reacted worse to that, instead of me softening. I would have ridden a little bit better in our dressage test, if I could do something differently.”
The Reserve Champion title in the Novice Rider division went to Julie Kuhle and her own Orion, a 2008 Appaloosa Sport Horse gelding, who finished on their dressage score of 26.0. “It’s been so much fun,” said Kuhle of her AEC experience. “This has been on my bucket list for two years with him. I’m going to retire him after this, so this couldn’t be better.”
For Cassie Boehm, traveling to compete at the AEC with her mother’s Alera Imperia, an 2008 Canadian Thoroughbred/Clydesdale mare, was the trip of a lifetime. “This mare was bought to be my mom’s trail horse and maybe a Starter level packer,” Boehm said. “When I took over the ride we thought, ‘Oh, maybe it’ll be fun to do some Beginner Novice, maybe Novice on her.’ She just has more heart than any horse I’ve ever sat on in my entire life.”
Junior Beginner Novice
Ella Robinson and Fernhill Fearless des Terdrix, her own 2010 Dutch Warmblood gelding, waited patiently in the wings all weekend on their dressage score of 30.3, moving from equal third to equal second after cross-country and taking home the win with the cross-country time closest to optimum time. Thirteen-year-old Robinson said that cross-country is her favorite phase “because it’s so much fun. I love all of the different jumps. I really liked this course. It was way different than what we’re used to. It was really fun. My favorite part of the course was going down the hill to the log jump.”
Maya Pessin and This Bird, her own 2009 Thoroughbred gelding, sat tied with Robinson and ‘Fearless’ all weekend but were nearly 40 seconds faster on Cross-Country, putting them in the Reserve Champion position on the leaderboard at the end of the competition. For Pessin, this weekend was one of firsts. “My favorite moment was realizing that we went double clear for the first time. This is our first time at an AEC. I hope to come back, we’ll see. I wouldn’t really do anything differently. I felt really well prepared for the AEC, my trainer made sure we were on our A-game this entire weekend.”
Haley Miller and her own 2011 Thoroughbred gelding, Mr. Melvin, held the lead through the first two phases of competition but a single rail in show jumping dropped them back to third place. “I thought the course today was really good,” she said. “I liked it. I wish I wouldn’t have held him back so much, so he had to exert himself to get over the jump, and knock it down.”
Beginner Novice Amateur
Cami Pease came all of the way from Washington D.C., and represented the East Coast well, as she held her own throughout the entire Beginner Novice Amateur division, ending in first place with 24.5 penalties aboard her own 2000 Belgian Warmblood gelding, Vibrant. “You can’t ever count on anything,” stated Pease, “But we are both very comfortable in the arena and I could tell that he was having a lot of fun. If I ride fine, he’ll take me around. Cross-country is our hardest battle. Both of us started out in the Equitation ring, so we can do flatwork, that’s all fine, but cross-country still makes us a little nervous.”
Second place finisher Kelly Green of Texas, piloted her own Woodstock Classic Rock, a 2009 Thoroughbred gelding to a score of 28.5, but did not echo Pease’s cross-country memory. Instead, Green will fondly look back on her final show jumping round. “My favorite moment here this week,” she said, “happened today! I thought it was one of my best rounds, and jumping the last fence was great.” Green got “Theo” a little over a year ago from off of the race track. “We’ve grown together,” she continued. “We both had confidence issues out on cross-country, and we’ve worked through those. My trainer is Angela Bowles, and we worked really hard and are just so pleased that our effort is paying off!”
Erin McLeod and her own My Maria, a 1998 Thoroughbred mare, moved up from sixth place after Dressage, to fourth after collecting zero penalties on Cross-Country, finishing their weekend with the yellow ribbon and a score of 30.5. “I’ve had Maria for about 12 years,” noted McLeod. “We’ve had a lot of injuries. I’ve always wanted to get to the AEC, and I’m just so excited to be here. We made it, and it’s all come together. We’ve worked so hard to be here.”
Beginner Novice Horse
Alexa Ehlers and Clear Laveer, her own 2006 Hanoverian gelding, led the Beginner Novice Horse division wire-to-wire on their dressage score of 27.4. “I have loved the AEC [this year] because I’ve been able to spend time with my family and my friends,” Ehlers shared. “I grew up in Texas and then I moved to Kentucky, so I haven’t seen a lot of people in five or six years. This is my first AEC! When I was in college, I went to try and go. I had a Preliminary horse that was actually here [this year] with a Preliminary junior rider, but I broke my back the day before we were supposed to leave. It just never worked out. It’s cool that it finally worked, and it worked like this.”
Sophie Mueller and Dawn Holmes’ 24Karat Magic, a 2011 Australian Stock Horse gelding by Icewood’s Cadabra, moved up from third place to second with a faultless round, finishing at the Beginner Novice Horse Reserve Champions on a score of 29.6. “The AEC were fabulous,” said Mueller. “They were a lot of fun and they were in my backyard, so I didn’t have to travel far. We live at 8,500 feet, so we didn’t have to do anything special to condition them. They are pretty fit naturally and we’ve felt fine.”
Nicole Hatley and Aspen, Cherye Huber’s 2013 Mecklenburg gelding, finished on their dressage score of 30.0, moving from fourth to third after today’s Show Jumping competition. “The AEC were a lot of fun this year,” she reflected. “It was a lot of fun to get to come. It was a long trip from Texas, but it has great scenery, the weather’s been great, it’s been beautiful and other than the altitude sickness, everything has gone really well.”
Of all the challenges a rider can face at a horse show, Hatley said that the altitude has been her biggest obstacle. “I’ve been sick all week and it’s been kicking my butt,” she shared. “I’ve been here to ski before and I had to be put on oxygen and put in the hospital. As far as the horses, we always keep our horses really fit, we do conditioning with them on a regular basis, even if we’re not going to be at altitude. We always make sure they are ready.”
Beginner Novice Rider
The Beginner Novice Rider division was championed by Tricia Leslie of Colorado and her own Inate Dignity, a 2006 Thoroughbred gelding, as the duo finish atop the division on a score of 27.3. Area V rider Patti Champion came from Texas, and guided Invincible, her 2009 Thoroughbred gelding to second place on a 32.2, while Lindsey Kahn of Minnesota, and Seoul Sister, a 2010 Thoroughbred/Connemara mare collected third place with their final score of 33.3.
Kahn also found herself at the top of the leaderboard after a consistent week of competition, moving up from eleventh-place after Dressage to third following both a fantastic Cross-Country and Show Jumping round. “It’s just been an awesome journey learning to trust each other. She’s a very brave mare, so I always have fun with her at competitions so riding her here is a huge honor,” explained Kahn.