Smiles and Sunshine on Saturday at VHC Eventing, presented by Capital Square

A visit to Virginia Horse Center is a worthwhile experience, even if you aren’t a “horse person”. Operating with the aptly-chosen tagline “Eventing with a View”, the venue offers picturesque vistas and rolling hills in addition to top-flight equestrian competition. A gorgeous Saturday that began with some traditional hillside fog unveiled the views for a full day of cross country, show jumping, and dressage competition.

Beshear Comes from Behind to Win CCI3*-S

Emily Beshear and Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Emily Beshear, whose Deep Purple Eventing is located not far from the Virginia Horse Center, steadily climbed up the leaderboard in the CCI3*-S division, piloting Rio de Janeiro (River Dancer – Vanilla Ice), who is owned with her son, Nicholas Beshear, to the eventual victory on a finishing score of 37.6.

After starting the weekend in fifth place, Beshear and the 15-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred gelding moved into second following show jumping on Friday. Initial leaders Ariel Grald and Adagio’s Nobility were assessed 20 jumping penalties on cross country this morning, opening the door for a new leader. While no pairs completed Jay Hambly’s cross country course within the optimum time of 6 minutes, 25 seconds, Beshear’s 8.4 time penalties kept her ahead of second-placed Hannah Sue Hollberg and Carsonstown.

“The horse is very efficient,” Beshear said as she described her cross country round. “He doesn’t have a big stride, but he’s got all the heart in the world and he’s very genuine, so I wanted to just let him go out, pick his pace and gallop around and be as efficient as I could around the turns. He’s pretty easy to turn and balance, and he did exactly what he was supposed to.”

“I liked all the improvements they’ve made out there, they’ve done a beautiful job working on opening it up,” Beshear said of the always-evolving cross country, designed here at VHC Eventing by Jay Hambly on the Oak Hill side and by Jon Wells on the VHC side. “The course rode really well! Originally, I was thinking of going to Bromont. The horse is older and I needed to get my three-star qualification. I did decide afterwards not to push him for Bromont and to wait for later in the year, but this was a no-brainer to come here and get a nice, good run in. And I think they’ve done a great job with improving that side, so I enjoyed it!”

“I’ve known the horse for a really long time,” Beshear said of the partnership she’s enjoyed with Rio de Janeiro. “He was actually bred and brought along by a young rider from Michigan that I helped. When she went off to college, I got to take over the ride and we purchased him. And then shortly thereafter I ended up injuring my knee, so I was out for a year and Nicholas took over the reins. He got the horse a bit of three-star mileage and did really well with him but then graciously gave me the ride back. So he’s become the honorary owner so we can keep the partnership going.”

Beshear says she plans to aim for some Advanced competition and perhaps a CCI4*-S to round out the year, using this for re-qualification as well as fine-tuning for a step back up to the next level.

A Tie for First in the CCI2*-L

Tate Northrop and Harrison. Photo by Sally Spickard.

We’ve got a tie for the lead going into the final phase of competition in the CCI2*-L division, which now sees initial leaders Tate Northrop and Harrison tied with Ashton Benefiel and Libris Charlotte on matching scores of 32.7 after cross country today. Dressage winner Northrop added four seconds of time and 1.6 time penalties to her dressage score, while Benefiel secured a clear round inside the optimum time of 7 minutes, 5 seconds.

“My cross country was very good today,” Northrop said. “We had a little bit of time, but he was amazing. The course rode so well, it was so beautiful out there. It’s very hilly, which he’s not used to. We’ve been running in Aiken and North Carolina, so it was a little bit of a change for him and the hills kind of got to him, but he was so good through everything.”

“I’ve never done this before: so I loved the back water,” Northrop continued. “We jumped in and then we did two angled houses out in a two-stride, and that was really fun. He did that so well. It was a really nice design. They’ve made so many improvements since I’ve been here last. The cross country was amazing. They got more of the trees down, you can see everything from up on the hill – it’s beautiful.”

Going into show jumping on a tie is, of course, a bit nerve-inducing, but Northrop is taking the pressure in stride and trusting in the partnership she has built with “Harry”.

“I’m of course a little nervous [about show jumping,” she smiled. “He’s a good partner to have in the show jumping. We’ve had some good runs at the Preliminary and two-star level. Intermediate, we’re still new so we’ve had some down at that level, but I’m hoping he can get out there and muster some energy from today! So we’ll see.”

Ashton Benefiel and Libris Charlotte. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Moving from initial fourth place into the tie for the lead, Ashton Benefiel says she knows there is more in the tank for better dressage marks in the future. She initially scored a 32.7 from dressage judges Sara Miller Leary and Robert Stevenson.

“Charlie was great for her dressage,” she elaborated. “We had a few tense moments, I think just the atmosphere was a little new for her and we’ve never been here before so we had a couple moments in the test that weren’t our best, but overall she was really great. I was really, really happy with her dressage.”

Heading into cross country, Benefiel knew she would need to do her homework ahead of time, as she bases full-time in Florida, which does not feature the amount of terrain found here at VHC Eventing at her home events.

“This is our first two-star Long and we’re from Florida so we’re really not used to the terrain,” Benefiel said. “So I was a little bit nervous going into today just wondering how she was going to handle it. But I was so happy with her. She handled all the questions really well and loved galloping up the hills and still had a lot of gas left in the tank, so I’m excited for tomorrow. I was really impressed with her fitness and what she had left.”

Benefiel and “Charlie” started their partnership with the mare was a four-year-old, sourced from England by Mike and Emma Winter. Initially on import, the mare had a false positive for a disease that would end up not allowing her into the country, so she was sent back to England. At that point, Benefiel thought she wouldn’t see the mare again, but on her birthday her parents surprised her with a very special package: Libris Charlotte, returned to the U.S. without incident and ready to begin a partnership with her new rider. Benefiel had competed through the Intermediate level with her previous horse, but it’s been several years since and she’s thrilled to be back moving up the levels with a very special horse.

White Goes Wire-to-Wire in CCI2*-S

Sharon White and Arden Augustus. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Sharon White secured a wire-to-wire victory in the CCI2*-S with Anita Antenucci’s Arden Augustus, adding no penalties to her initial dressage score of 29.0 to finish over 10 points in the lead at the end of today’s cross country.

“I’m so pleased with him,” White said after her round. “He tried really hard and it’s very hilly here, and I think that’s a really good education for them. He’s a very game cross country horse, but he’s been a little spooky at the coffins, so there’s a beautiful coffin here that is challenging enough, so I really rode him there. And he was like ‘what are you – what is wrong with you up there? I’m fine! No worries!’ So good job, buddy. [The course had] good water jumps, a good coffin, good corner questions and great terrain, so a really good education for him in his career. I’m really thrilled and really thrilled for Anita, she’s a really good friend, so it’s really fun for us. It goes wrong a lot, but when it goes right it’s really nice!”

White plans to keep “Gus” at this level for the rest of this year, looking to the future and focusing on strength development and education. “He’s a very big horse, so I need to be slightly careful and a little patient. There’s no rush. He certainly doesn’t need to be going Intermediate this year, so there’s absolutely no hurry. It’s a good year of education and strength development.”

White and Arden Augustus also took home a special award for young horses sponsored by Hyperion Stud, awarded to the highest-placed 6- or 7-year-old horse in the FEI Short divisions.

Kelley Keeps the Lead in CCI1*-L

Lindsay Kelley and Fashionable Man. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Lindsay Kelley and the off-track Thoroughbred Fashionable Man maintained their lead after two phases, finishing today’s cross country clear inside the optimum time of 5 minutes, 22 seconds to finish today on a score of 27.8.

Kelley has been keeping the 11-year-old gelding tuned up for owner Paige Ramsey, who’s currently preparing for Young Rider Championships with her CCI2* horse, MTF Cooley Classic (with whom she finished second in the CCI2*-S today). It’s a treat for Kelley, who generally spends her time producing horses up the levels. “Thumper” has experience through the CCI2* level himself, and Kelley knew this CCI1*-L track would be a great tune-up and an opportunity for herself to have a bit of fun.

“Cross country was totally awesome,” Kelley said. “In all honesty, the horse didn’t put a foot wrong. He does have experience and I’m really just keeping him tuned up for Paige and it is a pleasure to ride him. You get to go out there and sort of ‘equitate’ around because he knows what he’s doing for sure. Hopefully we can tie it all together with a bow and have him jump around clear tomorrow. Really, I’m usually out there riding horses that I’m making up so it’s quite a pleasure to sit on one that knows what he’s doing!”

First National Division Winners Crowned

Brooke Burchianti and Cooley Space Grey. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Several National division winners were crowned today following cross country.

Following the planned withdrawal of both of Will Coleman’s leading ride, Diabolo, the victor’s spot in the Advanced/Intermediate was open. Moving up to secure the win are Brooke Burchianti with Karen Burchianti’s Cooley Space Grey, who were the sole pair to catch the optimum time of 6 minutes, 22 seconds. This pair finished on a score of 41.8, moving up from sixth after show jumping.

Sydney Hagaman and Charmeur were another pair to hold the lead from start to finish, winning the blue ribbon in the Open Intermediate division on a score of 25.8, adding just two time penalties on cross country today to their initial dressage score.

Kerra Johnson and Fly High Quality moved steadily up the rankings in the Open Preliminary after beginning the weekend in sixth position, finishing first on a final score of 32.8, also with two time penalties added on cross country.

Catherine Kelly and Cooley Meridian were the eventual winners of the Preliminary Rider division, starting the weekend in 12th after dressage and climbing their way up to secure the victory on a score of 37.3, adding just 3.6 time penalties to their dressage score.

The Starter through Modified divisions will wrap up competition on Sunday, with some divisions running cross country and others show jumping tomorrow.

Current Division Leaders:

Open Modified: Sharon White and Quizas (23.5)
Modified Rider: Berkley Gardner and In Vogue (27.8)
Junior Training Rider: Marin Swyers and Fernhill Mac an Bata (32.3)
Open Training A: Hayley Norfleet and Wall Street (29.2)
Open Training B: Austin Skeens and HSH Bangarang (34.6)
Senior Training Rider A: Rachael Livermore and Accuraat Z (27.2)
Senior Training Rider B: Penny Goddard and Fernhill On the Rocks (21.9)
Training Horse: Will Coleman and Honest Man (26.9)
Junior Novice Rider: Emerson Padgett and MSH Giant JacKa (24.2)
Novice Horse: Kendal Fansler and Delilah’s Boy (26.7)
Open Novice: Mia Farley and Pina Colada 28 (27.8)
Senior Novice Rider: Phyllis Hardgrove and Cooley Castle (27.5)
Beginner Novice Horse: Madeline Binder and Carrafarm Be Mine (31.5)
Junior Beginner Novice Rider: Maura O’Connor and Will You Be Mine (24.7)
Open Beginner Novice: Clare Brady and Rhythm and Blues (29.1)
Senior Beginner Novice Rider A: Kristyl Callison and After Eight (25.6)
Senior Beginner Novice Rider B: Gina Keller and Snack Attack (22.7)
Starter: Alice Johnson and Cooley Romance (20.3)

Virginia Horse Center Eventing (Lexington, VA) [Website] [Entries] [Ride Times] [Volunteer] [Scoring]

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