Lexington, Ky.—Aug. 31
As the 7 o’clock hour approached, clouds rolled in over the Kentucky Horse Park. When lightning was spotted in the sky, all activity surrounding the USEA American Eventing Championships came to a halt and competitors and spectators took cover.
By the time the storm subsided and the last of the riders in the novice junior division jumped their course and received the ribbons, the start time of the $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final had been pushed back to 10 p.m.
Which begs the question, does a delay like that affect the rider’s plans?
“Well me and Phillip [Dutton] like to drink a bit in the evenings, and you’ll notice Phillip shaking a bit about 8 o’clock, so I wasn’t quite sure how we’d operate,” joked winner Boyd Martin.
But on a more serious note, Martin said once you get going, things like that don’t truly matter in the end.
“To be honest, I was so bloody nervous, and you think I might be tired, and how’s the horse feeling? And by the time you walk the course and warm up, you have so much adrenaline flowing through your veins that it feels like 6 o’clock in the morning,” he said.
“And it’s sport, everything changes all the time, and after a while you just get used it,” said Dutton, who finished third. “Like [at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina)] they put things back a day, and you sort of end of just go along with whatever, and you just learn to get yourself up 15 minutes before you’ve got to go and do yourself.”
Martin couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. He picked up the lead with Long Island T following dressage, and while he added some time to his score after Derek di Grazia’s testing cross-country track, he had a wide margin to work with (7.3) over second-placed finisher Leslie Law with Voltaire De Tre.
He made no mistakes over Bobby Murphy’s track, taking home the victory, a $30,000 check and the USEF Advanced Horse Trials National Championship with the Long Island T Syndicate’s 13-year-old Oldenburg/Thoroughbred (Ludwig Von Bayern—Highlight, Heraldix xx). But there were no guarantees things would go to plan.
“I was a little bit nervous; I’d never jumped him under the lights before,” said Martin. “He’s been a little bit suspect in the show jumping early on, and I’m a bit traumatized from my early days with him, but to his credit he went in there, and he jumped like a buck. He really went in there, tried, he wasn’t spooky and I couldn’t be more happy with the horse. He’s given me everything he’s got this weekend.”
Law also jumped double-clear this evening with “Splash,” a 10-year-old Selle Français gelding (Gentleman IV—Jasmina Du Fresne, Socrate De Chivre) owned by Tre’ Book.
Dutton hasn’t done much with Z, an 11-year-old Zangersheide (Asca—Bellabouche, Babouche VH Gehucht Z) gelding owned by Ann Jones, Caroline Moran, Jacqueline Mars, Simon Roosevelt, Suzanne Lacy and Tom Tierney, this summer. He withdrew from Essex (New Jersey) and the Maryland Horse Trials after dressage, and then at the CCIO3-L at CHIO Aachen (Germany) they parted company early on cross-country. But Dutton felt this week the gelding is back on track.
“Z jumped very well; he’s, I think, come a little unstuck. Because for a couple events I was trying a little bit too hard in the warm-up and making him work too much there,” said Dutton. “So he just had a nice easy warm-up, and I got him to peak in the ring, so I was really pleased with him. It was a good track, and it’s always a good education for the horses to come to an arena like this and then add to that jumping under the lights, which is pretty unusual for us, so it’s a great experience.”
Novice Amateur Championship: Kaitlyn Brittendall and Blyth’s Madeline GS (26.3)
“There were so many places where she saved my butt—oh my God she shouldn’t have, but she did,” Kaitlyn Brittendall said of Blyth’s Madeline GS.
“Mine’s actually for sale; it’s my last show with her,” she said. “It was amazing. She was so good. I love that horse more than anything. I don’t know what I’m going to do without her. I won’t settle for anything but the perfect home. I love her. She’s amazing.”
Novice Horse Championship: Courtney Cooper and Excel Star Time To Shine (29.3)
Novice Junior 15 & Under Championship: Crockett Miller and Mr. Panda (26.5) Novice Junior Championship: Kate Tresher and Silver Bop (38.1)
Kate Tresher had an interesting evening as one of the riders in the novice junior division who had to head back to the stalls while the show was on rain delay. They added 1.6 time penalties to their dressage score in show jumping, but it was enough to give them the win.
“It was incredible,” Thresher said. “I have always watched the live stream of [the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event] of them jumping in this stadium, so it was just incredible.
“He was amazing,” she continued. “He was so attentive and just acting so great.”
Novice Master Amateur Championship: Cherye Huber and Sam I Am (27.6)
“This has been sort of a labor of love for me,” said Huber. “I’m getting older, and my back’s not the greatest. I actually qualified for training, but I had two falls this spring, and I kind of lost my confidence. I’ve always loved the dressage and done fairly well in it. I’ve been taking some lessons from Peter Gray and he warmed me up this week. He has a wonderful eye for getting a horse soft and round and through. I just focused on each phase. I went in and had a great test, I really wasn’t focusing on where I placed—I was just focusing on having a good ride.
“Then of course Mike [Huber, my husband] is amazing on the cross-country and that went very well, but I was really worried about stadium because my horse is not very careful,” she continued. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been in first place after cross-country and then blown it in stadium. My dear friend Jennie Brannigan came down about a month ago and did a clinic, and she really helped me get that horse in front of my leg and forward and that made a world of difference. I have those three people to thank for this, and I’m just very grateful to be here and of course my horse is amazing.”
Novice Rider Championship: Madeline Bletzacker and Drummer Boy (25.7)
Leaders After Cross-Country—
Beginner Novice Amateur Championship: Hannah Reeser and Ltl Ireland Summr Soldier (23.8)
Beginner Novice Horse Championship: Alexa Ehlers and Clear Laveer (26.1)
Beginner Novice Junior 14 & Under Championship: Maren Hanson and In My Feelings (28.3)
Beginner Novice Junior Championship: Ava Stevens and Two Against The World (29.6)
Beginner Novice Master Amateur Championship: Carla Jimmerson and Valley Creek Carlin LeBeau (25.1)
“It was great; he started out just kind of full of himself, raring to go from the very beginning, so I knew he was going to be full of himself, and I just had to kind of relax, and then once I did that he got in a good rhythm and was faultless the whole way through,” she said. “It was really good, he never looked at anything. I was nervous on cross-country until I was done and then I was like, ‘OK, that wasn’t so bad.’ ”
Beginner Novice Rider Championship: Sherry Pound and Gestalt (28.1)
The Chronicle is on-site at the USEA American Eventing Championships bringing you coverage and beautiful photos from the competition.
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