Day Five at #AEC2021: We Are the Champions

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We are winding down to the end of an epic week in the Kentucky Bluegrass, and the Saturday action meant wrapping up the Novice divisions and watching a ton of Beginner Novice cross country. Yesterday, the Modified, Training and Advanced divisions crowned their champions (you can catch up on day four here), and tomorrow we’ll see the Beginner Novice riders finish out their weekend in the grand Rolex stadium.

Let’s check in on the Novice champions as well as social media from around Kentucky Horse Park:

The following excerpts have been pulled from press releases — to read more coverage on #AEC2021 from the USEA, click here.

Novice Rider: Jane Musselman and Bentley’s Best

The Novice Rider division kicked off competition in the Rolex Stadium today as 50 horse-and-rider combinations prepared to contest Bobby Murphy’s track.
Local mom and full-time horse-woman Jane Musselman rode Bentley’s Best to the head of the winner’s circle after having produced two flawless jumping days and finishing on only her dressage score of 24.2.

“This was only my fourth event with him ever, so I feel lucky that we even qualified,” Musselman described of the 14-year-old Trakehner gelding (Hirtentanz 2 x Hauptstutbuch Baronesse XIII). “It’s incredible even just to be here and so to have the win is just icing on the cake.

“I was lucky enough to grow up in this area, so I have competed at the horse park before many years ago doing Pony Club but to win here is pretty special,” she finished.

Junior Novice: Mia Brown Takes the Crown for California

Making their multi-day trip all the way from San Leandro, California proved well worth it for junior competitor Mia Brown and her 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Delatio x Stella HW) Duke HW. The duo headed into the iconic Rolex Stadium as the final pair in the Junior Novice division after leading the pack for the entirety of their event. Refusing to be overthrown, Brown confidently took her partner over each obstacle and emerged victorious once again.

“I am so happy we made the trip,” Brown gushed. “I’m so over the moon to be here, it was the most fun experience. The horse park is beautiful, and it was special to be able to come all the way here and compete because my family is from here. I’ve always wanted to ride at the Kentucky Horse Park, and it seemed like the right time to do it.”

“It still hasn’t really sunk in that I just competed in the Rolex Stadium,” she admitted. “It has been a bit overwhelming but ultimately I think Duke really enjoyed the big atmosphere.”

Novice Master Amateur: Mary Millhiser and My Boy Tex Inspire Us All

At 67 years old, Mary Millhiser’s victory in the Novice Master Amateur division with her partner, My Boy Tex, is lifelong in the making. Millhiser sat in the fourth-place position with the 15-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Noble Houston x Take It to the Gold) after the dressage and cross-country phase of competition on a score of 27.4. However, the pair shone during the final day of competition in the show jumping element and jumped clear to ultimately don the tricolor champion ribbon.

“This has beyond exceeded all of my expectations,” she emphasized. “I never dreamed I would even be in the lineup, much less leading the charge. I am thrilled and amazed beyond words, it’s just incredibly meaningful.”

Millhiser has been a life-long horsewomen since the age of 10 years old. She competed in various hunters and fox hunting events throughout her childhood and younger years. After an 11-year-long hiatus, she moved to the Richmond, Virginia area and decided to pursue fox hunting and eventing since the year 1986.

“I just want to give a shout out to all of us that are still out here doing this at a slightly more advanced age,” Millhiser added. “Just keep on keeping on and don’t let age be a determining factor in what you think you can do because I feel like I am at the peak of my riding career.”

Junior Novice 15 and Under: Margaret Frost and Euro Star Leave an Impression

Some of the future stars of the sport had their debut in the Rolex Stadium in the Novice Junior 15 and Under division. Fifteen-year-old Margaret Frost and her 12-year-old Warmblood gelding Euro Star (Qredo Van De Kempenhoeve x Panama) rose to the occasion one final time to produce the lowest-score outcome and seal the deal on their champion ribbon.

“This win feels really great because we haven’t been together that long,” Frost stated. “We went into this as a team, and we just did our best together; that’s all I could’ve hoped for.”

The gelding was previously a ride for Claire Howard who took him to the North American Youth Championships prior to Frost purchasing him in March. The pair have already had a good amount of success since.

“We did a Novice at Chattahoochee Hills this year and he ended up winning that, then we did some Training levels which have been great learning experiences,” she continued. “We keep each other on our toes, and I think it will be great to just see how far we can go together.”

Novice Horse: Chloe Smyth and Byzantine SC Come Out on Top

At the very final phase of the Novice Horse division, young professional Chloe Smyth took over from the overnight leader to claim the champion honors aboard Michelle Cameron Donaldson’s Byzantine SC. Smyth has not ridden the 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Breitling since competing at Rebecca Farm in July, but this event was one she and owner Donaldson had set their sights on for quite a while. The long trip from the West Coast proved worth the venture as the pair put in their final flawless round and claimed the top spot with 28.3.

“Today was a bit of a catch ride for me since I have not been on him in a few months,” Smyth explained, “but his owner has been doing a lot of dressage shows on him, so he felt very nice and relaxed. I wasn’t sure how he would do with so much atmosphere, but he was surprisingly good.”

The win was not expected by Smyth who shared that the gelding has only been eventing for the past year and a half following a career as a vaulting horse.
“I did not expect this of him, but I did think the AEC would be very fun at this venue and his owner was very positive about coming as well,” she said. “He has all of the right parts and talent, and we know he can jump well he just needs to keep getting braver with experience.”

Novice Amateur: Cecilia Emilsson and Blazing Angel Take the Blue

Wrapping up competition in the Rolex Stadium on Saturday, 53 entries in the Novice Amateur division completed their final phase in the show jumping competition. Despite adding 1.2 time faults today to her overnight score Cecilia Emilsson maintained a several-point lead over the next closest competitor to take the win aboard Blazing Angel.

Emilsson says the partnership between her and the 8-year-old Thoroughbred mare (Firecard x Angliana) was a total twist of fate but meant to be.
“I was planning to move to Dubai for work and put horses on the back-burner but then my trainer found me this mare and I was very confident she was going to be mine,” Emilsson laughed. “I had never seen her go, even the day we went to pick her up after I had already bought her we couldn’t even trot her because the weather was so bad, but I trusted my trainer and we put her on the trailer.”

As for her success with the mare, Emilsson admits she has been a project but with incredible potential.

“We have done a lot of bodywork to get her where she is today, but she is amazing,” she exclaimed. “She has a fantastic mind and is brave, keen, and ready to fight for you.”

Beginner Novice Takes to Cross Country

The mark of a good course designer (at least, one mark among many) is an ability to test riders without overfacing them or putting them in danger. At the lower levels, this can be a challenge because of the relative inexperience of some horses and riders. Derek di Grazia’s Beginner Novice track was designed in a way that it would be labeled a proper championship track, but it still served the purpose of the level. We know Derek’s got a penchant for using the undulation of the ground to further test riders and add another layer of technicality to a seemingly innocuous question. By cleverly placing fences in busy areas, using the ground to test a rider’s balance and ability to use their position to stabilize themselves, the Beginner Novice riders had a fair but testing challenge on their plate today.

You can read more about today’s Beginner Novice action in our report here — and I did a few live updates for some of these riders here.

Your Beginner Novice leaders following cross country are:

USEA Beginner Novice Amateur Championship: Cami Pease and Vibrant (24.8)
USEA Beginner Novice Horse Championship: Kristine Burgess and Marisol (25.5)
USEA Beginner Novice Jr. 14 and Under Championship: Laura Voorheis and Hillcrest Hop (27.1)
USEA Beginner Novice Jr.Championship: Erin Buckner and Picassi (18.5)
USEA Beginner Novice Master Amateur Championship: Penny Welsch and Mr. Poppers (25.1)
USEA Beginner Novice Rider Championship: Susan Goodman and Cinna (26.8)

Come back tomorrow for the big finale from #AEC2021! Go Eventing.

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