By Phelps Media Group for the USET Foundation
Gladstone, N.J. - Oct. 4, 2018 - The United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation is pleased to announce this year's recipients of the Jacqueline B. Mars National Competition and Training Grants: Sydney Conley Elliot, Emilee Libby, Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Tamra Smith. The grants are awarded to eventing athletes who have been identified as having an impressive record and potential to represent the United States in future international competitions. These four riders will be traveling to the East Coast to attend The Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI2* and CCI3* Oct. 18-21 in Fair Hill, Maryland.
Elliot, of Bossier City, Louisiana, has been diligently training and competing with her partner of five years, Cisko A. The talented pair earned themselves a spot on the Tier 2 Training List after they performed the only double-clear cross-country round for the U.S. Nations Cup team at Great Meadow International in The Plains, Virginia, in July.
"It is such an honor that we have all the support from Mrs. Mars and the USET Foundation," Elliot said. "It means a lot to up-and-coming riders who are trying to get where they need to go and especially for me being so far away and removed from the eventing community. It is such a huge help."
She continued, "This is going to be our second go at Fair Hill. The last time we ran around [Fair Hill International] was leading up to Kentucky in 2016 so we're hoping to improve upon the dressage and again have clean cross-country [rides] and hopefully no time [penalties] or rails in show jumping. That would be lovely. I feel like with the help of Phillip Dutton and Erik Duvander, we should be able to put our best foot forward. A lot of us could not do this without the help of the USETFoundation. The support they give all of us and the horses is absolutely incredible."
Libby, of Temecula, California, made her mark on the eventing scene when she jumped around a CCI4* at just 18 years old before moving to California to source and develop top event horses.
She brought her current mount, an 8-year-old Belgian Warmblood named Jakobi, through the ranks and her dedication to his training recently paid off as he moved up to Advanced Level in May.
"I'm blown away," said Libby. "I'm so, so happy. It kind of feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders. Doing what I'm doing now, I will be able to come to the East Coast and compete. I was a little bit indecisive originally a few months ago on whether to just come out for Fair Hill or come out early and run at Plantation. My gut was telling me to come out early and run on the grass and spend a few weeks conditioning back here on the East Coast before going, but it was going to be hard to do because I have a business back home and I have horses in training."
Libby continued, "[The grant] is a huge, huge help. I would like to say a huge thank you to Jacqueline Mars and the USET Foundation for this opportunity. These grants are wonderful to have available to riders in the United States. I've had [Jakobi] for a few years now and we have quite the relationship. I think he is going to be more than ready."
Stutes of Occidental, California, has had immense success at the CCI3* level with two top four finishes aboard her partner Chatwin, a 10-year-old Oldenburg by Contendro. The gelding, who Stutes has had since he was coming 6 years old, has never had a cross-country jumping penalty in 16 FEI starts.
"I feel incredibly honored to be chosen for this grant," said Stutes. "It's hard for me to even express my gratitude to the USET Foundation, Mrs. Mars and the US Equestrian (USEF) selection committee for their support and belief in Chatwin and me."
She is especially looking forward to competing at Fair Hill International as it will give her an idea on whether she and Chatwin are ready for the CCI4* level.
"Having done Bromont and Rebecca Farm, I feel like Fair Hill is the next step in deciding whether or not we're ready for a CCI4* next year or if we should stay at the CCI3* level longer since neither of us have ever contested a CCI4* and Chat is still just 10," said Stutes. "Additionally, it's an opportunity to compete against the best riders and horses in our country and see how we measure in terms of our competitiveness amongst them."
Smith, of Temecula, California, also received the Jacqueline B. Mars National Competition and Training Grant in 2017 and is excited to see where the opportunity takes her this year with her horse, Mai Baum. The talented pair won the Fair Hill International CCI3* in 2015.
"Firstly, being able to have the opportunity to have the financial support is huge. We're out on the West Coast so we travel all the way East and we have already been here for a month. It takes a significant amount of time, money and effort to come out here. [The grant] really enables us to financially be able to handle it a little bit easier. It is wonderful. It not only helps solidify that what you're doing is on the right track, but it helps offset the costs of spending three months out here."
In regards to Mai Baum, a German Sport Horse gelding, she said, "I feel like he has a really bright future and I'm super lucky to have him as a horse in my string. He won Fair Hill in 2015 and then had an injury, but he has come back even stronger and better. I'm super excited to now be able to go to Ocala and show what we've got."
Having the support of the USETFoundation as well as Jacqueline Mars is also something that Smith is grateful for as she continues on her path towards representing the United States at the highest levels of eventing.
"It is tremendous. Their support not only helps you make yourself believe that there are people behind you but it also helps as my goal is to ride on the United States Olympic team, so to have the USETFoundation and Jacqueline B. Mars support that is just one step closer to getting to where we are trying to go," Smith expressed. "We want to try to be the best and get the U.S. team even better, so to have their support is unexplainable. I'm so grateful for it."
Smith also expressed her gratitude for the USET Foundation's support as she received another grant from Jacqueline B. Mars that will allow her to travel to Boekelo, The Netherlands with her mare, Fleeceworks Royal, to compete on the Nations Cup team.
"I just want to thank them not only for Mai Baum's grant but also for the grant given to Fleeceworks Royal. I am so grateful for everything," she said.
Make sure to follow these athletes as they compete at The Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International CCI2* and CCI3* Oct. 18-21 by visiting www.fairhillinternational.com.
The USET Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports the competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of America's elite and developing international and high performance horses and athletes in partnership with US Equestrian.
For more information on the USET Foundation, visit www.uset.org.