Allison Icenogle and her own Fernhill Revelation climbed the ranks in a massive division of 45 starters to finish on their dressage score of 27.9 and claim the Novice Amateur Championship at the USEA American Eventing Championships.
“I was not expecting this at all,” she said. “This is my first time here, so I was shocked even after the dressage results!”
Icenogle had never ridden at the Kentucky Horse Park or contested the AEC, but she took confidence from her horse, Fernhill Revelation, who formerly campaigned up to the four-star level with Phillip Dutton. Icenogle has been riding the 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Warrestown You—Hallo Noble Girl, Hallo) for about 2 ½ years. “He’s just been amazing; everything I do with him he does amazingly,” said Icenogle. “I’ve got my silver medal in dressage on him, and I ride him in Pony Club, and it’s been awesome every step of the way.”
The U.S. Pony Clubber grew up riding Fjords at her family farm in southwest Wisconsin, but she didn’t take long to adjust to Fernhill Revelation. “I went out and looked at him, rode him for the first time and fell in love with him,” Icenogle said.
Confidence in her relationship with her horse didn’t preclude her from getting nervous before cross-country. “We both are nervous wrecks going into the start box,” Icenogle admitted. But she said the AEC course was fun and turned out to be her favorite part of the weekend.
Walking down the chute into the Rolex Arena before the final phase was also a bit nerve-wracking for Icenogle. “I’ve been watching [the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L) since like 2008, so getting to ride in this arena is amazing!” she said.
USEA Novice Rider Championship
A double-clear round in the Rolex Arena saw Madeline Bletzacker of Galena, Ohio, move up one place to take the Novice Rider Championship on her own Danish Warmblood gelding Landtino S, “a failed dressage horse” but a former hunter derby winner, USEA Horse of the Year and now AEC champion.
At 67, Bletzacker admits she might be nearing the sunset of her competitive career, along with Landtino S (Solos Landtinus—Chess S), who is 23. “He’s just been a really great horse, but it did take a long time to get him to acclimate to the dressage. He has squealed and kicked out more than five times in dressage over the years!” Bletzacker said. “I am so excited because I’m almost at the end of my career. Like every day I feel like, ‘Am I done?’ My horses are 23 and 15; I just feel like this is a great pinnacle for my career.”
Bletzacker honed her horsemanship skills on the racecourse and gained valuable experience retraining Thoroughbreds. “I have worked at the track for 25 years, 18 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said. “So I was a slave to horses all that time.”
In the ‘80s a hunter/jumper judge suggested that one of her off-track Thoroughbreds might be better suited to the eventing scene rather than the show ring, and Bletzacker’s been hooked ever since.
USEA Novice Junior Championship
Emerson Padgett of Akron, Ohio, has only been riding her 7-year-old Selle Français MSH Giant Jac’ka by Quebracho Semilly since December, but they established enough of a partnership to clinch the win in the Novice Junior Championship, leading from start to finish and adding nothing to their dressage score.
“He was just so good, and it was a really fun weekend, and this is just like the cherry on top for it to be so successful,” said Padgett. “I don’t think I’ve taken it in yet. I think doing the victory lap was like, ‘Oh wow, this has actually happened!’ ”
Padgett acknowledged her trainers, Robin Walker and Kara Andrew. “I wouldn’t be here without them; they’ve helped me so much,” she said. “They helped me find ‘Jack,’ and they’ve helped us the entire way.” A big group from her barn were also at the Horse Park this weekend, as well as her mother and grandmother.
Padgett stayed calm before show jumping by focusing on her warm-up and thinking about her course, but she did allow herself a moment to appreciate her surroundings before she entered the Rolex Arena. “Oh, gosh,” she gasped. “It’s so cool! I mean, you watch so many big people ride here that it’s just so amazing to be here in such a big atmosphere, and all the horses jumped so much better in there; it was so much fun!”
USEA Novice Master Amateur Championship
Jane Musselman, Louisville, Kentucky, has twice gone into the final phase of the AEC in the lead, twice at the Horse Park, and both times it didn’t go her way. The third time was a charm in the Novice Master Amateur Championship, as Engapore, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Singapore—Orize), jumped a beautiful clear round that would have won an equitation class.
Musselman credited talking to her friends and trying to relax and trust her horse as making the difference. “He was so rideable today so that made it easier!” she added.
Musselman trains with Martha Lambert and sometimes with Phillip Dutton, who gave her a little advice and wished her luck. “He’s been busy too, so Martha mostly helped me this weekend!” Musselman said.
Musselman’s parents live in Lexington, Kentucky, and it was her mother’s 70th birthday so they were planning a double celebration after the competition’s end.
USEA Novice Junior 15 & Under Championship
In the Novice Junior, 15 & Under, Championship, overnight leader 12-year-old Kendal Fansler, Clarksville, Maryland, predicted show jumping should be a breeze for her Connemara-cross Delilah’s Boy, and it was. “It was so much fun!” Fansler said. “He definitely saved my butt on some of the fences, but he was awesome!”
Making time has not been a problem for this pair in either of the jumping phases, and sometimes they’ve struggled with the opposite, “My coach [John Secan] told me to not cut any of the turns because if I’m slicing them I’ll probably get a rail, and to make sure I keep my rhythm the whole time,” Fansler said.
Delilah’s Boy, a hand-me-down from Fansler’s cousin, Emma Whitaker, can look forward to a short vacation. “I will make sure he’s very cooled off today, and I’ll give him probably a week off because he worked very hard,” Fansler said.
USEA Novice Horse Championship
The newly crowned USEA Novice Horse Champion Cooley Valentine found his way to local rider Elissa Gibbs’ barn as a 4-year-old (OBOS Quality—Curraghgraigue Coevers Z) on the recommendation of Liz Halliday. Gibbs discovered pretty quickly that her new purchase could jump. “The first day he came I put him in the round pen, and he just trotted out over the 8-foot wall and found a friend in a paddock and started grazing,” Gibbs said. “He just trotted straight over it!”
Scope is clearly not an issue for this stunning gray Irish Sport Horse, but the win was bittersweet for Gibbs, whose business is “finding very good quality young horses and bringing them up and then sending them to their forever person.”
There is already a buyer lined up for this one, but Gibbs says she gets a lot of joy watching them thrive in their new homes and following them at competitions.
“I don’t think at this point I’m going to run advanced again, but I like to ride really top class horses,” Gibbs said. “I like to keep them for a couple of years so you really, really know who they are and where they’re meant to be.”
Gibbs has competed at the AEC every time they’ve been in Lexington, but this is her first win. “I think it’s special to win at home because your peers are around, and your business is here,” she said. “It’s good for business to do well. It makes your clients believe in you and that you know what they’re doing. And they can come and watch you.
“I’ve got a whole big group up there,” she said as she gestured into the Rolex Arena grandstands, “all watching, cheering, getting drunk and having a great time!”
See complete results here.
The AEC conclude Sunday at the Kentucky Horse Park with show jumping for the beginner novice divisions.