The first day of the 2011 Nutrena/USEA American Eventing Championships, presented by Bit of Britain, was the perfect start to the competition week at beautiful Chattahoochee Hills owned by Carl Bouckaert in Fairburn, Georgia. Rain early this week improved the footing and dropped the temperature to a comfortable low-70s average with nice cloud coverage for upper-level dressage on Thursday.
Fans have come to expect an impressive dressage test from Allison Springer and Arthur, and the pair didn’t disappoint today. They lead the $20,000 Merial Advanced division by three penalty points, earning a 27.9 from the judges. Despite spooking a couple times in the ring, Allison managed to keep keep her very fit 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse focused on the job at hand. “He has such good strength now and throughness in his back,” Allison said. “He was a lot calmer today...he felt fantastic. He’s a real gift of a horse to sit on.” Arthur’s other claim to fame is his scope across country. Allison thinks the water is a bit tricky, and the striding between the downhill drop and the chevrons will make for interesting rides.
Emily Beshear and Here’s To You lie in second place behind Allison and Arthur. A consistent, relaxed test earned them a 30.9. The cross-country course is big and challenging, but she plans to give her horse a chance to find his rhythm. “I have to be careful not to come out and be too aggressive too early,” she said.
Rounding out the top five in the Advanced division are Barbara Crabo and Eveready II, Buck Davidson and Ballynoecastle RM, and Doug Payne and Running Order. Less than ten points separate the top ten after dressage, so competitors will definitely aim to make the time on cross-country Friday.
Thirteen starters trotted down the centerline in Preliminary Amateur. Fie Ottonsen from Virginia riding her own Clifton earned the top score, 30.7. Julie Norman of Louisiana rode Consensus to a score of 29.8 to lead a division of 31 before cross-country in Preliminary Horse.
Last year’s Junior/Young Rider Training champions, Marissa Hughes (from Pennsylvania) and Odie, are leading Junior/Young Rider Preliminary after dressage this year. “He was very workmanlike,” Marissa said of her 9-year-old Paint gelding. “He thinks that he’s hot stuff.”
Texas native, Kadi Eykamp and Double Rivers Really Cool take the lead of the Intermediate division on their dressage score of 23.6. The pair took third in last year’s Preliminary Horse division. “The medium trots were bigger than normal. I got the travers, which I don’t always get. The whole test was the right tempo,” Kadi said. Currently holding the second place position is Katly McMorris of Virginia riding Clifton Peekachu on their dressage score of 31.8. Buck Davidson. and L.A. Albert’s 32.8 dressage score lands them in third.
Melissa Town and Sienna currently hold the number one spot in the Training Amateur Championship division with a dressage score of 25.9. Lauren Kieffer and Czechmate dressage score of 25 place them in the top spot for the Training Horse Championship division. Meghan Johnston and Rapport lead the Training Junior Championship after scoring a 28 in dressage.
This year, long-time eventing enthusiast John Nunn supports the AEC with the Bit of Britain presenting sponsorship and as a competitor aboard Smilelikeyoumeanit. “In the beginning I didn’t know how much time I was going to have and responsibilities with booths. I didn’t want to tear myself away too much. But I’ve gotten to the point where I can.” John is competing in the Training Amateur Championship Division.
Over $70,000 in cash and $100,000 in prizes are up for grabs at this year's 8th annual Nutrena/USEA American Eventing Championships, presented by Bit of Britain.
The 2011 AEC is made possible by our wonderful sponsors. Title: Nutrena; Presenting: Bit of Britain; Advanced Level: Merial; Platinum: Charles Owen, Broadstone, SSG Gloves, SUCCEED; Gold: World Equestrian Brands, Practical Horseman, and Fleeceworks; Silver: Back on Track, Dubarry, VTO Saddlery, Omega Alpha, FITS, Auburn Labs, The Chronicle of the Horse, Point Two USA, Bronze: SmartPak, Stackhouse Saddles, Flair, Saratoga Horseworks; Contributing: Finish Line, Equinature, Adequan, HoofWraps.