A former adult rider coordinator finds herself reliving her past role, rounding up a winning squad for the Western Adult Team Challenge.
When Ashley Colonel saw that The Chronicle of the Horse/USEA Western Adult Team Challenge was slated to run at Inavale Farm in Philomath, Ore., she didn’t waste any time considering whether to sign up.
Having served as the U.S. Eventing Association Area IX adult rider coordinator, she’d long promoted opportunities for adult eventers, so she immediately called friend Samantha Bergin to help her round up a squad.
Joined by Carrie Carstairs and Stephanie Cooper, “Team Olson’s” topped the preliminary division of the ATC at the Inavale Farm Horse Trials, June 25-28, by a commanding 25 points.
With two ATC veterans on the team, the squad set their sights on blue right from the start and recruited Michael Akers, who runs Olson’s Tack Shop in Bellevue, Wash., to help them along the way.
“They’re very supportive of the eventing and dressage communities,” said Colonel, Jackson Hole, Wyo. “They were more than happy to help out.”
Three of the team members, Bergin, Colonel and Cooper, all tacked up off-the-track Thoroughbreds they’d trained from the ground up.
Four years ago, JVP Sporthorses helped Cooper, Hobart, Wash., track down her 7-year-old Calvin, whom she described as a prodigy and a worker bee.
“He went great this weekend; we had some time on cross-country, but I think we all did,” said Cooper.
“The time was tough, but everything rode great,” agreed Bergin, Ravensdale, Wyo., who competed aboard her Washington-bred Patra Mara. “This place is known for their [creative] stadium fences, but they’d done lots of work on the cross-country this year as well.”
Bergin couldn’t have been prouder of her horse’s third-placed finish in her division of open preliminary, given the difficulty she faced building his confidence.
“Basically, we didn’t make it past the second fence at our first three events,” she deadpanned. “But Amy [Tryon] has been awesome, and she got us going well. We’ve done two one-stars, and we’re aiming toward another one this year.”
Fellow Tryon student Colonel echoed Bergin’s sentiments in their trainer’s role in getting her Numero Uno to live up to his name.
“I stumbled upon him by accident, by pure, stupid luck, and [at $800] he was cheap enough,” said Colonel. “At the beginning, it was all I could do to keep him inside the dressage arena, but with Amy’s help he’s really come together.”
Carstairs borrowed 9-year-old Ora from student Allison Ashbaugh for the occasion.
“She’s really an amazing animal,” said Carstairs, who trains students at a farm in Redmond, Wash. “She [schools through] fourth level and Prix St. Georges dressage and loves to event as well. Her owners rescued her and her dam from a breeding program, and she’s come really far since then.”
The team competition provided a welcome change for the riders. “Eventing has so much camaraderie about it anyway,” noted Colonel. “One person excels in one area, and someone else will excel in another.”
“We all got to watch each other and support each other,” added Cooper. “It was a great experience.”
Ever since Lorilee Hanson won her first ATC, she’d been itching to get a team together and repeat the win, but the stars had never re-aligned until Inavale.
“When they held them at Caber Farm [Wash.] six or eight years ago, I won at training, and it was so much fun,” recalled Hanson, Issaquah, Wash. “Then at Rebecca Farm [Mont., in 2006] I really wanted to do it, but I didn’t have a horse.”
So as soon as she heard about the team competition coming to nearby Philomath, she rounded up JoAnn Green and Lisa Eppley, but she found herself one rider short of a full team.
“I called up the Area VII adult rider coordinator [Maggie Rikard] and she said, ‘Oh, do I have the perfect person for you!’ ” recalled Hanson.
Rikard’s recruit, Kathryn Daniel, proved herself a worthy teammate, scoring the lowest of the four to lead the Area VII novice team to blue.
In order to compete at the ATC, Hanson delayed stepping up her Aliado to training level.
“He was very good in dressage and cross-country, but we pulled a rail in stadium, which made for a bit of a knuckle-biter,” said Hanson. “But Kathryn saved the day by going clean. But I was pleased. He’s a solid, good guy.”
Like Hanson, Daniel, Eugene, Ore., already had an ATC win under her belt as well.
“I won at the Central ATCs in Kansas the first year they held it about 20 years ago at prelim, and Karen Lende [O’Connor] was our coach before she’d done anything,” she said.
Daniel saddled Amelia for the occasion, a recent recruit from the hunter ring.
“We were a little slow cross-country, but she’s finally figured out what all those jumps are for in the field!” joked Daniel. “I bought her as a resale project, but no one would help me sell her because they said she’s perfect for me.”
Eppley also found herself with a new partner for the occasion. Eager to participate in a rare team opportunity but stuck with only a green, unready mount, she borrowed her reluctant daughter’s 6-year-old Crescendo Mon.
“It was our first show together, but by fence 3 cross-country he was like, ‘Yes, ma’am!’ ” said Eppley, Carnation, Wash.
The weekend provided a nice change for Eppley, who usually watches her riding students or daughter from the sidelines.
Green started the weekend out by turning plenty of heads, riding a spot-on dressage test aboard Olievia that left her with the lowest score of the event. A self-described rookie mistake cross-country added 20 points to their score, but the pair regrouped to put in a flawless show jumping round and end the weekend on a positive note. Green has set her sights on stepping up to training for the first time, but riding will always take a back seat to her day job working as a hand therapist and managing three clinics.
“Riding is really important in my life,” said Green, Lynnwood, Wash. “For me, it’s a recreational outlet, and it keeps my mind off work. I just have to be sure to schedule carefully.”
An Educational Win
No one on the Area VII training team could decide which was her favorite part of the trip to Philomath: winning the ATC championship or enjoying a remarkably educational weekend.
Three of the team’s riders competed in Inavale’s inaugural training half-star competition, leaving them enthusiastic about the division’s clinic format.
“Doing a three-day is a real bonding experience—it’s kind of like going through a war,” said Whitney Weston, Roseburg, Ore. “I’ve done three-days before, but I’ve never gotten that level of help and tutorials. I feel like I’m better prepared than ever before.”
Weston joined the Area VII team at the last minute after a scratch, finishing fourth with her team mount, an ex-steeplechaser named Gin Fizz, and third aboard Tender Ack.
Therese Russell, Seattle, Wash., compared the half-star’s educational format to organizing a computer.
“My trainer kept telling me what would happen, but it was like I didn’t have a file folder to put that information in—my mind was like a messy desktop on a computer,” she explained. “But after [the clinicians] explained roads and tracks during the dinner again, and then [organizer] Luigi [Meneghelli] took us out on the back of the pick-up to show us exactly where to trot and walk, it was like I could put it in the right folder.”
Russell last competed at the ATC at Rebecca Farm and just returned to the galloping lanes aboard her Danté this season after two seasons off to have a baby. “We’ve gone prelim before, but I needed to get the training wheels back on,” she said.
Her teammate, Cricket Dixon, hopes to make that move up to prelim soon and found that the three-day helped her Francisco Banderas progress by leaps and bounds. “It really helped him learn to gallop,” said Dixon, Wilsonville, Ore. “It helped him access his inner Thoroughbred.”
Even the lone team member in the training rider division counted the weekend as among the most educational in memory. Dede Moore cited riding dressage in front of Jim Graham as the highlight of the season.
“He gave amazing feedback; it was like a lesson within a show,” said Moore, Sherwood, Ore.
She praised her mount, Instigator II, whom she bred and raised, for recovering after a rocky start in show jumping.
“I neglected to show him jump 1, and we had a stop. But then he jumped perfectly around the entire course anyway,” said Moore. “That’s the quintessential make-up of an event horse: he’s like, ‘OK, everything’s in the can, but I’m still on your side.’ ”