October 2020 - Event Of The Season
Written by by Kim F Miller
Thursday, 01 October 2020 16:15
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CCI3*-L National Championships highlight an extra special Galway Downs International.  

by Kim F Miller

The Galway Downs International has been an exciting finale for the West Coast eventing season throughout its 22-year existence. But nothing tops this year as excitement dials to 11 for several reasons.

First, the competition will host the USEF National CCI3*-L Championships, marking the first time it’s been held in the West. This builds upon Galway Downs’ selection as host of the Adequan USEF Futures Team Challenge, another coup for Robert Kellerhouse’s Kellerhouse Presents team. The Futures Team Challenge is open to 3*-L and 4*-L competitors.


The organizers have something special up their sleeve for lower level contenders, too: the “Challenge” format at the Modified-Training, Training-Novice; and Novice-Beginner Novice levels.

The Oct. 28-Nov. 1 competition in Temecula will also unveil international competitor Clayton Fredericks’ first tracks as the venue’s new course designer, working with veteran Bert Wood. Sections of newly laid grass on the cross-country course are one of many upgrades that continue Galway Downs’ commitment to hosting top tier equestrian competition.

The CCI3*-L Championships

At the beginning of this very strange year, the CCI3*-L Championships was scheduled for the Fair Hill International in October, in Maryland. It would have been concurrent with the inaugural CCI5*-L Championships, but the whole show was cancelled due to COVID. That opened the door for a new location.

Kellerhouse Presents submitted one of two bids to host the event, which were reviewed by multiple USEF committees. The nod to Galway is a big vote of confidence in the Kellerhouse team and fits with the Federation’s efforts to embrace West Coast riders and competitions. “The USEF remains committed to building a bridge to the West Coast and continues to bolster the High Performance program on both sides of the country,” notes Jenni Autry, USEF’s Managing Director of Eventing.

The USEF CCI4*-L Championships will be held at Tryon Equestrian Center in North Carolina in mid-November.

Emilee Libby & Jakobi.

The Futures Challenge

The Futures Team Challenge is part of the USEF’s Eventing Pathway Program. It debuted last year on the East Coast, with the intent of preparing future senior team athletes by providing an opportunity to experience competing as part of a team and working with the U.S. team coaches. Applications are open through Oct. 5 and selection criteria is similar to that used for selecting Nations Cup teams: ranking, previous experience, fitness and prospects of winning.

The Futures Team Challenge is open to competitors at the 3*-L and 4*-L levels.

Last year, the Futures Team Challenge was only held on the East Coast. This year’s East Coast Challenge was held at the Plantation Field International in late September. The Galway Downs staging marks the program’s expansion.

Selected athletes will participate in a two-day training camp in preparation for the simulated team competitions. The training camp will provide athletes with the opportunity to learn the expectations of being a team rider, including preparing for and operating at a team event. Athletes will receive dressage test ride reviews and show jumping practice. U.S. Performance Director Erik Duvander and U.S. Developing Coach Leslie Law will coach and serve as Chef d’Equipe for the two teams.

“The Futures Team Challenge will be the most exciting thing that has happened all year!” says Duvander. “I am looking forward to coaching teams Galway Downs and encourage athletes to put their names forward. We are also grateful to Adequan for stepping up as the title sponsor. Thank you to Allyn Mann and the team at Adequan for their support.”

The M-T, T-N & N-BN Challenges

Designed as a test of abilities at the higher end of each level, and as a celebratory showcase, the Challenge was introduced by Kellerhouse 11 years ago as the Preliminary Challenge, held every spring in Woodside. In 2019, a Modified-Training Challenge was added to rave reviews, with riders grateful for the chance to step up their skills and receive a stage similar to that enjoyed at the higher levels.

The three day format begins with dressage in Galway Downs’ Grand Prix arena on Friday. On Halloween Saturday, it’s out on cross-country at max distance and effort for all levels and all over new routes. The winners are determined Sunday during stadium jumping, with riders going in reverse order their standings in the Grand Prix arena. The CCI-L competition concludes on Saturday, so Sunday is all about Challengers.

“These classes are all an evolution from where our sport has gone,” explains Kellerhouse. “While we are saddened to see the passing of our Training Three-day Classic format at Galway, we are thrilled to offer something for all the levels to shoot for in the modern test of eventing. For the past decade eventing went toward this format with a more technically challenging long court dressage test, XC-only jumping with no A, B and C phases, and finishing with the show jumping at a larger height than the XC test.”

Expect the big players: Frankie Thieriot Stutes, Erik Duvander and Tamie Smith strategize at last year’s show.

New Courses

Olympic silver medal winning Clayton Fredericks, of Australia, is at work on fresh ideas as Galway Downs’ new course designer, working alongside veteran Bert Wood, an expert on the venue’s terrain and nuances. “The biggest change is that we’ve decided to stick to this track as the designated upper level track,” Fredericks explains. “That will answer a few of the questions being raised in the past about the ground changing between grass and sand. The new track will only have a few of those changes, and with plenty of time for the horse to acclimatize to those changes.”

Clayton is based in Florida but has ample experience with Galway Downs as a competitor, coach and in other sport roles. Most recently, he brought clear-span FEI Stabling to the venue, another first for the West Coast, that has received positive reviews.

A newly-laid stretch of grass is part of the new course and it will all be maintained specifically for eventing purposes. “That allows us to water and manicure the grass exactly as we want to,” says Clayton.

“Challenge and flow” are the key words he uses to describe the new course. As for advice to upper level contenders: “Preparation! Make sure you’ve done your homework. there won’t be anything too out of the ordinary, but we will try to make it up to the standard for each level. So, be ready!”

Get Involved!

This year’s Galway Downs International presents a unique opportunity to showcase the West Coast’s suitability for staging top-level eventing. Rumor has it several East Coast-based eventers are heading our way. In addition to a full court press from Kellerhouse Presents, sponsors and volunteers are encouraged to step up and show the rest of the world what USEA Area VI can deliver for the sport.
For more information, visit www.kellerhousepresents.com.