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Cassidy Oeltjen

Achievements

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5* First-Timers: Andrew McConnon and the Road Less Traveled

Andrew McConnon and Ferrie’s Cello. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Every CCI5* first timer has had a different road to travel before sending in that inaugural entry. For some, it’s a quick trip to the top, making a climb up the levels with their first event horse. For others, it’s riding out a dream they never knew existed until the right horse came along.

For Andrew McConnon, getting to Kentucky took throwing out the timeline, changing his program, and focusing on the process.

Andrew considers himself slightly tardy to the eventing party. “I feel like a lot of upper level riders were getting ready to run their first Advanced or at least their first FEI about the time I was moving up from Novice,” he said. “I’d been around horses and ridden my whole life, just didn’t get the chance to event until later. It was after high school when I was even thinking about Training level.”

In 2014, tragedy turned into opportunity when, after unexpectedly losing his upper level horse, fellow Southern Pines eventer, Rachel Jurgens, invited Andrew to come along to Kentucky and be in the barns. “I’d been to Kentucky a lot as a spectator, but this was my first chance to really see the behind the scenes. It’s a whole different experience and it really just inspired me to want to be there as a competitor,” he reflected.

That weekend also turned into a chance of a lifetime, one that seemed too good to be true. Rachel offered her Kentucky mount to Andrew. And he thought she was joking.

Andrew McConnon and Ziggy. Photo by Jenni Autry.

“Who would ever give up the ride on their five-star horse?” had thought Andrew. “So I didn’t really think anymore about it until she called me and was like ‘so do you want him or not?’”

Ziggy gave Andrew much needed experience at the Advanced level, but the time for him to step down into a less strenuous role was looming. Even with a booming teaching business, Andrew wanted to use the pause between horses to advance his own riding education. The opportunity to work for William Fox-Pitt arose, and Andrew jumped on a plane.

“I originally thought I’d stay for a year, but I ended up having the opportunity to ride and compete over there a lot more than I thought I would,” he explained. “I flew home, sorted out renewing my visa, and spent another year taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Andrew used the time in England to improve his riding, but also sharpen his mental edge and business mindedness. “While the pressure of Kentucky is obviously a lot, nothing can compare to the pressure it felt riding in front of William,” he reflected. “He had been my lifelong idol and to ride in that program felt more intense than any event… but I also learned that at the end of the day, it’s a business no matter what you’ve achieved.”

Coming back to the U.S. with a new perspective on the industry, Andrew allowed himself to sell his nice young horse as a smart business decision instead of holding onto it in the hopes it would reach the pinnacle level. He changed his approach to focus less on end goals more on the journey, and finding the ride fit for each horse.

Ferrie’s Cello, Andrew’s Kentucky entry owned by Jeanne Shigo, found his way to Andrew by way of a mutual friend. The 11-year-old, Dutch Warmblood, has all the classic physical traits of a top event horse, but (also like many top horses) can also be mentally tricky.

“Jeanne is wonderful. She loves the horse and loves the sport. Her support has been amazing, and she is so patient and flexible as to how we develop him,” he said. “He spent a long time at Intermediate, having these things we call ‘Eddie moments’ where I’d just wonder why he did what he did.”

Obviously no one knows if a horse has what it takes to be a 5* horse until they cross Sunday’s finish line, but Andrew had a good feeling as Eddie made the move up to the Advanced level. “He ran his first Advanced track at Millbrook, and it just felt great – like he had something to focus on and he felt really mature,” he reflected.

Andrew McConnon and Ferrie’s Chello. Photo by Shelby Allen.

“[Eddie] can go quite nice on the flat and be very careful in show jumping, but I’m really looking forward to galloping him across that wonderful ground,” Andrew continued. “I keep lying to myself that it’s just another horse trials, but it’s always been a dream to be inside, rather than outside, those ropes.”

We (along with the thousands of other spectators at the little horse trials) can’t wait to watch the big bay go blazing by at the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event and wish Andrew the best of luck.

[Click here to catch up on all of EN’s coverage of the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event]

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Pulling Off a Live Stream: Behind the Scenes with Horse & Country

Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Setting an alarm to watch your favorite rider burn around a cross country in Europe, watching show jumping from the comfort of your couch, or parking yourself in front of a jumbotron to get the full view of the course while on location at an event: thanks largely to Horse & Country, these enhancements have made spectating equestrian sports more accessible, convenient and inclusive.

Eventing Nation stepped behind the scenes with the H&C crew while at the Setter’s Run Farm Carolina International to see how they bring the excitement of eventing to your screen – a process that begins long before they arrive on the show grounds.

“For an event like the Carolina International, we know it so well we don’t start communicating with the venue until 60 or 90 days out, because we have a lot of familiarity with where the course will go and where cameras will be located,” explained David Qualls, Executive Producer at H&C. “Any new event would require a good six months – the more time the better.”

Some of the logistical setup for livestream sports coverage involves navigating permanent structures, like at the Carolina Horse Park, where a 12-inch conduit pipe had to be installed under a public road in order to connect the production trailer to the dressage phase, located a half a mile away.

A look inside the production room at Carolina International. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Other changes are temporary, where the relatively small staff spends the days immediately before the event burying fiber cables beneath the ground, ensuring the safe travel of horses and humans. With at least six cameras connected by more than 10,000 feet of fiber, that’s a whole lot of trenching!

With only about a dozen staff members handling everything from set-up to commentating, there are some seriously long days and flexibility required. “Other than going home and grabbing some dinner and a bit of sleep, we’ve been flat out,” Helen Murray, H&C Content Producer, shared before she stepped back into the production trailer to direct the next segment of dressage.

Commentator Holly Hudspeth is joined by Helen Murray. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Helen had arrived at the Carolina Horse Park two days before the competition to work on the logistics before stepping into her production role, collaborating with the regular commentator, Holly Hudspeth, and special guests to produce the live stream.

Holly, an accomplished upper level event rider, finds her job with H&C a welcome change from the intensity of competing. “I really enjoy just being able to take a step back to watch people, and really get to know the horses and riders,” she reflected, “because when I was competing myself I didn’t get that opportunity.”

Holly uses her knowledge about the sport coupled with some heavy- hitting guest commentators to provide the livestream audience with a unique perspective of the event. Notable names like Ian Stark and Bettina Hoy have shared the mic for H&C, providing insight to the competition happening on screen, while musing about their own past experiences (like Murphy Himself bouncing a one stride with Ian).

Photo by Tilly Berendt.

During a Thursday afternoon dressage section, Holly was joined by CCI5* rider, Meghan O’Donoghue. Meghan has been behind the mic a few times for H&C and finds it a great opportunity to help promote the sport of eventing.

“I think it’s a good challenge as a commentator to try to bring some added excitement and value to what these horses and riders are trying to do,” said Meghan.

For the Carolina International CCI4*-S division, the competition results came down to the wire, with winner Will Coleman, racing the clock to win by just 1.5 points. Once the last horse crossed the finish line, the H&C crew began the packing process, carefully collecting the miles of cable, cameras and computers and preparing to do it all again at their next live streamed competition.

If you’d like to support H&C as well as enjoy more live streams year-round as well as educational and entertainment content, we’ve brought back our discount code for 15% off an annual subscription. You can save 15% off an annual subscription here using code EVENTINGNATION15 – the code is case-sensitive.

Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International: [Website] [Final Scores] [On-Demand Replay] [EN’s Coverage]

No Mama Drama for Rock On Rose at SRF Carolina International

Whitney Weston was all smiles after performing the CCI2*-S test ride at Carolina International. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The Thursday morning dressage test rides at an FEI event usually lacks a bit for spectators — even more so if it’s 32 degrees and in the secondary arena away from the bleachers and the cameras. But for North Carolina-based Whitney Weston and Rock On Rose, performing the Breezeway Sporthorse and Diagnostic Clinic and Friendship Mobile Veterinary Imaging and Sports Medicine CCI2*-S test ride at the Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International, was the time to shine.

It’s been over six years since “Lusty” has gone down the centerline at an event, and in her prime, she was never known for her suppleness and relaxation.

“She has quite the history of tension and shutting down in the dressage ring,” explained Whitney. “I assume she was horrified to go in circles that she thought were beneath her.”

Bred by Bruce Davidson Sr. and piloted by top riders including, Bruce, Buck Davidson, Tim Bourke, James Alliston, Boyd Martin, and finally Whitney Weston, she burned around some of the biggest courses in the country, including the Rolex Kentucky CCI5* in 2010, where she finished 11th with Boyd in the irons.

Whitney Weston and Rock On Rose. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

At 17 years old, Lusty had educated Whitney at the upper levels, but had swung and missed at a few attempts to get to Kentucky. Not really obtaining the ability to keep the lid on for the lower levels, Whitney decided to see if she could breed the next generation of cross country machines.

After three beautiful babies and aging out of her breeding career, Lusty had no desire to become a pasture puff. Whitney had paused her own upper level dreams to build a riding school, so she decided to find out if her redheaded dressage dragon had mellowed enough to go back down the centerline.

Rock On Rose makes pretty babies. Photo courtesy of Whitney Weston.

In 2022, the pair made their USDF debut earning the scores necessary at First and Second levels towards their Bronze Medal. But Thursday was the first day that they’d busted out the shadbelly, testing Lusty’s ability to hold it together in the shadow of a cross country course.

“She was so good,” mused a smiling Whitney. “There were a few moments that I could tell she thought cross country would be coming in a couple of days, but I just kept telling her that all we had to do were some circles. She’s much more open to allowing me to ride her… but I still know that if I press for certain things, she could have a meltdown.”

Much to Lusty’s dismay, she will be headed back home instead of sticking around for the cross country, but for a moment Thursday morning, she got to relive her eventing dreams.

Setters’ Run Farm Carolina International: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Ride Times] [Order of Go] [Live Scoring] [Live Stream] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Form Guide] [Volunteer]

Amateur Spotlight: Angela Mitchell’s Eventing Meet-Cute

Angela and Cornwill Cormint at Galway Downs. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

Eventers are comfortable with contradictions. Fast out of the start box; slow down the center line. Heat things up with fitness work; cool things off with ice boots. Up the adrenaline on cross country; become careful and thoughtful in show jumping. 

Angela Mitchell (professionally Angela M. Catanzaro, A.C.E.) may not have been an eventer her whole life, but she’s definitely been living the life of one. Born in Los Angeles, but having grown up in the midwest, she was that fairytale girl who got a pony for her seventh birthday. 

“He was a young Appaloosa with almost no training and was a bit much for a seven year old,” she recalls. “I think my dad may have traded a tractor for him (and his saddle). But from the moment I kissed his muzzle, I was a horse girl for life.”

Then and now: Angela at the Kentucky Horse Park. Photos courtesy of Angela Mitchell.

As cool as it would be for the eventing chapter of the fairytale to have started with this pony and have them rocked up the levels, it was a hunter trainer who took up residence in Angela’s little western barn. She found herself competing in Pony Hunters across the midwest at facilities like the Kentucky Horse Park and Lamplight, where she was literally sharing space with eventing. 

But just like a typical meet-cute situation, it would be years before she’d realize where fate would lead. 

Soon, the lure of teenage life would draw her out of the barn and onto the path back to her West Coast roots. While attending UCLA she fell in love with the movie industry, and became a film and television editor after completing school. 

The long days, fluid schedules, and variety of personalities of the film industry felt similar to the barn life that she loved as a young equestrian. Not wanting to be a ‘one trick pony’, her portfolio includes a range from horror films to television dramas — but even the wide variety of projects on her roster couldn’t keep her from the nagging feeling that she needed some time back with horses.

“The smell is really the thing that always gets you. I feel like after you’ve been away from it for a while, there is nothing that gives you greater comfort than that horse smell,” she muses.

Comforted by the smell and a lesson pony named Bows, she eased her way back into lessons, which became weekends at the barn, which morphed into a part lease, and then a full lease —  and then she became a horse owner.

She was hooked — again.

By chance, the barn Angela had started back at was one that was eventing focused. A self-described adrenaline junkie, she immediately fell in love with the rush of cross country, and has acquired an appreciation for the nuances of dressage.

“My first event I went to, I really had no idea what I was doing, everything was happening so fast,” Angela says. “My mind was just exploding with all the things I needed to do. I don’t even think I brought buckets. I didn’t bring buckets! I was very unprepared. But it’s one of those things: you’re either hooked right away, or you learn quickly it’s not for you. I was hooked.”

She would soon get the opportunity to learn from a schoolmaster, Nicodemus, who taught her the fine art of running fast at big fences. They partnered for her first Preliminary, and finished in the top twenty at the 2019 American Eventing Championships where she was able to experience the magnificent Kentucky Horse Park again, this time as an eventer. 

Angela and Cornwill Cormint at Galway Downs. Photo by Tina Fitch Photography.

The education Nicodemus provided, Angela is now sharing with Cornwall Cormint, an imported gelding that she’s introducing to the life of three phases — a process that provides new perspective. “It drives me more than the competitions or the results — the bond with him, and seeing him understand and really trust me,” she explained.

For Angela, there is dependence, not balance between her life as an eventer and her professional role as an editor. “I’m in a dark room all day looking at computer screens, and more than anything I just need to be out in the world,” she says. “So there are times when I can try to race out to the barn to get a ride in, but I know if I get that email or I get that call, I’m going to have to pack it up and head back. I’ve taken a conference call on the back of a horse, but who hasn’t?”

Trying to find enough time to be a good editor and also get the time she needs in the barn requires creative scheduling, a great team of people, and familiarity with the pavement. “I shouldn’t say that work gets in the way of my horse pursuits, it should be the other way around — but that’s how I see it!” 

Careful planning, a husband that understands the time demands, and purchasing a living quarters trailer where they can pack up the dogs and head several hours to a competition or clinic have made the adventures slightly less complicated and lots more fun.

Angela does manage to occasionally find work/life crossover, often in unusual ways — her mare’s squeal made the final cut of the Predator’s vocalizations in the movie Prey. (All mares around the world are now jealous, we reckon!)

Angela may be comfortable with her creative scheduling, but living and competing in Area 6 has its own share of challenges. “Most of the events out here are at least two and sometimes three days, which is really hard to make work when you have to work those Thursdays and Fridays,” she says. “And as an editor, no one else is doing my job so I can’t be like ‘oh, can you cover for me?’.” 

This year’s scheduling may become especially ‘creative’ for Angela, as she has goals of her first FEI competition on her mind. “I spend a lot of time just figuring out how to make it work without sacrificing the well being of my horse. But that’s the thing. If you love something, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.”