Eight new national champions at the training and novice levels were named Saturday at the USEA American Eventing Championships at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana.
Both the novice and training horse champions were ridden by Petaluma, California-based Tommy Greengard—novice champion Cappachina as the result of a year’s worth of planning, and training champion Shannondale Fionn as the result of an accident that put him in the saddle just a week ago.
“His owner was supposed to ride him, and in her last prep before coming here she broke her finger without even coming off of him, so I’ve been riding him—he was very, very good,” Greengard said of the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse’s owner and regular rider, Jeanne Carley. “She’s tried to do the AEC twice on him now and both times something has come up. I’m sure she’ll want to do something with him this fall.”
Greengard praised Shannondale Fionn for putting together a good round in show jumping, his weaker phase, and a typically good cross-country run.
“He just takes care of you, and you can just hit the start button on your watch and you’re just going in for time because he’s on it,” Greengard said.
In the novice horse division, Greengard won again aboard Rebecca Slater’s 7-year-old Oldenburg Cappachina, but his ride there was far from a last-minute decision, as the mare has been in training with him for years and this year’s AECs have been circled on the calendar for a long time with Cappachina’s supportive owner.
“Rebecca is the most fun person to ride for,” Greengard said. “She is so invested in the mare and goes to almost all of the events—every day is an amazing day. So, she is just a blast; she’s totally invested. She’s had the horse since she was 3 years old, she picked her out and everything.
“When she made her way to us, Rebecca has totally let us start to develop her, and we’ve had a really big year with her, and she’s been awesome so we couldn’t be happier with her,” he continued. “This was the plan for the horse all year, and she totally delivered.”
Lizzie Hoff won the USEA Training Junior Championship with Caroline Martin’s 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse HSH Limited Edition, while Olivia Keye took top honors in the USEA Novice Junior Championship aboard Oso Mighty.
“My expectations were definitely exceeded—he rode fabulous,” Hoff said. “He really just went in there and did his job. The dressage was a pretty high point for me because he’s tricky—he’s hard and very slow thinking and huge, so it’s just hard for him to focus and do well in there.”
The team plans to compete in the Area VII championships next, and they’ll move up to Preliminary by the end of the year.
In the novice junior division, Keye’s win with 20-year-old Oldenburg Oso Mighty was bittersweet.
“He’s been with me for a while, and it was extra special that he put in all the effort to get here. This was a sort of a last hurrah together with him, so it was extra special,” Keye said. “He’s done a lot for me. He will still jump with a friend and do lower levels.”
While he steps down, Keye said she has another horse she competes at training level and recently purchased a young horse to develop.
Amber Pearson and her 6-year-old Holsteiner gelding Chosen One DF won the USEA Training Amateur Championship while Kyla Tovar and 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse Kilcoltrim Jacko were USEA novice amateur champions.
“I took all the time to do the basic steps with him as a young horse,” said Pearson, who bought Chosen One DF as a 2-year-old from Dragonfire Farm. “His last show is the first one that we jumped clean, so jumping clean today was definitely a weight off my shoulders.”
The win came during Pearson’s first trip to the AECs.
“It all just happened so fast and so slow at the same time,” she said. “We got here a few days early so we really took the time hacking and flatting before the competition even started. I’m still learning how to ride him—he’s not the easiest to show jump. I’m really learning how to ride him in the way that he likes to jump clean.”
Tovar took home the USEA Novice Amateur Championship after a stellar show jumping round Saturday.
“Last year I was in last place in this division with my old horse, so my trainer Katie Ruppel helped me find a new horse over in the U.K., and we brought him over in January, and he’s been so awesome,” she said. “We had to work on the show jumping, but cross-country he’s gone double clear with me every single time, and it’s given me so much confidence. I’m just very blessed to have him.
“I get really anxious before every single phase because I am such a perfectionist, so I think the best thing I did was, first, I prayed about it, and secondly, I just knew that I had done all the work and this was my time to show it, so whatever was going to happen was going to happen.”
The USEA Training Rider and Novice Rider Championships went, respectively, to Sarah Ross on Fernhill Heart Throb and Alyssa Cairo on Paddington.
“I only got him in the spring of this year—we’re fairly new to each other but he’s just such a competitor—I don’t think I’ve ridden a horse that wants to win as much as I do, if not more,” Ross said of her USEA Training Rider Championship partner, an 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse. “He goes in—whatever phase it may be—and he’s just pretty much all business. Warm-up can be exciting—like today at show jumping, he was feral. I haven’t done a whole lot of shows on a horse like him, so it kind of instills learning how to be a competitor.”
Cairo won the novice rider championships by finishing on her dressage score with her 17-year-old Connemara named Paddington.
“I’m elated, overwhelmed—in disbelief,” Cairo said. “Paddington always meets my expectations. I’m very fortunate to have such a fabulous partner, and I didn’t know it when I bought him that he’d be so amazing. He is such a competitor and he’s so confident, and it sometimes makes up for my lack of confidence because I’m an adult amateur, so I think together as a team we’ve really come a long way.”
The AECs conclude Sunday with show jumping in the beginner novice divisions.