Four-Star Short Stories from a Weekend in the Mixed Zone

Dan Krietl and Carmango. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

We generally focus on the big names, big winners, and the big stories that come out of a weekend like the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, but every rider that walk, trots, or canters down the hallowed ramp of the Rolex Arena has a story to tell; no matter which division they rode in and where they placed at the end of the weekend.

My main role for the Eventing Nation team over Kentucky weekend was to collect audio from riders in the mixed zone — that’s the little roped off area that they’re shepherded to after their ride to talk to the media. If you saw a lady with a stuffed chinchilla sticking out of the pocket of a sky blue Equestly jacket who was shoving her phone in riders faces — that was me. Hi!

I didn’t even speak to every single rider over the course of the weekend, but I still collected 56 audio clips averaging about 2 minutes 30 seconds each via the voice memo app on my phone. That’s approximately 140 minutes of rider audio. Much of that audio is reaction to the ride they just had; some describes their relationship with their horse and how they came to have a ride; many sing the praises of people who helped to get them where they are. Altogether, it’s the most condensed conveyance of the years-long paths it’s taken to get to the moment they stand in front of a media person.

These are just a sliver of the interesting background stories and bits and bobs behind the many competitors in the Cosequin Lexington CCI4*-S last weekend.

Arielle Aharoni and Dutch Times. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Arielle Aharoni and Dutch Times’ Partnership is a Pony Kid’s Dream

In a way, Arielle’s relationship with Dutch Times began before the gelding was even born. Over fifteen years ago while Arielle’s mom, Christina, was horse shopping, she fell in love with a stallion at Goldhope Farm in Pennsylvania. The stallion wasn’t for sale, but Christina was told that a full brother to him would be hitting the ground in June. She bought him.

At that point, 10-year-old Arielle got a little jealous that her mother bought herself a pony but not her.

“Any ten-year-old would,” Arielle laughed. “So she bought me a really naughty, unbroken pony and said, ‘If you want to learn how to ride, you’re going to learn how to ride this thing. And then if you’re serious, you can come back and talk to me about a different horse.'”

It’s safe to say Arielle got serious. In the intervening years she rode through Training level aboard another (less naughty) pony and Christina had Tik Maynard continue Dutch Times’ education, competing him through the CCI3*-S level. Arielle took the reins in 2016 and together, they have continued on through the CCI4*-L level and have begun to dabble in the jumper ring as well — cross training that no doubt helped contribute to their double clear jumping round on the final day of competition.

“He kind of surpassed our expectations,” Ariel said. “He was only ever supposed to do two-star, maybe three-star. So we’ve made it way farther at this point.”

Dan Kreitl and Carmango. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Redemption for Dan Kreitl and Carmango

If you followed the 4* here last year, you’re likely familiar with fan-favorite amateur rider Dan Kreitl. After delivering the sole round clear and inside the time across the country in this divisions last year, Dan held the lead coming into the final day of competition.

The show jumping had been Dan and Carmango’s weakest phase by far and a fairytale ending for the Indiana native wasn’t to be that year. They garnered 12 jumping faults that day, losing the win and dropping to fourth.

As a technically amateur rider, Dan’s relatability, struggles, and genuine humbleness and hard work have made him a fan favorite and earned respect from the professionals he competes against.  Even the podium finishers of the division last year acknowledged that they wished he were sitting amongst them during the final press conference. In short, it’s hard not to root for Dan.

But his 2023 season with Carmango got off to an inauspicious start. At the Grand-Prix Eventing Festival at Bruce’s Field in early March, they knocked five rails — which resulted in compulsory retirement.

“[Show jumping] has been definitely the toughest phase for me and my horse, and we’ve been working hard, but hard work doesn’t always pay off,” Dan said. “At Bruce’s Field I was totally disappointed but actually learned a lot — there’s a lot of value in failure.”

The difference between Dan and and Carmango’s show jumping rounds in just a month is mind-blowing. After the disappointment of Bruce’s Field, they went on to record their very first double clear show jumping round of any FEI level at The Event at TerraNova later that month. On Sunday at Kentucky they duplicated that effort, leaving all the poles up in the Rolex Arena. They ultimately finished in fourth place overall for this second year in a row, but that clear round in Kentucky in front of Carmango’s owners and his family was the real win for Dan this weekend.

When asked if there was any one thing he worked on between the first week of March at Bruce’s Field and last last week of March at The Event at TerraNova where the pair recorded their very first double clear FEI show jumping round at any level, Dan said: “Honestly, my own brain. Somebody said, ‘he who thinks the slowest wins,’ and for me, I just gotta slow it all down. And a lot of times the harder I try — I want to get in there and get aggressive like, ‘Let’s go boy!’ —  [I] just run him past all of his distances. So really just trying to be relaxed about it and keep my position, but funny enough with the horse it’s literally just me chilling out and let him do his thing.”

And as for how jumping clear in the Rolex Arena felt?

“Freaking awesome.”

Hayley Frielick and Dunedin Black Watch. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hayley Frielick and Dunedin Black Watch’s World Tour Continues

We were a bit surprised to see Hayley Frielick and “Nelson”, who have completed 5*s in Maryland and Adelaide, on the entry list for the 4* last weekend. It turns out the reason why is a bit of a qualification conundrum.

“We kind of actually just snuck in to do Maryland. We could either go do another four-long, and then I’d be qualified as a C category rider, or I could wait until the new year and my rider category went up to B, and then I was qualified for five-star. So that’s what we did with Maryland, because we were so short on events in Australia with it being flooded all last year,” Haley explained.

As a result Haley has dropped back to a C category rider, but there’s a significant bright side for the New Zealander: “It’s kind of cool, because it’s giving me an excuse to go and do more events and see more of the states. Nelson’s tour of the US continues! We’ve gotten to go to Kentucky and now we can go look at [a four-star long] at Tryon and Bromont and see more of it, so that’s really fun.”

While there’s a bit of disappointment in not being able to do the 5* this weekend, Hayley energy and enthusiasm after her 4* cross country round was absolutely infectious.

“I’m bummed I wasn’t doing the five-star, but it is just incredible to be here,” she said with a huge grin. “I mean, I tell everyone back home in Australia, and you just actually can’t describe it until you’re here. You see everything on TV and you watch it, and then you finally get here and you’re just like, ‘Wow, this is insane!’ There’s Rolex signs everywhere and everything’s so fancy. And the going is just — I mean, I joke about it all the time here, because we just we just don’t get [ground] like this in Australia, so my guy thinks he’s running on clouds. It’s amazing.”

Anna Loschiavo and Fernhill That Guy Jack. Photo by Abby Powell.

Anna Loschiavo Spreads the Love for Area I

Riding Fernhill That Guy Jack, this was the Anna Loschiavo’s first time competing at the Kentucky Horse Park since the North American Junior and Young Riders Championship in 2009. Anna, a Vermont native, is a fixture of the eventing communities in both Areas I and III. Every year she splits her time across the country, with summers spent in her hometown of Bradford and winters at her southern base in Ocala, Florida.

“I love both of [the areas]. The good thing about our farm in Florida is we actually have terrain. We have a hill with about an 8% grade, so that really helps to keep our training more consistent as we come to Florida where it’s flatter,” Anna said. “Otherwise, it’s like a traveling circus. We just pick up and move twice a year. And I have a really, really great team. Emma Armstrong is my head groom and assistant trainer and she is wonderful about keeping all of our operations together.”

The number of events in Area I has dwindled significantly over the past decade or so, making it difficult for professionals to maintain their own level of competition alongside their teaching and training businesses. But Anna and other Area I professionals have high hopes for a keeping eventing alive in the area in which it all started in the U.S.

“I’ll never leave Area I in the summer; I love it,” she said. “We’re trying to do some really exciting things, actually, to keep revamping the upper level eventing in Area I, so we’re really trying to spread the word about that. We’ve got a lot of events and organizers that are really trying to make it so that Area I can be a prep for big events like this.”

Missy Miller and Quinn. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Hay is Not for Horses if You’re Missy Miller’s Quinn

Missy Miller has made a lot of changes recently. For one, she’s brought her top mount, Quinn, out to California to ride and train with Tamie Smith. They’ve done all the nearly all their prep runs for this event out on the West Coast.

“Tamie has been a game changer for our program. I’ve had a lot of great coaches, great mentors, and she’s really kind of taken me under her wing. It’s super,” Missy said. “Here she is, she’s first in the five-star and she’s second [in the four-star], and she’s here with me through my entire warm-up. She’s there with me and she comes and helps me with him after and she’s just 110% — she is just a great person. I can go to her with any questions. She has changed all my riding and my entire program with my other horses at home. I’m really lucky to have her in my life.”

Another huge change? Quinn’s diet. The 13-year-old gelding had always been on the lean side, looking “like he was ready to run the Kentucky Derby.” Many had chalked it up to ulcers, which Missy treated for, but with the help of her long-time veterinarian Dr. Chad Davis, they decided to try a diet low in long-stem forage — normally the opposite of what might be the ideal equine diet. It worked — it turns out that Quinn can’t digest hay very well, so instead Missy meets his forage requirement by feeding him chaff and alfalfa pellets. Finally figuring out Quinn’s ideal nutrition program has made a world of difference in his way of going.

“Now I’m a little bit like, ‘Oh, he’s quite cheeky!'” Missy said. “I’m so lucky; this is our third year here with him. That alone, just that he’s here and he’s still willing to do it — he loves his job — it’s great.”

Jessica Phoenix and Fluorescent Adolescent. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Eventing Comes Full Circle for Jess Phoenix with Fluorescent Adolescent

Seeing Canadian Olympian Jessica Phoenix on a flashy piebald is a new sight — that’s because her partnership with Fluorescent Adolescent is a relatively new one. Owned and previously ridden by through the CCI3*-S level by Jess’ long-time student, Makayla Rydzik, this event was just “Lacey’s” second 4*. Jess took over the ride last fall and was thrilled with how the 15-year-old Canadian Sport Horse (Gaudi — Amelia II, by Ali Baba) handled the exciting atmosphere this weekend.

Not only does Jess have a neat connection to the mare via her student; she knows the mare’s breeders, Kelly Plitz and Ian Roberts — both Canadian Olympians — of Dreamcreast Farm in Port Perry, Ontario, very well.

“So it’s a pretty fun story,” Jess said. “Kelly was actually my very first eventing coach, and then her husband, Ian, was my coach, all the way through to the three-star level.”

Think about it: a Canadian Olympian riding a horse that was trained by her student and was bred by the Olympic-level coaches who taught said Canadian Olympian (did you follow all that?): That’s the insular eventing community at its coolest.

LRK3DE: [Website] [5* Scores] [4* Scores] [Live Stream] [EN’s Form Guide] [EN’s Coverage] [EN’s Ultimate Guide]

[Click here to catch up on all of EN’s coverage of the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event]

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments