Mill Spring, N.C.—Sept. 1
Chris Talley was riding for the reserve championship in the Professional’s Choice training horse division at the U.S. Eventing Association American Eventing Championships today when the unthinkable happened.
While turning to fence 4 on Aura CF, his right stirrup leather broke and fell off. Talley realized what went wrong and with quick thinking was able to finish the course with a clean round.
And when overnight leaders Megan Sykes and Classic’s Mojah dropped a rail, the win was Talley’s.
“She’s a really careful horse, and she’s been really super. She jumped clean and maybe rubbed the last fence, but other than that I was really happy with her today and all weekend,” he said. “At that point I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. Coming into the one-stride I couldn’t really set up very well, so she got a little snug to that. I was kind of holding my breath over every fence. But she’s been super. This is her first year eventing, so a placing was not really something we were after, but we’re super excited with her.”
The professional rider, based in Jeffersonton, Va., has taken the ride on the 6-year-old Oldenburg mare this year and turned the former dressage horse into an eventer for her owner and breeder Nancy Holowesko.
This was Talley’s first time at the AEC and at the Tryon International Equestrian Center.
“The courses were really good. There was a lot of water yesterday, and the footing held really well. The show jumping course was nice. I thought it flowed but it was challenging,” he said. “She’s a super mare. She’s really fancy on the flat, and she deserves it. She tries all day long in every phase.”
Brittany Hebets and MTF Bugatti clinched the win in the Professional’s Choice training amateur division after leader Carolyn Johnson and Black Label dropped two rails.
“He can be kind of a spooky horse sometimes, so it’s really nice to go out and feel his confidence, which gave me confidence to just go and have fun and ride each fence as it came. I was thrilled,” said Hebets.
Based in The Plains, Va., at Morningside Training Farm, Hebets is taking online classes while riding. She’s never been to an AEC before.
“I was so excited. It’s like Disneyland. It’s such a great atmosphere, and everyone is so friendly. It was thrilling to be here,” the 22-year-old said.
MTF Bugatti has had a few different riders at Morningside, but his owner LeighAnn Hazel-Groux let Hebets take over the ride and see how far she could go with him this year.
“He is very laidback. He kind of would rather nap than go out and do anything,” said Hebets. “We always joke that he’s a bit like Eeyore, just kind of plodding along, but when it counts he steps up to the plate.”
Jordan Good made the long trek to the AEC from California, and she’ll be taking home a lot of loot after winning the Professional’s Choice training horse division on Ruth Bley’s Danito.
They led the division from start to finish on their dressage score of 28.0.
“He was actually listening really well today. Usually I have to give him some huge half halts because he’s forward moving, but he was really good. He came back really well and stayed super consistent,” the 21-year-old said.
Bley picked out the Hanoverian as a 4-year-old dressage horse and decided he’d like to event. John Michael Durr rode him until he moved to North Carolina, and Good’s been riding him for six months.
“We’ve had a large learning curve getting to know each other,” she said. “I’ve always had hotter Thoroughbreds, and he’s just super talented and I can actually go into a dressage test and actually ride it instead of going, ‘Please walk, don’t jig the entire way.’ He’s super brave—a little too brave sometimes!”
Good works full-time for Bley alongside Bella Mowbray, who’s leading the preliminary horse division on En Vogue.
Madeline Hartsock and Prinz S.W. led the Professional’s Choice junior training division from start to finish.
Hartsock, 12, imported “Prinz” two years ago with help from her trainer Denise Goya and Sharon White.
“He’s really sweet and loves food—all food. Sometimes he’ll like other horses, sometimes not so much, but he’s really easy to handle,” she said. “Sometimes he’ll be fun and a piece of cake, and sometimes he’ll test me.”
Hartsock has had experience riding ponies and horses, but says she prefers ponies. “I like riding ponies. They’re a lot more fun little sports cars,” she said.