The USEA Young Event Horse East Coast champions were crowned this afternoon at Fair Hill, with Will Coleman and Vagabon de Champdoux taking home top honors in the 5-year-old championship and Melissa Hunsberger and Rule of Thumb winning the 4-year-old championship.
Vagabon de Champdoux, an off-the-track French Thoroughbred gelding owned by KBLB Event Horses LLC, scored 81.5 to just narrowly edge Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Jungle ROC for the win.
Of the three horses Will brought to the 5-year-old championships, he said Vagabon is the greenest of the group, having just been imported at the beginning of the summer after Henri Prudent put him in touch with Geoffrey Debut in France. “I told him I wanted blood, and when he called me and told me he had something he thought I might want, I bought him straight away sight unseen,” Will said. “A good Thoroughbred is so hard to find.”
Sired by Secret Singer out of Miss Des Roses by Lute Antique, Will said Vagabon is still “weedy and weak” and a little small for him in his current build, so his fiancé, Katie Thornton, does most of his flatwork at home. “Until he gets stronger, I don’t want to do too much with him,” Will said. “I think he’s a really nice horse. Thoroughbred blood is a premium in our sport.”
Will said Vagabon handled the jumping portion of the competition well today, saying the course showed “which horses were a bit more gung ho and a bit braver.”
If Vagabon’s score of 81.5 bests the winning score in the West Coast championships at Galway Downs two weeks from now, Will will receive $8,000 via the Holekamp/Turner Young Event Horse Lion d’Angers Prize and Grant to travel to France to compete in the 7-year-old championships at Le Lion.
“The Le Lion grant is a huge bonus, and I’d be lying if I wasn’t already saying how cool it would be to go,” Will said. “You look at the leaderboard over there, and all the top riders are there from around the world, so I think it’s important that we start sending Americans over there. As we start to produce more horses in this country, it’s important to see how we measure up.”
Will praised the USEA’s YEH program, saying he believes it’s the best young event horse program in the world. “We do the best dressage test of any of the others, and the jumping is reasonable,” Will said. “The judges this year (William Micklem, Bea di Grazia and Cathy Tucker-Slaterbeck) are also excellent.”
Landmark’s Jungle ROC, a Dutch Warmblood/Irish Sporthorse, owned and bred by Jacqueline Mars, by ROC USA out of Jungle Tale, scored 81.2 to take the reserve championship in the 5-year-old division.
“He’s a lovely type, and he’s been great coming up,” Lauren said. “He’s been very competitive and super easy to train. He’s a great cross country horse and a careful jumper,” which the horse exhibited in the jumping portion of the competition today.
Tupelo, a Trakehner mare owned by Chris Turner and bred by New Spring Farm, scored 80.6 to finish third with Michael Pollard. Michael said he made the YEH championships the main goal for Tupelo’s season, and she felt fantastic today. “I felt like a good have gone around Preliminary on her,” Michael said.
As Chris Turner owns the horse and Tim Holekamp bred her, Michael said he wanted to come to the championships to support the concept of the Holekamp/Turner Young Event Horse Grant. “We have some we’ve bred ourselves now coming to this level, so we’re hoping to bring multiple horses to both divisions next year.”
Rule of Thumb, a Warmblood/Thoroughbred cross gelding owned by Dawn Erdman and bred by Virginia Tech, won the 4-year-old championships on 83.16, the best score of both divisions. Sired by Royal Appearance and out of Nadia VT, the horse ended up in Middleburg as an underweight, green broke youngster.
“A friend called Steplin (Sporthorses) and said he had a skinny horse, but he thought he could really move,” Melissa said. “We went to go see him in a round pen, and I thought he could probably trot, but he was in pretty bad shape.”
So it’s certainly a rags to riches story that he’s blossomed into such a fantastic prospect, and the owner’s entire family flew in from their home state of Alaska to watch him clinch the win this weekend.
“He had one moment coming out of the water today,” Melissa said. “I’m not sure what happened; I think he slipped coming out. But like a good event horse, he kept on going. He loves to jump; he loves to go. He’s very smart, and I’m very lucky to have the ride on him.”
Jennie Brannigan won the 4-year-old reserve championship on 82.83 aboard Twilightslastgleam, a Thoroughbred gelding (National Anthem X Royal Child) bred and owned by Nina Gardner. Though “Comic” was bred to race, he never actually made it that far, as his nasty buck got him kicked off the racetrack after he dumped one too many jockeys.
Well-know jump jockey Willie McCarthy broke the horse, and Jennie said much of the credit also goes to Waylon Roberts, who worked with the horse quite a bit when he was in training with Phillip Dutton.
“I’m so pleased for Nina,” Jennie said. “She’s been such a huge supporter, and I’m really excited for her to have bred such a nice horse. “Even though he had a tough start, he has a good mind. He’ll go in the ring and perform, and he loves the game and loves to jump.”
Lauren Kieffer and Landmark’s Miner’s Diamond, an English Thoroughbred/Irish Sport Horse by Miner’s Lamp out of Jungle Tale, round out the top three in the 4-year-old championship on a score of 80.74.