December 2020 - Galway Downs International
Written by photos & text by Kim F Miller
Wednesday, 02 December 2020 03:34
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Highly-praised season finalé bodes well for West Coast eventing future.

photos & text by Kim F Miller

An unprecedented 420 pairs contested the Galway Downs International eventing competition Oct. 28-Nov. 1 in Temecula. It was quality, however, not quantity, that left the lasting impression of this major finalé of the West Coast eventing season.

At the highest level, CCI4*-L, the International attracted the sport’s best: East Coasters Boyd Martin, Phillip Dutton, Liz Halliday Sharp, West Coast standard bearer Tamie Smith, newer 4* rider Rebecca Brown from Texas, and local favorite Erin Kellerhouse and Woodford Reserve making their debut, among others.


The CCI3*-L served as the USEF National championship, held for the first time out West. And the 3* and 4* featured the first West Coast staging of the Adequan USEF Futures Team Challenge. Ninety-five riders in the lower levels jumped on the new Challenge division to rave reviews.


All told, it was a high note on which to end what’s been a challenging year for all and it bodes well for the future of eventing in the West.

Boyd & Luke 140

Tamie Smith & Passepartout

Positive Experience

In finishing first and third in the CCI4*-L, with Luke 140 and Long Island T, Boyd Martin’s experience will likely lead him back to Galway Downs.

Martin said he’s been touting the winner’s international potential to his many-member owner syndicate for two years and “this weekend is the first real moment that proves it.” While Long Island T’s usual strong point, dressage, was off due to excess energy, Martin was thrilled with his cross-country and show jumping.

Martin said both horses’ experience set them up for 5* excursions and the overall experience will likely lead him back to Galway Downs from his East Coast base. “I’d like to come here every year. Especially for the young horses, it’s a great experience to fly out here. I’d prefer a trip like this than going overseas. It’s cheaper and the standard of competition is just as high. Plus, it’s good to support our American events. Sometimes I think it’s a little easy to run off to Europe.”

Martin described California as like “being in another country because I don’t know anybody out here.” Californians knew him, though. Many described the chance to watch Boyd and fellow East Coast-based master Phillip Dutton as a riding lesson unto itself.

He had high praise for the cross-country course newly designed by Australian Olympian Clayton Fredericks. “It was very challenging and both horses learned a lot.” Fredericks had been tasked with making the course tougher, in jumping efforts and pace, and there was consensus that he accomplished that.  Four missed flag penalties at one 4* obstacle, in particular, exemplified new tests of quick responses and control.

Elisabeth Halliday Sharp & Cooley Quicksilver

Asia Vedder & Isi

Tamie Smith Time

“You almost won your first 4*,” Tamie Smith told Passepartout after laying down a clean trip with .40 time faults in the final day’s show jumping to finish second. The horse’s next compliment came from USEF Eventing High Performance director Erik Duvander: “You know he is still just a baby, but he comes off like a professional.” Smith “absolutely” agreed with that assessment of her daughter Kaylawna Smith-Cook’s 11-year-old German Sporthorse. “That was the classiest round of all three phases. He did not put a footfall wrong.” They finished on a 32.40.

Tamie briefly has the ride on Passepartout during Kaylawna’s pregnacy.

The California-based 2019 Pan Am Team gold medalist has strutted the West Coast’s special stuff for several years now. She shared some advice with Texas-based Rebecca Brown, who finished 4th in the 12-starter field on Dassett Choice. “You can be based anywhere, you just need the right team,” Smith said. “You need the trainers that can help you develop your system. Erik (Duvander) has helped me understand that.”

Duvander was on hand all week working with several riders. As the head of Team Erik in the Futures Challenge, he suffered his first loss in the series. His team of Liz Halliday-Sharp, 4* rider Emilee Libby and young rider Sophie Click were second to Team Leslie Law (USEF Developing & Emerging Rider Coach), led by Smith, with Brown and young rider Charlotte Babbitt.

Charlotte Babbitt & 2AM

Sophie Click & Quid Pro Quo

More National Titles

In 2015, Smith hauled Mai Baum east, then onto the international radar by winning the CCI3*-L and USEF CCI3*-L National Championships at Fairhill International in Maryland. Mai Baum went on to be Smith’s 2019 Pan Am Games partner and has already earned his qualifying score for Tokyo Olympic consideration.

Does Elliot-V have the same potential? “Absolutely! 100% yes,” said Smith.

The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood’s off-to-college owner Louisa Southworth declared his Thursday dressage test “magnificent” after watching in on the livestream. She drove to Temecula Saturday in time to see Smith don the USET pinque coat and win it all on a 30.20 that reflected just .40 in jumping time penalties.

Time faults on cross-country widened what was a very narrow dressage gap between runner-up Asia Vedder and Isi and Smith and Elliot-V. That grew with one rail at the liverpool, but Vedder remained thrilled with the finish. Outside of a break for hip replacement surgery earlier this year, the USEA Area VI chairman and Isi have been progressing steadily and gaining the notice of several sport leaders. “He’s hard not to like,” she said of the Holsteiner.

James Alliston celebrated his Halloween birthday Saturday with a third place CCI3*-L finish on Paper Jam. The Hanoverian/Thoroughbred had been his wife Helen Bouscaren’s ride until just four shows ago when “she very kindly said I could ride him” to fill a gap in his string.

The CCI3*-L National Championships also determined the National Combined Training Trophy recipient for the highest placed U.S. rider over the age of 16. Smith added that trophy to her crowded mantle, followed by fellow U.S. contenders Asia Vedder, Andrea Baxter, Alessandra Allen-Shinn, Auburn Excell-Brady, young riders Charlotte Babbitt and Sophie Click, and Stephanie Goodman.

The National Young Riders Championship and its John H. Fritz Trophy were at stake, too, for contenders aged 16-21. With eighth and ninth overall 3* finishes, Charlotte Babbitt and Sophie Click were champion and reserve.
Just a few days after the Galway Downs International, Smith loaded Ruth Bley’s En Vogue and Danito into the trailer and started the journey to Tyron, North Carolina, for the CCI4*-L National Championships in mid-November.

Karen O’Neal & Cafe Noir

Burnell, Bouscaren and Sanborn Take the 2*

With 3-year-old dinosaur paying little attention in their ringside family fan club, Lauren Burnell and Freedom Hill finished a flawless weekend to win on a 27.20. The dinosaur was her Halloween-costumed son, who had already offered his coaching before cross-country. “He told ‘Jack’ to go fast and Mommy to hold on,” and the pair ran with that plan. It helped, too, riding her second horse and fifth-placed finisher Counterpoint first in the 34-pair division. “I just went in and tried to replicate that. The amateur in me came out and I got a little frantic in the beginning, but then it was nice to focus on the plan that my coach Bec (Braitling) and I had come up with.”

Burnell has competed at the 3* level prior to having a baby and felt the weekend boded well for possibly moving back up to that level.

Helen Bouscaren and her new Hanoverian Irish Pop stayed on their 4th-ranked 30.50 dressage performance to rise to third, after cross-county, then second. Their jumping round rode like the breeze it appeared to be. “He is fast, sharp and fun. You can put him exactly where you want him,” she said.

Third place was earned by another of Bec Braitling’s riders, Audrey Sanborn and OBOS Quality Time. The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo communications student called it a high point of their finishes and a harbinger for moving up to 3* in the spring. She praised the flowing, curvy course as fun to ride and their double-clear kept them on a 31.30 dressage.

Erin Kellerhouse & Woodford Reserve

95 in the Challenge Divisions

The 95 contenders in three Challenge divisions took center stage Sunday with show jumping in the Grand Prix Arena as the final phase, just as the International contenders had done the previous afternoon. The fences were a tad lower, but the excitement was still high as national riders enjoyed an unusual spotlight.

Hatched 12 years ago at the Preliminary level, the Challenge format is designed as a transition between levels and as a special showcase. It functioned as intended, spotlighting horses under professional development and young riders and amateurs testing their readiness for new levels and/or fulfilling year-long training goals. With all but the liverpool fence in use from the previous day, the arena had plenty of atmosphere and course designer Mark Donovan and assistant Kelly James retained plenty of tests.

Seattle-based professional Karen O’Neal was thrilled with Cafe Noir’s 22 dressage score on Friday and his flawless rest of the weekend. The 7-year-old Holsteiner/Thoroughbred is owned by Leonie Padgett, who was also riding in the division.

Erin Kellerhouse closed out a happy weekend by riding Sonata GWF to first and LukeAtMe to fourth in Novice-Beginner Novice division.

Earl and Jennifer McFall are big fans of the Challenge format, and not just because Jennifer and Hallelujah DF won the Training-Novice Challenge and Earl and Illumanada were reserve in the Novice Beginner-Novice. “(Organizer) Robert Kellerhouse always has great ideas and this one is a fun way to give the lower levels a championship to work toward,” Jennifer commented.

Jennifer predicted it will be even bigger next year as word spreads of its success. Staging at the FEI venue and concurrent with the International competition was ideal, Jennifer added. “Plus, it’s cool that the West Coast has this unique competition out here: something cooler than they have on the East Coast!”

Jennifer McFall & Hallelujah DF

See You Next Year!

Praise flowed in long after the competition closed: for the quality, intensity and presentation of competition at all levels, the footing, the stabling and the viewing experience. With Kellerhouse’s ideas and positive energy as a strong gravitational force, support from Galway Downs property owner Ken Smith, partnerships with hunter/jumper show organizers Nilforushan EquiSports and other entities aligned to create a major milestone in the venue’s steady ascent as a world-class stage for equestrian sport.

Like Martin, most of the far-traveling riders said they planned to return, augmenting an already big base of participation from throughout the West.

Organizers Kellerhouse Presents had big thanks for sponsors: The American Horse Trials Foundation, Auburn Labs, California Riding Magazine, California Horsetrader, CWD, Devoucoux, Equine Insurance of California, Geranium Street Floral, Ride On Video, SmartPak, Sunsprite Warmbloods, Symons Ambulance, Temecula Creek Inn.