The USEF has named the 2015 Eventing 25 riders, and we’re excited to get to know each of them with a series of profiles on EN. These young riders are the future of our sport in the U.S., so remember their names and join us in giving them the recognition they deserve. Keep checking back for new profiles. Go Eventing 25!
Alex Ahearn and her 8-year-old German Warmblood gelding, Mai Baum, had a strong season competing on the West Coast that culminated in a trip east to contest the American Eventing Championships in Texas and the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI2* in Maryland. Now, Alex is prepping for a busy 2015 that includes training with the Eventing 25 program.
It all began when Alex and her family embarked on a hunt for a horse that could take Alex up through the levels. She previously had a lower level horse, but was outgrowing it, starting a search in Europe for her next event prospect.
Along with Michelle Pestl, Alex’s parents found Mai Baum, a stunningly handsome gelding who was 4 at the time, at auction in Munich. The horse showed a lot of promise, so he was packed up and sent to start his new life with Alex in California. “We wanted something talented, something that could help me move up, and we’ve kind of learned together as we went,” Alex said.
After spending a year at Preliminary in 2013, Alex and “Lexus” stepped up to Intermediate, making their debut at the level at Twin Rivers, where they picked up an elimination on cross country. The pair went back to work, though, and came out swinging at Rebecca Farm in the summer, winning the Intermediate division with just .8 time penalties on cross country added to their dressage score.
It was at Rebecca Farm that Alex had her first talent spotting experience. “Jean Moyer from Area VII was at Rebecca Farm, where I was doing the Intermediate,” Alex recalled. “She saw me show jump, and when I was finished, she came up and told me that she was going to recommend me for the Eventing 25 list. I was just amazed and flattered that someone who had just seen me ride would feel that way. It was a great way to finish the weekend.”
Alex then set about forming the plan for the rest of her season with coach Tamie Smith, who she began working with in June. Alex and Lexus picked up a total of three consecutive top-three placings at the Intermediate and CIC2* level, qualifying them for the AECs.
In Texas, Alex and Lexus rode like a seasoned pair, picking up 12th place in a largely competitive division. From there, they were ready to make their CCI2* debut, targeting fabled Fair Hill.
As expected, the CCI2* course rode tough for the competitors, many of which were making their first start at the level or who were still relatively green at the level. In a huge division where over a third of the starters did not finish, Alex and Mai Baum toughed it out to complete their first CCI2* run, adding even more mileage to their resume.
“I got around, which was a big accomplishment for me because there were a lot who didn’t get around,” Alex said. “It was a tough course, but I think we really learned a lot and will be ready to do even better when we go for another CCI event.”
Alex set about applying for the Eventing 25 list, having been nominated for consideration by Jean. “I wasn’t really sure I’d get it,” she said. “There were a lot of people from the area applying, and so I tried to make my application as strong as I could.
“On the application, they asked me to tell them about something unique about myself, so I told them about how I was adopted from China, and how I felt that it made me unique in that I had chosen eventing as what I wanted to pursue. I wrote that without being adopted, I most likely wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had, and I considered myself to be very lucky.“
Her application stood out, and Alex made it onto list, where she’ll take part in training sessions with the yet-to-be-announced Developing Rider coach; the two finalists are Leslie Law and Mike Huber. “I’m really looking forward to working with the new coach; I think it will be a really great way for us to look ahead to moving up next year,” she said.
Alex has her eye on moving up the Advanced and three-star level in 2015. “I’d like to do a CIC3* next year at some point. I think that’s my main goal for the year,” she said.
Alex credits her coach, Tamie Smith, with a lot of the learning and progression she’s made in 2014. “She’s very supportive and is always there for you,” Alex said. “She’s very experienced, and she’s been through it all. When I get nervous, she can tell, and she knows exactly how to make me feel better. I get nervous about everything! I guess mainly about not performing my best, but I guess that’s normal.”
We wish Alex and Lexus the best of luck with their 2015 season!