Mill Spring, N.C.—Sept. 2
Ryan Bell has U.S. Dressage Federation bronze, silver and gold medals and is a partner in MRK Dressage, so he’s no stranger to accolades, but he is a newcomer to the eventing world. Bell took up eventing to explore outside the bounds of a dressage ring.
He had his eyes set on the U.S. Eventing Association’s American Eventing Championships from the beginning, and with the help of Way Jose he rose to the top of the novice rider division.
“I got bucked off a couple of dressage horses, so I got a little nervous, and I thought, ‘OK, I really need to push myself out of my comfort zone,’ ” Bell said. “So what’s more out of a dressage rider’s comfort zone than eventing? I had a great week overall; my horse never stops impressing me.”
Karen Czarick owns Way Jose, who had been living in a field before Bell got the ride mere months ago. Fitness has been a point of focus for the pair, and while Bell dreamed of winning the championship he was shocked when it became reality.
“It feels amazing,” Bell said. “I didn’t think it would happen. I think I got lucky, but I tried really hard and did the best I could, so I’m really happy that it all paid off.”
Megan Northrop and Fleur de Lis conquered their nerves to win the master novice amateur division, holding their overnight lead.
“Show jumping is my weakest phase,” Northrop said. “I get a little rattled, and going in on top made me a little more rattled, but my mare jumped great yesterday. She’s grown so much this year. I knew she was brave. She did what I said, and if I didn’t say too much we were on it.”
Bailey Snyder and her own horse Corina finished on their dressage score of 20.5 to win the novice amateur division.
“Going into dressage she was just being a star, despite the weather and the rain,” Snyder said. “She put in a really good test followed by a super confident cross-country round, so today there was definitely the pressure. It’s a great division, and scores were all really high, so my goal was to just go in and do the best we could. It was awesome, and she was a super star.”
Snyder got Corina as an unbroken 4-year-old and trained her with the help of Angela Bowles, teaching her everything from accepting a saddle and bridle to going cross-country. Snyder also balanced her studies, adjusting her schedule specifically to allow her to travel for shows. She’s pursuing a major in political science and a minor in French with her sights set on law school. Snyder also founded an intercollegiate evening team at Texas Christian University.
“I’m going into my senior year of college, so my goal with her is to just keep her happy and healthy,” Snyder said. “I’m up for whatever she is confident enough to do. We’ve got an easy fall planned after this, and then we will look to the spring to get to some good shows. She’s still a young horse, so we are trying to get her more confident and ready to move up.”
Booli Selmayr and Kildare’s Mhs Tampa also held their overnight lead, finishing on their dressage score of 24.3 to top the novice horse division. “Tampa” is 5, and Selmayr has only been working with her since the spring.
“I walked in the barn and asked how she was doing, and [owner] Tom [Duggan] said, ‘Great. Actually, she’s being a little wild,’ and she really was,” Selmayr said. “She had an easy winter and was used to being in Ireland and being outside a lot. My biggest thing was I couldn’t do the same thing with her every day. We did our first event in June. She went a little bug eyed, but we ended up winning and never looked back.”
Selmayr said Tampa acts much differently than her age suggests.
“She’s been so calm,” Selmayr said. “She’s such a competitor and a work horse. I can ride her like she’s much older than she is. The [show jumping] course flowed nicely, but you have to think out there; it tests the rideability and stamina of your horse.”
Tampa and Selmayr are headed for the USEA Young Event Horse Championships at Fair Hill (Md.) this fall, and after that Selmayr plans to take Tampa as far as she wants to go.
“She has what it takes to be a top level horse,” Selmayr said. “As long as she’s happy doing that that’s what she’ll do.”
The last novice division saw junior rider Sunny Courtwright and Around Midnight champion a large class. They finished on their dressage score of 23.5, a full 5 points ahead of the second-placed finisher, Kira Cibak and October Tryst.
“I just can’t believe this,” Courtwright said. “I loved the course. I was just worried about the distractions, but she was perfect. I saw some adults have trouble over fence 3 and fence 7, so I was nervous about those, but it all worked out.”
Courtwright, 15, traveled from Texas to compete this week, making a 17-hour trip with her barn mate Suzanne Stevens and Smokin’ Boots, who finished third.
“This whole week has been so fun,” Courtwright said. “ It’s gone by so fast, and I’m sad it’s going to be over soon.”