The USEA Nutrena American Eventing Championships, presented by Bit of Britain, saw yet another exciting day as the upper levels headed out to the field to take on Hugh Lochore’s daunting cross-country course. The day began with heavy fog which lifted to reveal a blazing hot summer day at Carl Bouckaert’s Chattahoochee Hills in Fairburn, Georgia.
Despite the weather, competitors shot out of the startbox and attacked the championship-level tracks. Still, time penalties proved to be a major factor throughout the levels. In the $20,000 Merial Advanced division, also serving as an Adequan USEA Gold Cup Series event and the USEF Advanced National Championship, Becky Holder was able to maintain her lead with her steady gray gelding, Courageous Comet, crossing the finish line with the first double-clear in the division. Becky said she tried to enjoy every moment while on course with her longtime friend and competitive companion.
“He just stepped right up to the plate with a sense of the occasion like he always does,” Becky said. “I do not think there is anybody else in the world who can gallop across the ground like this horse does. I never believe my watch. He gets up on the minute markers so early in the course I just have to kind of stay calm. He has the most amazing ability to gallop so fast and then instantly be up and small and ready for the footwork exercises. I feel so, so lucky to have experienced that.”
Becky is looking to retire the 16-year-old from upper level competition after this event: “I am begging him for one more solid show jumping round tomorrow. I will do my level best to do right by him.”
Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch put in the only other double-clear cross-country round in the Advanced division and moved all the way up to second place after an eighth place finish in dressage. Buck Davidson and Ballynoecastle RM jumped around clean and added just 1.6 time penalties, rocketing from eleventh to third.
Danielle Dichting was able to maintain her lead in the Open Intermediate division on her chestnut gelding, The Graduate. The pair added 1.2 time penalties to their dressage score of 27.4. “He was fantastic. Like I said yesterday, I just wanted to come off feeling like I had a good confident horse and learn how to ride him to each of those combinations because some of them I had not ever jumped anything like that on him before. The course is beautiful and it rode beautiful,” Danielle said.
Hailing from nearby Roswell, Georgia, Danielle and her horses are very used to the heat and humidity experienced today. She had no troubles with her Advanced mount, Tops, either and lies in tenth before show jumping. Tops is typically a good show jumper, and Danielle said that as long as she can control her nerves, The Graduate, or “Benjamin,” should jump well, too. “He will try his heart out for me.”
Doug Payne still holds the lead in both the Preliminary and Training horse divisions, adding nothing to Royal Tribute or Lysander’s scores. Kelly Green and Corleone moved up from third to take the lead in the Preliminary Amateur division while Victoria New and Fleeceworks Mystere du Val held tightly to their lead in the Preliminary Junior/Young Rider division. The lead in the Training Amateur division remains with Brie Murray and Sweet William on a 27.7, and Savannah Kilpatrick and Walla Walla Bing Bang lead the Training Junior division.
The Novice and Beginner Novice divisions got in on the action today, strutting their stuff in the dressage arena. With such large divisions, competition is already fierce, and it will only get more intense as the weekend continues. Heather Morris leads Novice Horse with Barnabus, who earned a score of 24.0. Leading Novice Junior is Alex Cole and Pure Revenge, sitting on a 27.5 while Novice Amateur is lead by Logan Elliott and Cady O’Daly Michael, the winners of the Beginner Novice Junior division in 2011. “He knows what he is supposed to do when he gets out there,” Logan said. “He is a special boy, I tell ya.”
Allyn Tice and Elphin Fintan scored a 27.1 to take control of the huge Beginner Novice Junior division. With 80 starters, it is an incredible feat for this young rider to be in such good standing, especially considering Allyn has only been riding for one year.
Beginner Novice Amateur is led by Letha Calvin and Look Cody Look on a 22.9 after dressage. Lauren Weil and Commit are currently tied for the Beginner Novice Horse lead with Carrie Meehan and Cavalier on a 29.5.
On Saturday, the upper levels will return to the arena to jump around Marc Donovan’s colorful show jumping courses while Novice and Beginner Novice will try their hand at Hugh Lochore’s cross-country. The 2012 Nutrena USEA AEC is shaping up to be an exceptional event!
Keep up with the live scores at this link!