Fairburn, GA - There were a variety of techniques for approaching the cross country course in the USEF Advanced Horse Trial Championship at the Land Rover/USEA American Eventing Championships. For many American and Canadian horses contesting the division, the greater goal is the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games which will take place in Lexington, KY September 25-October 10, 2010.
But Becky Holder (Palmetto, GA) rode like a woman on a mission and flew into the lead on Courageous Comet adding nothing to her dressage score of 41.5. Allison Springer (Marshall, VA), who won the dressage convincingly took her time around the course with Arthur as all the American riders on the USEF Short List for the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team were told to ride their horses according to what would prepare them the best for the World Games.
"He went great I needed to go out there and kick butt to feel like we had our game face on for possible selection for the WEG, possible in capital letters," said Holder. "I was thrilled I thought there was lots of good stuff to do out there, enough skinnies to make me nervous and, to me, the footing felt fine."
Olympic veterans from 2008, Holder and Comet have been in the highest placings throughout the country over the last five years including top placings at Rolex Kentucky CCI4*, Burghley CCI4* and the Fair Hill CCI3* which has earned them a spot on the Short List for the U.S. Eventing Team.
"To me he was spot on," said Holder. "I planned on jumping soft into the water and doing the five strides, but it was a little softer than I thought. I had a good confident round so we're ready for whatever comes next."
Nate Chambers (Reston, VA) doesn't have this year's World Games on the brain, but he and Rolling Stone II have been having a very successful summer. They jumped up from 16th after the dressage with the fastest round of the day to finish the two phases on a score of 48.0.
Hosted by Carl Bouckaert, who represents Belgium and has been a huge supporter of the American Eventing scene for years, the Land Rover USEA American Eventing Championships are in Georgia for the first time in 2010. Bouckaert, who hosted events for a decade at Bouckaert Farm when it was north of Atlanta in Chatsworth, moved operations to Fairburn and the entire eventing community has benefitted. Nearly 700 horses are contesting the Land Rover/USEA American Eventing Championships from the Beginner Novice level through Advanced and despite some hot, dry conditions - there are plenty of happy competitors.
"It's always a pleasure to be able to compete and ride Rolly but this weekend has been extra fun competing at the AEC's and riding at Carl's farm," said Chambers. Chambers will have something to prove on Sunday, he was leading after the cross country at his last two competitions only to lose the top spot in the show jumping ring. Rolling Stone, a classy veteran who Chambers has owned for 10 years, has thrived for his amateur rider.
Will Faudree (Hoffman, NC) has an eye on the World Games with Jennifer Mosing's Pawlow and the 11-year-old Thoroughbred cross gelding looked happy to have the hand brake taken off a little bit. Faudree let him cruise around for 6.8time faults and was pleased with the result.
"Ernie was super, I has very proud of him I treated this as if it was a final run for whatever he does next, whether he gets selected for the WEG or goes to Fair Hill." The pair lay third on a score of 50.8. Faudree represented the United States in 2006 in Aachen on his veteran Antigua.
The rest of the horses on the USEF Short List completed the day with a variety of results:
Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin and Buck Davidson chose not to run the cross country and participated in a fitness gallop early Saturday morning with Tru Luck, Woodburn, The Foreman (Dutton), Neville Bardos and Remington XXV (Martin) and BallyNoe Castle RM and My Boy Bobby (Davidson). Dutton withdrew Kheops du Quesnay from consideration for the list before they arrived in Georgia. Dutton and Davidson each rode one of their horses (Connaught and Titanium respectively) and they each had time penalties but looked very confident. Amy Tryon jumped about two-thirds of the course on Leyland and then pulled up after the water jump. Karen O'Connor had a totally uncharacteristic stop at the second fence on Mandiba but then got in the groove and had a fantastic trip the rest of the way around. Holly Hudspeth cruised around on Last Monarch, the youngest (and smallest) horse on the short list as did veteran Kim Severson on Tipperary Liadhnan (the biggest horse on the list) and Stephen Bradley on Brandenberg's Joshua, a horse who first represented the U.S. in 2003 on the Gold-medal winning Pan American Games team. Bradley rode at the 1992 Olympic Games on Sassy Reason.
The competition concludes tomorrow with the show jumping and the horses that didn't contest the cross country have been graciously allowed to jump at the beginning of the division. The Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team will be selected on Tuesday September 14, 2010.
Photo: Becky Holder and Courageous Comet Soar Off the Bank Joanie Morris/USEF Photo