Sept. 9 – Fairburn, Ga.
Beginner novice and novice riders finished their competition today at the Nutrena/USEA American Eventing Championships. Scores were tight in all divisions, and in many cases, a single rail in show jumping significantly shuffled the standings.
In the beginner novice horse division, last year’s runners-up, Commit and Lauren Weil, got the win they’d been waiting for, but it will be Weil’s last ride on the off-the-track-Thoroughbred mare for a while since her owner, Jennifer Tucker, is taking over the ride. “Lauren is the ultimate trainer, and she’s been helping me prepare for beginner novice,” said Tucker.
The granddaughter of Seattle Slew was a gift to Tucker from a family member three years ago. “It was a complete unknown but turned out to be a perfect relationship,” she said. “She doesn’t like any horses behind her, so when she’d come around the third turn, she’d slow down to let the other horses pass her by. I never thought I’d have an ex-racehorse, but I figured why not try it out, and she absolutely loves her new job.
“She has the nickname of ‘Paris Hilton’, but she’s very, very sweet. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body,” she continued.
Weil, a professional based in Alpharetta, Ga., has been riding Commit for about a year and a half and has done most of her training. “I’m a big fan of Thoroughbreds, and I’ve always had Thoroughbreds. I just know you always take it slow with them and listen to what they have to say and you respect them, and they’re going to give you everything they’ve got. That’s proven true with her.”
A score of 29.5 put them in a tie for first place after dressage. “She was the best she’s ever been at moments and the worse she’s ever been at moments. It came together to a really nice test though,” said Weil, 31.
A double-clear cross-country round kept them ahead of the 30 other horses in the division. “Her cross-country was just brilliant. I don’t know that there are words to describe it," said Weil. "I don’t think we had one off distance on the whole course. In stadium, I give it all to her. I was way off, and she was way on and just took care of me, but that’s what we train them to do.”
Weil kept busy this weekend with her Big Time Eventing business. “I had two horses this weekend and 18 kids and adults, so I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off all weekend,” she said. “It’s been a whirlwind of a weekend.”
Favorite Part Of The Day
Weil’s hard work paid off, as did the work of one of her students, Alex Cole riding Pure Revenge, who topped a competitive junior novice division, finishing on the dressage score of 27.5. She’s partnered with the 8-year-old off-the-track-Thoroughbred for a year and a half after buying him from Courtney and Elizabeth Olmstead. “I’m so happy every day that I got him. He’s my favorite part of the day," she said.
Like many Thoroughbreds, Pure Revenge can get tense in the dressage ring, “but he got it together in the ring, and he really tried,” said the 18-year-old Georgia Southern University student.
Cole's goal on cross-country was to ride positively, and her plan worked out as they secured a double-clear round. “Cross-country day has always been our problem, just hit or miss. [He’s bold cross-country] when I am," she said.
The pressure was on in the show jumping with scores extremely close, but the chestnut gelding didn’t bat an eye. “I think he honestly knew it was high stakes, and he flew over everything. I kind of missed my distances here and there, and he totally saved me,” said Cole, Alpharetta, Ga. She's planning on staying at novice for the forseeable future until she's confident she can give Pure Revenge a bold ride cross-country everytime.
The Elusive Blue
Katie McCrory came to this year’s AECs with one thing in mind: go clear cross-country with her mount My Prince Charming. At last year’s championships, she was sitting in sixth place after dressage when a stop on cross-country, the gelding’s first ever, put an end to her hope of a top 10 finish.
A mistake in dressage could have cost the pair a top placing this year, but they were able to continue on and score a 27.6 to sit in second place in the junior beginner novice division. “He’s always really good about his left lead, so I figured, ‘It’s easy, he’s going great,’ but I didn’t ask him the right way, and he got the wrong lead. I thought that would have ruined our test, but I just kept riding him because I knew he was doing great. I was very surprised to hear he got in the 20s,” she said. “I was so mad at myself because I thought I’d ruined it.”
My Prince Charming, a 12-year-old Quarter Horse-Pony of the Americas cross, easily sailed over everything on cross-country, including the jump on the edge of the water complex that caused their stop last year, to move into first place. McCrory, 16, was a bit nervous for show jumping, but she had the chance to jump around the course on Kentucky Bourbon first, who finished in seventh place in the same division with a clear round, despite losing a shoe in the warm-up.
A clear round with My Prince Charming gave McCrory the win. “The pressure of reverse order of ribbons really scared me. There were a couple that I probably didn’t set him up well too, but he took care of me,” she said.
McCrory, who only began eventing last year, was thrilled with her win. “I’ve never won a horse trial before, and I’ve always wanted that blue ribbon, and now he has it. I just wanted him to be top 12 this year or clean cross-country. I’m very proud of him,” she said.
For full results, visit eventingscores.com.