Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 28
By the time the day finishes on Sunday, 969 horse-and-rider pairs will have competed for top placings in 23 divisions of the USEA American Eventing Championships at the Kentucky Horse Park. Ten divisions took part of the action today, with preliminary and intermediate divisions taking to the cross-country course while the modified/training and training did their dressage tests.
Here’s a look at the pairs who are currently leading:
Training Rider: Elizabeth Sauter and Giana
They often say that a long partnership is the key to success, and so far it’s proven to be true for Elizabeth Sauter and Giana, who lead the training rider division after dressage, on a 24.3.
“I’ve been lucky enough to ride her for her whole career; I backed her when she was 3,” she said. “I’m very lucky, my coach [Cindy Burke] owns her and allows me to rider her, and she is an incredible horse. She’s so fun, very honest and loves her job. She’s a pleasure to work with every day.”
Saulter admitted that they’ve had an up-and-down season so far. She only competed the 11-year-old Oldenburg-Thoroughbred (Gatsby—Exanastasis) twice this year and they were eliminated at their Penny Oaks Horse Trials (Indiana) before finishing fourth at Catalpa Corner Charity Horse Trial (Iowa).
Preliminary Amateur: Arden Wildasin and Watch Out
Arden Wildasin got a pretty good 26th birthday present today, as she’s sitting first and second after cross-country with Watch Out (28.6) and Southern Sun (28.8). Wildasin has been riding Watch Out, a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood by Concorde, since 2009, and while they did a handful of intermediates in 2011, preliminary is the gelding’s sweet spot.
“They loved today, and I loved today; it was fantastic,” she said. “The horse, ‘Walter,’ who is sitting in first right now, I’ve had him for almost 10 years now, so he’s been one of my fun prelim kids. He won’t go above that, but we just have so much fun together doing that. With ‘Sunny,’ this is his second year at this level. He was out there answering all of the questions that were being asked. They didn’t do anything wrong. I might’ve done something, but they were there to save me.”
Open Modified/Training: Katie Malensek and Landjaeger
Leading the open modified/training is Katie Malensek with Landjaeger, a horse she’s owned since he was a yearling. She picked him because he jumped out of his field, but the 5-year-old Oldenburg (Landkonig—Drink Of Die xx) is proving to be a top competitor in the dressage ring, scoring a 27.1.
“I keep my horses at home, so my horses are my babies; we spend a lot of time together,” she said. “He’s a sweet horse; he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, and he’s just a little pushy but easy to get along with. He loves his food and his treats. He’s just a really sweet horse, and he’s been an easy horse to bring along.”
Open Intermediate: Tamie Smith and En Vogue
Tamie Smith made her trip from California well worth it as she’s in first and second with En Vogue and Danito, both owned by Ruth Bley. En Vogue, a 14-year-old Hanoverian (Earl—Laurena) has had a light competition season and hasn’t been out since Twin Rivers (California) in April.
“I couldn’t have asked her to be better,” said Smith. “I expected her to be a bit backed off because she hasn’t run, but she knows her job and you have to trust that if you prepare them properly and get them ready that they don’t have to run a ton. I wasn’t certain how she was going to feel and she felt amazing, I was super happy.”
Training Junior: Kiersten Miller and Mama Mia
Kiersten Miller hasn’t had a lot of time to get to know Mama Mia before heading the AEC. She purchased the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Indoctro—Lysienne II) in April, but for the first two months of their partnership, they lived in different states.
“I got a few rides in here and there, but she was in a different state than me so I wasn’t able to ride her very much for the first two months,” Miller said. “Then in June she came home to Michigan with me, and we kind of hit the ground running and we got a few events in and are building a partnership as we go and getting better and better at each event.
“We decided to keep her down there for a little bit longer because she’s not really used to Michigan, and Michigan gets warmer a lot later, so we were afraid she wouldn’t do well in that environment, so we kept her down [in Ocala] with one of my trainers for two months, and I was able to fly down on the weekends, so I wouldn’t miss school,” she continued. “I got about eight rides in with her during that time. It was two rides here, three rides there, but it wasn’t very consistent. It was difficult to start learning about each other, but I did my best to spend some time on the ground with her and just get to know her in that way.”
Preliminary Horse: Bobby Meyerhoff and Lumumba
Things didn’t go quite to plan for Bobby Meyerhoff when the first of his two preliminary rides, Gorsehill Zulu, was eliminated at the fifth fence. But he needn’t have worried when he set out with Lumumba. The 8-year-old Mecklenburg (Levisonn—Lamara) made quick work of the course, coming in under time to maintain her lead from dressage on a 26.9.
“I asked her to go faster than I’ve ever made her go before,” he said. “My first horse got eliminated at fence 5, so I couldn’t really gauge how fast I needed to go. I ran the intermediate with my little mare, and I couldn’t make the time. That concerned me that I wouldn’t be able to make the time because she’s a big horse. I had to put some pressure on her and really gallop, and I felt some things I had never felt before which I was impressed by. She was attentive and obedient and didn’t spook at anything. She’s a super cool horse.”
Preliminary Junior/Young Rider: Leila Saxe and Quasar
Leila Saxe’s trip to the AEC started bright and early. She trains with Kyle and Jen Carter, and they had a 4 a.m. wake-up call to make the 12-hour trek from Ocala, Florida, to Lexington, Kentucky. She currently leads the preliminary junior/young rider division after cross-country with a 26.4 after cross-country with Quasar. Buck Davidson competed the 12-year-old Oldenburg (Quando-Quando—Fanessa, Forrest) through the four-star level before Saxe purchased him in 2017.
“He jumped around like a star,” she said. “He was 5 seconds under time and he was just perfect. He’s very solid, and he jumps pretty much everything.
“He’s very perfect; he listens to everything,” she said. “He’s a little bit nervous sometimes, but he’s perfect.”
Preliminary Rider: Julia Spatt and 5o1 Macintosh
Julia Spatt has had plenty of success with 5o1 Macintosh, winning the preliminary amateur division at last year’s AEC, and they’re on track to win another one, leading after cross-country on a 29.6. She purchased him as a 5-year-old and other than his first two novice level events, she’s done all the work with him.
“He’s a really exciting horse and I’ve had him for four years so we’ve had a really long partnership and we know each other really well,’ she said. “It’s cool to still be together, and he seems like he gets better every year.”
Training Amateur: Eleanor Leonard and Alvescot Moneymaker
For many riders, a gap year is an opportunity to really focus on their horse before school, and Eleanor Leonard has made good use of hers. After coming east to work for Chris Talley and Hannah Salazar, Leonard is headed back to California where she’ll start school to study forensic criminology. But before she heads home, she wanted to compete at the AEC, and she’s off to a good start, leading the training amateur division with Alvescot Moneymaker on a 26.6.
“It felt like one of our stronger tests, so I was really excited that we were able to go in and be bolder and more confident than we have before,” she said. “She was really good though; she was more expressive than she’s been in the past.”
Leonard has been riding the 10-year-old Anglo-European Sport Horse (Marcolas G—Alvescot Professional Spook) since 2017, and they’ve had a few ups and downs to their relationship, so the past year has been a confidence-building one for them.
“She’s a really forgiving horse, but she can be challenging too,” she said. “She’s the first horse I’ve ever taken prelim so just figuring [it] out with her. She’s forgiving but she’s also difficult. So I think right now it’s us finding our own confidence, and we’re just kind of getting to a really good spot where everything’s clicking.
“I think that moving to the East Coast was really beneficial in gaining some independence, and Chris was really helpful with the cross-country and just being able to show so much more and go schooling because it’s kind of hard on the West Coast sometimes, and it was really helpful.”
Training Horse: Madeline Backus and Reflektion’s Rio
Before Madeline Backus started eventing Reflektion’s Rio, the 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood (Regazzoni—La Baltic Reflektion) had an extensive dressage background, and all of that paid off for them, with a class-leading score of 27.0 in the training horse division.
“He’s really good at dressage, but he prefers the jumping—we event to keep him happy, and he loves it,” she said. “I was really pleased with his test today. He stayed focused, which doesn’t always happen, and he was just really rideable. He put in a really nice test; I couldn’t be more happy.
“He’s lovely cross-country; it’s his favorite,” she said. “He used to do dressage with other people, and he wasn’t happy, and then he got to do cross-country, and that was it, he loves that so much. Show jumping is probably his weakest phase—sometimes the rails come down, and we just accept that. As long as he’s happy we’re all happy.”
The Chronicle is on-site at the USEA American Eventing Championships bringing you coverage and beautiful photos from the competition. If you know a pair with a unique story, email Kimberly at email@example.com.
Ride times and live scoring are here: https://eventing.startboxscoring.com/eventsr/aec/ht0819/
The schedule is available here: https://useventing.com/events-competitions/aec/aec-schedule-of-events