Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024

Moran Claims Three Wins At Great American/USDF Region 3 Championships

The young rider finds time to win multiple championship titles while attending college.

Even though Erin Moran couldn’t commute this fall to Wellington, Fla., regularly to ride her horses, Widerhall and Destany, she still managed to win the Great American/USDF Region 3 Championships in
junior/young rider divisions of second and third levels and Intermediaire I.

“Luckily, last week was my fall break, so I spent a week with the horses before the show,” she said.
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The young rider finds time to win multiple championship titles while attending college.

Even though Erin Moran couldn’t commute this fall to Wellington, Fla., regularly to ride her horses, Widerhall and Destany, she still managed to win the Great American/USDF Region 3 Championships in
junior/young rider divisions of second and third levels and Intermediaire I.

“Luckily, last week was my fall break, so I spent a week with the horses before the show,” she said.
Trainer Bent Jensen keeps the horses in shape while Moran attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Moran has owned Widerhall, a 12-year-old Hanoverian, for eight years after receiving him for her 14th birthday. The gelding was im-ported to her former trainer Michelle Deal’s farm in Georgia.

Even though they only began showing Intermediaire I this year, she has already enjoyed considerable success. “The strongest point for us is that I know him so well,” she said. “If I have trouble somewhere else I know how to get him back to where he should be.”

Going into her test, Moran focused on a consistent ride and bringing out Widerhall’s strengths; the pair finished with a 60.62 percent.

“He loves extensions, so I can just sit there and regroup,” she said. “And his flying changes have gotten better.”

With her other horse, Destany, Moran rode to a 63.33 percent in the junior/young rider second level and a 64.41 percent in the junior/young rider third level.

“I was the most nervous about Destany because this was a littler harder for her,” she said. “The tests were good, but there were a few moments where we could have been more brilliant.”

The wins came as a surprise for Moran considering Destany is only 6. Although the mare was intended as a broodmare prospect for Jensen, Moran bought the Danish Warmblood as a 3-year-old and has been riding her for three years.

“She felt really great, and it was nice to be able to go into the ring and have the same horse as at home,” Moran remarked.

Moran hopes to move Destany up to fourth level soon and possibly Prix St. Georges by the end of the year. As for Widerhall, Moran plans to try the Intermediaire I freestyle with him.

Efforts Rewarded

Like Moran, Amy Swerdlin also had the advantage of a long relationship with her horse Gilligan as the pair took the adult amateur Intermediaire I championship.

Swerdlin bought the Hanoverian gelding as a 4-year-old at an auction in Germany. After riding him for a few years she sold him to an amateur rider, but after his new owner was injured Swerdlin took him back.

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“I just started riding him again six months ago and ended up buying him back this past month,” she said of Gilligan, who is now 12. “I thought I would just do a couple of shows, but it’s great that I got to do regionals.”

Swerdlin set the regionals as a goal but knew she would have to work hard due to Gilligan’s lack of practice over the summer. The gelding has a tendency to take off and only responds to commands performed a specific way. Riding with trainer Patrick Burssens of the International Dressage Academy in Wellington, Fla., she focused on keeping Gilligan “mentally happy” and “tried to put him back together.”

The effort paid off, and Swerdlin won the class with a score of 64.00 percent.

“He knows his job, so I try to not let him get bored,” she said. “I ride him around the neighborhood or take him to fields, because if he’s drilled 100 times he gets frustrated.”

Swerdlin plans to show in Wellington this winter and will compete at Grand Prix with a new horse she purchased from Europe. While she and Gilligan might do CDIs at some point, Swerdlin is content to only show him in the Intermediaire I and Prix St. Georges.

“I know him so well, and it’s a real pleasure to be able to ride him again,” she said.

Multiple Horses, Multiple Wins

Collecting tricolor ribbons isn’t new for Shawna Harding; with three different horses she won championships in the open fourth level, open first level and the open Intermediaire I.

After winning the open fourth level, open Prix St. Georges and the fourth level freestyle last year with Come On III, Harding returned this year even stronger. Even though the incoming storms caused her horses to be spooky, Come On III held it together for his Intermediaire classes.

Defending her win in the fourth level championship from last year, Harding rode Beth Daniels’ Mozart to a score of 64.63 percent, putting them at the top of the class. The duo also won the open third level (67.20%). Harding took over the reins and began showing the gelding this past year.

“Beth was struggling a bit, so I took over the ride,” Harding explained. “We immediately rode to scores in the high 60s and 70s, so he’s progressed fairly quickly.”

Harding also didn’t begin competing with Rigo until this year. Imported from Germany for owner Tonya Rowe of Ridgeway, S.C., Harding set the regionals as a goal for the gelding.

“He’s beautiful, elegant and is perfect for his owner,” Harding said.

Rigo’s elegance helped him dominate the first level class, and Harding turned in a score of 72.76 percent, winning by a large margin.

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“He has a buck in him, and there was one little mess-up in the canter departure,” she explained. “But he was a good boy especially in such a large class against professionals.”

The wins at regionals cap off a successful season for Harding, who also celebrated a reserve championship with Come On III at the Developing Horse Championships. She will continue showing Mozart for Daniels, moving him up to Prix St. Georges. As for Rigo, Harding looks forward to “showing in the second and third levels this winter and setting him up for the developing horse.”

After returning from looking at horses in Europe, Harding will compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) with all three horses.

Coming Back Stronger

For Kristy Truebenbach Lund, her championship in the adult amateur Prix St. Georges with Fabio was long overdue.

“I’ve been trying to win this class,” she said. “I’ve always been third or fourth, and so this win was pretty special.”

Lund, of Blue Marlin Farms in Wellington, Fla., was rewarded for her efforts with three 9s in her test, giving her a score of 67.87 percent; they also placed second in the adult amateur Intermediaire I championship with a 62.12 percent.

“I went into the test nervous about the pirouette, but the test went so well because he did it on his own,” she said. “It was the most special test for me.”

The win was also rewarding to Lund since she began showing Fabio at first level a few years ago.
Her other horse, Reel Adventure, also returned to win a championship; scoring a 68.33 percent, Lund took the adult amateur second level championship.

“At the last regionals he [Reel Adventure] was mentally unrideable, so it was great that he came so far in just a year,” she remarked.

Lund credited her success to trainer John Zopatti, who helped her bring Reel Adventure back from a “mental breakdown.”

“I think what makes it easy to stay with him is that he’s always been open to trying new things; he will use other ways or send me to clinics,” she said.

For the past year they have focused on Reel Adventure’s stability, giving him long trail rides and mixing up his training schedule.

“I worked really hard this summer, and going into regionals all the horses were peaking,” Lund said.
Her goal is to qualify for Dressage At Devon (Pa.) next year.

Beth Johnson

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