Sept. 27 – Tyler, Texas
After driving a total of 21 hours over two days to get to the Nutrena/U.S Eventing Association American Eventing Championships at the Texas Rose Horse Park, Laine Ashker thought the event was over before it even started.
While hacking on Tuesday, Anthony Patch came up mysteriously lame, so Ashker raced to the show office to call the farrier, thinking maybe the Thoroughbred gelding was sore from being shod on Saturday.
“He comes out, lifts his foot up and says, ‘Uh, would this huge rock under his shoe be the problem?’ Pony Club 101!” she said with a laugh. “That’s an epic fail on my part.”
Thankfully, with a little bit of icing, “Al” was fine, and they put in the fastest cross-country round over Mark Phillips’ advanced track to move into the lead.
Ashker started her weekend in a tie for fourth place after dressage (31.5). She was hoping for a better score but tried to put it behind her.
“I’m still trying to figure him out,” she said. “He’s still a Thoroughbred at the end of the day, so it’s how much you push. Yesterday I didn’t push him quite enough, so he was way behind my leg, and I think I missed every single change.”
As Ashker headed out on cross-country, her watch didn’t start, so she was in for a challenge.
“I thought the course that Mark set up was quite difficult,” she said. “I thought the time was going to be hard to make. Even though it’s on flat land, time is of the essence when you don’t have the undulating terrain or big open spaces that we have on the East Coast. It was definitely a different course than I’ve ridden and a different course than Al’s gone around.”
Luckily, the watch malfunction turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“I think it actually worked out for the better,” she said. “Al’s a fast horse anyway, and he doesn’t pull. He’s a dream to ride on cross-country. He was a little tired after the second water, and I think maybe if I’d had my watch, I would have kind of wanted to press to go.”
Ashker admitted that the advanced division going last of the day was a mental challenge.
“The hardest part was waiting until 4:47 to go! I had nothing to do all day except think about what could go wrong,” she said. “Al’s best phase is tomorrow. It’s my worst. As long as I can stay out of his way and not mess things up too much, he’s really solid and he gives me a lot of confidence.”
Heading into show jumping, she’s counting on the 14-year-old’s knack for the phase but is feeling a little nervous without her coach, Buck Davidson.
“I lean a lot on Buck for these events,” she said. “There’s nobody that gets me better prepared to go in the ring, especially when it counts, so I’m really sad that he’s not here, but I’ll be spending a lot of time on the phone with him! It really feels like something’s missing, but I have to put my big girl pants on and figure out how to get it done.”
–Beth Weisberger traveled from her New Carlisle, Ohio, home with her homebred R. Hocus Pocus, a 13-year-old American Warmblood (Regulus—Barts Top Lady), to compete in the senior training amateur division at AECs. Weisberger, 51, bred and raised “George” with the help of trainer Cathy Wieschhoff, Lexington, Ky. Weisberger, who works professionally as a small-animal veterinarian, said working with a trainer more than two hours away can be a challenge, but she makes it work with creative scheduling and double lessons when possible. Their hard work put them well positioned at the AECs—they finished tied for fifth after dressage, and a double-clear cross-country round put them in first with a score of 32.7 going into Saturday’s show jumping.
“He’s a pretty good show jumping horse. It’s the passenger that has to stay focused and give him a good ride,” Weisberger joked. “He’s pretty laid back, level headed—the ideal amateur horse.”
–Madeline Backus brought two horses to compete in the junior training division, both of which she has trained from an early age. She’s leading after cross-country with P.S. King Of Hearts, an Anglo-Trakehner cross (Marquis De Sade—Bostasha), bred at her family’s Pendragon Stud Equestrian Center in Larkspur, Colo. They had a small hiccup at the coffin when the gelding left his hind feet behind and his rider hanging off the side for a few strides, but Backus managed to save the ride and finished with her top placing intact.
“He was so good and just kept going,” said Backus, 17. “We went out there and had a lot of fun.”
Madeline, who trains with her mother, Laura, is also 11th with her Trakehner mare P.S. Arianna. Madeline hopes to take both horses to the prelim level, but her gelding will be for sale soon.
“I’ve had him since he was a baby, and I’ve done most of the training on him,” Madeline said. “Unfortunately, he’s just too small for me, so I’m selling him because my legs are too long. He’s a fantastic horse.”
For full results, visit eventingscores.com.
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