Besties Heather Morris and Tamie Smith Win All the Things at AECs

California girls Heather Morris and Tamie Smith were a force of nature at the 2015 Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships. They rolled up into Tyler, Texas, like a hurricane and blew out with four National Championships between the two of them.

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Heather started her Saturday off with a win on Get Rowdy in the Professional’s Choice Training Horse division. The 5-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Team Express Group LLC took the weekend in stride, finishing the week on their dressage score of 22.5.

“He just grew up so much this weekend,” Heather says. “He can sometimes go in and be a little bit casual but the atmosphere in there kind of lit him up a bit and he was so good.”

What’s next for the baby superstar? “He’s ready to go to Prelim but I’m not going to move him up until next year,” Heather says. Instead, we can look forward to seeing him compete against his peers in the Young Horse Championships at Galway next month.

Later in the afternoon, Heather took a second victory gallop aboard Merial Intermediate winner Charlie Tango. Like Get Rowdy, the 7-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by Team Express Group LLC won the dressage on 24.8 and never looked back.

The show jumping course was causing plenty enough trouble for the Intermediate division, with rails flying for all but the top two finishers, Heather and second-placed Jessica Schultz riding her own Lock ‘N Load.

“He was jumping like a freak in the warm-up,” Heather recalls, “and then the horse in front of me went clean and so obviously I couldn’t have any rails, but he’s such an amazing show jumper. I’ve had him since he was 4 and so our partnership is good, and he really hates touching anything.”

Heather Morris and Charlie Tango. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Heather Morris and Charlie Tango. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

It’s not their first big win together — the pair bested both CCI2*s they entered this year, first at Galway and then at Rebecca Farm — but victory never gets old, especially when it’s shared with a special horse.

It’s always fun to see how riders celebrate in the moment they realize they’ve won a big event, but of all the fist pumps, high-fives and neck pats I witnessed this weekend I think my favorite reaction belonged to Heather and Charlie Tango. After their double-clear round, Heather dropped his reins and gave him a full-on bear hug that went on and on. Honestly, I thought someone was going to have to pry the two apart.

“I always give him a kiss,” Heather said. “He’s such a good boy.”

Heather Morris and Charlie Tango. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Heather Morris and Charlie Tango. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Meanwhile, Tamie Smith was busy racking up her own collection of champion ribbons. Fresh off her big CIC3* shut-out with Maui Baum at Plantation Field last weekend, Tamie’s momentum carried over to the AECs where she matched Heather’s two wins with two of her own.

First she captured the Preliminary Horse championship with Fleeceworks Royal, a 6-year-old Holsteiner owned by Judith McSwain. We’ve been following this partnership since the striking grey mare made her debut in the 4-Year-Old Future Event Horse Program, and Tamie has done a beautiful job of developing her ever since. “Rory” had some momentum coming into this weekend herself, having topped the CIC1* at Copper Meadows earlier this month.

“I’m thrilled with her,” Tamie says. Rory has a tendency to be a bit “rude and bossy” in the show jumping, so they’ve been doing some 6-Year-Old Jumper classes, which are 1.30 meter and 1.35 meter for championships. By comparison, a 1.10 meter prelim show jumping course seems like a walk in the park. “She just kind of went into the ring and was really comfortable, like, ‘Ah! This is Novice.’ But she felt really good and really rideable and I’m super proud of her.”

In addition to her Prelim win, Rory earned the honor of being the top-placed Young Event Horse program graduate at the AECs. Can’t wait to see what this mare adds to her already-impressive resume next!

Next up was Tamie’s ride on Anita Nardine’s California-bred 7-year-old, Favian. The pair laid down the lowest dressage score of any AECs division, a 21.5, and held fast to their lead for the rest of the weekend.

Favian’s budding eventing career thus far has been a team effort. Tamie took him to his first show, Jess Hargrave took him to his second, and Heather took him to his third. “We were trying to get him qualified and he hasn’t really had a person,” Tamie says. “But from the first time I rode him until today, he’s been super. He’s ready for Training level, and that’s what you hope for going into a championship.”

Needless to say, Tamie and Heather had a lot to celebrate this weekend — and who wouldn’t want to be on that party train?

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When Chinch went missing for a solid 24 hours, coincidentally last seen at the Heather/Tamie press conference, we weren’t sure whether he’d been abducted or had staged his own chinchnapping as an excuse to party all night with friends like AEC cross-country course designer Captain Mark Phillips

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…USEA President Diane Pitts

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…and, of course, these double-trouble hooligans:

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(See more photo evidence of Chinch’s wild Saturday night shenanigans on Eventing Nation’s Instagram @goeventing.)

Just when we were about to call the police, he mysteriously showed back up during Tamie’s awards ceremony with Favian.

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Phew… crisis averted!

Go friends. Go fun. Go Eventing.

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