Bec Braitling
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Bec Braitling

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Area VI
Highest Level Competed 4*
Farm Name Reveler's Ranch

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Future Superstars Take the Stage on Day 1 of USEA YEH/FEH West Coast Champs

4-Year-Old Leonardo Diterma, owned by Cellar Farm Corp., & Amber Levine. Photo by MGO Photography.

Beautiful fall conditions greeted competitors at Twin Rivers in Paso Robles, California on Friday as the best of the west put on a show at The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse West Coast Championships and the USEA Future Event Horse Championships. Judges Peter Gray and Debbie Adams were dazzled by an impressive crop of horses who came to prove the next generation of the sport is in good hands. Kicking things off were the 4 and 5 year-olds in the main arena.

Ultimately Jennifer Wooten-Macouzet came out on top in the 5-year-old Championships riding Kowenna, owned by Allison Hill, a KWPN mare by Freeman VDL, who just landed in the United States late July. “We were looking for horses for Allison then COVID hit and we just took a gamble on her. I said, ‘Do you trust me?’ This was not the goal for her, expectations were low but here we are, she’s just a classy mare,” says Wooten-Macouzet. Fifteen pairs will come forward Saturday to tackle the jumping phases, beautifully prepared by Adri Lea Doyal.

On top after day one of competition in the 4-year-old class is world class rider Amber Levine, who laid down a commanding test on Leonardo Diterma, owned by Cellar Farm Corp, a classy moving KWPN gelding by Gullet HBC out of Gracie Terma, who only landed in California a month ago. The theme of the day proved to be rideability, matched by an equal amount of flash and clearly more than a hint of trainability. Both classes are tight packed after dressage, just over two points separate each class.

Not to be overshadowed by their older compatriots, winners were crowned in the USEA Future Event Horse Championships. Janine Jaro brought forward her Yearling Champion filly and overall Yearling Champion Trilogy, by Clair de Lune SE, and Chloe Smyth presented Michelle Cameron’s towering 2-year-old gelding aptly named RSH Goliath. Hot on his heels was Reserve Champion 2-year-old colt Ferao DFEN, by Flexible, owned by Sarah McCarthy, presented by Max Gerdes.

Heading into Saturday’s jumping section, Sarah Moseley’s ‘Twain’s Fireflight DF’, bred at Dragonfire Farm and by The Twain, leads a quality field of incredibly well-behaved 3-year-olds. The striking filly is out of the Hanoverian mare Dominga, who proved be quite difficult to get in foal. Her only other progeny is none other than Revitavet Elijah, who James Alliston successfully competed through to the Advanced level. Hot on her heels is Carrie Miller’s MFS Flywire presented by Anna Collier.

The USEA Future Event Horse 4-year-old class demonstrated how level-headed they were as all 5 showed themselves off impeccably in the main arena as the afternoon breeze sent the flags flying.  They head into Saturday’s jump chute with Pam Fisher’s homebred filly ‘Sea Lioness’ out in front. Anyone who saw her 5* sire ‘Sea Lion’ compete could be forgiven for confusing the two, the filly so far showing all the same qualities as her sire. Judith McSwain’s Fleeceworks L’Spout is sitting in second with Charlotte Babbitt in the irons heading into Saturday.

Ride On Video will be live streaming on Saturday, featuring both of the jumping phases in the YEH and FEH. Head to www.rideonvideo.net for details. For schedule details, live scores and ride times head to www.twinrivershorsepark.com and click on Events.

Young Horses & Future Stars Ready to Strut Their Championship Stuff at Twin Rivers

2019 Champs: 5-year old Mucho Me Gusto & Allyson Hartenberg, left; 4-Year-Old Keep Calm & Amber Levine, right. Photo by US Eventing courtesy of Twin Rivers Ranch.

Preparations are in full swing at Twin Rivers Ranch as combinations begin to descend on the sunny Central Coast of California from all parts of the West to contest The Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse and USEA Future Event Horse West Coast Championships Oct. 22-24 in Paso Robles.

For the first time, the USEA Future Event Horse Championships will be held at the same venue in conjunction with the Young Event Horse Championships, showcasing the best yearlings, 2-year-old, 3-year-old and 4-year-olds on offer.

Kicking things off on Thursday are the last chance qualifiers. Given that 2020 has been a tough year to make any plans with horses, all is not lost for those still seeking qualifications for the Championships. If all goes to plan, 24 combinations will be set to step up for the 4-year-old and 5-year-old Young Horse Championships.

Notable entries include Amber Levine, with two already vying for the 5-year-old Championships, she’s looking to add two more after the last chance qualifier to prove she’s a serious producer of young horses in the United States.

“The YEH is a great platform for bringing future talent along. It shows a very clear window into their future by doing the qualifiers and the Championships at the end of the year,” says Amber. In an effort to not sit down for the next three days, Amber is also adding two 4-year-olds to the mix.

Whilst she may have numbers on her side, there are seriously impressive combinations lining up to take the title, including amateur rider Julie Anne Boyer on her up-and-coming superstar Thoroughbred mare, Truly Enchanted. They’re coming hot off a win in September and are looking to carry that momentum into the season finale.

Popular Santa Ynez-based trainer Jennifer Wooten-Macouzet is bringing forward four talented prospects to contest the 5-year old Championships, each hoping to one day be in contention for the Holekamp/Turner Grant and The Dutta Corp. Prize to represent the United States at the FEI World Breeding Eventing Championships for Young Horses at Mondial du Lion.

Preparing to face off in the USEA Future Event Horse Championships are notable producers and breeders of sporthorses on this coast including Chloe Smyth, Pam Fisher and long-time YEH and FEH supporter Max Gerdes. Making the trip all the way from Washington state is Anna Collier. There will be 19 horses and handlers strutting their stuff around the triangle showing in-hand conformation, under saddle and giving a hint of what’s to come as they showcase their skills in the jump chute.

Taking the Championships to the next level and making the event accessible to everyone at home, Ride On Video will be live streaming on Saturday, featuring both of the jumping phases in the YEH and FEH. Head to www.rideonvideo.net for details. For schedule details, live scores and ride times head to www.twinrivershorsepark.com and click on Events.

Twin Rivers Is Gearing Up to Host USEA YEH & FEH West Coast Championships

Truly Enchanted & Julie Ann Boyer, winners of the Young Event Horse 5-Year-Olds at Twin Rivers. Photo courtesy of MGO Photography.

Whilst the September event at Twin Rivers Ranch provided the West Coast with the first ‘post lockdown’ FEI competition, there was a group of riders busily preparing their Young Event Horses for the penultimate event on a strangely altered 2020 calendar.

The prominent California venue owned by the ever-supportive Baxter family hosts the Dutta Corp USEA Young Event Horse West Coast Championships and USEA Future Event Horse West Coast Championships October 23-24. This will be first stand-alone Championships combining the best Young and Future event horses seen on the West Coast, a huge nod to the program itself and those that support it.

Thanks to the likes of Ironwood Ranch owned by the Salinger Family (Lompoc, CA), Twin Rivers (Paso Robles, CA), Woodside Horse Park (Woodside, CA) and Spokane Horse Trials (Spokane, WA), owners and riders of Young and Future Event horses on the West Coast have been able to qualify for the much anticipated Championships.

Last month David Koss and Fendi, an Oldenburg mare (Fahrenheit x Haupstutbuch Dora) owned by Tessa Robinson, came out on top of the YEH 4 year olds on an impressive score of 87.9 currently placing them second in the nation based on qualifying scores. Widely respected amateur rider Julie Anne Boyer piloted Truly Enchanted, a Thoroughbred mare (Eddington x Chetak) owned by the rider, to the top spot in the YEH 5 year old on a score of 88.8. Boyer is no stranger to producing young Thoroughbreds: High Decorum contested the YEH 5 year olds in 2014 and went on to compete at the 4* level. Now her sights are firmly set on this year’s 5 Year Old Championships. “I think she’s pretty special. She is very smart but definitely an alpha mare!” says Boyer of the chestnut TB ‘Charlotte.’

Expectations are high as riders prepare for the stand-alone event, something event organizer Connie Baxter feels the program needs to showcase the best young horses on the West Coast for the U.S. “We need to highlight the Young Horses, not have them get lost within a big horse show,” says Baxter. With this in mind the Championships are the headline act in a weekend dedicated to the program.

Following the YEH and FEH, Twin Rivers will then welcome riders to the Halloween themed One Day Event on October 25. A long standing, highly entertaining unrecognized event on the Area VI calendar, this event offers riders the opportunity to dress up in their best Halloween costumes while honing their skills before heading to the Galway Downs CCI at the end of the month.

As if that’s not enough for the year, Area VI riders can now add one more Horse Trials to their 2020 calendar, as Twin Rivers rounds out the year with a recognized Horse Trials on November 13- 15 offering Introductory to Intermediate.

Clinic Report: Learning from Leading Hunter Rider John French

Lilly, Andrea Baxter and Bec Braitling at the John French clinic.

Over here in sunny California, 2017 ended with a small group of eventers trying to learn the ways of arguably America’s most winning hunter/jumper rider John French. John recently relocated to the barn where I base, Arnell Sporthorses out of Templeton Farms, and after watching the hunter derby at a local show Andrea Baxter and I decided this would be a winter goal of ours.

John is a great sport and agreed to a small “eventer clinic,” or as it turned out a “taming our horses” clinic. Andrea Baxter’s four-star mare Indy 500 gave John a run for his money, demonstrating how she moved up 56 places at Blenheim Palace CCI3* earlier this season. Actually that was her last outing before the clinic … three months earlier. Andrea also brought along Enfinity, who most recently finished third in the 5-year West Coast Young Event Horse Championships.

I rode “most likely to be repurposed as a hunter” Santana II. Fresh off her win in the CCI1* at Galway this November, I felt like I was ready to dominate. Lauren Burnell rode her seeing-eye horse Counterpoint. Although not known for his hunter way of going, he was the perfect post-baby choice for Lauren. Sonya Bengali rode her Training level event horse, who really is also a hunter.

We started out with loads of flatwork. John was really pushing to emphasize the origins of the flat class and what they were looking for in horses that would be considered great hunt horses. He giggled as he pointed out (very politely) that Indy 500 “doesn’t quite have the neck for it,” but we pushed on nevertheless. Then it was on to some great cavaletti exercises working on adjustability and helping with the changes before starting over fences on the first day.

We began the second day the same but graduated to a hunter course followed by the handy round. I use the term ‘graduated’ loosely. We were, however, far more composed by day two. Indy 500 took half as long to complete her courses, and we aced the skinny hay bales, the bonus fence in the handy round (probably the only fence we were actually equipped to jump well).

We did suffer some indignity when 12-year-old equitation rider Lilly joined our lesson on her lovely hunter Zing and put us all to shame … Er, showed us how it’s done …

Our purpose for the clinic wasn’t to learn the hunter lean nor how to leave strides out, and we aren’t quite ready for our hunter derby debut (yet …). We were reminded how to use our position in the turns and a steadiness of the body to create a good jump.

John has a fantastic way of teaching how to settle the horse through the use of quiet aids. There really is something to be said for cross training, and while it was basically hilarious watching us try this, there were some fantastic lessons to be had. I can’t thank John enough for being such a good sport. It was such an educational insight into a discipline we know little about.

A Weekend with Andreas Dibowski in California

German Olympic gold medalist Andreas Dibowski taught his very first clinic in the U.S. at Twin Rivers Ranch earlier this month, and Andrea Baxter and Bec Braitling kindly sent in a report, with photos taken by Holger Hoetzel. Thank you to Andrea and Bec for writing, and thanks for reading!

Photo by Holger Hoetzel

Photo by Holger Hoetzel

California riders were fortunate enough to take part in a three-day clinic with German powerhouse and Olympic gold medalist Andreas Dibowski, his first one in the U.S., earlier this month. The clinic was wonderfully organized by Holger Hoetzel, a German citizen who now resides in beautiful California.

Twin Rivers Ranch hosted the clinic, with one day of show jumping and two days of cross country, or as Andreas calls it, “the cross.” He also happily spoke Friday and Saturday night, sharing with us his methodologies and training programs. Needless to say, we pressed and pressed trying to extract the key to those Germans’ winning ways!

Day 1: Show jumping

Andreas set up some simple exercises in the big show jumping ring and kept it very basic. He wanted everyone to be focused on the details of their line, balance and energy. 

The warm up consisted of raised cavalleti one stride apart on a circle. He insisted the horses carry a forward canter through the turn and to the poles so the horses could sit down and balance themselves instead of reaching and leaping through or over the poles. His main point was it’s the rider’s responsibility to create a good canter and the horse’s responsibility to move their feet. 

We then moved on to a simple vertical facing the rail, where he wanted us to focus on landing straight and then turning as opposed to letting the rail force the horse to turn. 

He was detail oriented and gave individual feedback after each exercise. We finished with a course, including a grid, related lines over a mound, a big oxer off a turn, and a triple combination ending with a related distance to an angled fence and two skinnies.

He incorporated cones throughout the course to make sure we were landing on the same line we took off from. Andreas got great entertainment from eliminating people for missing or skipping the “mandatory” cones (which a few horses enjoyed jumping!). It turns out he has an awesome sense of humor.

Day 2 and 3: “The cross”

Andreas was keen on stringing fences together to make short courses that were fun, inviting and ultimately challenging for each horse. He was very in tune with which horses could handle more or less of the challenges and would adjust the courses accordingly. 

It was refreshing to be reminded by an outsider that certain questions on a cross country course are good schooling exercises for all horses despite the “level” of course its on. For example, he had the training horses warm up on lots of down banks in and out of water.

They were expected to jump the raised drop into water, which at a show when its dressed up and has a jump before it and probably after it in the water, its on the one-star course, but by itself as a raised drop fence, it’s a perfectly safe schooling question for green horses. It was funny to hear others say — and even the thought ran through my mind — “Yikes! That’s on the “___” course!” But the reality is there is no reason for us to not start introducing those questions when they are simple and not in combinations.

Each group schooled the down/up bank of the sunken roads, all the levels of ditches at the coffin, and he added in skinnies and angles for all the groups (with flags, of course). He insisted that all narrows be jumped with flags or wings every time. He said it was nonsense to ever allow a horse to make a mistake without flags.

Dibo was adamant that all riders stay forward thinking and never allow your hands to do the talking. He wanted everyone to really use their seat and legs and not to interfere with the hands and be picky. All this sounds very basic and obvious, but it’s always a good reminder, especially in a schooling environment. He reminded us all that schooling needs to be a positive experience, and we must ride with the same attitude schooling as we do on course in order to keep our horses confident and brave. 

Lectures

Each night he had prepared a slideshow and had handouts for the lectures. Andreas was passionate about the importance of the horse’s balance, straightness, calmness, energy, tempo and trust. He went on to detail the responsibilities of the rider and horse as it related to line of direction, tempo, balance, fitness and one’s ability to self assess their own capability. 

He showed a spreadsheet of his yearly show schedule for each horse, including backup plans and time off. He explained the importance of building a horse up in terms of confidence and fitness, and that he prefers a softer run leading into a big show such as Rolex or the World Equestrian Games. He also described the importance of giving the horse a break after a big show and then starting them back up with a softer run to regain any lost confidence.  

He emphasized the importance of conditioning on varying terrain and reminded us all that cross country is not in an arena and our horses need to be conditioned to handle variations in footing. 

Andreas was a wealth of knowledge and he was happy to be in sunny California working on his tan all while teaching a great group of eager to learn riders! He even talent spotted a couple horses that he wanted to bring back to Germany with him.