Classic Eventing Nation

Aki Joy Maruyama Is Riding High for Japan

Aki Joy Maruyama and Balou Moon. Photo by Leszek Wójcik.

The Advanced riders were running cross country at the American Eventing Championships, held that year at Chattahoochee Hills in Fairburn, Georgia. It was 2011, and Aki Joy Maruyama, who was 12 at the time, had accompanied a friend to watch the festivities — her introduction to the sport of eventing.

Many of us can remember that moment; the moment when we felt some sort of awakening that this was our sport. This was Aki’s “eventing bug” moment — she’d started riding at summer camp when she was six and had been riding hunters to that point. But once she saw the brave galloping horses and the massive fences, she was hooked. And it was that bug that lit a fire within her, one that she now finds herself on the other side of the world stoking.

Not every kid grows up in a horse household. But talent grows when nurtured, and Aki’s parents recognized this and did everything they could to support their daughter’s big dreams. Aki’s mother, Monica, was a teacher and her father, Junichi, was semi-retired, which made stretching means to meet ends a bit more challenging.

So the Maruyama family got creative. After finding her way to Canadian Olympian Kyle Carter, Aki accepted a working student position to help offset some costs of coaching and care. It was a win-win for Aki and her talented Appendix gelding, J’espere, and thanks in large part to Kyle’s coaching the pair eventually qualified for FEI National Junior and Young Rider Championships, set to be held in Parker, Colorado in 2016. Young Riders had been a goal of Aki’s since she’d first heard about the competition; the appeal of riding for a team was not lost on the ambitious rider.

Aki Joy Maruyama and J’espere. Photo by Liz Crawley Photography.

As fate would have it, Aki and her family were unable to come up with enough money to make the long trek from Florida to Colorado for Young Riders. It was a disappointing end to that dream, but Aki says she is still so proud of her little Appendix, “Jesse”, with whom she would advance all the way to the then-CCI2* level. “He was only supposed to be a Training level horse!” Aki laughed.

It was Aki’s grandfather, Tetsuo Hirose, who gifted her next horse, Balou Moon, a 2010 Hanoverian gelding by Balou du Rouet, to her. It was a special gift, one that still leaves Aki unsure of exactly how to voice her gratitude now. “It was then that I decided I wanted to ride for Japan,” she said.

Aki, a second-generation Japanese rider with dual citizenship by birthright to both the U.S. and Japan, had the option of choosing which country to declare for as an international rider. Riding for Japan, with its strong pool of talented riders who have made waves in the headlines in recent years, became a huge, albeit somewhat intimidating, honor for Aki.

Yet as Aki kept nurturing her talent, things got tougher at home. Aki’s father’s health was in a decline. The family had purchased a farm in Florida, but still lived primarily in Georgia. Soon, it became too much for Aki’s mother to commute back and forth to care for her daughter and her husband. A choice was looming, and something had to give. But how?

Sometimes opportunity appears in surprising places. Aki had had the chance to ride with Germany’s Kai Steffen Meier in clinics throughout the years. Just as Aki was faced with the prospect of hanging up her boots, an interesting prospect presented itself: would she like to come and work for Kai in Belgium?

Aki saw not only the educational value of this position, but also a potential relief for her family. “My living expenses and board would be covered at this position,” she explained. “In reality, it ended up that it saved us money to send me overseas to work for Kai.”

Before she knew it, Aki and Balou found themselves clear on the other side of the world, having left behind everything that was familiar for something completely new and unknown. “It can get a little lonely,” she confesses to me now. “I don’t speak the language, and so it’s hard to connect and make friends.” But, she says, it’s far from all for naught. The support crew she’s become a part of at Arville, Kai and Belgian rider Lara de Liedekerke’s home base, has become Aki’s second family. She spends a great deal of time telling me about how much she has learned and how this opportunity has given her so many tools.

“When I worked for Kyle, he told me a lot about how he rode in Europe when he was younger,” she explained. “He always encouraged me to go and to stay for as long as I could. (Kai and Lara) have really taken me under their wing. I really appreciate how much they do for me knowing I’m far from home. There is a wonderful team atmosphere here at Arville and I’m so grateful.”

Aki’s efforts were recently rewarded when she was selected to be a part of the Japanese Equestrian Federation Progress Team, a program designed to talent spot riders with potential to one day make a national team. It was validation for Aki, who says she definitely feels pressure from herself to make it as far as she can in the sport. “It was really a surprise and such an honor,” Aki says. “I had started to question my life choices as I considered how I didn’t have the experiences of a normal teenager like going to prom, homecoming, dates, and any social interactions. However I realize that my own journey is quite unique. Being on this team, I can appreciate the work I’ve done to come this far.”

Indeed, this new development gives Aki some validation and comfort that she’s on the right path. Connecting with her compatriots has made her feel a part of something bigger than just herself.

“I still will go to many shows here and be the only Asian rider,” she said. “But recently at Jardy another Japanese rider came up to me; we hadn’t really met before that, but he took videos of my rides and supported me all weekend. He told me that I was a part of their team, as a Japanese rider, and that they would support me.”

Perhaps it is Aki’s humility that makes her feel this internal pressure. She understands the sacrifices her parents have made for her dreams (“I owe everything to them. They literally dropped their lives for me,” she said) and she feels the weight of her desire to ride for Japan on the world stage. It’s not always easy, she says. Balou is a sensitive ride (“We’re still getting to know each other!”), and competition in Europe is stiff. But these are all things she’s accepted. She thrives on the practice and the pressure — and she knows the only way to go is up from here. “It makes me feel even more inspired,” she says of spending time with these top quality riders, day in and day out. “If they can do this, then I can do this.”

Correction: This article has been updated with corrections to Kai and Lara’s names and countries of nationality.

Tuesday News & Notes from Legends Horse Feeds

Photo via @dragonfirefarm on Instagram.

It doesn’t get much more fun than the mom and daughter duo of Jen and Taylor McFall. Jen was a proud mom this weekend as she watched her five-star horse take her daughter to her first Intermediate. The pair finished fifth. Jen didn’t do too bad herself either! She and Stoneman were sixth in the CCI3*-S. Congratulations to the Dragonfire Farm crew!

National Holiday: Voter Registration Day!

Events Opening This Week: USEA MDHT YEH Qualifier and NEH FinalFull Moon Farms H.T.War Horse Event Series November H.T.River Glen Fall H.T.Horse Trials at Majestic OaksTexas Rose Horse Park Fall H.T., West Coast Championships at Twin Rivers Ranch

Events Closing This Week: The Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy FarmRadnor Hunt H.T.War Horse Event Series October H.T.Ocala Fall HTWoodside International H.T.St. Johns H.T.

Tuesday News: 

Virginia Horse Trials International has announced that they will include an Intercollegiate & Alumni Team Challenge for their Oct. 28-Nov. 1 event. This is open to current undergraduate students, graduate students and alumni. Teams may be mixed between schools and levels.

VHT (Virginia Horse Trials) International is pleased to include an Intercollegiate & Alumni Team Challenge during the Oct. 28-Nov. 1 VHT International & H.T. Current undergraduate students, graduate students, and alumni are invited to participate. Send your team roster and any questions to Team Coordinator, [email protected].

Spiral staircases got their start in the firehouse, but did you know it’s because of horses? The firefighters slept upstairs while the horses, who pulled the engines, lived downstairs. With traditional stairs, these stations found that hungry horses would scale the stairs. So turns out hungry horses are to blame for this unique design. [Spiral Staircases, Fire Poles, & Fire Stations]

Fangirling is not saved only for amateur riders. Professionals admire others as well! [‘It’s hard to get to the top of our sport and to stay there’: some of the world’s best name their favourite riders of the decade]

Talking about money can be … awkward. Noelle Floyd has opened up the floor for rider to anonymously talk about finances and how that affects their relationship with the sport. [An ER Nurse with a Trust Fund Navigates Horse Expenses After a Divorce]

The New York Times explores the Unionville event name discussions: Estate’s Racially Divisive Name Threatens Future of Premier Equestrian Event

Tuesday Video:

Monday Video from CLM DWN: Jump Around!

🐎 Jump around… Jump around… Haha this is the funniest video I saw in last days.. 🤠👇⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣🎩 DM for credit 🙏⁣⁣⁣➖ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣🐴 Follow @horseonig ⬅️⁣⁣⁣🐴 Follow @horseonig ⬅️⁣⁣⁣⁣🐴 Follow @horseonig ⬅️⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣🐎🤠 ➡️ Do you want to be featured? DM me! ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣Tag your friend if you are real HORSE lover ❤️⁣⁣⁣Your daily tailored posts of horses & stuff🔥 #pony #cheval #horselove #horseofinstagram #equestrianstyle #horserider #horselovers #horseaddict #equinelove #lovehorse #horsephotograpy #beautifulhorses #cutehorse #equines #horseplanet #horseslove #horsesofinstagramdaily #horsesofig #stable #cavallo #ilovemyhorse #horseinstagram #horsepictures #picoftheday #saddle #horsetack #pferdemädchen #pferdefotografie

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Though today’s featured video lacks in length, it sure packs a real punch of ridiculousness into a short amount of time. The mornings are turning crisper and cooler as we approach fall and I’m sure the sight of frolicking horses in a field is familiar to many, but these turn out buddies are taking their excitement to a whole new level.

Turn your sound on and enjoy a laugh!

Weekend Winners: Apple Knoll Farm, Meadowcreek Park, Sundance Farm, Twin Rivers

From coast to coast, we round up the winners from the weekend that was at recognized events around the country. Congratulations to all!

Our Low Score Award this week was earned at Twin Rivers by Ava Chase and Made You Look. This pair finished on their dressage score of 18.6 in their Introductory division. Well done!

Apple Knoll Farm H.T.: [Results]

Training A: Lanie Mourgenos and Fit & Frisky (24.6)
Training B: Emily Holmes and Hurricane Bay (37.9)
Novice A: Eloise Plante and Mr. Lickety (24.8)
Novice B: Gwendolyn Braglia and Oveta (32.6)
Novice C: Jennifer Bagley and Intrinsic (21.2)
Beginner Novice A: Isabella Day and Twilight (37.5)
Beginner Novice B: Devon L Champlain and Champagne Event (35.8)
Beginner Novice C: Caroline Teich and Lyrical (26.5)

Thank you to Joan Davis / Flatlandsfoto for providing a few win shots from Apple Knoll this weekend. Don’t forget to view and order your show proofs here.

Meadowcreek Park Fall Social Event: [Results]

Open Preliminary: Carson Crowell and Levity (34.2)
Open Training: Katherine Rivera and HVL Hocus Pocus (23.0)
Preliminary/Training: Ellen Doughty-Hume and Summer’s Due (34.2)
Training Rider: Brooke Harris and Sir Oberon (30.5)
Jr. Novice Rider: Ella Robinson and Winter Colony (30.7)
Novice Championships: Brittney Caflisch and When Stars Align (25.9)
Open Novice: Nicole Hatley and Biscotti (21.0)
Sr. Novice Rider: Julie Bishop and Malibu Knight (32.1)
Beginner Novice Championships: Casey Locklear and FLS Major Bounce (30.0)
Jr. Beginner Novice Rider A: Brett Youssi and Xena (34.8)
Jr. Beginner Novice Rider B: Avery Eisenman and MDS Marigold (31.8)
Open Beginner Novice: Tracy Hewlett and Pixie Dancer (33.6)
Sr. Beginner Novice Rider: Cathy Jennings and Lucky Imagamblingman (32.3)
Starter: Jaeli Uselding and My Little Rebel (33.1)

Sundance Farm H.T.: [Results]

Open Preliminary: Brynna Jovanovich and Arthur (39.4)
Preliminary Championship: Rebecca Roth and Chapter Two (41.8)
Open Training: Alexis Anderson and Symphony (28.6)
Training Championship: Chris Heydon and Is He A She (41.5)
Novice Championship: Leah Lang-Gluscic and Bollywood (28.8)
Novice Rider: Aspen Duffin and Tag You’re It (33.3)
Open Novice: Leah Lang Gluscic and Concatulations (34.1)
Beginner Novice Championship: Sophie Schroeder and Fernhill Prada (33.8)
Beginner Novice Rider A: Janessa Shillingstad and Dante (30.3)
Beginner Novice Rider B: Abigail Haydam and C-Note (34.8)
Beginner Novice Rider C: Hannah Stuewar and BFF Tiara (36.1)
Open Beginner Novice: Ashley Butteris and Star De Warrior (28.3)
Starter A: Alexandra Carlson and Zahara (37.3)
Starter B: Maria Novotny and FGF Kingslayer (40.9)

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#mistymorningfarmlessons went eventing again! 6 riders plus 5 show mom's and grooms went to Sundance Farm HT to wrap up our dynamic 2020 eventing season. Most riders went clear on XC, clinching a second score for PC Champs 2021. One rider error resulted in no score, but an "I'll be back" attitude. #themmfgreyturtle and I got to compete again! Our dressage still needs a lot of help, and our SJ was messy, but we jumped all the things, and didn't finish last; a win for me in a busy year on a new-to-eventing horse. Now to improve during the upcoming less busy season. We all also competed in the simultaneous Lake Shore Region Eventing Rally to qualify for champs in KY for 2021, with 5 riders now qualified from #mmfpcrc. Kentucky, here we come! Shout out to @slbersell Julie @sophiaamcguire @mimilevinson @raebirr As horse show moms extrodinaire! And @xanbethson for again being a phenomenal stable manager and show groom! Shows aren't the same without you wonderful ladies! #mmfeventing #mmfwilbur #jumpingthings

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My dear Wolfred led on a 28.6 start to finish in the OT. The win is icing on the cake as I was simply thrilled to be back competing after baby #2. So thankful for this boy, his breeder and supporter Kathleen, and the extensive family it takes to make this all work. Fred was not the only one to bring home a blue, Hannah and Tiara won the BN, Allie and Zoey won the starter, Ellie and Oliver placed 3rd in the BN, and Tania and Tempi placed 8th in the BN. As always the high have lows, or rather less than highs but my students/team seems to find the positive even in the hard times, ahem @wayward_eventing @trieckx , Lauren and Sarah which is the true test of class and grit. Thankful for @sssf_countysaddlerymn @equinekneadsmassage for keeping them team happy and comfortable, @jennaroth.eventing for wrangling Freddie, and the kiddos and for the army that helped make this weekend possible with a baby and a toddler! Finally thank you to @sundancefarmhorsetrial for putting on a first class event, can’t wait for next year! #teamwool #lovethevibeofmytribe #areaiveventing #adastraeventing

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Twin Rivers Fall International: [Results]

CCI4*S: Tamie Smith and Passepartout (32.3)
CCI3*S: Tamie Smith and Cheers (38.3)
CCI2*S: Haley Turner and Shadow Inspector (26.8)
Advanced: Hilary Burkemper and Undercover (102.1)
Open Intermediate: Derek di Grazia and Ringwood Justice (42.5)
Open Preliminary: Emilee Libby and MaiTānzer (35.2)
Jr. Training Rider: Sophia Merz and Claro Bō (29.8)
Open Training: Rebecca Braitling and Liam’s Guinness (25.5)
Sr. Training Rider: Sarah Moseley and Earl of Foxpoint (35.9)
Training Horse: Nick Cwick and Toulano von Worrenberg (29.8)
Jr. Novice Rider A: Chloe Kischuk and London Calling OHF (29.3)
Jr. Novice Rider B: Lauren Crabtree and Nabouco De Lessay (27.0)
Open Novice: Toora Nolan and Even More Impressive (23.5)
Sr. Novice Amateur: Gilan Read-Bailey and BF Fernando (26.7)
Sr. Novice Rider: Shayna Silcox and Zoltaire (27.9)
Jr. Beginner Novice Rider: Rylan Tucker and My Box of Crayons (25.0)
Open Beginner Novice: Olivia Miller and Convince Me (24.0)
Sr. Beginner Novice Rider: Leslie van der Wal and Doonhill Dancer (26.5)
Intro A: Ava Chase and Made You Look (18.6)
Intro B: Toora Nolan and Santino II (25.0)
FEH 2 Year Old: Earl McFall and Jungle Love DF (84.5)
FEH 3 Year Old: Sarah Moseley and Twain’s Firelight DF (85.8)
FEH 4 Year Old: David Koss and Fendi (87.9)
FEH Yearling: Christine Jones and Graciella GWF (83.2)
YEH 4 Year Old: David Koss and Fendi (87.9)
YEH 5 Year Old: Julie Anne Boyer and Truly Enchanted (88.8)

What’s Next? Six North American FEI Events Still to Come in 2020

Sydney Conley Elliott and QC Diamantaire. Photo by Shelby Allen.

It’s been an up and down year filled with uncertainty, and the eventing calendar has been a shapeshifting work-in-progress with lots of moving parts. If you’re anything like me you’ve been left scratching your head wondering what, exactly, the North American eventing calendar looks like through the remainder of 2020. Here is a list of FEI events, including 2*, 3* and 4* USEF National Championships, we still have to look forward to this fall.


Virginia Horse Trials International & H.T. – October 29-November 1 in Lexington, Virginia

FEI Divisions Offered: CCI1*L, CCI2*S, CCI2*L, CCI3*S, CCI3*L. Host the USEF Two-Star Eventing National Championships and the FEH/YEH East Coast Championships. Omnibus Listing

Notes: We are grateful to this fall favorite event for picking up the YEH East Coast Championships, which were previously scheduled to be held at the inaugural Maryland Five-Star at Fair Hill. The YEH West Coast Championships will take place at Twin Rivers on October 23-24.


Tryon International Three Day Event – November 15-20 in Mill Creek, North Carolina
FEI Divisions Offered: CCI2*L, CCI3*L, CCI4*S, CCI4*L. Host of the CCI4*-L Eventing National Championships. Omnibus Listing

Notes: When Ocala Jockey Club, new host of the 4* Championships, was canceled, TIEC picked up the reins and we are sure this experienced, top-notch venue will do a great job with it.



Stable View Oktoberfest – September 24-27 in Aiken, South Carolina

FEI Divisions Offered: CCI1*S, CCI2*S, CCI3*S, CCI4*S. Omnibus Listing

Notes: The 5th annual edition of Stable View’s banner event promises to be well-run and bigger than ever with 385 entries on the roster. It’s an exciting lineup with several fan-favorite five-star veterans to cheer — check out our preview here.



Galway Downs International – October 29-November 1 in Temecula, California

FEI Divisions Offered: CCI2*L, CCI3*L, CCI4*L. Host of the the USEF Three-Star Eventing National Championships. Omnibus Listing

Notes: Galway’s team led by Robert Kellerhouse has put a lot of shine on this southern California venue and fresh new updates await competitors coming for the event this fall.



Hagyard Midsouth  – October 16-20 in Lexington, Kentucky

FEI Divisions Offered: CCI2*L, CCI3*S, CCI3*L. Omnibus Listing

Notes: Changes have abounded as the organizing team behind the staple Kentucky event have added a CCI3*S and a CCI3*L, along with an Intermediate division. The usual Classic Three-Day divisions, however, will not run this year.



Bromont CCI-S – October 3-4 in Bromont, Quebec

FEI Divisions Offered: CCI2*S, CCI3*S, CCI4*S. Website

Notes: We’re bummed that Bromont wasn’t about to host its FEI Eventing Nations Cup leg in August but glad they were able to work out a fall date for the CCI.

Go Eventing.

What’s Happening? Your Weekly Guide to Clinics, Schooling Shows & More [Updated 9/21]

Featured Event: Fence Post Farm’s 2020 Combined Test Series continues on Sunday, Sept. 27, in Pasadena, MD. With leadline to Training level divisions it’s a perfect intro to the show ring for even the tiniest eventers. View the listing here.

“What’s Happening?,” presented in partnership with Strider, is your complete guide to clinics, schooling shows and other riding and educational opportunities.

Need a way to accept digital entries and payment for your venue’s next equestrian activity? Join Strider, a mobile friendly, user-controlled services platform that connects organizers with riders. It’s easy and fast to use — click here to get started.

Here is what’s happening in your USEA Area this fall!

Location Quick Links: Area I | Area II | Area III | Area IV | Area V | Area VI | Area VII | Area VIII | Area IX | Area X

Area I

Area II

Area III

Area IV

Area V

Area VI

Area VII


Area IX

Area X

Go Eventing.

Monday News & Notes from Fleeceworks

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Thank you, RBG.

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Ordinarily when I’m covering a major three-day event, I’m so deep in the ‘bubble’ of the competition that anything outside of it has to wait at the windows, ready to bombard me when I’ve finally made it home at about 3.00 a.m. on Monday morning. But then, sometimes something happens that’s so colossal, so ground-shaking, that it makes its way in and makes things like trot-ups look rather insignificant in comparison.

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of those somethings. We all owe such a colossal debt to this tiny behemoth of a woman — I, certainly, will be spending this week thinking about how her indomitable spirit can be best channelled for positive change in everything I do.

Thank you, RBG. 

National Holiday: It’s International Day of Peace today. I’m looking forward to finding a bit of peace with my mare, Bella — unless, of course, she’s decided to abandon a shoe at the far end of the field in my absence.

Global Eventing Bulletin:

  • The UK held its only CCI4*-L of 2020 at Burnham Market’s Blenheim replacement. You can follow along with our ongoing coverage here — and then take a moment to laugh at the idea of me sleeping in my tiny car in a Starbucks car-park on the way home, somewhere in Essex and wildly overtired from my first long-format event since Pau in 2019…!

Your Monday Reading List:

Remember when Beyoncé dropped an album without any warning? That’s kind of what Oliver Townend did after winning Burnham Market’s CCI4*-S with Cillnabradden Evo yesterday — except the unexpected announcement was that the 14-year-old gelding would be retired from the sport after a captivating and occasionally tumultuous career. [Goodbye Gary: Cillnabradden Evo Bows Out of Eventing after Burnham Market CCI4*-S Win]

A remarkable rider has taken up eventing despite losing her leg in a motorcycle accident. Now, Louisa hopes other riders will be inspired to overcome their limitations to give the sport a go. She also rather hopes she won’t see her prosthetic leg fall off when out hunting… again. [Rider who hunts and events with a prosthetic leg hopes to inspire others to push through]

Most of us are pretty adept at rehabbing our horses from various wobbles and whoopsies – but do you know how to bring yourself back from injury? Nadia Aslam shares what she learned in her recovery from a broken ankle and helps you to get back in the barn as soon as possible. [How to Rehab Like a Pro]

After 15 years of trying, Pakistan finally qualified an individual combination for eventing at the Olympics. Now their spot is in jeopardy after the tragic death of ex-racehorse Azad Kashmir, who rider Usman Khan has buried with the Olympic flag. “He was laid to rest as an Olympian and I am proud of my friend,” says the rider. [Horse’s death dashes Pakistan’s long-held Olympic eventing hopes]

Top tog Libby Law is a familiar face at events around the world, and we all know her distinctive, stunning photos without even needing to check the watermark. But who is the tiny enigma with the massive cameras? Get to know her over your morning coffee. [A Law Unto Herself]

Cathal Daniels’ feisty European Championships bronze medallist Rioghan Rua is the FEI’s Horse of the Month. If you’re partial to diminutive ginger mares with enormous attitudes and a tonne of talent, Rioghan Rua — whose name means ‘Red Queen’ — is everything you’ve ever wanted. [Horse of the Month: Rioghan Rua]

Fleeceworks Follow:

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A 23.2 finish is @izzytayloreventing’s lowest ever at CCI4*-L! With Monkeying Around, Izzy earned her 5th win at the level since she first won a CCI4*-L in 2014. Only 4 riders in the world have had more CCI4*-L wins since 2010. —Karin Donckers (9), @shane.rose.eventing (7), @fox.pitt.eventing (7), and @stuarttinney.eventing (6). Izzy’s previous PB at the level was 27.3. 👊 That’s a wrap on @barefootretreats Burnham Market run by @musketeerevents and livestreamed by @horseandcountrytv. It’s been a delight sharing all the stats, personal victories and PBs. . . . . #barefootretreats #burnhammarket #barefootretreatsburnhammarketinternational #livestream #horseandcountrytv #horseandcountry #eventingmanager

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If you’re not already following the EquiRatings ‘gram, you should be — there, you’ll find eventing stats made simple from around the world, helping to add another layer of enjoyment to your live-streaming.

Monday Viewing:

The entirety of the 2018 WEG showjumping phase is now on YouTube. I repeat, the entirety of the 2018 WEG showjumping phase is now. On. YouTube. See you in four hours.

“He Gives Me Goosebumps”: Yasmin Ingham Takes Burnham Market Young Horse CCI4*-S

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

23-year-old Yasmin Ingham has added the prestigious eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S title, usually contested at Blenheim Palace but this week staged at Burnham Market, to her enviable list of accolades, finishing on her dressage score of 22.3 with the nine-year-old Banzai du Loir.

Much has been written in the past about the enormous influence of the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S, and rightly so: since its inception in 2009, the class has been a scarily accurate predictor of future superstardom, with winners including Mark Todd‘s NZB Land VisionWilliam Fox-Pitt‘s Oslo, and Andrew Nicholson‘s Quimbo, who all went on to win five-stars within 12 months of their Blenheim victories, as well as Jonelle Price‘s 2018 Luhmühlen victor Faerie Dianimo, Chris Burton’s WEG mount Cooley Lands, and Laura Collett‘s Boekelo winner London 52. Running well here tends to foretell an illustrious career, but even more importantly, it’s an enormous educational stepping stone for horses at this pivotal age.

It’s only fitting, really, to see Yasmin take this much-heralded class — after all, she’s the only rider to have won every national youth title. As the reigning under-25 British champion and double Pony European gold medalist steps up to begin fighting for spots on Senior teams, it comes as no surprise to see her begin adding equine age classes to her tally, too.

After delivering two clear rounds inside the time across yesterday’s CCI4*-L cross-country track — including the fastest round of the day with Rehy DJ — she came into today’s final CCI4*-S brimming with well-deserved confidence. She also came fully-stocked with faith in the Selle Français gelding by Nouma d’Auzay, who was bought for her to ride last year by long-time owners Sue Davies and Janette Chinn.

“Honestly, he gives me goosebumps,” she told EN yesterday. “I feel so lucky to have secured him. He was on his way up and going, and so when I got him we could just crack on and go.”

But the process of getting to know one another was stymied by an injury that sidelined Yasmin for six weeks, turning her competition schedule on its head.

“I’d only done two events on him, and then I had my fall. [That meant] he didn’t get much of a season last year — we’d done a CCI3*-S at Burgham, and that was it. So this season, I just wanted to try to salvage it.”

She’s certainly done just that. Yasmin and Banzai du Loir quickly notched up two Intermediate victories when eventing recommenced in July, and then finished fourth in Aston-le-Walls’ eight- and nine-year-old Advanced class, his first run at the level. Last month, he stepped up to CCI4*-S at Burgham, adding just two time penalties to his 27.9 dressage and putting him firmly on the radar ahead of this week’s competition.

Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The first phase here set the pair’s week off to the best possible start when they scored a 22.3 — a career personal best for both the rider and the horse. Yesterday’s showjumping course — a proper track by anyone’s standards — was an equally easy affair, while today, Banzai du Loir tackled the cross-country course with aplomb, showing off a balance and confidence that belies his relative inexperience. For this reason, Yasmin found it easy to come home inside the time, putting the pressure on two-phase leaders Izzy Taylor and Hartacker, who would pick up a green, genuine 20 penalties to let Yasmin and Banzai du Loir take the win.

“I was probably a little bit down on my first minute markers, because they’re quite tight, but he covers the ground so well that when you get into an open stretch he makes it up,” says Yasmin. “When I came into the bottom field, I was about ten seconds up. He just found it so easy.”

Speaking to Yasmin, it’s impossible not to be caught up in her enthusiasm about the horse, who she hopes to produce with a long-term aim of consideration for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“He’s so lovely. He’s a very sharp personality; he takes a lot of work and is very buzzy, with his eyes on everything — he always has to know what’s going on,” she enthuses. “He’s also very sassy — he’s got a huge personality, which I love. He’s uber-talented — it’s like he’s got ‘it’ in every phase, which is great, because you usually have ones that are awesome jumpers, or awesome on the flat, and he seems to be talented in all three, which is rare.

“We’ve worked a lot on his dressage over lockdown, because his changes were iffy. I went to Burgham off the back of a dressage lesson where the changes weren’t the best, but they came good there and they were good here, too. He’s a super jumper; he’s very quick and he covers a lot of ground. He’s not super strong but he’s very keen — he’s always taking me and looking for the flags, which is great.”

Yasmin’s excellent week at Burnham Market was topped off by finishing in the top ten on both her horses in the CCI4*-L — and even better, she was able to reunite with mum Lesley Ingham, who ordinarily accompanies her to every competition, for the first time in six months.

“She’s been stuck on the Isle of Man through lockdown, and I’m based in Cheshire, so it’s so great to see her again,” says Yasmin, laughing: “she can’t keep away [from events] — she loves them!”

Though it’s easy to bask in the glory of a successful week at an international, Yasmin is quick to credit her dream team of owners for the part they play in her remarkable career trajectory.

}I’m so lucky — Sue and Janette are so supportive and I really wouldn’t be here without them, so I’m so grateful,” she beams.

Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Reigning World Champion Ros Canter has been on flying form since returning from maternity leave at the tail end of 2019, and her momentum hasn’t eased up for a moment despite the tricky nature of this season — she clocked up a win in one of Burgham’s CCI4*-S sections, a top-five finish in Cornbury’s CCI3*-S, and today, she finished with two horses in the top five of the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S.

Level debutante Lordships Graffalo, who was piloted by Tom McEwen to eighth place in last year’s Seven-Year-Old World Championship in Ros’s stead, finished second after adding 0.4 time penalties in each jumping phase to his first-phase score of 24.5, while Rehy Royal Diamond, who stepped up to the level at Burgham, finished fifth after coming home two seconds over the optimum time.

Kitty King and Cristal Fontaine. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kitty King‘s 2018 Six-Year-Old World Champion Cristal Fontaine made light work of his first CCI4*-S to finish third, adding just 0.4 of a time penalty in yesterday’s showjumping to his first-phase score of 25.7.

“I’m thrilled with him,” says Kitty. “He felt fabulous today and made it feel really easy — considering it’s his first four-star, to make it feel like that is lovely and really exciting for the future. He’s not the finished article yet — it’s exciting to know that there’s still more to come from him but he can be as competitive as he was.”

Cristal Fontaine has had a successful run of events since coming out of lockdown in July, winning two Open Intermediates and Aston-le-Walls’ eight- and nine-year-old Advanced. In finishing third here he adds his tenth top-ten finish to the eleven total internationals he’s contested, of which he’s won four. His consistency, says Kitty, largely comes down to the innate ease with which he tackles his job, as evidenced by his quick and straightforward run today.

“He’s always been a pretty quick horse, because he doesn’t pull and he doesn’t take much setting up,” she explains. “He’s speedy into and out of his fences because I don’t have to waste time saying ‘woah’ and getting him back on his hocks; he’s economical in that respect. He was inside the time easily enough without having to try, which is nice. I can’t really fault him on anything — I don’t think he’s been out of the top three since lockdown and he’s not had a fence down.”

Tom McEwen and Bob Chaplin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen piloted the former Paul Tapner ride Bob Chaplin to fourth place, adding 1.2 time penalties across the country to finish on 28. The pair made their debut together in the middle of last season after the nine-year-old German-bred gelding had 2018 off, following a second place finish in the Six-Year-Old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers.

“We had a get-to-know-each-other year last season and this year’s obviously been a bit steady away, anyway, but this was always an aim for him,” says Tom. The time spent solidifying the partnership, though, has resulted in an easy rapport between the pair — helped along by the fact that the horse is simply a nice sort of chap to have around the yard.

“He’s amazing — the most chilled-out horse you could ever find,” says Tom. “He’s a lovely person, and he has more talent than anyone could ever shake a stick at, though sometimes he doesn’t tend to use it all.”

Want more Burnham Market? You’re in luck — we’ll be bringing you a full report on the feature CCI4*-L shortly!

The top ten in Burnham Market’s CCI4*-S for eight- and nine-year-olds.

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Goodbye Gary: Cillnabradden Evo Bows Out of Eventing after Burnham Market CCI4*-S Win

Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Notable horses in the sport become much-uttered names for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s because their domination of the leaderboards makes them a force to be reckoned with whenever they’re entered. Other times, it’s a matter of notoriety — of tumultuous, tempestuous talent, or a connection to one of the sport’s many rollercoaster peaks and troughs. And in a few cases, it’s both.

Such is the case with Oliver Townend‘s mount Cillnabradden Evo, who won the open CCI4*-S section at Burnham Market today, prolonging the impressive streak in which Oliver has won every CCI4*-S here since 2014, with 13 total victories in the class. A first-phase score of 23.3 put the pair in second place on this leaderboard after the first phase, while a classy clear round over yesterday’s showjumping track moved them into the lead, overtaking Sweden’s Therese Viklund and Diabolique, who added 22 penalties. Going into today’s cross-country phase they could afford eight seconds to stay ahead of Australia’s Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam, and though they lost a minor amount of time with a sticky trip through the final water, they sailed home five seconds over the optimum time of 6.46 to secure themselves the win.

“He’s been very good — he’s getting the hang of it,” jokes Oliver. Now, with one final victory in the books, he and owner Sally-Anne Egginton have made the decision to give the 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse, known at home as Gary, an early retirement.

“He’s finished very, very well. He’s been punching above his weight for years, and he’s just been an out-and-out trier. He’s been very special to the yard, and very special to his owner, and he’s probably won more international classes than ten horses would together — he’s won at every level and every time he went out, you pretty much knew you were going to have a good weekend.”

Oliver and Cillnabradden Evo pop out of the quarry combination. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The striking black gelding by Creevagh Ferro Ex Siebe has made a remarkable impression on the sport in his nearly five year partnership with Oliver. In 21 internationals together, they’ve notched up eight wins, including the British Open Championship title at Gatcombe in 2016, CCI4*-S classes at Blair (2016), Burnham Market (2019 and 2020), and Baborowko (2018). His reputation as a specialist at this level was heightened when he helped Oliver to the first-ever Event Rider Masters series title in 2016, and after missing the 2017 season, he was moved up to five-star in 2018. Though that inaugural run, which took place at Pau, saw the pair incur a late elimination due to a rider fall, they ventured forth to Badminton in 2019, where they would make history by setting a new dressage record for the event with an astonishing 19.7. They would ultimately finish sixth in the competition.

But Cillnabradden Evo’s past is somewhat more complicated. He was produced first by Lucy McCarthy and then through CCI4*-S by Oliver’s great friend Andrew Nicholson, with whom he finished second in the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S class at Blenheim — his debut at the level. But it was with Cillnabradden Evo that Andrew had the crashing fall at Gatcombe in 2015 that nearly ended his career, and when Oliver made his first international appearance with the gelding just two months later, it was to murmurings that the horse would not, perhaps, prove to be a safe and capable partner.

Cillnabradden Evo demonstrates his considerable scope over yesterday’s showjumping course, which saw half the field fault. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

If riders go down in eventing history for their most fundamental skillset, though, Oliver will surely be best-known for many decades to come for his extraordinary ability to coax the very best out of a horse at the top levels despite its limitations. In the four seasons they’ve shared together, they’ve finished in the top ten in 15 of their 21 internationals, and though Cillnabradden Evo looked to tire near the end of last year’s Badminton course, it was Oliver’s talent for nurturing and galvanising the horse that saw them make a clean job of the competition.

Even in this incomplete season, Cillnabradden Evo has managed two international runs — his first since Badminton — and won both, taking the CCI3*-S at Burgham last month as his warm-up for Burnham Market.

“He’s one of those rare horses to do what he did at Badminton and then come back out this year and win his three-star and four-star,” says Oliver. “It’s just time: he’s done plenty for us, and he’s finished very well and very sound. He’ll go back to Sally-Anne’s for the rest of his life, I hope.”

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Second in this open CCI4*-S section, which was separated from the eight- and nine-year-old class after the second phase due to different boot rules for the younger horses, is Australia’s Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 Don Quidam. They put the pressure on the leaders by delivering the second-fastest time of the day today, romping home in 6.40 to finish on their dressage score of 26.9. Kevin also finished in the top ten with Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend, who finished eighth on his 35.1 dressage.

“[Don Quidam’s] been really fun this week,” says Kevin. “He was easy in the dressage, athletic and careful in the showjumping, and on cross-country he galloped round really well. I was planning on giving him a proper run, and he pulled up with plenty of running — he was keen to go.”

Though the two horses both delivered equally classy rounds on nearly identical times, they’re very different characters on Kevin’s yard, with each needing something different from the rider.

Kevin McNab and Scuderia 1918 A Best Friend. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“Don Quidam is cheeky in a nice way; he’s a bit of a pretty boy, a bit blonde in a nice way. Every day’s fun with him — he’s a horse you enjoy riding each time,” he explains. “For a very big horse, A Best Friend is a bit of an anxious horse; he likes to have his friends around and someone to hold his hand. It hasn’t hurt him to be at home over lockdown, and to have a bit more time to work with him and develop They’re very different horses. Both very good, but different people.”

Now, Kevin’s looking ahead to a trip to Pau with both horses, as well as a Kentucky CCI5* run in 2021, which had been Don Quidam’s plan for this spring.

“I’d like to get to Kentucky; I think it’d really suit him and I’d like to jump around there myself — I’ve never been,” he says.

Sarah Bullimore and Conpierre. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Another rider to feature twice in the top ten is Sarah Bullimore, who piloted the evergreen Reve du Rouet to third place after finishing a second over the optimum time and stablemate Conpierre to fifth with 1.2 time penalties. These weren’t to be her only successes of the week: she also took third place in the CCI4*-L with homebred Corouet, once again proving that she’s one of the most remarkably consistent riders in Britain. Like Kevin, she, too, is looking ahead to Pau with Reve du Rouet — though much hangs in the balance of Europe’s constantly changing lockdown situation, which has evolved throughout the week and may rule out a plethora of UK-based riders from the sole 5* of the year.

Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

China’s Alex Hua Tian and his Rio top-ten finisher Don Geniro added another great result to their 2020 tally, finishing fourth on a score of 29 after adding 0.8 time penalties in showjumping and 4.4 across the country to their 23.8 dressage. They contribute to a remarkably global top ten, with six nations represented.

37 combinations came forward to the final phase in this CCI4*-S section, with all going on to complete. Just two would add cross-country jumping penalties, while four produced clear rounds inside the time — a relatively high number, considering that there were just 15 clears inside the time from 2005 to 2019.

Stay tuned for reports from the eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S and the feature CCI4*-L. Go Eventing!

The final top ten in the open CCI4*-S section at Burnham Market.

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All Pass Burnham Market Final Horse Inspection

Two-phase leader Monkeying Around trots up with Izzy Taylor. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

This morning’s final horse inspection at the Burnham Market International CCI4*-L, which serves as a replacement for Blenheim’s cancelled autumn fixture, dawned bright, crisp, and wholly uneventful as 62 horses were presented to the assembled ground jury of Judy HancockChristina Klingspoer, and Tracey Trotter.

Sarah Bullimore’s ‘cocky’ Corouet, who stands just 15.2hh, looks fresh as a daisy after his second-ever CCI4*-L cross-country run. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We wrote in depth about the changing opinion of the cross-country course here yesterday: though the ground had walked as being almost unforgivingly firm on Friday, considerable efforts made by Alec Lochore and his team yielded a much more welcoming result for the weekend’s competition. The final reckoning always comes on Sunday morning, when the withdrawal list can be scanned for overnight scratches and the condition of the remaining horses can be closely scrutinised at the second horse inspection. This morning proved that the credit given to the team here yesterday was well-founded, when just two horses didn’t present: Jessica Watts‘s Sportsfield Adventure and Lucinda Atkinson‘s Spring Revolution.

Louise Harwood and Balladeer Miller Man, accepted upon reinspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Those who did present demonstrated a unified front of sound, fresh-looking horses, showing none of the hallmarks of having struggled with the ground the day prior. Just one horse was held — Louise Harwood‘s Balladeer Miller Man, who was passed upon reinspection — and the 62-strong field will now look ahead to this afternoon’s showjumping phase, which will see them face a big, square Sue Peasley track in the main arena. Showjumping will begin at 1.30 p.m. local time (8.30 a.m. Eastern) and can be followed on Horse&CountryTV’s live-streaming service. In the meantime, the CCI4*-S class will head into cross-country from 10.00 a.m. local/5.00 a.m. Eastern, with this phase also broadcast by H&C.

Here’s a refresher of the top ten in each class:

CCI4*-L top ten:

The top ten after cross-country in Burnham Market’s CCI4*-L.

CCI4*-S top ten, to be split into an open section and an eight- and nine-year-old section:

The top ten after showjumping in the CCI4*-S.

Go Eventing.

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