Sept. 26 – Tyler, Texas
When Lainey Ashker woke up on Thursday morning, she wasn’t even sure she’d be riding Anthony Patch at the Nutrena/U.S. Eventing Association American Eventing Championships.
The defending advanced champion traveled two days from her farm near Richmond, Va., feeling on top of the world after wins in her last two outings.
But when she was woken by horrible stomach pain on Wednesday night, Ashker knew she needed to go to the hospital.
After spending much of the night undergoing tests, which were inconclusive, she pushed through to finish in third place in the Adequan Gold Cup advanced division and felt almost back to normal as she tackled Captain Mark Phillips cross-country course today, moving into the top spot with a clear and fast round.
“Going clear helps it a little bit!” she said. “I feel amazing right now, but I might feel like crap later.”
Ashker is not sure what made her ill, but she added that it actually helped her take the pressure off herself to defend her title.
“Looking back on it now, it could have been a blessing in disguise,” she said. “I was putting so much pressure on myself to win, win, win.”
She blamed herself for a lower than average mark in dressage (33.4). “Al’s a solid citizen,” she said. “He’s pretty good at going in and performing a good test. It wasn’t our best test we had this year—it lacked a lot of the brilliance that he can give. He made me work for it, but it also could have been because I was weak and my aids weren’t coming through, so I’m happy to take my half of the responsibility for it.
“Having said that, I was happy going in to today,” she continued. “I wasn’t too far off the lead, but the pressure wasn’t on [as much]. I felt like I had only the move up to happen today as opposed to everything to lose.”
Ashker thought the cross-country course, which included a new water at fence 8, was twistier than last year. She prepared Al, a 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, at home by doing more short sprints and fewer long gallops.
“I knew it was going to be based a lot on time, and obviously getting over the jumps, but when [my coach Buck Davidson] and I were walking it, he said, ‘You’re going to throw your watch out the window,’ because it’s so twisty, turny. It’s not who rides the fastest. If you can go and ride 520 meters per minute the whole way, as opposed to going super fast and super slow, that’s what resonated with me.”
Ashker, 30, added 3.2 time penalties to hold the lead over Matt Brown and Super Socks BCF, who were placed second after dressage (32.5) and added 4.8 time penalties.
Overnight leader Becky Holder suffered a tough fall from Can’t Fire Me at 6b, an arrowhead after a table, when the gelding misjudged the take off.
Holder was taken away in an ambulance for further evaluation and was conscious. Can’t Fire Me was walked back to the barn and was reported to be resting comfortably.
No one in the advanced division made the time but there were no jumping faults among the 10 starters.
A New Adventure
Ashker was pleased to have her coach, Buck Davidson, along to lend his expertise, but he didn’t spend the weekend just walking courses. In his first trip as a competitor to the Texas Rose Horse Park, Davidson rode Ann Clements’ Quasar to a double-clear round in the intermediate division.
Davidson held the lead after dressage in the 32-horse field and he was pleased with how the 7-year-old Oldenburg gelding handled the track. “He’s sort of one pace,” he said. “He’s learning how to gallop, but I was very proud of how he jumped today. He jumped out of stride nicely and he’s very honest.”
Clements sent Quasar, who was formerly campaigned by Darren Chiacchia, to Davidson’s father, Bruce, who decided he’d be a good match for his son.
“He’s still green and has just got to get stronger, but he’s very easy to ride,” he said. “He’s a little bit sleepy and quiet. I’d like him to be a bit more pepped up for tomorrow, but he’s a super-nice horse and he’s just a baby.”
After eight months together, Davidson feels like he was a future star on his hands.
“Today was by far the best that he’s jumped,” he said. “I had to look after him a little bit going fast, but I didn’t have time to look after him today—you had to keep moving and keep asking. He’s very good at jumping and turning. Maybe I don’t have the raw speed, but he’s nippy, quick and easy to ride so this course suited him well.”
Davidson, Riegelsville, Pa., was happy that the AEC worked out on his calendar this year. He also brought Petite Flower, who’s sitting fourth in the advanced, and has been coaching students all week.
“It’s a long way to go and the timing isn’t always ideal, but we can’t complain about not having prize money and don’t show up when there’s prize money,” he said. “If I can be some help, then that’s why I’m here—if it can add some excitement to the show or whatever, because they definitely do a great job. I’m very thankful to the sponsors who have done so much. It was cool to see that they organized it so the lower levels are done and they can go out and watch the upper levels. It’s really fun for us to go watch the lower levels. Everybody’s just so happy and enjoys it and that’s what this sport is about.”
A Really Cool Lead
In her first trip to the AEC, Anne Kornak found herself in second after dressage with a 29.1, but a great trip around the cross-country course landed her in first overnight with her Double Rivers Really Cool.
The Canadian Warmblood (Regardez—Quick Reve Nue) was brought along by Kadi Eykamp, who competed him through Intermediate and even won the 2011 AEC at that level. Kornak purchased the gelding in 2012 and has been steadily getting to know him.
“He’s a lot of horse, and we’re finally meshing,” Kornak said. “It all came together at this show.”
The equine veterinarian from Lafayette, Louisiana, said her cross-country ride couldn’t have gone better, although she did worry about one combination—fence 8a and 8b, two skinny houses.
“He’s really good at cross-country,” she said. “He was right there for me. He never questioned any of the fences, and we came in almost too quickly. It was a good run.”
- Megan Noelle Wilson maintained her lead in the Junior/Young Rider Preliminary with her striking gray Ghypsy. The Texas duo added no penalties to their dressage score of 27.6.
- In the Preliminary Horse division, Texan Heather Morris rode Charlie Tango to a clean round on cross-country to maintain their lead. They currently hold 25.4 penalties.
- Warlord leads the Senior Amateur Preliminary division after moving up from second after dressage. Owned and ridden by Darlene McInnes, Warlord jumped clean and holds a score of 28.3 going into show jumping. Last year, this team from Colorado placed second in the same division.
- Natasha Erschen and Magic Drummer moved into the lead in the Junior Training division with a clear cross-country round. This is their first year competing at the AEC.
- Beau Guimond, of Pennsylvania, was tied for first after dressage, but a clean round over cross-country put him and Filibuster ST in the lead in the Training Horse division with 28.2 penalties. After competing at Novice last year, the pair moved up to Training in 2014, where they’ve earned several horse trials wins on the East Coast.
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