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The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event’s Transformative Power

The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, North America’s only CCI4* and the venue for the Land Rover/USEF CCI4* Eventing National Championship, takes place at the Kentucky Horse Park April 26-29 this year. Only a handful of riders each year get to take to the park’s manicured rings and rolling grass galloping lanes, and, when they do, many describe the experience as transformative — one that helped them and their horses learn, grow, and rise to a new challenge. The equestrians and their four-star horses occupy center stage at this important American event, but they’re not the only ones who make the competition tick: the numerous volunteers and officials behind the scenes also have an inspiring story to tell.

We asked a group of the Kentucky Three-Day Event’s veterans — not just riders, but also an owner, a licensed official, and a longtime volunteer whose team decorates the iconic Head of the Lake combination — to give us a glimpse behind the scenes with their first-person perspectives on the competition and on what this great sporting pageant means to them. Regardless of their roles, whether in the saddle or on the ground, all shared a common sentiment, the one that serves as the heartbeat of the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event: it’s all about the horse. Read on for their perspectives on one of the country’s most famous competitions.

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From Equestrian Weekly
equestrianweekly@communications.usef.org

Kat Fuqua Soars to Top National Pony and Hunter Rankings

Kat Fuqua and RS Levitation (Photo courtesy of S. Hellner)

Wellington, FL (April 17, 2018) – Pony power has always been Kat Fuqua’s forte, and 2018 marks a milestone in her show career as she elevates to Junior Hunter success in addition to multiple pony and hunter titles. From her hometown of Atlanta to the sunny hunter rings of Wellington, Fuqua’s consistent top placings aboard her equine partners between January and March of 2018 have set the tone for another successful year of competition. Going into a busy spring and summer show season, her excellence in the arena has earned some of the top USEF, USHJA, and circuit pony and hunter rankings in the nation. But while this 10-year-old’s love for her horses translates to ribbons in the ring, for Fuqua the pleasure is all in just being in the saddle.

Fuqua began her year at the Atlanta Winter Classic, spending three weeks enjoying her hometown competition before heading to jump with the top hunter riders in her divisions during WEF 6’s World Hunter Week. Her small pony, Goldhill’s Arresting Charm, and medium pony, Finesse RF, both swept all three weeks in Georgia, topping out as Champions of their divisions. Fuqua’s large pony, Chic in Time, was champion twice, as was her Junior Hunter RS Levitation in both of the two weeks he was shown in the Under 15 Small Junior Hunters. After a week of traveling and a brief respite from showing, Fuqua and horses hit the ground running during World Hunter Week.

Finesse RF immediately showcased some of the savvy she’s named for right out of the gate, finishing as Reserve Champion during Hunter Week and was also Reserve Champion in the $5,000 USHJA National Pony Derby in March. Goldhill’s Arresting Charm finished third in the first round of the Pony Derby behind Finesse. Thrilled with both of the pony’s performances, Fuqua noted that Finesse, known around the barn as Ladybug, shone in their first ever competition together at WEF.

Fuqua’s final Winter Equestrian Festival placings with her ponies include 5th place in the Overall Circuit rankings with Chic In Time in addition to Champion and Reserve placings, and 4th overall Circuit Pony Rider despite only 7 weeks of competition during WEF 2018. During those seven weeks, Fuqua and her ponies were consistently placed in the ribbons, with the competitive classes consisting of 20-30 of the top pony riders in the nation.

In the USEF’s national rankings, as of April 13, Fuqua and her ponies rank as follows: 5th in the Small Pony Hunter with Goldhill’s Arresting Charm, 2nd in the Medium Pony Hunter with Finesse RF, and 2nd in the Large Pony Hunter with Chic In Time. Fuqua won the USEF 2017 Champion Leading Pony Hunter Owner and is currently ranked second in the USEF’s 2018 Pony Hunter Owner standings as of April 13. She is also ranked as the top Pony Hunter Derby rider in the nation by the USHJA, and stands as the leading rider of the division since its inception in 2017. In the USHJA’s National Pony Hunter Derby Horse rankings, Finesse RF is currently sitting in second and Goldhill’s Arresting Charm is sixth. Finesse and Chic are also ranked second and fifth in the Grand Champion Pony division, which accounts for all pony sizes.

While the ponies have always been a passion in Fuqua’s life, it is her success with her new Junior Hunter mount, RS Levitation, that is setting the foundation and capturing her imagination for future equestrian endeavors. After just three months showing in 3’6″ Junior Hunters, the pair made their Wellington debut during WEF 6. Just a year ago, in February 2017, Fuqua and High Noon 3E were Champion multiple times in the Children’s, and finished as the Circuit Champion 11 & Under at WEF 2017. With barely a year elapsed between her Children’s championships and Junior Hunter debut, Fuqua’s poise and passion in the arena continues to prove exceptional as she climbs the divisions. She and Levitation, known as Jett around the barn, floated elegantly over the spectacular hunter obstacles in Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s International Arena. Having competed in her first WEF competition ever four seasons ago at 6 years old, Fuqua noted that much of her 2018 success in the Junior Hunters is based on Jett: “He is one of a kind because he takes care of me and gives me confidence,” said Fuqua. “He jumps big and wants to win.” They currently stand tenth overall in the USEF’s Small Junior Hunter Under 15 ranking as of April 13.

The USHJA also currently ranks Fuqua and all four of her actively competing equines #1 in the Zone 4 Horse of the Year standings for the Junior Hunters, Pony Hunter Small, Pony Hunter Medium, and Pony Hunter Large divisions. In the USHJA Zone 4 Pony Hunter Derby standings, Fuqua is on top with Finesse RF and third with Goldhill’s Arresting Charm.

Kat Fuqua’s passion for horses is reflected not only in her highly decorated Pony Hunter and Junior Hunter rider results, but also in the joy and dedication she shows each time she swings into the saddle. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia and under the guidance of trainer Michael Newman of Aubrey Hill Farm in Pensacola, Florida, every aspect of Fuqua’s riding, training, and show career reflects a unique ardor for equines and horse sport. She balances her equestrian lifestyle with attendance as a full time 4th grade student and takes pride in developing alongside her horses.

For more information on Kat Fuqua (pronounced foo-quay), visit her website at www.KatFuqua.com.

Media contact:
PR and Marketing
Holly Johnson
Equinium Sports Marketing, LLC
www.equinium.com
holly@equinium.com
+1 954 205 7992

Hamilton and Makari Design Defend Their Title at Southern Pines CDE

Photo: Nifty Hamilton and Makari Design (Picsofyou.com)

Raeford, N.C. – The USEF Advanced Single Horse Combined Driving National Championship came to a conclusion on Sunday with the cones phase at the Southern Pines Combined Driving Event (CDE). The athlete-and-horse combinations had to face Barry Hunter’s tough cones course to determine the ultimate winner. Jennifer “Nifty” Hamilton and Makari Design kept their cool in the final phase to win back-to-back national champion titles.

USEF Advanced Single Horse Combined Driving National Championship

Hamilton (Alva, Fla.) and Makari Design began the national championship by winning the dressage and marathon phases with scores of 48.09 penalties and 81.92 penalties, respectively. They drove a great cones round to add 2.96 time penalties to their score and win the final phase. Hamilton and the 10-year-old KWPN gelding she owns with Milton Hamilton claimed their second national champion title after finishing on an overall score of 132.97 penalties.

“The cones course drove very well, but it was pretty technical and tough to make the time on,” Hamilton explained. “It was great because it is the kind of course that will make you better.”

Commenting on how Makari Design performed throughout the competition, Hamilton said, “He is definitely more connected than he has ever been, which allows me to ask for more. With more work and work on getting him stronger, he is going to be even better in a few years.”

Jacob Arnold (Snow Camp, N.C.) and Uminco earned the reserve national champion title due to their strong performances. They were in third place after Friday’s dressage phase with a score of 52.89 penalties and then moved up to second place after tallying 82.53 penalties in Saturday’s marathon phase. Arnold piloted Leslie Berndl’s 17-year-old Royal Dutch Warmblood gelding around the cones course to have one ball down for 3.00 penalties. In their first year competing together, Arnold and Uminco garnered an impressive finish on an overall score of 138.42 penalties.

Barbara Chapman (Metamora, Mich.) and Meara Beval were third in the national championship with an overall score of 149.25 penalties.  Chapman and her 14-year-old American Warmblood mare scored 53.96 penalties in the dressage phase to sit in fourth before rising to third place following the marathon phase that added 88.34 penalties to their score. They closed out the national championship with two balls down and time penalties for 6.95 penalties in the cones phase.

Find more information on the Southern Pines CDE.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

Madden Clinches Her Second Title in a Cliffhanger

Photo: FEI/Jim Hollander.

Fellow-American Ryan finishes a close second, Sweden’s von Eckermann takes third

America’s Beezie Madden (54) held on to win the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2018 title in Paris (FRA), but she didn’t do it the easy way. In a cliffhanger of a second round she faulted for the first time over three tough days of jumping when last to go with the brilliant Breitling LS. And the crowd had to hold their breath until she crossed the line to a roar of approval, separated by just two penalty points from compatriot Devin Ryan (36) in second place.

The biggest surprise package of the week, the relatively unknown Ryan was relentlessly cool yet again as his apparently bomb-proof grey gelding son of the great stallion Zirocco Blue continued to make the super-tough courses designed by Spain’s Santiago Varela look fairly elementary.

The hard-luck story of the final afternoon was that of Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann (37) who had to settle for third place for the second year in a row. In runner-up spot and carrying four faults as the afternoon began, he might have forced Madden into a jump-off but for a mistake with Tovek’s Mary Lou in the closing moments. He wasn’t forgiving himself for that. Madden knew she’d been in a fight.

“When I had that rail down, I was a little nervous, but I still felt my horse was jumping well and I knew I had to pull it together to finish on four (faults) and try to get it done!” — Beezie Madden (USA)

The rider who previously claimed the title in 2013 said it was “double-exciting” to post her second win, and particularly with this 12-year-old stallion. “We’ve really believed in him but he’s taken time to mature, so for him to come through today is fantastic! It’s taken a little while to replace Simon (her 2013 World Cup winning ride) and Cortes (team silver 2016 Olympic Games) but it’s happening!” she added.

Her two nearest rivals kept all the pressure in place when making no mistake in the first round, von Eckermann carrying his four points forward and Ryan still sitting on a total of six.  A little rattle at the oxer at fence three on the 13-obstacle course, and another at vertical no. 7 set American hearts beating a little faster, but Madden cleared the line with nothing to add, so the top end of the standings looked the same when the top 20 returned for round two over a new track.

And Ryan, who hails from Long Valley in New Jersey, did it again, steering Eddie Blue home with apparent ease once more. At just nine years old the horse was the youngest in the Final but you’d never have guessed. “His brain is unbelievable; he never knocked a pole as a five or six-year-old; he won the American Gold Cup as an eight-year-old and was second at Devon, one of our biggest shows in the US – he’s just a fantastic horse!” said the man who qualified from the US East Coast series.

Second-last into the ring von Eckermann knew he would pressure Madden with a clear, and he was beating himself up about having the second fence down this time out. “It was my mistake; my horse jumped fantastic as always, but we got too close and I interfered – I should have trusted her quality and it wouldn’t have happened,” said the clearly disappointed Swede.

You could hear a pin drop after Madden’s stallion hit the middle element of the triple combination at fence six. One more error would hand the title to fellow-American Ryan, but the lady who has two Olympic gold medals in her trophy cabinet along with a whole lot more valuable hardware didn’t crumble, bringing Breitling home with nothing further to add for a very popular victory.

Only five female athletes have taken the title in the 40-year history of the series that every rider wants to win, and they all have one thing in common. Like Madden, Melanie Smith (1983), Leslie Burr Lenehan (1986), and Katharine Burdsall (1987) all flew the American flag, while three-time winner Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum from Germany (2005, 2008, 2009) was born in Los Angeles, California. It seemed history was repeating itself, as Burdsall’s victory was also posted at exactly the same Paris venue when the Jumping Final was last staged in France 31 years ago.

The final standings showed three US riders in the top four places as 2017 winner, McLain Ward, slotted into fourth spot. The happiest of all was new double-champion Madden. “I love the World Cup Final – each year I make it a goal to get there, and to win, and I did it again!” said the lady who will be aiming join the elite club of three-time champions when the Final returns to Gothenburg in Sweden for the 23rd time next April.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Sean McDermott and Gibralfaro Finish Strong at 72nd Annual Tryon Block House Races

Sean McDermott and Gibralfaro (right). Photo credit: Madison Ibach/Tryon Resort.

Columbus, NC – April 15, 2018 – In stunning back-to-back wins at the 72nd Annual Tryon Block House Races on Saturday, April 14, jockey Sean McDermott was awarded the Top Jockey award and honored for his efforts in the coveted Block House Race, as well as in the Dr. John Bradshaw Memorial Race. The iconic event featured five thrilling races in front of a packed crowd at the Green Creek Race Track for the second consecutive year.

Humbly, McDermott gave credit to his horses and support team for the victories: “Two wins today – though I wish it was three! You can’t do it without the horses, and [trainer] Jack Fisher traditionally starts his a little late [in the season] and we use their first few races as a prep, and it sets them up nicely for their second runs of the season. They have a bit of longevity through the season. If you’re not on the horses you can’t win the races, and we’re grateful to have all the good horses we do that make our job easy.”

Founded by the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club 72 years ago, the Tryon Block House Races is now produced and managed by the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC). The event drew 39 entries across five races throughout the afternoon chasing $130,000 in prize money. Each race included two laps around the course, and six hurdles adorned the rolling 2 1/8 miles of track.

The highlight race for the day, The Block House, saw six entries fly around the track in three minutes and 55 and two-fifth seconds. McDermott and Gibralfaro took top honors and were awarded The Roger Smith Cup, presented by Roger and Jennifer Smith, after a tight battle with Lord Justice, another Irish-bred and Jack Fisher-trained horse.

“That’s a beautiful horse,” McDermott said of Gibralfaro. “Riverdee Stables have just imported him from England, and it’s very difficult for a horse to win his first time off the boat over here, given the ground conditions and the different types of hurdles, so it’s just a credit to his honesty and his engine that he got it done, and I’m sure he’ll only improve.”

Of his second winning mount, Overwhelming, McDermott revealed that the horse’s previous wins over hurdles made him a strong contender coming into the flat race, as the horse is in top form after being rehabbed throughout all of last season for a minor injury.

“Overwhelming is a class horse – I think he’s won three stakes over hurdles. We had a little prep run in Camden and a training flat race, so today we thought he’d win,” McDermott admitted. He goes well on this ground, but he’s had a small tendon injury in the past and so this was the best fit for him in his schedule, and we’re very happy. It was a lovely stepping stone for him, and I presume he’ll go for a hurdle race now. He’s a tough horse over two miles over hurdles – he’s a good cruising speed and we’re very happy with him.”

National Steeplechase Association Director of Racing, William Gallo, Jr., raved about the event’s success. “This is my favorite race,” he emphasized. “It’s my second year here. I was very impressed by this venue last year, obviously for its inaugural event, but it’s a marvelous race course. The horsemen really like it. You can tell by the entries – it’s well-supported and it’s got so much potential for the future as well. I could see it being a permanent site, and being a premier racetrack in America for Steeplechase racing.”

McDermott was not the only jockey to pull off a double on the day – Shane Crimin also took home two first place finishes: first in The Carter P. Brown Memorial maiden claiming race at the beginning of the event aboard Magalen O. Bryant’s Bob’n for Silver, and again in the Tryon Riding & Hunt Cup Ratings Handicap Hurtle, guiding Life Said for trainer and owner Richard L. Valentine.

“He’s not the fastest,” Crimin said of the grey gelding. “I just let him roll along and he comes away, so it was pretty straightforward with him. The track rode beautiful today – it’s nice. I was here last year and had three seconds, so hopefully it ends up better today.”

Sure enough, Crimin delivered a winning ride aboard Life Said just two races later in the Handicap Hurtle, beating out ten other pairs: “This one was different [than the last] – he [has] more of a gear and I can just sit and ride me race and just creep away into it like he did. While the other fella [Bob’n for Silver] is a bit slow in the gallops, this one has a turn of foot, so two very different rides.”

The Cannon Harmon Memorial Race was won by Last Shani with Jack Doyle in the irons, beating out five other entries to bring home the trophy on his very first run over hurdles. Doyle commented on the nature of the track, to which he’s been twice: “I was here last year, and the track is in great condition. You want a quick horse around here – it’s a pretty thick track, but it rides fair. It’s nice,” he said. “It was this horse’s first run over hurdles, so he was a bit green early on, and it took him a while to get going, but then going into the second to last [hurdle] he jumped out well and got a nice run out and won nicely.”

The day included various spectator contests, including a hat contest, tailgate awards, and “Go to Heck” pants contest, in addition to stick horse races following the mounted races, all of which combined for exciting and entertaining spectator experiences.

“The Tryon Block House Races have become a very important part of what we offer at the Tryon International Equestrian Center,” commented TIEC Chief Operating Officer Sharon Decker. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to do this event and to bring it to this magnificent location.”

For full results, visit www.nationalsteeplechase.com.

Visit www.tryon.com or call (828)-863-1000 for more information.

Laura Graves and Verdades Second Place at FEI World Cup Dressage Final

Laura Graves and Verdades. Shannon Brinkman Photo.

Paris, France – With the FEI World Cup Dressage Final title on the line, Laura Graves and Verdades defended their 2017 second-place finish with a personal record score Saturday evening in the Freestyle to Music in Paris. Graves (Geneva, Fla.) and the 16-year-old KWPN gelding she owns with Curt Maes finished on a score of 89.082 percent, just behind the reigning World Cup Final champion Isabell Werth (GER). Werth and Weihegold OLD scored a 90.657 percent, while Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Unee BB finished third on a score of 83.725 percent.

“I am very proud,” said Graves. “It feels like first place, and the horse won’t know the difference, that’s for sure. Now I have a little homework in my book bag and we will take that back and be prepared for the next time… I have to pay respect to my horse because without these top horses who want to do the job for us, who want to learn, who allow us to learn with them, none of this would be possible.”

The atmosphere was electric as first Graves, and then Werth, put on a show for the ecstatic French crowd. Chasing the title, both of these powerful, yet poised athletes, gave it their best and turned out performances aimed at contesting the FEI World Cup record of 94.300 percent set by Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) and Valegro in 2014. In the end, it was Werth who came out on top, but Graves had much to be proud of. “Today, we are second,” she said. “But still a big personal best for us.”

The Olympic bronze medalist began developing this particular freestyle test back in December 2017 to her previous music. The program was designed to be very competitive, difficult, and technical. The test included four pirouettes – two full double pirouettes and two that were a pirouette and a half. The combination performed its first full left piaffe pirouette into the full right piaffe pirouette in Saturday’s Freestyle.

“He was super today,” continued Graves. “I was really pleased with the half-passes and keeping clean in all the changes. He really felt super rideable through the whole thing. We changed the music and I haven’t ridden to it since. We have added a second piaffe pirouette down the centerline. I was really proud of him doing the pirouette both ways and directly into the right pirouette. For me, that was really a highlight.”

Fellow American Shelly Francis (Loxahatchee, Fla.) and Danilo, Patricia Stempel’s 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding, performed a freestyle to an acapella accompaniment, finishing 12th on a score of 74.189 percent. When asked about her first FEI World Cup Dressage experience, Francis replied, “It feels good. I feel like we redeemed ourselves a little bit from yesterday, so that is good. He really felt very good. He is really trying and likes his music, so it’s awesome.”

Complete Results

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

Hamilton and Makari Design Maintain Their Lead at Southern Pines CDE

Photo: Nifty Hamilton and Makari Design (Picsofyou.com)

Raeford, N.C. – The USEF Advanced Single Horse Combined Driving National Championship continued on Saturday with the marathon phase at the Southern Pines Combined Driving Event (CDE). The athlete-and-horse combinations headed out on the Carolina Horse Park’s grounds to tackle Barry Hunter’s marathon track. Jennifer “Nifty” Hamilton and Makari Design held onto their lead to stay atop the overall leaderboard heading into the final phase on Sunday.

USEF Advanced Single Horse Combined Driving National Championship

Defending national champions Hamilton (Alva, Fla.) and Makari Design continued their quest for back-to-back titles by blazing around the marathon course. The duo won the marathon phase with a score of 81.92 penalties, having the fastest times in two of the seven obstacles. Hamilton and the 10-year-old KWPN gelding she owns with Milton Hamilton head into the cones phase with an overall score of 130.01 penalties.

“[Makari Design] was perfect,” Hamilton said. “It was a wonderful course; Barry Hunter is a great course designer. The course drove very smooth, but there were two water hazards, so it was a tough course.”

Hamilton also had high praise for the combinations in the national championship. “It is a great field of competitors. Today was a good effort on everyone’s part. We all work together studying courses and sharing routes; it is a great group to be a part of.”

Jacob Arnold (Snow Camp, N.C.) and Uminco moved up from third place to second place overall on the strength of a strong marathon round. Arnold piloted Leslie Berndl’s 17-year-old Royal Dutch Warmblood gelding to the fastest times in four obstacles and finished the phase with 82.53 penalties. The combination heads into Sunday on an overall score of 135.42 penalties.

Barbara Chapman (Metamora, Mich.) and Meara Beval climbed from fourth place on the leaderboard to third following Saturday’ phase. With her 14-year-old American Warmblood mare, Chapman finished the marathon course with 88.34 penalties. She and Meara Beval sit on an overall score of 142.30 penalties.

Find more information on the Southern Pines CDE.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

Werth Reigns Supreme to Become a Four-Time Champion

Photo: Isabell Werth with Weihegold. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

America’s Laura Graves chases her right to the line

In a dramatic conclusion to an extraordinary battle between two mighty forces, Germany’s Isabell Werth (48) posted a back-to-back victory at the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final 2018 in Paris, France.

America’s Laura Graves (30) and Verdades put all the pressure on the defending champion when pinning her into runner-up spot in the Grand Prix, so in this deciding Freestyle Werth had it all to do to put that behind her and come back out fighting. But with her trademark steely determination, the phenomenal athlete produced a pristine performance to see off the challenge and lift the coveted trophy for the fourth time in her incredible career.

It was right down to the wire, however, and she knew that the slightest error was out of the question when second-last to go. Graves had already posted a massive score of 89.082 which, the US rider admitted, surprised even her. “I knew anything was possible. I knew it would take a score like that to possibly get a win and it was a huge personal best for me!” Graves said.

However, Werth mustered all the skill and experience of a lifetime to squeeze her rival out of pole position with the winning mark of 90.657. She described the Grand Prix defeat as “motivating“, and simply used it to spur herself on to better things with the help of team coach and manager, Monica Theodorescu. “Like I said yesterday, I was not really disappointed or sad; I was just thinking about how I had to prepare for today and how I had to make it better and analyse what went wrong. So Monica and I, we decided to go in the big warm-up arena today, to bring her (Weihegold) forward and to make her free again, and that worked, and today she was the horse I wanted to show yesterday.”

“This is life; a lot of people think it’s easy; you win and you win again, but it’s not like that. You have to think about it all the time and keep listening to your horse. Yesterday was not our day, but today we could solve it. And this is what I really like to do, and that’s the reason why I love to compete!” — Isabell Werth (GER)

The result was another reminder of the continuing resurgence of the German Dressage powerhouse, with Werth’s compatriots Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (Unee BB) and Dorothee Schneider (Sammy Davis Jr) slotting into third and fifth places. Von Bredow-Werndl’s success was at the expense of Sweden’s Patrik Kittel who, as always, had the crowd right behind him when producing another one of his toe-tapping performances with Deja but who just missed a place on the podium when having to settle for fourth.

Graves threw down something of a challenge at the press conference. “I never practice my Freestyle as much as my other tests, so I think now I have a bit of homework to do and I think there are many more points to be earned in the future,” she said, so she is clearly marking Werth’s card for the next time they meet.

However, the lady taking centre stage was one of the great role models in the sport whose accomplishments are so many they may never be matched. Werth is taking great satisfaction from her fourth FEI World Cup™ Dressage title, not just because it’s another success but because of the way she achieved it.

“To have experience is an advantage if you use it in the right way, and I think we did that from yesterday to today,” she said. “After a lot of years in the sport you know how many things can happen, how things can change very quickly. It gives you the confidence to go in the ring and to try your best – you know what your horse can do and you know what you can do. This was just a great day today!” said the happy German star.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145

Hamilton and Makari Design Lead after Day One at Southern Pines CDE

Photo: Nifty Hamilton and Makari Design (Picsofyou.com)

Raeford, N.C. – The USEF Advanced Single Horse Combined Driving National Championship at the Southern Pines Combined Driving Event (CDE) began Friday with the dressage phase. Thirteen athlete-and-horse combinations headed down centerline to perform their tests, but Jennifer “Nifty” Hamilton and Makari Design stood out to the Ground Jury. The defending national champions lead the field heading into Saturday’s marathon phase.

USEF Advanced Single Horse Combined Driving National Championship

Hamilton (Alva, Fla.) and Makari Design had a lovely test to impress the judges with well-executed movements and a nice flow. Their steady performances this year have set them up for success at the Carolina Horse Park. Hamilton piloted the 10-year-old KWPN gelding she owns with Milton Hamilton to a score of 48.09 penalties to take the early lead in the national championship.

“I thought [my test] was very good. [Makari Design] was strong and rhythmic today,” Hamilton said. “I am really happy with the way he is progressing; I wanted to bring him along slowly. He is just 10, so I think in another two years, he is going to be terrific.”

Gary Yeager (Ocala, Fla.) and Spring Brooks Galipso are in second place in the national championship after scoring 50.84 penalties in the dressage phase. Even though the duo only began competing at the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) level last fall, they have been consistent performers. Yeager and Sigrid Edwards’s seven-year-old American Dutch Harness gelding had a solid test in a strong field of competitors to position themselves well for the next phase.

Jacob Arnold (Snow Camp, N.C.) and Uminco round out the top three after receiving a score of 52.89 penalties. Arnold is coming off a win at Live Oak International with Leslie Berndl’s 17-year-old Royal Dutch Warmblood gelding and aims to continue their momentum at the national championship.

The exciting marathon phase is up next for the competitors.

“The marathon course looks great,” Hamilton explained. “It is gated really smooth, and I found really good routes. Today, [Makari Design] was really in my hand, so I hope to pick up speed and do it again tomorrow.”

Find more information on the Southern Pines CDE.

From the US Equestrian Communications Department

Beezie and Breitling Are Unbeatable Again in Paris

Photo: Beezie Madden and Breitling LS. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

America’s Beezie Madden (54) almost made it look easy as she moved one step closer to clinching the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2018 title in Paris (FRA) with her second victory of the week with Breitling LS.

Last to go in a thrilling nine-horse jump-off, she cruised home to overtake The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders (37) and his lovely stallion Emerald, while Henrik von Eckermann (37) clinched third with the mare Toveks Mary Lou. And that result has promoted the Swede to second in the overall rankings ahead of Sunday’s two-round finale in which Madden will kick off with a one-fence advantage. The American star, and series champion in 2013, was thrilled with Breitling.

“He has a super temperament – actually he’s so nice that a lot of people don’t seem to realise he’s a stallion! He’s careful and clever, and every time I call on him he does everything I want – I couldn’t ask for any more!” — Beezie Madden (USA)

Her compatriot, Devin Ryan, held onto the third spot he established with Eddie Blue in the speed competition despite being one of six to collect a single time penalty over the 14-fence first-round track. Course designer, Spain’s Santiago Varela, set a fast enough time limit of 75 seconds, but it was the first two elements of the triple combination at fence nine that put paid to Marcus Ehning’s chances of becoming the first-ever four-time FEI World Cup™ champion. And it wasn’t Germany’s day as his compatriot Daniel Deusser, lying second overnight, saw his hopes of a second title crushed when his 2014 winning ride, Cornet d’Amour, appeared to mis-read the first element of the double at fence five.

Frenchman, Kevin Staut, led the way against the clock with Silver Deux de Virton HDC, and his clear set the early target at 36.87 seconds. He stayed out in front when America’s Jamie Barge and Luebbo were also foot-perfect but fractionally slower, but Smolders reset the parameters with a blistering round from the feisty stallion Emerald who broke the beam in 33.44 seconds. Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts didn’t threaten that with Legend of Love who crossed the line clear in 35.19, but von Eckermann came close when stopping the clock on 33.92 and then only Madden was left to challenge Smolders for the win.

A tight turn to the fourth fence on the jump-off track, a double of verticals, was essential, and although defending champions, America’s McLain Ward and HH Azur, posted the quickest time of 32.74 seconds, they hit the first element here. Madden’s Breitling, however, was flawless once again, putting on another jumping exhibition to clinch pole position as they breezed through the timers in 33.22. “Left turns to a vertical used to be our nemesis, but he’s figured out his front end now,” the double Olympic gold medallist pointed out.

When asked if she was feeling confident with a one-fence lead going into Sunday’s title-decider, she said, “It’s nice to have a rail in hand, but we are really only halfway through the competition. We have two more rounds and maybe a jump-off on Sunday… it can all change a lot yet.”

Smolders admitted he might have made an error of judgement in competing his other ride, Zinius, in the opening speed leg. “It’s always easy to say that afterwards, but Zinius had a very good indoor season and he’s naturally fast in speed classes so I made that decision, but it didn’t work out. I don’t like to lose, but I don’t mind being beaten by Beezie who won in style – and this was a great class tonight,” he said.

Madden’s closest rival on Sunday, however, will be von Eckermann. “I didn’t ride so great to the double of verticals (in the jump-off), I was a bit over-careful but my horse jumped both rounds fantastic,” he said, and you can tell he’s pretty confident that there’s plenty more left in Mary Lou’s tank for Sunday’s challenge.

But mistakes will be very costly indeed on the final afternoon, as Philippaerts, Ward, and Sweden’s Douglas Lindelow are in joint-fourth place carrying just six faults apiece, and Smolders and Colombia’s Carlos Lopez are only a single fault further behind.

By Louise Parkes

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