2023 has been the year of the West Coast eventer. Events at Twin Rivers Ranch in Paso Robles, California, have provided a springboard for horses and riders based on the West Coast to go on to shine on national and international stages. That is scheduled to continue with the Twin Rivers Fall International that will take place from September 21-24. The event will feature: FEI competition in the CCI4*-S, CCI3*-S, CCI2*-S, and CCI1*-S; national levels from Starter up to Intermediate; and qualifiers for 4- and 5-year-olds in the USEA’s Young Event Horse Program (YEH) leading up to the Dutta Corp. USEA YEH West Coast Championships that will take place at Twin Rivers on October 27-28, with a Last Chance Qualifier on October 26.
James Alliston will be using the CCI4*-S at the Twin Rivers Fall International as the final prep for himself and Karma to represent the United States at the FEI Eventing Nations Cup Netherlands CCIO4*-NC-L at Military Boekelo in Enschede, Netherlands, on October 5-8.
“It’s for me as much as for her, honestly, just to make sure we’re used to jumping some big jumps,” Alliston said. “It’s the same dressage test [as Boekelo], which is nice, so I can practice that. I’ll try and be competitive. I think it’s good for the fitness. I definitely won’t be babying her.”
This will be the fourth event at Twin Rivers this year for Alliston and the 9-year-old bay Oldenburg mare (Escudo II x Travita). They are coming off wins at Advanced in the Twin Rivers Summer Horse Trials and in the CCI4*-L at The Event at Rebecca Farm in Montana. Prior to that, following a second- place finish in the CCI4*-S at the Twin Rivers Spring International in April, Alliston and Karma finished eighth in the CCI4*-S at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event.
“The timing works out two weeks before Kentucky, so it normally lines up with the last run before Kentucky,” Alliston said. “This show in the fall lines up as well if you’re going to do Boekelo or whatever your plans are—if you’re going to Maryland or something else like that. You’re going to get reliable footing. So, that’s definitely a huge positive. There’s nice big warmup arenas. There’s nice courses. It’s going to be a strong test. They do a good job of changing the courses the whole time, which I think is awesome. We really like Twin Rivers for our best horses. You don’t just jump the same course four times a year. You’re still educating the horses.”
In addition to the CCI5*-L victory by West-Coast-based Tamie Smith and Mai Baum (Loredano x Ramira), three of the top 10 in the CCI4*-S in Lexington were also from California. They were Alliston and Karma in eighth and Smith riding Solaguayre California (Casparo x Solaguayre Calandria) in second and Elliot V (Zavall VDL x Vera-R) in 10th.
Smith will be returning to compete in California for the first time since she became the first American rider since Phillip Dutton in 2008 and the first West Coast rider since Derek di Grazia in 1985 to win the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. She also used the Twin Rivers Spring International in April as her final competition before Lexington.
Smith has three entries in the CCI4*-S, with Kynan and Elliot V using Twin Rivers as a springboard to potential top-level international or national competition. Kynan (Envoy x Danieta), an 8-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding, is currently the traveling reserve for the U.S. team at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, at the end of October. Elliot V, a 14-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding, is a team alternate. After Twin, both horses will head east to the Mandatory Outing for thePan American Games at the Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy on October 7-8.
“Twin is quite important for those horses to be prepared for that,” Smith said. “This will be my first competition coming back into the fall and just gauging where they’re at. They’ll probably all be very raring to go and happy to be out and competing. I think it’ll be a great event. Morgan [Rowsell] is the course designer, and he always puts enough on the course to test the horses and get them looking at where they’re headed. If you have any homework you need to get done, then you can.”
Smith will also be competing for the first time on Cooley By Design (Plot Blue x Uthree Z), an 11-year- old bay warmblood gelding, while regular rider Gina Economou recovers from injury.
Tommy Greengard and Joshuay MBF (Foreign Affair x Fernacchy MBF) will each be making their four-star debuts at the Twin Rivers Fall International.
“A little excited, a little nervous—he’s ready to give it a crack though,” Greengard said. “He’s done his job at the Intermediate, three-star level, and this is the next logical step for him.”
The 9-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding and Greengard won the Intermediate Championship at the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) in 2022.
“He’s a phenomenal, natural cross-country horse, and it’s been fun to see, as the years have progressed, the rideability start to come through,” Greengard said. “He’s always been very brave and quite keen, but as he’s gotten older, he’s become a bit more rideable.”
Greengard rode in his first USEA-recognized event in 2011 and in his first FEI competition in 2018. His top accomplishments include three national titles at the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships and victory in the 2022 USEA YEH 5-Year-Old West Coast Championships.
There are 47 entries across the four FEI short-format levels at the 2023 Twin Rivers Fall International, almost twice as many as the 24 FEI entries there were at the event in 2022. This year represents the most FEI entries since international competition returned to Twin Rivers’ fall event in 2019 after a decade- long hiatus. Twin Rivers is hosting its first one-star competitions in 2023 with a CCI1*-L in the spring and the first CCI1*-S in the fall.
The largest FEI class in 2023 will be the CCI3*-S with 18 entries, including Lauren Billys Shady and Can Be Sweet (Candyman x Tres Belle), the first-ever international gold medalists in eventing for Puerto Rico at the 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games in El Salvador in July. Smith and Crafty Don (Tolan R x Diamond Breaker) won the CCI2*-L at the 2023 Twin Rivers Spring International.
As Twin Rivers prepares to host the 2023 USEA YEH West Coast Championships at the end of October, this event will feature qualifiers for 4- and 5-year-olds.
“We love the Younge Event Horse Program,” Greengard said. “It’s such a phenomenal way for the horses to get exposure in a way that’s less stressful for them.”
Greengard will ride the bay Thoroughbred gelding Check The Boxes (Box Score x Multiplyingtheheat) he owns with Andrea Pfeiffer in the 4-year-old qualifier.
“We actually purchased him as a 2-year-old,” Greengard said. “He never raced. He wasn’t even backed. He came through a good friend of ours [William Delia] who was getting out of racing, and he was the one that we felt was the most likely candidate for an event horse. He kind of hung out for two years. I got on him for a little bit as a 3-year-old. He’ll do his first horse show this weekend.”
Smith will ride Julianne Guariglia’s Solaguayre Cantata (Canturo x Solaguayre Clarita) in the dark bay Argentine Sport Horse mare’s first USEA-recognized event in the 5-year-old qualifier.
“She came from the same farm as my Solaguayre California mare,” Smith said about the Argentine Sport Horse mare that she lost earlier this year following complications from surgery. “They’re similarly bred and have similar personalities. It’s a special thing. I think the mare is really talented, one of my nicest horses I’ve had. It’ll be exciting to see what she’s going to come out with.”
The Baxter family that has owned and operated Twin Rivers since 2001 has made a significant commitment to growing Young Event Horse programs on the West Coast. Twin Rivers has hosted the USEA YEH West Coast Championships as a standalone event since 2020. Andrea Baxter will ride the chestnut Irish Sport Horse gelding The Big Easy (Mr Lincoln B x PLS Hippo Q) in the 5-year-old qualifier.
“He’s always had a really, really good brain,” she said. “He’s like an old soul, but physically he was still growing. He still is growing, but he’s a lot more leveled-out now. He’s been going great. He easily jumps the big jumps. I’ve just been trying to get into the right balance timing-wise with his growth.”
She also serves on the USEA’s Young Event Horse Committee.
“That is really helpful that I have such a hand in developing the young horses regularly,” Baxter said. “I keep coming back to my number one thing I brought to the committee asking the 4-year-old [championships] to be smaller [jumps]. Last year, the 4-year-olds was 3-foot-3, and I got them to put that down to a Novice height [of 2-foot-11]. I feel like that was my biggest accomplishment because the 4-year-olds are learning to go, stop, steer, jump basic jumps. Yes, they’re all scopey and horses are being bred to be serious jumper, so typically we’re not lacking scope on the young horses, but we don’t need to overface them as 4-year-olds and getting ahead of ourselves with their trainability.”