Recapping the Final Day of VHC Eventing, presented by Capital Square

Competition wrapped up Sunday to cap off a highly successful VHC Eventing, presented by Capital Square. All remaining divisions completed their competition weekend, with some finishing on show jumping and others concluding with cross country. The FEI Long-format division champions were also crowned, as well as a slew of other award winners for their efforts over the weekend.

Ashton Benefiel and Libris Charlotte. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Benefiel Rises to the Occasion in CCI2*-L

There was a two-way tie for the lead following cross country in the CCI2*-L division, with young riders Tate Northrop and Ashton Benefiel left to duke it out for the eventual win today on matching scores of 32.7.

Olympic show jumping rider-turned-course designer Michel Vaillancourt set a challenging show jumping track across all divisions, including the National levels. The courses required thinking and education on the part of both horse and rider, and caught more than a few pairs out in today’s FEI divisions.

So the pressure was on for our two leaders. Benefiel was the first to ride, bringing forward her 9-year-old British Sport Horse Libris Charlotte (Cevin Z – Witches Broom, by Fraam) and boasting a clear FEI show jumping record with their two previous CCI2*-S and CCI1*-S competitions.

Ashton Benefiel and Libris Charlotte. Photo by Sally Spickard.

They delivered, securing one of four double clear rounds to keep the pressure on Northrop. Northrop rode her 9-year-old Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding, Harrison (Pasolongo – Sybrite), who is owned by her mother, Megan Northrop. Their dreams of taking home the win were dashed when fence 3 rattled and fell, assessing four penalty points and one eventual time penalty to drop down into fifth overall.

For her part, Benefiel says she was surprised to have taken the win. “I certainly did not expect to win,” she smiled. “I really wanted to come into the weekend and just have a confidence building round in cross country and show jumping. Thankfully we were able to do that and come home with the win.”

Benefiel trains with CCI5* and World Championships rider Ariel Grald, both when Grald is in Florida for the winter as well as periodically through the summer in Southern Pines, NC. She also rides with Florida-based CCI4* rider Alexander O’Neal when Grald is away. “Ariel had some great advice and [the course today] ended up riding really well,” she said. “I was feeling really good [this morning]. Charlie is a really careful show jumper, and I knew that if I could do my job that she was going to do hers. She gets a little nervous about other horses in the warm-up, so I was hoping that I would have enough time to get her relaxed and soft in her body before we went out there, and we were able to do that.”

Free Union, VA-based Gabby Dickerson cleaned up the second and third spots on the leaderboard, riding Kristin Caskey’s Afrojack Z to second place on a score of 32.8 and her own Gortglas Lupin to third on a 33.9.

Kelley Claims CCI1*-L Victory

Lindsay Kelley and Fashionable Man. Photo by Sally Spickard.

It was a wire-to-wire win for Lindsay Kelley, who’s in some ways catch-riding this weekend for owner Paige Ramsey with the 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Fashionable Man (Charitable Man – So Francie). This pair finished their weekend clear on their dressage score of 27.8.

The CCI1*-L course also rode challenging, with just two pairs including Kelley jumping double clear. Second-placed John Michael Durr and Cindy Deporter’s Ana D produced the other double clear, also finishing on their dressage score of 29.6.

“I noticed that the course designer really did design a pretty tight track,” Kelley reflected. “It’s a tight ring, it’s a small ring, and on top of that he put in some tough combinations where there was really only one shot in that would work. So you had to get a close distance in [to the combinations] to be able to get out clear. And so I warmed this horse up in a very relaxed way. He is a Thoroughbred, so I find that Thoroughbreds get some confidence by going forward if the track allows it. This track did not – they wanted you to properly show jump this course, so I warmed him up in a very relaxed way, did not let him leave any strides out, tried to get him close in the warm-up to every fence in the warm-up so that’s what we could emulate in the ring. And he did just that – he was absolutely awesome, so rideable.”

Kelley said she was able to block out any pressure she might have felt as the last to go and the defending leader. “I really do try and block all of that out as far as my headspace goes and stay riding my own horse and staying with my own plan, trying not to get distracted,” she explained. “It’s easy to get distracted, knowing that you don’t have a rail in hand, but I tried to just focus on what I could do, which was give my horse a good ride.”

Sharon White accepts the Hyperion Stud Young Horse Award alongside VHC CEO Stephen Shank. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Hyperion Stud Honors Young Horse Development and Breeding Efforts

Hyperion Stud presented an award to the top-placed 6- or 7-year-old horse competing in the CCI*-Short divisions. This award was won by Anita Antenucci’s Arden Augustus (Jaguar Mail – Juneau, by Cevin Z), who is campaigned by Sharon White. This pair won the CCI2*-S division yesterday.

“I’m such a believer in breeding. I have tried it myself – it is not easy!” White said on accepting the award. “And to have a partnership with Anita, who is a very good friend – she’s probably the one person in the world who loves horses more than I do, which is saying something. She’s so passionate about it, and as a breeder you have to be passionate. It’s a labor of love, just like everything involved in the sport of eventing. Hyperion Stud – theirs is a labor of love, and they’ve had some huge success and I’m hoping Gus can follow in Chin Tonics’s footsteps! It’s just so satisfying to support U.S. breeding, breeding as a whole. It’s, again, it’s something you have to have a real passion about. It’s really nice that Gus has come along and it’s possible he could be a top level horse, and that’s a beautiful thing. I’m so appreciative of Anita, it’s a really fun thing to do together, and I’m so appreciative of Hyperion Stud.”

National Divisions Crown Champions

Alice Johnson and Cooley Romance, winners of the Starter division as well as the lowest finishing score of the weekend. Photo by Sally Spickard.

The remaining National divisions wrapped up on Sunday, crowning several new champions, Thoroughbred Incentive Program winners, Adult Team Challenge winners, and more.

Berkley Gardner held on to an overnight lead in the Modified Rider, taking the blue ribbon with Jenni Bickerstaff’s In Vogue on a score of 27.8.

Sharon White collected a second wire-to-wire win (she won the CCI2*-S in similar fashion yesterday with Arden Augustus) aboard her own Quizas in the Open Modified, adding no penalties to her dressage score of 23.5.

Madeline DeMeirsman moved up from fifth place after show jumping with her own Digby, collecting 2.8 time penalties but doing enough to finish in first place on a score of 38.7 in the Junior Training Rider.

Hayley Norfleet and Laura Considine’s Wall Street jumped a lovely show jumping round to finish off a start-to-finish win in their Open Training Division on a penalty mark of 29.2, adding no time or jumping penalties to their card.

Tiffany McDermott was another come from behind winner, moving up from third after cross country with a double clear show jumping effort aboard her own Makin’ Waves, ending the weekend on a score of 35.0.

Rachael Livermore held on to her lead in the Senior Training Rider A division, piloting Abigail Akres Accuraat Z to the victory on a score of 27.2, finishing on her dressage score.

Similarly, Penny Goddard rode Michelle Chisholm’s Fernhill On The Rocks to the Senior Training Rider B division win after winning the dressage, adding no further penalties to end on a score of 25.1.

Tim Bourke and Hedgerow Farm’s Ballyburn Blazer jumped a clear cross country inside the optimum time of 5 minutes, 20 seconds to secure a move up to win the Training Horse division on a score of 28.1.

Emerson Padgett retained the early lead earned after dressage with her own MSH Giant JacKa, adding no further penalties after taking a score of 24.2. She’d go on to win the Junior Novice Rider division.

Kendal Fansler and Hedgerow Farm’s Delilah’s Boy secured a start to finish victory in the Novice Horse division on a final score of 26.7.

Mia Farley and one of her newest exciting prospects, Pina Colada 28, moved up to the lead after show jumping on Saturday and held on to secure the win in the Open Novice division on a score of 27.8 thanks to a double clear cross country effort.

Phyllis Hardgrove and her own Cooley Castle also held on to a lead secured after show jumping, winning their Senior Novice division after cross country on a score of 30.3.

The Beginner Novice Horse division as won by Madeline Binder and her own Carrafarm Be Mine, ending their weekend with no penalties added to their dressage score of 31.5.

Maura O’Connor and Terry Morrow’s Will You Be Mine secured a wire-to-wire win in their Junior Beginner Novice division, ending the weekend on a score of 24.7.

Clare Brady and Kelly Follain’s Rhythm and Blues locked down the Open Beginner Novice division win on their dressage score of 29.1, adding no penalty marks to their dressage score throughout the weekend.

Kristyl Callison and her own After Eight finished also on their dressage score of 25.6, securing the start to finish win in the Senior Beginner Novice Rider A division.

Gina Keller and her own Snack Attach took home the blue in their Senior Beginner Novice Rider B division, ending their weekend on a score of 22.7.

Last but certainly not least, Alice Johnson and her own Cooley Romance took home the win and the lowest finishing score of the weekend, a 20.3, in the Starter division.

VHC Eventing (Lexington, VA) [Website] [Scores]

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