Move over, Advanced, with your fancy dressage tailcoats and show-boaty jumps. For one glorious week each year, we shove the Big Name Riders out of the limelight and focus instead on the cutthroat ranks of … Jr. Beginner Novice.
This year 31 of the country’s most formidable junior riders are facing off over the toughest yellow numbered jumps in the land right here in Parker, Colorado for the 2018 American Eventing Championships. The field is wide open but this much is certain: The competition will be fierce. When was the last time you finished an event on a score of 19.8? Yeah, insert crickets here. Yet that was the winning score from last year’s Jr. Beginner Novice 14 & Under championship, earned by Ashley Stout and Deo Volente.
Make no mistake — these kids are coming for us all, and we can’t wait to follow all the dramatic twists and turns of this year’s Jr. Beginner Novice showdown.
- Jr. Beginner Novice and Jr. Beginner Novice 14 & Under are usually separate divisions, but for 2018 they have been combined into one mega-division.
- Thoroughbreds far outnumber any other breed represented, but it’s a diverse field:
- We have three veteran AEC horses in the field. FR’s Check It Out, a 2009 bay Thoroughbred gelding owned and ridden by Avery Daigle, finished 17th at the 2016 AEC in the Training Amateur division with Emily Cox. Mr. Mile High, a 2008 chestnut Thoroughbred gelding owned by Heidi Hedberg and ridden by Emily Hedberg, finished 9th in the 2017 Training Rider championship with Alison Wilaby. P.S. American Girl, a 25-year-old Pinto ridden by Emma Sletten, is making a huge comeback after earning the Jr. Training AEC reserve championship in 2008 with owner Madeline Backus — who was 12 at the time! When Madeline outgrew P.S. American Girl she began riding P.S. Ariana, her future four-star horse. Happy 10-year AEC homecoming, P.S. American Girl!
AEC Jr. Beginner Novice is sure to bring the heat in the sandbox. Leading dressage scores from the 14 & Under division for the past four years: 19.8 (2017), 26.5 (2016), 23.8 (2015), 23.5 (2014). Zing!
Eighteen out of this year’s 31 Jr. Beginner Novice entries have proven that they’re capable of scoring in the 20s, but three in particular have a track record of sub-25.0 tests which could give them the edge in Friday’s stiff competition:
- Sophia Hardesty and San Marco, a 2010 bay Thoroughbred/Oldenburg gelding owned by Kim Hardesty, have won two out of their last three events together on their dressage score. The pair earned an impressive 21.9 at The Event at Skyline in May.
- Emily Hedberg and Mr. Mile High, a 2008 chestnut Thoroughbred gelding owned by Heidi Hedberg, are coming in hot, having scored a 24.0 at Otter Creek earlier this month.
- Maya Pessin and This Bird, her own 2009 chestnut Thoroughbred gelding, are on a tear, having scored a 25.20, 24.7 and 25.3 at their past three events.
Cross Country Machines
Seven horses in the field have never had a cross country jump penalty, and we don’t expect them to sully that spotless record this Saturday! Here are five who have shown consistency in the phase:
- Emma Franklin and Teddybear, her own 2007 German Riding Pony/Dutch Warmblood gelding, have had double-clear cross country trips in their last eight outings.
- Lauren Garcia and Park Avenue III, a 1998 dark bay Thoroughbred gelding owned by Ellen Doughty-Hume, have a clear cross country slate, and the horse has been double-clear cross country in all seven of its USEA events, winning the last two.
- Natalie Nabor and Lonely Soldier, her own 2003 bay Thoroughbred gelding, only have four events under their belt but cross the finish flags without penalty each time.
- Erin Roane and Beau Tie, her own 2005 chestnut Thoroughbred gelding, have collected only 0.4 time faults in eight cross country trips.
- Ella Robinson and Fernhill Fearless des Terdrix, her own 2010 bay Dutch Warmblood gelding, are a fairly new partnership, but the horse has cross country mileage through Prelim and has never had a jump penalty.
Show Jumping Powerhouses
It’s never over until it’s over in eventing. Who can we count on handle the pressure on show jumping day? Here are three who’ve never dropped a rail.
- Tatum Grey and Reds Loyal Flame, her own 2011 chestnut Quarter Horse mare, have won two of their last four events, turning in double-clear cross country AND show jumping rounds each time.
- Ingrid Hofmeister and Berklee, a 2010 chestnut/white Paint/Clydesdale gelding owned by Melinda Hofmeister, have yet to pick up a show jumping penalty in their three events together.
- Maggie Morris and Trump Lion, her own 1997 black Irish Sport Horse gelding, are super jumpers across the board; in their five events together they’ve had no cross country jump penalties and turned in five double-clear show jumping performances.
PREDICTED WINNER: It’s anybody’s game! Best of luck to all!