Sept. 8 – Fairburn, Ga.
Competition came to a close today for the training through advanced divisions at the Nutrena/USEA American Eventing Championships. Show jumping proved influential in several divisions, including the training amateur class, where Barbara Werther moved up from fifth place with a double-clear round aboard Stafford Place.
A steady dressage test put them in a tie for sixth place after dressage on 31.4. Werther was worried more about making the time on cross-country than the jumping efforts. “My problem is that I’m always slow, so we bought the watch, and Packy made me ride to the watch,” she said. “I gave myself the Ray Lewis pep talk before I went out on cross-country.”
The pair moved into fifth place after cross-country, and when all four riders ahead of her faltered in show jumping, she took the win, despite dropping her stirrup between fences 5 and 6. “As a complete quintessential amateur, his job is to take care of me, and that’s what he does,” she said of her mount, who has quite the personality. “He drinks Gatorade and is hilariously funny. My blacksmith has a shaved head, and he likes to lick it the whole time.”
The 59-year-old rider has owned “Stanley” for five years. Her trainer of more than 20 years, Packy McGaughan, found the 12-year-old Thoroughbred-warmblood cross in Charlottesville, Va., where the gelding was a foxhunter.
Werther, Bethesda, Md., is a true amateur, working full-time as a construction lawyer in Washington, D.C., at Ober Kaler, a Baltimore-based firm. “All my teammates convinced me, kicking and screaming, to come [to AECs]. I had to take three days off of work, so I was really not excited about coming,” she said.
“My hats off to all of the competitors. This was so close, any one of us could have won. Luck was on my side today, that’s all I can say,” she said.
I’ll Take It
In the novice amateur division, Logan Elliot and Cady O’Daly Michael are looking to take home their second AEC title. The pair won the junior beginner novice division last year, and it will be their last championship for a few years while Elliot attends nursing school near her hometown of Mt. Airy, Md.
They currently lead a large division on their dressage score of 21.5 and have a rail in hand over Sandra Holden and Cano Cristales (26.0). “He gave it his best,” said Elliot of her dressage test. “I didn’t think I would score quite that well, but I’ll take it.”
“Show jumping has been our weak point this show season. We’re just going to go into it like we’re everybody else, like we’re not in first. I don’t want to go in there pressured to do it, so we’re going to go in there and have fun like we do the rest of the time,” she continued.
The 19-year-old has had Michael for a year and a half. He started out as a sales horse but ended up staying. “I fell in love with him. He’s my dog, and I can’t get rid of him now. He was supposed to be a project, but he’s not going anywhere,” she said.
The 8-year-old Connemara had completed two training level events but wasn’t set up for success, according to Elliot, so she dropped him back down to beginner novice to correct his form.
Elliot herself only recently started jumping. She had been in Pony Club but hadn’t had a jump lesson in four years until last year when she began working with Katherine Rizzo.
Tiffany Lunney traveled 13 hours from Dallas to compete at this year’s AECs, and she made the trip worth it, winning the preliminary amateur division on Patent Pending. Lunney took a big risk competing this weekend, as she’s getting married next weekend in her home state of Colorado. “[My family] tried to talk me out of it because they didn’t want me to get hurt a week before my wedding,” she said. “My mom’s planned the whole thing, and they have to go back and try and handle everything when I go back to Dallas. It’s been a trying week for everybody, but it was a good way to end it.”
Lunney’s fiancé Brad drove with her to Georgia. “He’s learning his way. I haven’t been able to get him on a horse yet, but he’s becoming quite a good support staff!” she said.
They left for the event on Tuesday at 11 p.m, a few hours after Lunney’s 9:30 p.m. class at Southern Methodist University, where she’s in her last year of law school. It made for a tiring few days, but Patent Pending put in a solid dressage test to sit in sixth place after dressage (31.8). “Dressage is our hardest phase, so I knew if we could get that under control, we’d have a fighting chance,” she said.
“We had a little breakdown in dressage schooling on Wednesday, and Mike [Huber] just looked at me and told me to trust him to do what he was telling me. So I went home that night, and I came back the next morning and rode exactly how he told me to, and we got the score we needed.”
The pair have completed two one-stars this season, so the course at the AECs served as a confidence-building run before they move up to intermediate. “It was a big, intimidating, complicated course, but I felt he was prepared for it. He just ate the cross-country course up and was thrilled to death to be out there,” said Lunney.
A double-clear round moved them into fourth place, and when the first through third riders each had two rails down, Lunney took the win with her clear round. “I knew going in, I was trying to control my nerves a little bit because I know he’s a good show jumper. He was absolutely spectacular.”
Lunney, 24, has had Patent Pending for about a year. She bought the off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding from her sister, advanced rider Brittany Lunney, when he came to her as a sales horse.