Monday, May. 27, 2024

Forever Forty Takes A Winning Trip Down Memory Lane At The Chronicle of the Horse/USEA Eastern ATC

Three close friends and one newcomer win the novice division in Virginia.

For three members of the winning Forever Forty team at The Chronicle of the Horse/USEA Eastern Adult Team Challenge, the weekend was a rewarding reunion. The event, held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Oct. 30-Nov. 2, hosted eight novice teams, four training teams and one preliminary team.



Three close friends and one newcomer win the novice division in Virginia.

For three members of the winning Forever Forty team at The Chronicle of the Horse/USEA Eastern Adult Team Challenge, the weekend was a rewarding reunion. The event, held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Oct. 30-Nov. 2, hosted eight novice teams, four training teams and one preliminary team.

Elizabeth King, Iva Gillet and Kip Holloway have a lot in common. They have been close friends for more than a decade and all find time to ride in Charlottesville, Va., while juggling full-time jobs, children and parent-teacher conferences. They first competed together 30 years ago, while participating in the young rider championships at the Ledyard Farm Horse Trials in Wenham, Mass.

“Kip won!” recalled Gillet, 47. “And then we started riding together again in ’92, when we were moms living near each other in Charlottesville.”

The three women picked up ATC freshman Kiki Osbourne, 32, when their fourth “over-40” member had to drop out due to a sore horse. “It was my first time ever doing the ATCs, and I can’t believe it took me this long to get involved. It was a lot of fun,” said Osbourne.

Osbourne, who trains out of Midway Farm, located just a trail ride away from King’s farm, competed on Marcella Smith and Henry Meyers’ 8-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Squeeze The Day.

“They sent him to me to get some eventing experience,” said Osbourne. “Before this he’d done a little of everything. He’d raced, done some hunter/jumper stuff, even a little dressage.”

Smith prepared the horse for the trials, sending him to Osbourne just a week before Lexington. “Marcella foxhunts but doesn’t compete a lot any more. She likes to have other people show her horses, but she takes care of them at home and trains them there. Now he’s with me to be sold, so hopefully he’ll find a nice home,” said Obsorne.

Gillet also competed on a horse who didn’t know much about the eventing world. Honeymoon, a 9-year-old Thoroughbred mare who belongs to Gillet’s college roommate, Nancy Schlichting, lived the life of a polo pony until she was 6.

“Nancy does polo and her husband rides western—he’s the pick-up rider at the local rodeos around [Virginia]—and I’ve been eventing for 35 years, so we’re always debating over what our horses would be best suited for,” said Gillet.

When she saw Honeymoon, Gillet thought she had great potential as an event horse. “She hated polo. She hated being bumped and having horses run straight at her. Nancy was always complaining about her, so she told me I could take her,” Gillet said. “She has a lot of natural jumping ability. And she’s never really been afraid of anything.”

At 4, Holloway’s Lord Baltimore is certainly the youngest of the group. Jane Dudinsky, who bred and owns the gelding, sent him to Holloway a year ago to be trained, and he’s been a star ever since he started.

“He was so good today!” said Holloway. “This is only his fourth event.” Lord Baltimore tied King’s mount, Barcinni, for the best scores on the team.

Although Barcinni no longer belongs to her, King, 49, still rides and competes him, thanks to his owner, Melissa Slutzky. “I bred him, raised him, sold him and still get to ride him,” said King, who has been running a 58-horse boarding program in Charlottesville for 20 years. “I don’t know how I worked this out. I’m very lucky!”

Getting The Word Out

Eventers For The Cure accomplished two important tasks at the Eastern ATCs: they won the training level team challenge and managed to raise $400 for breast cancer awareness.

The first one was made possible by the excellent riding skills of Franz-Hahr Phillips, Foy Barksdale, Mary Jordan and Patricia Weston.

The second accomplishment came at the goodwill of announcer Brian O’Connor, who donated the money won from a calcutta to the team when he found out who they were.

“We ran a little calcutta, just for fun,” said O’Connor. “Teams could bet on themselves or somebody else’s team, and then some of the individual people participated, as well.


“I didn’t know what their team was, but I knew some of the horses on the team, and I thought they had a chance at winning, so I bet on them,” O’Connor added. “When I realized who they were, I said, ‘Hey, why don’t we just give the money to breast cancer awareness if I win.’ They thought that was a great idea!”

Collegiate Riders Now Have Their Own Team Challenge   

This year an important addition was made to the Virginia Horse Trials, which has
hosted the The Chronicle of the Horse/USEA Eastern Adult Team Challenge multiple times. For the first time a College Team Challenge was offered. The plan is to make the Challenge a yearly event, much like the ATCs.

Penny and Brian Ross, who ran the ATCs this year and organize the Virginia Horse Trials, decided to offer the division after hosting the young riders in the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships.

“After we did the NAJYRC we really wanted to do something else for that group,” said Penny. “We loved that age group and the energy they brought with them. We didn’t want to give those kids up, so we made something for them.”

Any college is welcome to participate and can send as many as five riders, although four have to be selected for the CTC by the night before the trials. The top three scores from each four-member team are counted.

Unlike the ATC, a college team can combine riders from any division offered at the trials. Riders are entered in the open division at the trials, and at the end of the weekend their scores are combined. The team with the lowest total score takes home the championship.

If one college doesn’t have enough riders for a team, they are joined with another college to form a combined team. This year 12 teams vied for the title.

This year’s winning team included riders from James Madison University (Va.) and the University of Virginia. Tyler Frey, Claire Williams, Stephen Rogers and Katy Gates participated on the team in the intermediate, training and novice divisions.

Each bet cost $50 to place, with 60 percent of the proceeds going back to the Virginia Horse Center and 40 percent going to the bidder.

Although the team’s goal is always to raise awareness about breast cancer, this year they had a second reason for wanting to do well: all four members were coming back from injuries or confidence issues.

“All of us had something to overcome,” said Barksdale, 33, who is based in Raleigh, N.C. “We each took a fall or had lameness issues before the event, and we all wanted to do well again. These are horses we’ve all had success with in the past, so we wanted to get back to doing well.”

The group came together from four different states. Jordan, 42, drove more than 13 hours from Wells, Maine, to join the team and had to wait out a snowstorm before she could finally leave at 3 a.m.

“I really felt bad that we couldn’t get more riders from Area I, so I wanted to show my support. Cindy De Porter, who runs Area II, hooked me up with them and put me on their team,” said Jordan.

Fortunately for Jordan, her 10-year-old mare Paxton Abbey loves to travel. “She just loves to get on the trailer and go,” said Jordan. “It’s kind of amazing, but she loves the fast food and truck stops!”

Jordan bred Paxton, who is a Hanoverian and Thoroughbred-Morgan-Percheron cross, and she owns her mother, Nut Brown Ale. “She was born in my lap, and we have this partnership that goes back 10 years,” said Jordan. “She’s always been special. I mean, breaking her was a matter of saddling her up and taking her for a trail ride!”

Jordan first competed Paxton at breed shows and took her to Devon (Pa.) as a foal, where she placed third. “Even as a cross-breed, she won over all the fancy horses from Germany and such!” Last year, Paxton was the U.S. Eventing Association training level horse of the year with Jordan.

This was Jordan’s seventh or eighth ATC event, and before that she competed at the Gladstone (N.J.) team trials. “I think the idea of the team event is really important,” said Jordan. “I try to support that as much as possible.”

Barksdale, who organized this year’s team, also has a special bond with her horse, Point Clear, known as “Louie” around the barn. “I bought him six years ago from my boss’ wife,” said Barksdale. “He’s my best friend.”

Barksdale, who works as an accountant, purchased the imported Irish Thoroughbred from Adele “Sugar” Baker.


“People who ride him call him the Cadillac,” joked Barksdale. “It’s actually kind of embarrassing, because he’s so easy. I could gallop full speed ahead at anything, and he would just balance himself and go over, and I could just sit there like a sack of potatoes!”

Weston, 41, and Phillips are veterans of the Eventers For The Cure team. They both competed on the team two years ago when Eventers For The Cure won its first ATC.

“I was a last-minute selection this time,” joked Weston. She had already signed up to compete with the Twisted Sisters aboard her off-the-track Thoroughbred, Lighthouse, when Barksdale called her and asked her to use her second horse, Actin Time, for Eventers For The Cure.

Phillips, 49, competed aboard her veteran eventer, Duke Of Earl. The 20-year-old Thoroughbred-Percheron gelding is still going strong and jumped double clean.

Phillips, Martinsville, Va., started Eventers For The Cure three years ago in honor of Suzanne Lacy, the owner of Sandy River Equestrian Center, and a five-year breast cancer survivor. “Whenever I’m on a team for something like this,” said Phillips, “it’ll always be Eventers For The Cure. It means a lot to me.”

Making It Work

They may have been the only preliminary team, but the Mix & Match team still worked hard for their ribbons. Carolyn Chapman, Tracy McRae, Linda Dreher and Cindy Wood came together from three different states and barely knew each other before the competition.

“We were no-name until we got here,” said Wood, 47. “Finally we decided on Mix & Match, because that’s what we are! We had a first-timer, a young horse, and two relatively seasoned competitors.”

Chapman, 64, is the so-called “first-timer.” This was her introduction to preliminary level. “I saw Cindy at Five Points [Horse Trials (N.C.)] when I was there for the training championships, and she told me I should join the team,” said Chapman, Free Union, Va.

“I told her, ‘It will probably be my first time going preliminary, but why not?’ ” Chapman said. Burghley II, Chapman’s mount for the event, is only 7 and doesn’t have a lot of experience, so she was proud of him for doing so well.

Wood was also proud of her young horse, Unbelievable, a 6-year-old Connemara cross by Erin Go Bragh. Bred by Wood, Unbelievable was an orphan foal whom she hand-raised.

This year was especially exciting for Wood because of the help from Carol Kozlowski, the official “coach” for the event and the rider of well-known Connemara stallion, Erin Go Bragh.

“I actually met Cindy a few years ago when we were at an event,” recalled Kozlowski. “She was pulling her horse off the trailer and called over, ‘Carol! Hey, are you Carol? This is a Go Bragh baby!’ And I looked over and said, ‘Oh, yes he is!’ We’ve been friends ever since.”

Kozlowski said that adult amateur riders are her passion, and she’s happy she was able to help. “I love to see these riders so enjoying their horses,” she explained. “They’re very competitive, but they love it so much.”

Dreher, 63, showed her love for the sport by traveling from Southern Pines, N.C., for the event. She competed on her 10-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Remington. This is the pair’s third year at the preliminary level.

The final member of the team was picked up off The Chronicle of the Horse’s bulletin boards when she saw there was an open spot on the preliminary team.

“I had the horse, and I was planning on coming here [to the Virginia Horse Trials] to compete anyway, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ ” said McRae, 28.

The youngest member of the team, McRae brought her 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Larkrullah, along for the challenge. She and “Luke,” have been competing at the preliminary and intermediate levels for four years.

“We’re already thinking about a team for next year,” said Dreher. “But I think we need a new name. Maybe ‘Youngers And Olders.’ We’re going to start planning early this time!”

Megan Martin




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