Stars Align on Friday at VHC Eventing presented by Capital Square

A thrilling day of competition has come to a close as VHC Eventing presented by Capital Square officially got underway on Friday, with many divisions competing in dressage and show jumping. A total of 442 competitors have come to Virginia Horse Center for “Eventing with a View”, and despite some rain showers to start the day, Friday ended with warm sunshine.

The FEI divisions kicked off Friday with the Short divisions contesting dressage and show jumping and the Long formats doing their dressage tests ahead of cross country on Saturday.

Grald Takes Charge of CCI3*-S

Ariel Grald and Adagio’s Nobility. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Leading the way in the highest FEI division, the CCI3*-S, are North Carolina-based Ariel Grald riding Annie Eldrige’s Adagio’s Nobility (Adagio de Talma – Noble Lady I, by Heraldik). The pair earned a 27.2 from judges Jane Hamlin and Amanda Miller and subsequently added no penalties to that mark over Michel Vaillancourt’s testing show jumping track this afternoon.

Like several other rides, Grald is using this event as a preparation for “Quax’s” first CCI3*-L at MARS Bromont CCI in June, citing the terrain and atmosphere of Virginia Horse Center as two key factors in her decision to enter.

“I wanted to give him a good fitness run before we do the three-long at Bromont, so I thought that it would be a good test to make sure he’s fit enough. I felt like, too, there’s a bit of atmosphere here, and it’s a good way to prep for bigger things,” Grald said.

“He was good, he’s not been out for a little awhile, I kind of gave him a little break after he last ran at Fair Hill,” Grald commented on her dressage test with the 8-year-old Holsteiner gelding. “So I felt like the test wasn’t as brilliant as it can be, but he’s still a very good boy – he’s so consistent and he just has a lovely way of going. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t show him off as well as I feel like I can, but he didn’t do a thing wrong.”

Grald was the first of what would eventually be four double clear rounds in the CCI3*-S. “He’s a very, very good show jumper,” she said of her ride. “He just tries super hard, he reads the poles, he reads the jumps, he just really wants to jump clear so he’ll turn himself inside out to do that. So I’m very lucky to be sitting on a horse like him. I feel like the show jumping always rides really hard here – the course is excellent, they set a really good track, but it’s proving to ride quite hard.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s cross country, which for the FEI divisions is designed by Jay Hambly, Grald says she’d like to be competitive, but the bigger priority will be fitness and ensuring her horse is well prepared for the next step.

“I’ve heard really good things [about the cross country],” she said. “I know they’ve done a lot of improvement, and just the last couple of years here have been really exciting to see the changes in the cross country and just see the effort and enthusiasm from the organizers and everybody that’s behind this event.”

Northrop and White Lead CCI2* Divisions

Tate Northrop and Harrison. Photo by Brant Gamma Photography.

Taking charge of the CCI2*-L division following dressage Friday morning are Kentucky-based Tate Northrop, 19, and Megan Northrop’s 9-year-old Oldenburg-Thoroughbred gelding, Harrison (Pasolongo – Sybrite). This is the first CCI2*-L for Harrison, who partners with Northrup while she balances university and riding. Harrison was originally produced by Tate’s mother, Megan, who handed the reins over when the gelding started going Training level.

“I took him over about two years ago, and he had only done Training and so I took him to his first Prelim,” Northrop, who’s also competed at Junior and Young Rider Championships in the past. “I’ve been figuring it out and getting used to riding and going to school balancing it all. But recently, he just progresses every ride. He just has such a great work ethic. He does whatever I’ve put in front of him – he’s just that kind of mentality. We’ve just gradually worked our way up; he had such a good background at Training and a really good foundation at that level.”

Northrop is eyeing a CCI3*-L – she’s done an Intermediate and a CCI3*-S to this point with Harrison – down the road, so this weekend is a preparation for the future. At home, she works regularly with CCI5* eventer Allie Knowles and CCI3* rider Kate Sand, as well as dressage coach Ellen Murphy.

“He makes me work for it, that’s for sure!” Northrop said of her dressage test, which earned a score of 31.1 from judges Sara Miller Leary and Robert Stevenson. “I’ve been working on elevating it all because he wants you to kind of ride soft and not really do too much in the trot and canter. But I’m learning that he has more in there, and especially with dressage lessons with Ellen, she’s just been making that progress so much more.”

Sharon White and Arden Augustus. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Looking to the CCI2*-S, West Virginia-based Sharon White is the two-phase leader, riding Anita Antenucci’s Arden Augustus (Jaguar Mail – Juneau, by Cevin Z) to a dressage mark of 29.0 from judges Sara Miller Leary and Robert Stevenson. The pair subsequently added no penalties to this score in the show jumping, which proved to be very influential for the rest of the board with a total of three double clears.

Bred in the U.S. by Antenucci, Arden Augustus in 2023 won the U.S. Young Event Horse Futurity as a five-year-old and now contests his second FEI event here at VHC Eventing.

“I’m so pleased with him,” White said. “He’s a six-year-old, so he’s young and he’s a very large horse. He tries so hard and I’m super happy with him. He’s always very with me, he gives me all he’s got and one day he’s going to be strong and that’s going to be unreal.”

“It’s just education and strength development,” White said of working with a promising young horse. “He needs to learn self-carriage for all parts of his body, he needs to learn a little more engagement like all young horses do. He’s pretty well educated at this point, and he’s very receptive to training, so he picks things up very quickly.”

Of Michel Vaillancourt’s challenging show jumping track, White said she loved it and that looking at the questions asked simply makes a difference. “I love the course. I think it’s actually very simple, except the distances are a little short for an event horse, so you have to land and get [the adjustment] done soon, because on an event horse if you land and wait to do anything, they open up, that’s what they’re supposed to do. So that’s why it’s a little bit interesting in there, so I just tried to make sure that on landing that Gus knew to wait it out and there was time for him to see things and jump around. He really jumped up and around and used his back, so I’m super happy.”

White gave a shout-out to the organizing committee for their efforts. “I love things well done and they’re really trying to do things just so and just right,” she explained, noting the aerators on cross country, for one. “I think the hills here are awesome. I think the terrain here is such a good test for them. There’s good hills. He spent the winter in Florida, so I need him to see hills, so I’m thrilled to get him out and see the hills. Horses have to learn how to balance on hills. It’s not only wonderful for their fitness and strength, but for their education of how to carry themselves down a hill and up a hill efficiently. So it’s so great that we have this here. I have big plans for Gus in his lifetime, and this would be such a great part of that right now.”

Kelley Leads the Way in CCI1*-L

Lindsay Kelley and Fashionable Man. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Riding for young rider Paige Ramsey, Virginia-based Lindsay Kelley took the dressage lead in the CCI1*-L with the 11-year-old off-track Thoroughbred Fashionable Man (Charitable Man – So Francie). This pair earned a 27.8 from dressage judges Amanda Miller and Eileen Prichard-Bryan for the overnight lead.

“This was the first time riding the new one-star test, and the test has a lot more canter work than the other tests do. This horse really does excel in his canter work, he’s super rideable. He shows up at the shows just like he shows up at home; he really does let you ride him and show him off in the dressage, which is rare for a Thoroughbred,” Kelley said of her ride this afternoon. “He’s very nice to ride in the dressage and just in general, so he really did show his best self today.”

Fashionable Man was originally produced through the CCI2* level by CCI5* rider Meghan O’Donoghue before being sold to Ramsey. “Right now, Paige is focusing on her two-star horse and getting ready for [Young Riders] in July, and she’s using [Fashionable Man] as a practice horse at home. So I’m keeping him tuned up and I’m the lucky one!”

“He is a machine out [on cross country], he shows all of his good Thoroughbred attributes out there, that’s for sure,” Kelley said of tomorrow’s test. “I’m looking forward to doing it with him.”

“This event has such a homey feel,” Kelley said of the decision to run the horse at VHC Eventing. “We’ve been coming here since we were kids, and it’s just a nice venue and it’s really well-run. We love the courses, we love the rings, and it’s pretty close to us, only two-and-a-half hours away.”

National Divisions Get Underway

Will Coleman and Diabolo. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Looking to the National divisions, Preliminary up through Advanced CT and Advanced/Intermediate got underway on Friday, completing their dressage and show jumping ahead of cross country on Saturday.

National Leaders:

Advanced CT: Michelle Koppin and Calcourt Valley (41.6)
Advanced/Intermediate: Will Coleman and Diabolo (28.4)
Open Intermediate: Sydney Hagaman and Charmeur (23.8)
Open Preliminary: Ashley Adams and Global Halycon (27.1)
Preliminary Rider: Sylvia Byars and CSF Dassett Decoy (26.3)

On Saturday, the Starter through Modified divisions will begin their competitions. Cross country will take place Saturday on both the VHC Eventing side as well as the Oak Hill side, and spectators are invited to join us for an exciting day of action with no admission cost.

For those in attendance, all are invited to attend a bonfire with the Young Riders, who will be bringing karaoke and s’mores to make at 7 p.m. near the VHC Eventing start boxes and the flagpoles on top of the hill, with other food also provided.

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