The Charles Owen Technical Merit Award was established in 2009 by the USEA Professional Horseman’s Council (PHC) to encourage safe and appropriate cross-country riding technique. The award is presented at a series of events throughout the year at the Training level to one junior rider and one adult amateur rider who demonstrate technique on cross-country for a list of criteria including gallop, preparation, execution of jump, rider position, and general impressions. The winners at each event receive a Charles Owen Body Protector and helmet bag, and year-end high-point winners will receive a Charles Owen helmet.
Cobblestone Farms Horse Trials in Dexter, Michigan (Area VIII) is one of 10 events around the country that is participating in the 2017 Charles Owen Technical Merit Award Series. The junior award went to Gracie Elliott and the adult amateur award was received by Olivia Greene. This leg of the series was judged by Julie Congleton.
Elliott and her own Ballylanders Finn McCool, a 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, placed second on their dressage score in the Junior Training Rider division at Cobblestone. A resident of Lexington, Kentucky, Elliott had been exposed to the sport of eventing by trips to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Eventing when she was little, but didn’t really get hooked on eventing until a family friend took her cross-country schooling when she was 11 years old.
Gracie Elliott and Ballylanders Finn McCool. Nancy Kowalski Photo.
Elliott brought Ballylanders Finn McCool, or “Finn” as he’s called in the barn, to the United States from Ireland in April of 2016. He had experience as a pure show jumper, but hadn't competed in any events. “He was the second to last horse that I sat on during my trip, and as soon as I sat on him I knew he was the one,” said Elliott. “He is one of the fastest learning horses that I have ever sat on, and even though we are still in the phase of getting to know each other, our partnership has really developed since he has been mine!”
Elliott said that receiving the Charles Owen Technical Merit Award has reassured her that her riding technique is progressing in the right direction. “I think the most beneficial thing to come out of this experience would have to be learning what it truly means to ride a safe cross-country round. There are so many factors that go into riding cross-country and it is awesome to be able to be reminded of them in this kind of way.”
She credits her coach, Megan Moore, with showing her how to properly and safely ride across the country. “It is also great to be able to go five minutes down the road every April to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event to watch and learn from the best of the best!”
Greene and Carrie Mulks’ High Octane (Pick Up the Phone x Chris’s Avenger) added only time penalties to their dressage score of 38.6 to finish in sixteenth place in the Senior Training Rider division. This is the second time that Greene has won the award; the first time was at the Stuart Horse Trials in 2014 aboard Casino Royale.
Greene began taking lessons when she was eight years old and was competing by the time she was 12, the same age at which she bought her first horse. After high school, she began riding with Carrie Mulks and was able to focus on competing more frequently on a variety of horses to increase her knowledge and skill.
Olivia Greene and High Octane at Cobblestone Farms. Lumineer Photography/Marcel Santiz Photo.
High Octane, aslo known as “Will”, has an interesting back story. The 19-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred was purchased by Mulks off of Craigslist when he was 14 years old for $400. He was a rescue, but once he was healthy enough to be ridden, Mulks quickly realized how talented he was and decided to keep him, ultimately competing him through the Advanced level before handing the ride over to Greene. “We have only run three cross-country courses together so far, so it was very rewarding to win the Charles Owen Technical Merit award,” said Greene. “Will and I are still figuring each other out, but our partnership grows with every ride. We hope to compete at Preliminary/Intermediate within the next year or two and I am so excited about the chance I have to compete this amazing horse.”
Greene appreciated the opportunity to review the feedback she received from the judge. “[The judge] mentioned the uphill "bouncy" canter I was able to get before the fence and keeping it quiet to the base of the jump. This was awesome because one of my biggest challenges with Will has been to keep him from running through the course and charging to the jumps. After dressage tests, I always have the opportunity to see the feedback from the judges, which is what I find most beneficial. It’s great to have that same constructive criticism for cross-country as well. I love this award because it rewards the rider for executing the cross-country course correctly and safely, when so often you see just the opposite going on.”
Greene said that Mulks has been instrumental in helping her develop her cross-country technique and skill. “Not only has she given me the tools I need to get better, but also the opportunity to compete seven different horses through various levels of eventing, which has truly shaped me as a rider. Every horse is different and so you ultimately learn a lot in the process of getting to know each other. I feel incredibly fortunate to have spent adequate time on these amazing horses. I feel incredibly honored to be presented this award for the second time, now on Will, which is hopefully just the start of another great partnership with another very talented horse.”
2017 Charles Owen Technical Merit Schedule
Pine Top Advanced H.T. | Feb. 23-26, 2017 | Thomson, GA (Area 3)
Coconino Summer I H.T. | July 8-9, 2017 | Flagstaff, AZ (Area 10)
The Event At Rebecca Farm | July 19-23, 2017 | Kalispell, MT (Area 7)
Fitch's Corner H.T. | July 22-23, 2017 | Millbrook, NY (Area 1)
Cobblestone Farms H.T. | July 28-30, 2017 | Dexter, MI (Area 8)
Colorado Horse Park H.T. | Aug. 12-13, 2017 | Parker, CO (Area 9)
Shepherd Ranch SYVPC H.T. II | Aug. 25-27, 2017 | Santa Ynez, CA (Area 6)
Seneca Valley Pony Club H.T. | Sept. 2-3 2017 | Poolesville, MD (Area 2)
Otter Creek Fall H.T. | Sept. 15-17, 2017 | Wheeler, WI (Area 4)
Texas Rose Horse Park | November 11-12, 2017 | Tyler, TX (Area 5)
About Charles Owen
Charles Owen has been elevating the standards of safety in our sport by manufacturing to some of the top international safety standards for riding helmets and body protectors. At their design headquarters, Charles Owen uses an advanced computer simulation to perform impact analysis for their products. Charles Owen is the official riding helmet of the USEA. To learn more about Charles Owen visit their website.