What better way to conclude the first day of championship crowning at the USEA American Eventing Championships than with a show jumping session under the setting Kentucky sun? Competitors and spectators at the Kentucky Horse Park were treated to just that as the USEA Intermediate Championship came to a close Thursday evening with show jumping in the Rolex Arena. A total of 43 contestants came forward, but ultimately none could top Will Coleman and his five-star partner Chin Tonic HS (Chin Champ—Wildera, Quinar Z).
Coleman and Hyperion Stud’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding led the division from start to finish, wrapping up their competition week with just a few time faults on cross-country added to their dressage score. Coleman started the week out in first and third, and his third-place mount Diabolo (Diarado—Roulett M, Aljano 2), a four-star horse he recently purchased from Australian eventers Gemma and Stuart Tinney, moved up to second following cross-country and also remained unscathed after show jumping.
After their cross-country run, Coleman said that “Chin” would be heading to Stable View (South Carolina) next before making his way to France for the Etoiles de Pau CCI5*-L on The Dutta Corp./USEF Eventing High Performance Flight Grant. Coleman felt that Pau would be a good opportunity to help Chin get more five-star miles under his belt in an appropriate environment.
“He’s done Kentucky, obviously, which I think has quite a bit of terrain,” he said. “Maryland and Burghley [England] have tons of terrain, and I think that maybe would have been just physically a step too far. Pau is a competition that we thought would continue to season him as a five-star horse. He’s pretty good at the technical things, and he has a very big stride. I’m hoping that we can just go there and improve on our performance a little bit; we’re just trying to get better.”
Watch their winning show jumping round, courtesy of Horse & Country:
Bates USEA Preliminary Championships
Getting to ride with your close friend is always special but getting to stand next to one another as champion and reserve champion of your division at the AEC is on a whole other level. Bates USEA Preliminary Amateur champion Kelly Beaver (Elverson, Pennsylvania) got to do just that with her friend and division reserve champion Kathleen Bertuna (Athens, Ohio).
“The sport is so tough,” Beaver said. “It’s an individual sport; you’re really just competing against yourself, you know, and so to be able to have someone that understands it, and then to be able to share it with each other is really special.”
In the earlier part of the championship week, Bertuna actually sat one spot ahead of Beaver with her 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Excel Star Harry (Luidam—Moysella Cool Diamond), in third and fourth respectively. But after cross-country, both riders moved up the scoreboard with their horses with Beaver moving up to first with Excel Star Pluto, her 8-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Clarucci C—Fortuna-R), and Bertuna in second.
“She was hot on my heels,” Beaver said. “I knew her horse had like an anaphylactic reaction to rails—you have to make this horse have a rail—so I knew I did not have any chance of her having a rail.”
While Beaver did add 0.4 time penalties to her score after show jumping, she still held onto her lead and finished with a score of 34.3. Bertuna and Excel Star Harry concluded their weekend in second on 35.7.
The pair are both mothers and bond over the challenges of balancing work, family and riding.
“It takes a village, and it’s not always your immediate village,” said Bertuna, who said she lives in an “eventing desert in southeast Ohio” and travels more than six hours to get cross-country coaching, and two hours for dressage lessons or schooling jumper shows. “It does it just takes a village and so much support. I mean from the spouses at home to your kids understanding and cheering you on.”
In the Bates USEA Preliminary Horse Championship, it was a battle for the win among five-star riders on their next generation of stars. The final show jumping phase shook up the standings, and with a double-clear round Sharon White (Summit Point, West Virginia) piloted her 7-year-old Westphalian mare Jaguar Duende (Jaguar Mail—Latina) to the championship.
“ ‘Jag’ is what we call her, and I always say I’m ‘taking the Jag out’ when I get on her, because she’s really beautiful and fun,” White said. “She’s a competitor. She wants to win. She digs deep and wants it in all three phases, which is really cool.”
White purchased Jag as a 3-year-old, but the mare stayed in Germany for a bit before coming to the U.S. as a 4-year-old. Bringing her along from the ground up has been extremely rewarding, and White has big dreams for her.
“The plan is all of the things,” White said. “I would love for this to be the start of many blues in Kentucky.”
Susan Moessner (Ann Arbor, Michigan) started the weekend out in the lead aboard her 19-year-old homebred warmblood stallion Satin Art (Indian Art—Epic Satin) with a dressage score of 25.7 but was bumped down to second after adding 7.6 time penalties on cross-country. Going into show jumping Thursday, Moessner had just one goal:
“My plan was to stay out of his way because he’s a lovely jumper. I basically just get him in a rhythm, get him into balance, and try to stay out of his way,” she said.
Moessner noted that she backed the older stallion off a bit on cross-country, resulting in the time faults, but that “Artie” jumped wonderfully and answered all the questions the way she would have wanted.
“He’s just such a wonderful horse, and it’s so special that he finally gets the recognition,” Moessner said of her fourth-generation homebred. “He started out competing up through intermediate, and I hoped he would be my next big advanced horse, but he had the injury. And we had that repaired, but I just felt like eventing would be more likely to re-injure it, so he just did dressage for several years. Then I started to take him out when I was teaching some students and thought, ‘Oh, we’ll pop over one or two.’ He was locking on to everything. So then I thought ‘Well, maybe we’ll go jump some fences.’ And so for the past couple of years, I’ve taken him out once or twice in the season and qualified to bring him here. He could probably go intermediate again, but I just feel preliminary is a safer place for him.”
Moessner has a new goal for her beloved stallion: Grand Prix dressage. She also has three of ‘Artie’s’ daughters at home that she intends to bring up through the levels. Her hope is to produce those in her home base of Area VIII so she can support keeping the upper-level divisions at her local shows.
Annabelle Sprague (Brookfield, Vermont) started the Bates USEA Preliminary Junior/Young Rider Championship in third place after dressage with Kylie Lyman’s 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse Da Vinci Code (Master Imp—Clovers Appollo) and managed to finish the championship on the same score (29.2), which boosted her to the win.
“In dressage, he was really good,” she said. “We’ve done the test a bit, so he anticipated the halt, but besides that, I thought he was really good. And then in the cross-country, he was just amazing. I couldn’t have asked for any better.”
She has had the ride on “Da Vinci” off and on for three years now and feels like they have really formed a solid partnership.
“I feel like we know each other really well, and that helped us out today,” she said.
USEA Modified Championships
Chelsey Sawtell won the USEA Open Modified Championship piloting Deb Warner’s 7-year-old Oldenburg stallion, Toto’s Weather Tamer (Totilas—Baquette). Adding 0.8 seconds in time faults with one rail down in Thursday’s show jumping increased their finals score to a winning 36.5.
“We are going to do our first one-star and see what happens,” Sawtell said. “This was a big one for him…he just tries so hard, and he has the scope, and he’s a big goofball.”
Sylvia Byars won the USEA Modified Rider Championship on Nicole Byars’ CSF Dassett Decoy, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse-Sell Francais cross gelding (Flipper D’Elle—CSF Doorn Cruise. The pair managed to make an impressive leap up the leaderboard throughout the week.
“My week was pretty amazing,” said Byars, who was sitting in 10th position coming out of her dressage test with a score of 31.6, then moving up to third following her cross-country trip, and now claiming the first place win while holding tight to that initial score all the while.
“Dressage was fine—it wasn’t quite what we could’ve done, and I was a little actually disappointed with the score.” Byars noted feeling like the week was right there in black and white on the leaderboard, but when she was walking the cross-country course with her coach, they made a plan to ride for it and see where the chips fell.
“I didn’t have anything to lose, and I went for it,” said Byars. “We came in right at the optimum, and he’s not a very fast horse, so to go double-clear there was pretty incredible, and I was really surprised to see how much it moved me up, and I went into show jump thinking, ‘OK, super—if I can pull this off, we’ll be in top three,’ and he was just amazing in the show jumping.”
See complete results here.
The championships continue Friday with dressage for beginner novice divisions, cross-country for novice divisions, and show jumping to conclude the training divisions. The day ends with show jumping to determine the winner of the $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Eastern Time.