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Wellpride AEC Kicks Off at Lamplight Equestrian Center
Wayne, IL, USA
The fourth annual Wellpride American Eventing Championships kicked off today at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois with competitors in seven divisions of beginner novice through training level completing their dressage tests. The Wellpride AEC draws competitors from all levels of eventing--beginner novice through advanced level--from every part of the United States. In fact, this year's event set a record for number of entries (over 560), states represented (42), countries represented (five-U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand), prize money ($58,000) and prizes (over $100,000).

Last year's intermediate champion Emily Beshear, who rode Woodburn to victory in 2007, is back to defend her title this time aboard her husband's big gray, Blue Devil. They will take on their challengers in dressage tomorrow, but Beshear's first order of business was today's Novice Horse championship riding her homebred gelding, Phinneus, who took the early lead on a dressage score of 22.6. Jessica Montgomery is second on Legato on 25.3 followed by Canadian Lesley Grant (soon to be Lesley Law) on FAB (27.3).

The 2006 Wellpride AEC inaugural Beginner Novice champion Idle Hour McHenry, a 12-year-old Cleveland Bay gelding owned by Cindy Bank and ridden by Mary McKeon of Cleveland, Ohio, is back to stake his claim at the novice level. The handsome big horse, bred by Marilyn Webster at Idle Hour Farm, currently has the lead in the Amateur division on a score of 23.2, comfortably ahead of Rebecca Goad on Happy Daze with 28.4.

McKeon was happy that the trip to Illinois was a little shorter than to Southern Pines, North Carolina where the 2003-2006 Championships took place and commented on the quality of competition. Having already had a look around the cross-country course McKeon said, "The course looks good - I'm not too concerned, and the footing looks perfect. My plan tomorrow is to sit up and ride hard, kick and go!"

In the Training Amateur division Amanda Teague with Princess Grayce and James Meister, DVM on Lesson's Learned are tied for the lead in the on a score of 29.5. Teague, 50, of Hickory, North Carolina was tearful and ecstatic when she learned of her placing, commenting, "I can't believe it! I didn't think it was a very good test so I went off to walk the cross-country course and look around the shops. I thought, 'I didn't go in with a whip, so at least I wasn't eliminated.'"

James Meister, 40, is a veterinarian based in nearby Barrington Hills, Illinois. Even though his eight-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse/Dutch Warmblood cross gelding has been qualified for the Wellpride AEC every year, this is the first time he has been able to compete in the championships. "I have two kids and a busy practice, so driving 16 hours to North Carolina was impractical," he said. Meister is happy that the Championships are so close to home this year. "I was lucky to have a full competition season," he said. "We are building a new vet hospital and it has been difficult to find the time and finances."

Meister will also ride Running with Scissors at Preliminary tomorrow, and said that he is a horse that is aptly named. "He was imported from Holland as a jumper but bucked everyone off. He seems to have grown out of it now."

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