Mill Spring, NC – September 4, 2016 – As the final day of the 2016 Nutrena® USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Land Rover (AEC) came to a close at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), Ryan Wood graced the George H. Morris Arena after capturing first and second place in the Adequan® Advanced Gold Cup Finals aboard Powell and Woodstock Bennett respectively. Doug Payne and Vandiver earned third place, while the final four amateur and junior rider divisions concluded with show jumping.
The Nutrena® USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) serve as the annual championship competition organized by the United States Eventing Association (USEA), which bring together competitors of all ages and experience levels to compete in a single location. This year was the inaugural year that Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) has hosted the event.
Adequan® Advanced Gold Cup Finals
Ryan Wood and Powell, a 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Pablito x Dinara) owned by Summit Sport Horses, set an early tone in the Adequan® Advanced Gold Cup Finals division at the 2016 Nutrena® USEA American Eventing Championships presented by Land Rover, sitting in second place following the dressage phase, only a tenth of a point behind leaders Allison Springer and Arthur.
The cross-country phase proved to be influential, as not a single combination who took to the Mark Phillips’ designed track finished within the optimum time. Wood and Powell made easy work of the newly minted course, coming home with 8.8. time faults to take over the lead on a 34.2.
“Starting with the dressage, I thought he did a fantastic test this week. He’s naturally very good at that phase and I was happy with how that went. Out on cross-country he handled all of the questions very well. He read everything and was just spot on there,” commented Wood. “He had a few time penalties but was strong enough to hold the lead into today.”
|Ryan Wood and Powell|
Wood has been focusing much of his spring campaign on strengthen his show jumping skills in hopes that the phase, which can make or break a top place finish, will become a strong suit for each of his horses competing at the upper levels. He tackled the Marc Donovan designed track with confidence, ultimately securing the top two places of the division.
“I’ve really been working on myself as a show jumping rider this season. My show jumping has improved a lot. We’ve been training with Richard Picken and he’s helped me a great deal. We’ve got a lot of thanks to him to get me to where I am right now.”
As for his journey to TIEC for his first AEC, Wood brought seven horses competing across several different divisions to support the efforts of the organizational staff, as well as the United States Eventing Association, as they bring the sport of eventing to a more mainstream audience.
|Ryan Wood and Woodstock Bennett
“It’s pretty awesome. This is really special to be able to take the national title at the top level and I also want to give recognition to the owners and the breeders of the horse. It’s an American-bred horse bred by Ilona English and owned by Summit Sport Horses. I’ve had him since he was a four-year-old. It’s a pretty good feeling to have a horse from that age and then win at the top.”
Woodstock Bennett, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Shannondale Sarco ST Gyvan x Ponail Belle) owned by Curran Simpson and Ryan Wood, is one of the strongest mounts in Wood’s string, finished a fantastic week collecting third place honors on a 38.9.
|Ryan Wood and Powell dash through the timers.
“He’s not the biggest mover but he’s capable of getting into the top spots. I was happy with the dressage test and it was my first ride out on the cross-country and he ended up being my fastest ride. He then show jumped clear so it was a great result for him.”
Doug Payne guided Vandiver, a 12-year-old Trekehner gelding (Windfall x Visions of Grandeur) owned by Debi Crowley, Jess Payne, and Doug Payne, to a third place finish on a final score of 41.5. Payne is still getting to know the talented gelding, only taking over the ride a year ago. The pair improved on their relaxation and fluidity after the dressage test, transitioning into a fast cross-country round and an accurate trip around the stadium course.
“I want to first thank Debi Crowley who is one of the owners in our partnership with Vandiver. We’ve had him for just a bit over a year and a bit earlier we’re just starting to get to a point where we can experiment and take things on. Last year we were really chasing qualifications to get to Kentucky for Rolex, but I think he has a boatload of potential,” noted Payne.
|Doug Payne and Vandiver|
“Coming into this you always hope that at the end of the weekend you’re sitting up here talking to you guys. We competed here last week and he won a class in the 1.30m in this ring to help him find his feet,” he continued. ” If he’s going to have a rail, he’s going to have the back rail of an oxer in a combination and I would have banked on the triple at the end, but it does happen. We’re working on it and I can’t fault him. He performed wonderfully the whole week.”
Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of the Tryon Equestrian Partners, spoke to the success of the weeklong event, which featured 690 horses and hosted the discipline of eventing for the first time in facility history. Bellissimo, who has revitalized and cultivated a supportive atmosphere surrounding horse sport in North America both highlighted by the expansion of dressage and show jumping, has found himself even more motivated to enhance opportunities for the sport of eventing.
Ryan Wood and Powell in their presentation ceremony with Rob Burk; CEO of the USEA, Allyn Mann of Adequan®, Sharon Decker; COO of the Tryon Equestrian Partners, Carolinas Operations, Diane Pitts; President of the USEA, Mark Bellissimo; managing partner of the Tryon Equestrian Partners.
The event, which saw competitors representing 38 states riding from all walks of life, scheduled each division to take to the George H. Morris Arena for their show jumping rounds in an empowering and life changing moment for many of the exhibitors, who have never competed in such an atmosphere.
“We want to demonstrate that these athletes are put to an incredible test and in many ways, this discipline is the least profiled in how difficult it is, along with the risk these riders take to be at the top of their game. We are very focused on the sport of eventing and making that a bigger part of the Olympic triad,” added Bellissimo. “We want to make sure that it gets the respect it deserves and the athletes get the prize money they deserve. We’re looking forward to working with the USEA and USEF to try and make this high profile in the scheme of equestrian sport. We had great teamwork throughout the week with the USEA. We’re very honored to be a part of this and that they placed that bet on us.”
|Ryan Wood and Powell on their victory lap in the George H. Morris Arena.
“There has been a lot of conversation that I was trying to change eventing and that’s not true. The reality is, this organization is committed to a transition of developing an atmosphere that exposes new people to this discipline. We’re seeing that be successful and our commitment is to have world-class eventing courses mixed with other types of competitions to get sponsors and others who want to be involved inspired too. I really enjoy and value our involvement with this eventing community,” he added.
The Adequan® Advanced Gold Cup Finals division has increased in growth and strength since its inception in 2011, backed by the strong and continuous support of divisional title sponsor Adequan®.
“I think today this was one of the most amazing eventing experiences in this country. Mark Bellissimo and his vision for all of his properties is off the charts,” said Allyn Mann of Adequan®. “He’s really been an inspiration to me to get our company to continue investing in the equestrian sport. Then you have people in the eventing world like Rob [Burk], the new CEO of USEA, and over the last few years has taken on big responsibility. Overall, as a sponsor of an event like this at a place like this, we’re really blessed and through those blessings comes so much joy.”
Rob Burk, CEO of the United States Eventing Association (USEA), commented on the overall success of the week’s competition and the excitement he holds in seeing the facility and the sport of eventing gain exposure in an effort to grow and expand in the near future.
“This couldn’t have been done without the work of the team, our staff, combined with the work of the TIEC staff, which worked out beautifully. I think we’re extremely happy with the product that was put forward and I would say that since the beginning, the dream of the AEC has been to create a true national championship caliber event for the sport,” he detailed. “There are very few people who could walk away from this week and say that this was not a national championship for the sport. We had representation from all over the country. I’m extremely proud of that fact.”
“It’s really why this is such a feel good event. I’m exceedingly excited about the future of this facility. I know that we have an even greater potential, beyond what we put forth this year, and that includes the expansion of the cross-country course. If it was this good on year one, I can’t imagine how good it’s going to be in the next year and beyond that,” he concluded.
Professional’s Choice Junior Training
Traveling all the way from Texas, Wickman and Dassett Profile grabbed a four-point lead in the dressage phase after earning a score of 23.6. They continued the following day with a speedy double clear cross-country, and finally today the pair picked up only one time penalty to end on a score of 24.6 in the Professional’s Choice Junior Training division.
“It was a little nerve-wracking knowing I didn’t have a rail in hand because [Georgia Dillard] did so good,” she joked to second-placed Dillard. “I think we both handled the environment really well. It’s a lot to take in, but I think we handled that really well under the pressure.”
|McKinsey Wickman and Dassett Profile|
Georgia Dillard kept the pressure on Wickman throughout the weekend, and ended up the reserve champion of this division for the second consecutive year. Aboard Normandy’s Cole’s Clover (Normandy’s Four Leaf Clover x Racin’ Rosa), a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by Normandy Farm, she finished on her dressage score of 27.3. Third place went to Maddie McElduff and her own Tupelo (Baron Verdi x Thabana), a 7-year-old Trakehner.
Broadstone Junior Beginner Novice
Julie McElligot sealed the deal on a whirlwind weekend at AEC after a double clear show jumping this morning aboard Ricky (Ricky Martin x Chelsea Small Talk). Lauren Meyers’ 16-year-old Swedish Warmblood kept on his dressage score of 22.5 throughout the entire weekend for a wire-to-wire win of the Broadstone Junior Beginner Novice division.
“He was a little up when we got in there, but he loves the jumps. He took each fence much better than I thought he was going to. I was really pleased with how amazing he warmed up. He went really well today for me,” she said.
“Everything fell into place. He loves all three phases and he had an amazing weekend, probably the best rides we’ve had. I’m very proud of him, and it’s a great accomplishment for me considering it’s my first year eventing.”
Second place went to Kaley Breland and her own Not An Issue (Mix Max x Contessa), a 10-year-old Holsteiner. They end the weekend on their dressage score of 26.5 after also having back-to-back clear rounds yesterday and today. Ellie Bizot and Ziggy Stardust, a 6-year-old Hanoverian by Magon, moved from fourth to third after adding nothing on the cross-country, and they kept hold of that placing today to finish with the yellow ribbon.
Broadstone Junior Beginner Novice 14 and Under
It was a nail biting finale for the Broadstone Junior Beginner Novice 14 and Under division today when the overnight leader, Annabelle Kress and Batteries Not Included, picked up a sole time penalty in the show jumping to tie with second place on a 27.5 Fortunately for Kress, she finished closest to the optimum time yesterday, which ultimately gave her the championship title.
Susie Beale’s 16-year-old Pinto, who is affectionately nicknamed Batman, had an incredible weekend, placing second after dressage on a 26.5, moving into first after a double clear cross-country and ultimately winning the division in the end.
|Annabelle Kress and Batteries Not Included|
Mackenzie Lea and The Main in Black (CC Brunos Chinook x Foxy Peppy IMP), a 6-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse, were the reserve champions for this division, finishing on their dressage score of 27.5, and Chloe Johnson was third with her own DaVinci (Byars x Super Mount), a 13-year-old Thoroughbred, on a score of 27.8.
Junior Young Rider Preliminary
William Zuschlag and RF Southern Command (Ustinov x Trijntje) kept hold of their lead of the Junior Young Rider Preliminary division this weekend from dressage all the way through today’s show jumping. The 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood finished on his dressage score of 27.3.
“Our plan was to go in and be forward. I put him in a bigger bit for the show jumping. I thought he might be a little fresh in the big arena, and he was. He ended up being perfect and it was exactly what we needed,” Zuschlag said.
Coincidentally, this pair was already accustomed to winning here after they earned top honors in the Preliminary division at the Tryon International Equestrian Center at the U.S. Pony Club Championships last month. With another championship won, they’ve got big plans for the future including taking on a few one-stars and Intermediates this fall in an effort to qualify for the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC) next summer.The fitness needed for that is already in place and proving its worth.
“We’ve upped his fitness program and that’s helped him a lot. He was so much fitter coming into the show jumping today. Usually he’s a little slower, and that makes the jumps feel bigger, but they felt little today,” he said.
Arielle Aharoni earned the reserve champion title for this division aboard her own 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood Dutch Times (Good Times x Alino Queen). They finish on a score of 28. Ali Scannell and her own Faolan, a 12-year-old Irish Draught Sport Horse by Captain Clover, completed the weekend in third with 32.8 penalty points.
Alexis Mazzatta was all smiles after she and Diana Burnett’s Shigatzi were crowned the final champions of the 2016 AEC. In only her fourth event ever, Mazzatta lead the Junior Novice divisionfrom start to finish on her dressage score of 26.
She’s still very new to the sport, only having done three events before this weekend. “This is my fourth event. I’ve been trying to event for like five years, just failed attempts. I couldn’t be happier. I worked so hard for so long just to be able to event and having this outcome is just amazing.”
|Alexis Mazzatta and Shaggy|
Nicholas Beshear and his own Badland’s Echo had a clear round in the show jumping to move them from fourth to second. He and the 21-year-old Paint mare finished on their dressage score of 29. Avery Lewis was tied with Beshear, but because he was closest to the optimum time, she ended in third with her own The Manx Man (Rock City x Queen’s Habit), a 15-year-old Thoroughbred.
To learn more about the 2016 Nutrena® USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Land Rover please click here and to learn more about Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) please visit www.tryon.com.
About the AEC
The Nutrena® USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Land Rover is the pinnacle of the sport for the national levels. Held annually, this event draws together the best competitors from across the country vying for national titles from the Beginner Novice through the Advanced level. This year’s AEC is being held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, NC, from Wednesday, August 31, to Sunday, September 4.