Sept. 28 – Tyler, Texas
As Kimberly Keeton warmed up for her show jumping on Accolade at the Nutrena/U.S. Eventing Association’s American Eventing Championships, the clouds started to roll in.
What looked like a small blip on the radar turned into a deluge, and Keeton and the rest of the preliminary amateur division ran for cover.
Fifteen minutes later, the arenas were covered in puddles, but Keeton put it behind her to jump a good round, adding just one rail to her score in a division where clear rounds were hard to come by, and taking home the championship.
“He’s not concerned by the weather, but the footing went from very, very good to very, very sloppy, and I think he got frustrated with that,” said Keeton. “He lost a boot [during our round] and was frazzled. He didn’t want to leave the ground.”
Although a little fussy between the jumps, the Swedish Warmblood stallion kept his cool over the fences, helping Keeton, Watkinsville, Ga., take home the title she’d hoped to win last year.
“We had a bit of a disappointing go, so it’s good to kind of get it right and feel like we’ve put the phases together,” said Keeton, 33. “I felt like we could have done that last year, but it just didn’t happen.”
Keeton owns her own equine veterinary practice where she specializes in lamenss, acupuncture and chiropractic work.
She bred Accolade herself, so the victory meant much more than the armful of prizes she took home.
“It’s good fun to have him through his life,” she said. “He was born in my lap. I bred him as a senior vet student from frozen semen. He’s been in the family and will always be.”
A graduate of USEA’s Young Event Horse Program, Accolade started his eventing career in the U.S. before Keeton brought him to England for two years to train with Mike and Emma Winter and work for a vet. She returned to the U.S. a year and a half ago and has competed to intermediate in between the stallion’s breeding schedule.
“I struggle a bit at intermediate,” she admitted. “I don’t have consistent help and as an amateur, he’s almost too trained. If I make a mistake, he makes it with me, and then he’s smart enough to say, ‘I can’t do it.’”
The pressure was on 25-year-old Bonner Carpenter in the intermediate division as she couldn’t afford a rail in show jumping.
Luckily, Basco jumped a double-clear round, despite rails falling throughout the division.
“It rode well,” said Carpenter, Dallas, Texas. “For my horse, I was able to ride forward and aggressively and it worked out well. I think it was rewarding forward rides. I know he’s competitive, but there’s so many good horses. I was hoping he’d do well and he completely exceeded my expectations.”
While Carpenter thought her dressage test, which had her tied for second place (27.6), was lacking some spunk, the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding was foot-perfect over Mark Phillips’ cross-country course. The pair picked up 1.2 time penalties, the fastest of their division.
“He was fabulous,” she said. “He’s not the quickest horse, so I knew that I would have to go quite quickly and I really had to work to go as fast as I did. He jumped everything super-confidently and he just took everything in stride. I don’t think I could have asked him to jump better.”
Carpenter imported Bosco last year from Europe, where he’d competed with Ruth Edge.
She’s hoping to complete a CCI** this year with help from her coaches Mike Huber and Heather Morris.
Focus Was The Name Of The Game For A Young Partnership
Seven months ago Emily Mudd started riding her new horse, Le Cheval Royale, a 5-year-old Oldenburg mare. Three events and a lot of hard work later, Mudd and “Natalie” traveled from their home in Benton, La., to the AECs to contest the junior beginner novice 14 and under division.
Mudd, 14, trains with Regis Webb of Holly Hill Farm, and she has been to the Texas Rose Horse Park before, but she was pleasantly surprised by the changes made to the park in preparation for the championships.
“There were a lot of things, especially for a young horse, to look at,” she said, citing banks, ditches and elaborately decorated areas of the course. “It’s definitely a big change to what the course used to be. It’s so different, a lot of stuff to look at.”
However, Natalie didn’t mind the new scenery, and she jumped around double clear for the duo to maintain their lead with a score of 22.4. The dressage on Friday was a big accomplishment for the young horse to stay attentive to what Mudd was asking.
“We’ve gotten to where we can collect and not gallop as fast as she wants to,” Mudd explained. “Keeping her focused a lot more, especially in dressage. That really helped yesterday. That’s our main focus at the moment.”
Clearly, their homework has paid off so far, and Mudd said she feels confident going into the Sunday jumping.
“She hates to pull rails. Any time she does, she bucks. She kicks out like, ‘Ew, I didn’t like that!’ I think she’ll try to keep as many rails up as possible,” Mudd said.
-- The advanced show jumping was moved until 7:45am Sunday after a heavy thunderstorm moved through the area at 5pm.
--In the junior novice division, Olivia Brashear maintained her lead with Apple Jack with a score of 25. Brashear, 13, traveled from her home in Dallas, Texas, to compete. Even though the AECs are just a quick drive down the road, she hasn’t been to the Texas Rose Horse Park.
“It’s just great to have everybody from all around the United States coming here,” Brashear said. “It’s great to meet new people and compete against people we never have before.”
--Beth Weisberger jumped double clear in show jumping to win the senior training amateur with R. Hocus Pocus.
--Madeline Backus maintained her lead to win the junior training division with P.S. King Of Hearts despite a rail down in show jumping. She also moved up to seventh with P.S. Arianna when they finished on their dressage score.
--Elizabeth New and Uppercrust D won the junior/young rider preliminary on their dressage score of 25.7.
--Leslie Law added nothing to his preliminary horse dressage score of 23.7 with Tout De Suite to win the division.
For full results, visit eventingscores.com.
Check out more stories from the AECs at our hubpage.