Classic Eventing Nation

Galway Downs Ready To Host CCI3*-L National Championships

2019 CCI4*-L champs Sara Mittleider & La Paz. Photo by Kim Miller.

Top 10-ranked U.S. eventers are among the 420 entries for the Galway Downs International starting Thursday in the heart of Southern California’s Temecula wine country.

An exciting finalé for the West Coast eventing season throughout its 22-year existence, the Oct. 28-Nov. 1 competition is exponentially more so this year for several reasons that explain why East Coast stars Liz Halliday Sharp, Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton shipped horses 3,000 miles to compete. Californian Tamie Smith will defend her victorious turf in almost every division and pairs from throughout the West Coast, Texas, Arizona, Montana and all around the Northwest are ready to finish their season on a high note of intense, high-quality competition.

As with all sporting events, COVID precautions prevent spectators, but Ride On Video and the USEF Network are live-streaming Thursday, Friday and Saturday, bringing the FEI action to the world.

First, the competition will host the USEF National CCI3*-L National Championships, marking the first time it’s been held in the West. This builds upon Galway Downs’ selection as host of the Adequan USEF Futures Team Challenge, a coup announced for Robert Kellerhouse’s Kellerhouse Presents team early this year. You can view the teams here.

 The organizers have something special up their sleeve for lower level contenders, too: the “Challenge” format at the Modified-Training, Training-Novice; and Novice-Beginner Novice levels.

The competition will also unveil international competitor Clayton Fredericks’ first tracks as the venue’s new course designer, working with veteran builder Bert Wood. Sections of newly laid grass bordering re-footed portions of the cross-country course are one of many upgrades that continue Galway Downs’ commitment to hosting top tier tournaments.

 The Championships and new divisions are icing on a cake of venue improvements that’s been baking for some time. Extensive show and warm-up arena footing upgrades, new stabling and countless big and small improvements throughout the 242-acre property have taken an already first-class venue to new levels.

“We are lucky as hell for this opportunity,” says Kellerhouse of adding the CCI3*-L National Championships and the Futures Team Challenge to the Galway Downs International. “We were asked to host the Future Team Challenge West early in the year and the more recent opportunity to host the 3*-L National Championships brings extra interest and the chance to show off what we’ve built up out here with the help of many supporters and stakeholders.”

The CCI3*-L Championships

The COVID cancellation of the Fair Hill International in Maryland opened the door for a new location for this prestigious event. Getting the USEF nod is a big vote of confidence in the Kellerhouse team and fits with the Federation’s efforts to embrace West Coast riders and competitions. “The USEF remains committed to building a bridge to the West Coast and continues to bolster the High Performance program on both sides of the country,” notes Jenni Autry, USEF’s Managing Director of Eventing.

The Futures Challenge

 The Futures Team Challenge is part of the USEF’s Eventing Pathway Program. It debuted last year on the East Coast, with the intent of preparing future senior team athletes by providing an opportunity to experience competing as part of a team and working with the U.S. team coaches. The Futures Team Challenge is open to competitors at the 3*-L and 4*-L levels.

Last year, the Futures Team Challenge was only held on the East Coast. When it came time to expand it with a West Coast edition, Galway Downs and Kellerhouse Presents were poised to make that happen.

Teams were selected earlier this month: U.S. Performance Director Erik Duvander coaches a squad comprised of Liz Halliday-Sharp, Emilee Libby and young rider Sophie Click. U.S. Developing Coach Leslie Law helms the team led by Tamie Smith, Rebecca Brown and Charlotte Babbitt. All prepped for the Challenge with a two-day training focused on dressage and show jumping.

The M-T, T-N & N-BN Challenges

Designed as a test of abilities at the higher end of each level, and as a celebratory showcase, the Challenge was introduced by Kellerhouse 11 years ago as the Preliminary Challenge, held every spring in Northern California’s Woodside. In 2019, a Modified-Training Challenge was added to rave reviews, with riders grateful for the chance to step up their skills and receive a showcase similar to that enjoyed at the higher levels.

The three-day format begins with dressage in Galway Downs’ Grand Prix arena on Friday. On Halloween Saturday, it’s out on cross-country at max distance and effort for all levels and over all new routes. The winners are determined Sunday during stadium jumping, with riders going in reverse order their standings in the Grand Prix arena. The CCI-L competition concludes on Saturday, so Sunday is all about Challengers.

“These classes are all an evolution from where our sport has gone,” explains Kellerhouse. “While we are saddened to see the passing of our Training Three-day Classic format at Galway, we are thrilled to offer something for all the levels to shoot for in the modern test of eventing. For the past decade eventing went toward this format with a more technically challenging long court dressage test, cross country-only jumping with no A, B and C phases, and finishing with the show jumping at a larger height than the cross country test.”

New Courses

The FEI courses will reveal the vision of new Galway Downs course designer, Olympic silver medal winning Clayton Fredericks of Australia. He’s been working alongside veteran Bert Wood, an expert on the venue’s terrain and nuances, for several months.

 “The biggest change is that we’ve decided to stick to this track as the designated upper level track,” Clayton explains. “That will answer a few of the questions being raised in the past about the ground changing between grass and sand. The new track will only have a few of those changes, and with plenty of time for the horse to acclimatize to those changes.”

Clayton is based in Florida but has ample experience with Galway Downs as a competitor, coach and in other sport roles. Most recently, he brought clear-span FEI Stabling to the venue, another first for the West Coast, that has received positive reviews.

A newly-laid stretch of grass is part of the new course and it will all be maintained specifically for eventing purposes. “That allows us to water and manicure the grass exactly as we want to,” says Clayton.

“Challenge and flow” are the key words he uses to describe the new course. As for advice to upper level contenders: “Preparation! Make sure you’ve done your homework. there won’t be anything too out of the ordinary, but we will try to make it up to the standard for each level. So, be ready!”

A Team Effort

Kellerhouse credits the skills and efforts of his own growing team; Nilforushan EquiSports Events; Galway Downs owner Ken Smith; the USEF; USEA; and Clayton Fredericks as heading a long list of supporters who’ve helped make this weekend’s event a fitting showcase for every level of the sport.

Sponsors and volunteers are equally important in realizing this vision for top sport in the West. Sponsors include: The American Horse Trials Foundation, Auburn Labs, California Riding Magazine, California Horsetrader, CWD, Devoucoux, Equine Insurance of California, Geranium Street Floral, Ride On Video, SmartPak, Sunsprite Warmbloods, Symons Ambulance, Temecula Creek Inn.

Volunteer Sign Ups: here. More information: or

Tuesday News & Notes from Legends Horse Feeds

Photo by Shelby Allen. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Photo by Shelby Allen.

I’ve got to take a second to brag here on my guy Justintime. For the last several weeks my semi-retired event horse has been living the dream as a lesson horse at a friends farm. Over the weekend he took two girls around the farm’s crossrail jumper show, and he was an absolute star. Look at that face! I’m a proud owner.

National Holiday: National Black Cat Day

Events Opening This Week: Full Gallop Farm December H.T.

Events Closing This Week: Twin Rivers November H.T.Morven Park Spring H.T.Tryon International 3-Day Event

Tuesday News: 

We are sad to hear that Francis Whittington’s five-star ride, Evento, was euthanized this week. The 11-year-old had begun to develop devastating arthritic changes in his neck, and Francis and the owner Sarah Arrowsmith made the difficult decision. [Farewell to ‘lovely, kind’ five-star horse put down aged 11]

Did you know ONE word can completely change the way you work with your horse? Tik Maynard wants you to ditch anthropomorphism and give your horse the best chance at unbiased training. [One Word That Will Change Your Relationship with Your Horse]

What we’re listening to: The newest episode of the USEA Podcast features all things Galway Downs. We look west this weekend for the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event which will host one of the few CCI4*-L competitions of the year. [USEA Podcast #269: Galway Downs Preview Show]

The 2020 Tom Bass Seminar On Diversity In Equestrian Sports will be held virtually this year on November 14. The meeting will begin at 3 p.m. eastern and is expected to cover a variety of topics including developing broad-based community support for equestrian activities at all levels, building sustainable programs that support diversity in the horse industry and incorporating the lessons gleaned from social activism into the ways in which we do business. [2020 Tom Bass Seminar On Diversity In Equestrian Sports To Be Held Virtually]

Monday Video from CLM DWN: Ride Double Clear with Five-Star First-Timer Mollie Summerland

Big name riders aside, five-star debutante Mollie Summerland had one of the most impressive rides of the day across Pierre Michelet’s cross country track at Pau CCI5* — the only five-star of 2020. At just 22 years of age and aboard self-made horse that she began training as a five-year-old, Mollie and the now eleven-year-old Hanoverian gelding Charly van ter Heiden (Contendros Bube x Espanja, by Escudo II) lay down a heck of a run to remember, coming in double clear over the finish line.

Though two rails in the final phase cost them a few placings as the end of the weekend, Mollie and Charly still took home a top 10 finish in their trip to the very top of the sport. Congratulations to this exciting pair! Ride along with them as they tackle the always trick Pau cross country course.

Weekly OTTB Wishlist: Winterizing

Fall has well and truly set in and as the mornings grow colder winter grows closer, which means that racing meets are beginning to wrap up for the season — particularly more Northern ones. Finger Lakes Racetrack in Farmington, New York will be finishing up their meet next week and trainers are thinning their herds as they prepare to head south. Some horses just aren’t fast enough racehorses to make it worthwhile to keep in training through the winter, but they certainly could make you a great next partner.

Here are three good-looking ex-racehorses from Finger Lakes ready to come home with you:

Molly’s Shrink. Photo via Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds.

Molly’s Shrink (FREUD – KALEIGH ROSE, BY EL CORREDOR): 2016 16.2-hand New York-bred mare

This flashy chestnut mare hasn’t been particularly competitive on the track, but she does have a decent sport horse pedigree so she may very well have more success in other disciplines. “Molly” had throat surgery to correct a partially paralyzed flap early this year and has raced 6 times since then. She should have unlimited potential for any discipline and does not “roar”.

View Molly’s Shrink on Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds.

Judiths Cougar. Photo via Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds.

Judiths Cougar (KANTHAROS – MISS COUGARTOWN, BY COWTOWN CAT): 2017 15.3-hand Florida-bred gelding

“Cougar” is exactly the kind of horse you can so easily picture galloping across country, cantering a course, or being fancy in the sandbox without having to think too hard. This gelding’s lovely neck, shoulder, and uphill build don’t leave too many things to the imagination and he’ll only become more stunning as he finished growing and acquires some new muscling. His trainer, who also exercises him, says he much prefers galloping on grass rather than the dirt tracks he has raced on — that bodes well for being a future event horse too!

View Judiths Cougar on Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds.

Stone Supplier. Photo via Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds.

Stone Supplier (BUSTIN STONES – MENU VARNISH, BY MR. GREELEY): 2012 16.0-hand New York-bred mare

“Stoney” has become a track favorite thanks to her in-your-pocket personality and affectionate demeanor. She’s definitely not a stereotypical chestnut mare! Stoney is an athletic, durable mare and her trainer has raced her frequently since she says so sound. With $156,351 earned in 57 career starts, Stoney has reached war horse status and she has the easy-going temperament to go along with that title too. Don’t let the fact that she’s 8 years old deter you, scoop this delightful mare up!

View Stone Supplier on Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds on Facebook. 

Weekend Winners: Chatt Hills, Grand Oaks, Holly Hill, Twin Rivers, Waredaca, Windermere

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Our unicorn game was on point today at the Twin Rivers Halloween one day 🦄

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It wouldn’t be pre-Halloween weekend without a few costumes to show off. This one, grabbed from Twin Rivers, was definitely the best one I came across. Nicely done!

This weekend’s Unofficial Low Score Award was earned in Louisiana at Holly Hill Horse Trials. Katherine Anderson and High Class won their Novice division on a score of 20.5. Congratulations!

And a special nod is also in order to Great Britain’s Laura Collett, who joined the list of CCI5* winners this weekend at this year’s sole event at the level in Pau, France. Don’t miss out on Tilly’s epic coverage from the weekend here.

Chattahoochee Hills H.T.: [Final Scores]

Advanced (Note: Due to weather conditions, this division did not run cross country): Marilyn Little and RF Scandalous (22.9)
Open Intermediate: Leslie Law and Lady Chatterley (27.5)
Open Preliminary: Morgan Batton and I’m Sew Ready (29.8)
Preliminary Rider: Katarina Midgley and Ditch (30.2)
Modified A: Liz Halliday-Sharp and Shanroe Cooley (22.4)
Modified B: Ariel Grald and Corraghoe Brilliant (29.9)
Jr. Training Rider: Carly Blank and CinderElla (32.4)
Open Training A: Gabrielle Ruane and Kilkenny Mile (28.3)
Open Training B: Mary Bess Davis and Imperio Magic (32.4)
Sr. Training Rider: Eric Sampson and Pancho Villa (31.4)
Jr. Novice Rider: Breeana Robinette and Cape Kimberly (28.8)
Open Novice: Amanda Wilson and Uptown Funk (34.1)
Sr. Novice Rider A: Ruth Ahearne and Justified (31.6)
Sr. Novice Rider B: Melissa Trelfa and Mine For Keeps (33.1)
Jr. Beginner Novice Rider: Abigail Goodwin and Carlin LeBeau (26.1)
Open Beginner Novice: Lisbeth Storandt and Promoted (33.3)
Sr. Beginner Novice Rider: Malin Eriksson and WHF Wilhelmina (31.7)


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These two gorgeous bays were perfect this weekend at a wet Chattahoochee Hills! ❤️Unfortunately the weather gods were not with us, so the Advanced XC was canceled 🙈but Deniro Z still did a super dressage followed by a clear SJ, and luckily we were allowed to gallop up the grass hill which had great footing and was not under water! Shanroe Cooley luckily was able to complete his first Modified HT, and he is just the most amazing 5yr old around! 😍He finished on his dressage score of 22 and took his 7th win of 2020! I couldn’t be more excitied for his new owners, @ocalahorseproperties, and for the future with this very special horse🤩#superstars 🌟 @bimedaequineus @confidenceequs @equine_advantage_llc @veredususa @englishridingsupply @uvexequestrianusa @kanbodyprotector @ocalahorseproperties @guardianhorsebedding @kyequineresearch @flairstrips @romfhequestrianapparel @antaressellier @redingote_equestrian @equiderma @camboxhorsenorthamerica @fmbstherapysystems @frilly_fillies @nupafeedusa @bucas_ireland @toklatoriginals @freejump_america @jump4joyusa @haygainusa @fairfaxandfavor @claire.tisckos @ibsharp2 @laurenunn @amberwayequine @robertsquaredlv @legendshorsefeed @elizgill.eventing

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We are all smiles at the end of the weekend! We came home with a LOT of things learned—who knew there were so many details to the rules of Eventing? My goals in the past year have been just to not die and try to not have a complete panic attack on XC and—let’s be honest—the other two phases as well. Now that I’m feeling more confident, I’ve got to start focusing on details and making sure I’m not making rookie errors that are just plain stupid. At the end of the day, I’m so happy with our progress and partnership and can’t wait to get back out there and try again. So much gratitude for my awesome, patient coach, Lauren New of @riverbirchfarmga I know sometimes she feels like this: 🤦‍♀️😫🤯 but she shows up like this: 🧘‍♀️🤠👏 Our trainers work so hard and don’t get enough 🙌🙌🙌 So take time today to give your coach some ❤️ and remember all of the amazing things they do to help make you better! 🐴😊❤️ . . . #equestrian #equestrianstyle #equeatrianart #equestrianlife #equestrianliving #equestrianlife #hunterjumper #showjumping #dressage #eventing #horses #bossmare #equinegirlboss #giddyup #maregoods #smallbusiness #OTTB #aqha #arabian #warmblood #ponies #mare #gelding #eventers #3days3ways #badass #badassequestrians #themaremare

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FEH & YEH Last Chance Qualifier and West Coast Championship: [Final Scores]

FEH 2 Year Old: Chloe Smyth and RSH Goliath (80.8)
FEH 3 Year Old: Anna Collier and MFS Flywire (83.1)
FEH 4 Year Old: Andrea Baxter and Accelerator (80.4)
FEH Yearling: Max Gerdes and Totality DFEN (84.5)
YEH West Coast Championship 4 Year Old: Amber Levine and Leonardo Diterma (87.1)
YEH West Coast Championship 5 Year Old: Adrienne Hillas and Luxury Mail (88.6)
FEH West Coast Championship 2 Year Old: Chloe Smyth and RSH Goliath (86.1)
FEH West Coast Championship 3 Year Old: Sarah Moseley and Twain’s Fireflight DF (84.2)
FEH West Coast Championship 4 Year Old: Pam Fisher and Sea Lioness (76.7)
FEH West Coast Championship Yearling: Janine Jaro and Trilogy (82.4)
YEH 4 Year Old: Amber Levine and Leonardo Diterma (88.2)
YEH 5 Year Old: Amber Levine and Kremer VD Falieberg (85.5)

Grand Oaks H.T.: [Final Scores]

Advanced CT: Clayton Fredericks and FE Stormtrooper (28.9)
Advanced CT B: Joe Meyer and Clip Clop (32.7)
Intermediate CT: Hallie Coon and Cooley SOS (35.9)
Open Preliminary: Cecilia Lundberg and Cascor (29.8)
Preliminary Rider: Maya Wentz and FE Bail Me Out (57.8)
Modified: Joe Meyer and Cornet Star (25.0)
Open Training: Leila Saxe and Gstar Van De Klinkenberg (25.6)
Novice Rider: Kristin Osley and King of Beer (36.9)
Open Novice: Kyle Carter and RHS Ciarado (27.4)
Open Beginner Novice: Krista Wilson and Stella (29.7)


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“Who needs a brain when you have a heart of gold” -Theo . JK I actually think he is very smart, despite everyone else who knows hims opinions😂❤️ On Saturday we put in a solid test, we’ve got it down to the right, but I have some things to work on to the left. In stadium we had two rails. Then went on to XC to have a really nice controlled run, ending in me circling one to many times to be 2 seconds too slow. We ended up finishing in third and got a very pretty navy and yellow ribbon! I am super proud of him, and ready for the amazing clinic we have coming up soon! Thanks @stables_at_terranova for everything! . . . #terranovaequestrian #eventingnation #crosscountryhorse #eventinglife #ottb #ottbsofinstagram #thoroughbredsofinstagram #equestrianlifestyle #equestriansofinstagram

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Holly Hill H.T.: [Final Scores]

Open Preliminary: Lauren Lambert and Fantastique (27.9)
Jr. Training Rider A: Kendall Miller and Elliott GS (40.4)
Jr. Training Rider B: Haley Miller and Mr. Melvin (33.4)
Open Training: Nicole Hatley and Biscotti (27.9)
Sr. Training Rider: Mary Thompson and Fools Rush In (37.1)
Jr. Novice Rider A: Elle Snyder and Fernhill Bijzonder (26.4)
Jr. Novice Rider B: Maci Finley and Voodoos Lil Leaguer (32.9)
Novice Horse: Nicole Hatley and DPH Kontiki (27.4)
Open Novice: Alexandra du Celliee Muller and Del Rio (26.0)
Sr. Novice Rider A: Martha Thomas and Monte’s Nightingale (35.2)
Sr. Novice Rider B: Katherine Anderson and High Class (20.5)
Sr. Beginner Novice Rider: Demmi Hersh and Jacks-R-Wild (27.5)
Jr. Beginner Novice A: Maddie Mazzetti and Lucky Cash (27.8)
Jr. Beginner Novice B: Scarlett Peinado and 50 Shades of Envy (25.0)
Open Beginner Novice A: Christiana Schultz and Alexa Dawn (29.6)
Open Beginner Novice B: Kalie Beckers and Calla GBF (24.5)
Senior Starter A: Laura Vello and Guns (31.3)
Senior Starter B: Sydney Elliott and RF Marilynn (35.7)
Jr. Starter A: Reese Lozada and Curiozity (34.0)
Jr. Starter B: Addison Davis and It’s All Good (35.5)


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my bestie @viennaallport_eventing ❤️❤️

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@elliotteventing going all out for the costume costume contest on Fallon with a day of the dead outfit! @goeventing

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Waredaca Classic Three-Day Event & H.T.: [Final Scores]

Novice Three Day: Jamie Leuenberger and Flight of Fancy (27.7)
Training Three Day: Ema Klugman and RF Redfern (26.2)
Open Preliminary: Caitlin Silliman and Luska Candy Clover (31.8)
Preliminary Rider: Linden Wiesman and Discreto (30.4)
Modified: Tracey Bienemann and Eleganze (33.5)
Open Training: Woods Baughman and Kamara CFF (27.3)
Training Rider: Luiza Morgan and Ricardo (38.8)
Novice Rider A: Casey Poe and HHS Tiger Lily (27.1)
Novice Rider B: Stephanie Senserini and Monbeg Icon (26.4)
Open Novice: Savannah Fulton and EWSZ Lavada (27.9)
Beginner Novice Rider: Cami Pease and Vibrant (24.8)
Open Beginner Novice: Maya Chinana and Popstar (21.8)


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To come across the finish flags in a long-format classic three day is an honor that fewer and fewer horses and riders have earned. It brings a whole new level of horsemanship, and truly teaches both how to dig deep, and just when the well runs dry, you find a little more. So proud of this horse and his rider for joining the ranks of classic three day eventers. They equally shared the 100% team effort it takes to complete – sometimes it was 50/50, sometimes it was 70/30 and sometimes it was 10/90. But the beautiful thing about eventing is that the split doesn’t matter… they came home as a wiser, fitter, more established team. Getting to spend the week with them, and @rlfultz was a blast. Rebekah’s knowledge of horse care is inspiring and she was such an asset to making everything run smooth and successful. Congrats @kylie__8123 !!! And thanks for letting us be ‘along for the ride’. #waredacaclassic3day #gobohgo

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Windermere Run H.T.:  [Final Scores]

Preliminary Open: Nicholas Staples and WF Drousseau (40.1)
Training Open: Nicholas Staples and Lincoln (40.9)
Training Rider: Kyra Layton and Harry Valentine (35.6)
Novice Adult Amateur: Jessie Howes and Blade Runner (30.7)
Novice Horse: Kristine Burgess and Cliff (26.0)
Novice Rider: Danielle Olson and JB (23.6)
Beginner Novice Horse: Stacy Whitton and Caradoc (28.8)
Beginner Novice Open: Kenzie Shelley and Redwine on a Beer Budget (30.8)
Beginner Novice Jr.: Brooke Wathan and GH GloryUsGrace (28.8)
Beginner Novice Sr.: Julie Simmons and Pray for Rain (30.0)
Starter A: Kris Wallace and Arimademesmile (32.2)
Starter B: Mallory Huggins and Overeasy (28.1)
Starter C: Madeline McGrath and Cheval De Bois Merribook AKM (35.8)

Monday News & Notes

What a weekend it was at Pau, and we hope our Tilly Berendt is getting some rest today after two weeks of nonstop French eventing action between the five-star and Le Lion d’Angers before it. Stateside our high-performance weekend didn’t go quite to plan, as heavy rain and flooding turned the Advanced at Chattahoochee Hills into a combined test — a bummer for those counting on it for a last run before the Tryon CCI4*-L in mid-November. Coming up this week we’ve got some big competitions on the table:

  • Virginia Horse Trials International & H.T. (Lexington, VA) features CCI1*L, CCI2*S, CCI2*L, CCI3*S, CCI3*L divisions and will host the USEF Two-Star Eventing National Championships and the FEH/YEH East Coast Championships.  Omnibus Listing
  • Galway Downs International (Temecula, CA) features CCI2*L, CCI3*L, CCI4*L and will host of the the USEF Three-Star Eventing National Championships. Omnibus Listing

We’ll be bringing you coverage from both coasts, so keep it locked here!

National Holiday: National Mule Day

Major International Event Results:

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau CCI5*: Website, Live StreamResultsEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Nations Cup Eventing at Montelibretti: WebsiteLive StreamResults

U.S. Weekend Results:

Chattahoochee Hills H.T.: [Website] [Results]

FEH & YEH Last Chance Qualifier and West Coast Championship: [Website] [Results]

Grand Oaks H.T.: [Website] [Results]

Holly Hill H.T.: [Website] [Results]

Waredaca Classic Three-Day Event & H.T.: [Website] [Results]

Windermere Run H.T.: [Website] [Results]

News & Notes:

Four Champions Crowned on Day Two of the USEA YEH/FEH West Coast Championships

Save the Date for the 2020 USEA Virtual Annual Meeting & Convention

My Top 5 Photos: Shannon Brinkman

Your chance to star in the pages of Horse & Hound

Coolmore America announces fees as American Pharoah and Justify prices reduce

Listen: USEA Podcast #269: Galway Downs Preview Show

Watch: East Austin trail riders, facing gentrification, ‘aren’t going anywhere’

‘It’s What Dreams Are Made Of’: Laura Collett Takes Wire-to-Wire Pau Victory

Laura Collett and London 52 take the win at the 2020 edition of Les 5 Etoiles de Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There are a few things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and a extraordinarily tough showjumping course at Les 5 Etoiles de Pau. Of all six CCI5* events in the world, it produces the fewest clear rounds over its tricky track, which makes best use of tight distances interspersed with flyaway long approaches to big square fences, laughing in the face of anyone who tries to pick their way around for a steady clear. Like the rest of the competition, it rewards boldness — but boldness comes with increased risk, and a lead at the start of the day, even with substantial margin for error, doesn’t guarantee a thing.

Today, though, there was no margin for error to play with anyway: just a pole separated a world-class top five, and if you wanted to play the game, you needed to be sure of every step you took in the main arena. And it’s not just the track itself that plays a part here — the unique atmosphere of the ring, which is surrounded by an incomparably enthusiastic audience, creates a pressure cooker of an environment in which you’re never sure if the crowd will break its silence with a badly timed (though always, inarguably well-meaning) cheer after a particularly tough bit of negotiation mid-round. When sitting on an experienced veteran of the sport this is no less nerve-wracking; if you find yourself jumping for a top spot on a horse who’s never seen anything quite like it, it’s a whole different story.

But that’s exactly what our 2020 champion — the only five-star victor this year — had to deal with. Just 10 of the previous 33 horses had managed a fault-free round before Laura Collett rode into the arena, including those closest to vying for the top spot she’d held throughout the week. Even more tension-inducing? Her previous ride — the extraordinarily consistent Mr Bass, who’s known for finishing on his dressage score more often than not — hadn’t been one of them.

It’s all about the love. Laura Collett jumps a superb clear with London 52 to win Pau CCI5*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

To bet against London 52, the eleven-year-old Holsteiner that Laura owns with Karen Bartlett and Keith Scott, though, would have been to ignore 18 months worth of an education for the horse that money and circumstance simply can’t buy. Laura had overcome a rollercoaster season in 2019, which saw her grapple with an inordinate amount of pressure as the world watched every move that her 2018 Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old winner made. This was the next big thing, a captivated eventing fanbase proclaimed, and though they’ve been justified over and over again in their conviction, it was all too easy to forget that the horse had only started eventing two seasons prior.

His early string of successes were signs of things to come, certainly, but so much learning needed to be done to marry that ability with a stoic understanding of his job. A CCI4*-S win at Chatsworth’s Event Rider Masters was followed by genuine young horse errors at Bramham, Aachen and the European Championships, all made in a determined spotlight — but through the emotional reckoning of the year, Laura and ‘Dan’ found the heart of the matter. By Boekelo CCI4*-L, Laura had taken Dan off the pedestal the world had put him on, and Dan had begun to learn where his responsibilities lay. A confident win on that run, which was only ever intended to be a productive and confidence-building close to the year for the horse, solidified the lessons learned, and Laura and Dan re-emerged after the winter — and a subsequent long lockdown — brimming with well-earned confidence.

And so the horse’s five-star debut was a hotly anticipated one: would he rise to the occasion as he had at Boekelo and this month’s Little Downham CCI5*, or would the week show that there was still more work to be done for the young horse? An easy dressage lead on Friday, when the pair set a new Pau record of 21.3, came as no surprise, but Dan had never tackled a course of the length or intensity of the Pierre Michelet track he conquered yesterday. When he sailed home clear and inside the time — and showed his newfound steely gumption in producing a fifth leg at the combination at 27ABC — he proved that he’d stepped up from a boy to a man, regardless of what happened on the final day.

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If horses are meant to feel tired the day after a tough five-star run, no one told Dan about it. As Laura rode into the ring, the rain in her eyes, Dan pricked his ears and bowled confidently towards the crowds, soaking up their enthusiasm and looking for whatever challenge would face him next. Possessed of one of the best jumping records in the field, he’d still need every bit of the scope he’s shown off countless times in the past. One by one, the fences came up easily — though a solid tap on the way round left a pole trembling and a few stomachs doing backflips — and as he neatly popped the airy upright at the last, the world exploded around him.

“It’s going to take a while for this to sink in — I never actually believed that it would come off,” she says. “I knew the horse was capable, and I was walking the showjumping course this morning and [French eventer] Tom Carlile came up to me and said, ‘there’s no other horse you’d want to be sat on,’ and I thought, ‘no, there’s not.’ I wouldn’t have swapped him for the world. He’s an unbelievable jumper, and the way he came out today, having jumped around cross-country yesterday — I’m a very, very lucky girl to be sat on a horse like that on the last day at a five-star.”

Though the final phase plays to London 52’s biggest strengths, Laura’s a stalwart campaigner at the top level now, and so a healthy dose of pragmatism helped her keep her cool before she rode into the arena.

“I just had to believe that if it was meant to be, it would be, and if it wasn’t, I knew he had a five-star win in him at some point,” she says.

Dreams do come true: Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura also had to put aside any worries about previous trips to the venue, which haven’t quite gone her way: “I’ve been here twice before and not had a very successful time, so it’s definitely third time lucky!”

Despite her rail earlier in the afternoon on first horse Mr Bass, Laura credits the consistent and experienced gelding, who was second at Luhmühlen in 2018, with helping her create the perfect recipe for her first-ever five-star victory — and the best CCI5* finishing score since 2008 — this week.

“They’re two completely different horses, to ride, in personality, in everything,” she says, “but I would say him being here has made the difference in the way I’ve ridden London 52, because Mr Bass gives me all the confidence in the world. I know him, he’s like my best friend, and I’ve had him since he was a four-year-old; he grabs my hand, and I have to hold London’s hand, so Mr Bass shows me the way and then I can show London the way. Mr Bass has as big a part to play in this as London does.”

Laura and head girl Zanie King celebrate after the winning round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though today’s victory is the product of several years of hard work from Laura and her team at home, plus an unshakeable faith in the horse held by the rider and his owners, there’s a little bit of extra magic to be found in dreaming — and now, Laura’s embracing the magic of the moment.

“I actually can’t believe it; it hasn’t sunk in yet,” she says, teary-eyed and emerging from a scrum of equally emotional supporters. “That horse —  I have no words for him. He’s phenomenal. There’s no other horse that deserves a win like he does. To come out and lead from start to finish is what dreams are made of, and I still can’t really believe this is happening.”

Piggy March and Brookfield Inocent take second place on the horse’s CCI5* debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Second place, too, went to a debutant horse and one of seven to finish on their dressage score this week. Piggy March‘s Brookfield Inocent has been posited as her next superstar, set to fill the big shoes of former mount Quarrycrest Echo has her next team horse — but although the talented gelding, owned by John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn, had won Blenheim on his CCI4*-L debut, a step up to five-star is an entirely different ballgame.

But like London 52, he left no scope for any doubt about his class this week. He was the first horse of three to break the Pau dressage record when he posted a 22.2 on Thursday, and much like Laura and London 52, he posted a clear round inside the time with one fifth-leg moment at the corner combination at 14AB that proved he has the heart and will of a true five-star horse.

“I said yesterday that I was just really interested in how my horse would jump today and how the whole week was going to go, and I’m just immensely proud — as well as being so excited — to have such a lovely horse competing for his first time at this level and to have done it as he’s done it,” she says. “He felt absolutely top-class and so professional in how he went about it.”

That first-phase performance was a particular highlight for Piggy who, like all the riders and support teams here this week, was full of gratitude for the huge effort that went on behind the scenes to ensure that a CCI5* could run this year.

“Being so close to Laura and London after dressage — I think we all look up to and aspire to that in that phase,” she says. “I’m buzzing from that, but also so grateful to everyone here at Pau for getting this up and running and allowing us to have the performances that we’ve had all week. It goes for all the riders; we’re just so grateful for all the work that’s been done.”

Though Piggy isn’t the sort of rider to count her chickens before they’ve hatched, she’s understandably excited and brimming with positivity about the extraordinary future the eleven-year-old gelding, who was produced to CCI4*-L by fellow competitor Kevin McNab, looks set to have.

“He’s a very special horse, and an incredibly beautiful horse — he’s naturally talented, and he’s grown up a lot this year to be able to cope how he did this week with the low miles that he has. Now we just hope that he stays in one piece and continues on this path. I’d like to say that if I do my job well, hopefully he’ll take me somewhere. In my eyes, I think he’s very special,” she says with a smile.

Tim Price and Wesko finish the week in third place, putting their 2019 demons to bed. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The day wasn’t entirely the domain of newcomers to the level. Tim Price and his 2014 Luhmühlen winner,  Wesko returned to Pau after an unfortunate mishap last year saw them come down in the final water while riding for a top spot — but this year, nothing could stop their easy-looking trajectory through the week, which saw them finish a single second over the time on yesterday’s cross-country and two in today’s showjumping.

“I’m just delighted with my week — it’s not quite as nice a taste to go home with as Laura, but it’s not far off on my end, with three horses that have all gone well after a very testing year for all of us,” says Tim, who also finished thirteenth after a clear round on Xavier Faer and fourteenth after knocking a pole with Ringwood Sky Boy — a true reversal of fortunes from previous years, which saw him take a tumble in the water in 2018, too, with Ascona M.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in that wooded area with the two waters chasing my horses around as they gallop free and I’ve got water in my boots and wondering whether I should just hide under a tree,” he laughs. “So it was nice to get three horses home clear, and I can be satisfied for our quieter time coming up.”

That seventeen-year-old Wesko — who Tim has always considered his superstar horse, and who took two years out of the sport with injury in 2016 and 2017 — should finish on the podium is particularly special.

“This is the icing on the cake. Wesko is just a through-and-through trier for me; he’s obviously got talent and ability and experience, but he’s old and he just does it out of pure desire to do what I want him to do,” he says. “For that, I’ll always be grateful to him and enjoy him while I’ve got him at this level.”

Alex Bragg and Zagreb finish fourth again. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The hugely consistent Alex Bragg and his sixteen-year-old Zagreb finished fourth for the second year running, but this year, they broke their string of five-star rails with a superb clear round that saw them celebrating voraciously before they left the ring.

“You haven’t won it yet!” laughed Jonelle Price as Alex thrust his fists in the air — an understandable reaction from the the rider after the heartbreaking two rails of last year that pushed him down the order.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser produce another copybook round. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Though a repeat win eluded them this year, Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser produced masterclasses in both jumping phases to finish fifth on their dressage score of 27, climbing seven places through the week and affirming their remarkable prowess and consistency. Below them, World Number One Oliver Townend piloted MHS King Joules — who returns to international competition after nearly two years on the sidelines — to a very commendable sixth place after adding just 2 time penalties yesterday to his 28.3 dressage.

Alexis Goury and Trompe l’Oeil d’Emery cement their reputation as one of France’s most exciting young combinations. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

25-year-old Alexis Goury and Trompe l’Oeil d’Emerfinished seventh — and best of the home nation — after finishing on their much-improved dressage mark of 30. 7. This is the same placing they found themselves in on their last trip to the event on their five-star debut in 2018, but their performance throughout the week showed considerable progress and maturity: their first-phase prowess is noticeably more finessed, their final phase was a clear, rather than their two rails of 2018, and though they finished inside the time on both occasions on cross-country, some of the debutant naivety had been taken out of their run this year to be replaced by a formidable conviction.

Alexis Goury thanks Trompe l’Oeil d’Emery for another top-ten finish at five-star. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Had their 2020 performance come two years ago, they’d have found themselves on the podium — but, laughs Alexis ruefully, “there was, like, two British Olympic teams here. It was very difficult to compete with them, and so I was a little bit further down than I’d have been in previous years, but the cross-country did its job. I’m very pleased with my horse; he’s jumping better, his dressage is getting better, and he proved today that he’s a very careful horse.”

Richard Coney and Mermus R Diamonds make the biggest move of the week. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fellow Frenchman and former Pau winner Maxime Livio took eighth place with the eleven-year-old stallion Vitorio du Montet, climbing from 31st place after dressage to finish on his first-phase mark of 32.4, while ninth-placed British five-star debutant Richard Coney, just 21 years old, enjoyed the biggest climb of the week, skipping up from 34th after dressage on the strength of his two superb jumping rounds with the tiny Mermus R Diamonds.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden place themselves firmly on the world stage with a super five-star debut. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The top ten was ably rounded out by 23-year-old Mollie Summerland, who impressed throughout the week in her debut with the exciting eleven-year-old Charly van ter Heiden, a horse she’s produced herself from a five-year-old. Their highly watchable dressage test earned them a 25.5 and eighth place, and they finished bang on the optimum time yesterday after an effective and hugely promising round that showed the strength of their exceptional partnership. Two rails down today precluded a higher placing, but the maturity and promise of their performances through the week, paired with Charly’s obvious fitness and freshness today, should ensure great things from the duo in the future.

And so we come to the end of a remarkable week in the southernmost part of France: a week that’s brought the far-flung eventing family back together again, masked up and merry, to celebrate the sport that we’ve all missed so much in this strange year. The competition, which combined top-level eventing with the Singles Driving World Championship (not a speed-dating contest, we’re reliably informed), is a credit to organiser Pascal Sayous — who described putting the event on as “a difficult birth, rather like a C-section” — and his hardworking team. To be able to sally forth to the south of France and drink wine in the fickle sunshine with our friends is always a special treat; this year, it’s made us all feel nearly as lucky as Laura Collett.

Though so much has changed, some things remain steadfast and true: there will always be ups and downs in life and horses, but so often, time, trust, and a little bit of stubborn patience can create the perfect environment for the kind of hope and joy that everyone can share in. The off-season beckons for us all now, and what might follow it is anyone’s guess, but for this week, at least, life has felt a little more like normal for us all. And that’s powerful enough to propel us forth into whatever awaits us on the otherside.

For the final time from Pau, and as always: Go Eventing.

The final top five at Les 5 Etoiles de Pau, 2020’s sole CCI5*.

5 Etoiles de Pau: Website, Entries, Live Scores, Live StreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Pau Showjumping By the Numbers

The finale at Pau can never be underestimated — since 2008, it’s statistically the toughest of all the CCI5* showjumping tracks in the world, and with a leaderboard this tightly-bunched, no one can afford any errors if they want to stay near the top of the pack, let alone take the win.

Let’s take a closer look at how the best of the bunch after cross-country may fare…

Laura Collett and Mr. Bass. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Laura Collett and Mr Bass

Though not in contention for a win in 15th place provisionally, this’ll be a crucial round to watch: Mr Bass has the most consistent showjumping record in the field. He’ll also be a useful fact-finder for Laura, who leads the whole shebang with the more inexperienced London 52. Look for a clear round here — and prepare for a slew of tummy butterflies on the rare chance it doesn’t happen.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser

Currently in sixth place, last year’s winners are among the very best showjumpers in the field. They’ve had just one rail internationally since mid-2016, which they took at the World Equestrian Games at Tryon, and they’ve jumped clear at all six of their five-star runs otherwise. The pressure’s off them this year, too, so we’re likely to see them pile it all on those above them with a copybook clear.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden

This is a debut five-star for both horse and rider, so much of this will be a fact-finding mission: Charly’s never run over the length or intensity of course he did yesterday, and so he could be coming out tired today. They’re on good jumping form lately, with a clear round in the deep going at Little Downham CCI4*-S at the start of the month and a clear on the surface at Boekelo CCI4*-L, which gave Mollie a taste of high-profile pressure, too. A clear round is possible for them, but they’ve had relatively few in their career. This could be a two-poler, but Mollie’s been riding out of her skin this week and so we could see the round of their lives today.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb

Zagreb’s showjumping rounds have historically been heartbreakers — he lost the win at Luhmühlen last year with a rail, and missed out on second place here last year with two. He’s had two clear rounds in his five-star career, though, and both have come here — so with less pressure on his shoulders this year, it could happen. More likely, though, this is a four-fault round.

Tim Price and Wesko. Photo by Anna Franklin/Event Rider Masters.

Tim Price and Wesko

‘Old boy’ Wesko is historically a reliable showjumper, and Tim is cool as a cucumber in this kind of environment, so while they’ve had the odd rail here and there — notably, more often in short-format four-stars than on the final day of a three-day — we’re putting this up as a clear round that makes things very tense at the top.

Piggy French and Brookfield Inocent. Photo by William Carey.

Piggy March and Brookfield Inocent

Both our top two pairs are five-star debutant horses, which adds a huge question mark to everything they do: they’ve simply never jumped after a test like yesterday’s before. Brookfield Inocent trends more towards a clear than a rail, though, and he jumped like a dream in the final phase of Blenheim CCI4*-L, which he won on his debut. He’s come out looking fresh and well today, and would surprise no one with a clear today.

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Collett and London 52

Like Piggy and Brookfield Inocent, this is a big unknown — but London 52 ties for having the best showjumping form in this field. He’s jumped brilliantly in both his CCI4*-L runs at Boekelo on a similar surface, so it’s very doable — as long as the loud crowd and big atmosphere doesn’t put him off.

5 Etoiles de Pau: Website, Entries, Live Scores, Live StreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

One Combination Spun at Pau Final Horse Inspection

Overnight leaders Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There’s been some drama at this afternoon’s final horse inspection at Les 5 Etoiles de Pau, for which 35 horse-and-rider combinations presented after five overnight withdrawals.

Among those absent from proceedings was best-placed French rider Jean Lou Bigot, who was in eighth place after cross-country with Utrillo du Halage, as well as his fellow countryman Karim Florent Laghouag, who was in 36th place after picking up 36.4 penalties yesterday with Triton Fontaine. Great Britain’s Sarah Bullimore also opted to withdraw Conpierre after a tricky round yesterday, as did Yasmin Ingham, whose Rehy DJ was making his five-star debut this week. Sweden’s Anna Freskgard, who sat 24th after a steady clear with 9.2 time penalties, also withdrew before today’s competition.

Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

And so the ranks diminished, though the short and sweet inspection to ground jury Xavier L Sauce, Andrew Bennie, and Nikki Herbert didn’t go exactly to plan for two competitors.

Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules, in provisional ninth place after the withdrawal of Jean Lou Bigot, were sent to the holding box, swiftly followed by Ireland’s Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue, provisionally tenth. Though MHS King Joules would go on to be accepted, Colorado Blue was spun upon re-presentation.

Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This leaves us with a mere 34 competitors to tackle this afternoon’s showjumping challenge, set to begin at 15.15 local/14.15 UK/10.15 a.m. Eastern. You can take a look at Yann Royant’s typically tough track here.

Here’s another look at our top five heading into showjumping:

The top five after cross-country at Pau.

As always, you can watch along on H&C+ — click here for all the information you need. Allons-y, readers!

5 Etoiles de Pau: Website, Entries, Live Scores, Live StreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Sunday Links from One K Helmets

Mollie Summerland and Charly van ter Heiden. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

I was glued to my computer yesterday morning to soak up all the cross country that Pau CCI5*-L had to offer. Our only five-star of the year, there is a heaping helping of superstar talent from the likes of Laura Collett to the Price Family. Despite all that, it was another, 22-year-old Mollie Summerland who really caught my eye. She and Charly van ter Heiden, who she produced herself, are first timers, but looked like they’d been around this track dozens of times before. Well done, gal!

National Holiday: National Greasy Foods Day

Major International Events:

Les 5 Etoiles de Pau CCI5*: WebsiteEntriesStart Times & ResultsLive StreamEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Nations Cup Eventing at Montelibretti: WebsiteLive StreamLive Scores

U.S. Weekend Action:

Chattahoochee Hills H.T.: [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

FEH & YEH Last Chance Qualifier and West Coast Championship: [Website] [Entry Status and Times] [Live Scores]

Grand Oaks H.T.: [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Holly Hill H.T.: [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Waredaca Classic Three-Day Event & H.T.: [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Windermere Run H.T.: [Website] [Ride Times/Live Scores]

Sunday Links: 

Young Horses Stay Busy on Day One of USEA YEH/FEH West Coast Championships

The United States Eventing Association Support for Equine Health Research

Reset Your Riding: Achieving a Forward Connection with Matt Brown

My Top 5 Photos: Shannon Brinkman

Weekend reading: Publishers offer free equine magazines