by United States Eventing Association
Raeford, N.C. - It was a great weekend of competition at the Cloud 11~Gavilan North LLC Carolina International CCI and Horse Trial in Raeford, N.C., and the USEF/USET Foundation North American Futures Team Challenge added an extra element of excitement to the event.
Eight athletes had the opportunity to compete on two teams: Team Erik Duvander and Team Leslie Law. They started their week with two days of team training at the Carolina Horse Park before the competition got underway on Thursday with the dressage.
Team Leslie Law took the early lead on a team score of 92.2 after dressage; however, Team Erik Duvander was hot on their heels with a 95.8. Show jumping would see a reversal with Team Erik Duvander taking over the lead as three of the four team members kept all the rails up. Team Leslie Law was only eight points behind heading into cross-country, and with time notoriously hard to make on Ian Stark’s course it was still anyone’s game. In the end, the entire Team Erik Duvander added just two time penalties to earn the title of first ever USEF/USET Foundation North American Future Team Challenge Victors.
“Winning is obviously important because we tried to make it feel like a real competition, but in the end I am more pleased about how the whole thing rolled out. [Practicing the team environment] was quite useful,” said Erik Duvander, U.S. Eventing Director of High Performance.
“The program is new and we want it to evolve all the time into the best it can be,” he continued. “Luckily we have the flexibility to change it and refine it to meet our needs. Leslie [Law] and I have had a debrief each evening, and we have discovered things of value that we didn’t expect from the beginning. Going into something that you don’t know [how it will turn out] is actually quite good because you can have a bit more of an open mind.”
Two of Team Erik Duvander’s riders earned a spot on the podium – Sydney Conley Elliott with Carol Stephens’ QC Diamantaire, a 9-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Diarado x Latana) on their dressage score of 29.0 for third in the CCI3*-S and Hallie Coon with Celien, a 12-year-old KWPN mare (Tenerife VDL x R Quicksilver), owned by Hallie and her mom, Helen, took home third in the CCI4*-S.
“This experience was a bit more comprehensive than the other [FEI Eventing] Nations Cups [teams] I was on,” said Coon. “Houghton [Hall CICO3*] was a crash course, but this was more of a beginner’s lesson. It was easing us into the team atmosphere, and it was a lot of bonding and thinking about our horses which was really useful.”
“I think it is really valuable to have this [Team Challenge]; to really get to know each other and to learn how to be in communication with your team members. It was really great to build that camaraderie with people and see the way forward. I was lucky that Team Erik [Duvander] won! I think that they should definitely continue doing this,” concluded Coon.
Elinor O’Neal rode Zick Zack to 13th place in the CCI3*-S for Team Leslie Law and also enjoyed her involvement in the Team Challenge.
“It was a really cool experience,” O’Neal said. “It was really educational with a lot of helpful parts [such as] the talks about what was expected of you as a team member; how to handle different situations; and the difference between being on a team versus competing as an individual. Erik [Duvander] and Leslie [Law] both also shared about their past team experiences which was cool.”
O’Neal was second out for Team Leslie Law and was glad to be able to share her perspective on the show jumping and cross-country courses with her teammates as well as supporting everyone and developing team spirit. She said that she thinks the program, “Is really important for developing people for the future and was a great process to go through.”
1st Place - Team Erik Duvander – 98.2 Sydney Conley Elliot with QC Diamantaire – 29.0 Hallie Coon with Celien – 32.3 Caroline Martin with Danger Mouse, her and Sherrie Martin’s 11-year-old Warmblood gelding – 36.9 (Ariel Grald with Leamore Master Plan, Anne Eldridge’s 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding – 41.2)
2nd Place - Team Leslie Law – 130.5 Alexandra Baugh with Mr. Candyman, Altorac Farm’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding – 32.7 Elinor O’Neal with Zick Zack, Sally Cox’s 9-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding – 38.8 Cosby Green with Highly Suspicious, Eddie and Clay Green’s 8-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding – 59.0 (Chris Talley with Sandro's Star, Hannah Salazar’s 10-year-old Oldenburg stallion – R)
The next USEF/USET Foundation North American Futures Team Challenge will take place at the Mars Incorporated Bromont CCI Three-Day Event from June 6-9 in Bromont, Canada. The teams will be announced in the near future.