Lexington, Ky. – Two athlete-and-horse combinations participated the U.S. Dressage European U25 Tour this spring and summer and scored top results. Ben Ebeling and Status Royal OLD competed in Belgium and France, while Erin Nichols and Elian Royale competed in the Netherlands. USEF Dressage Youth Coach George Williams advised the U.S. athletes to help them achieve strong scores in European competition.
“Both Erin and Ben had been on a USEF European Young Rider Tour before and were familiar with competing in Europe. Although it’s not necessary, that experience is helpful and great preparation,” said Williams. “Likewise, being able to send our top U25 athletes to compete in Europe is an essential aspect to developing our future athletes. For their own development and for us as coaches seeing where they stand by competing head-to-head with their counterparts in Europe is invaluable. Between the successes achieved by Erin and Ben and the opportunities that are now available with the [U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions] this week and the new addition of U25 to the NAYC, I’m thrilled to see the progress being made in our U25 division.”
Ebeling and Status Royal OLD started their tour abroad by competing at Grote-Brogel, Belgium from June 29-July 1. Ebeling (Wellington, Fla.) and the 2010 Oldenburg gelding owned by Ann Romney finished in the top two in their two classes. They won the CDIU25 Intermediate II test with a score of 68.382% and were second in the CDIU25 Grand Prix 16-25 test with a score of 68.675%.
“The depth of talent at the U25 level in Europe is unbelievable,” said Ebeling. “These shows are really tough, but being around that only makes you stronger. The tour has been extremely beneficial for my career and success. I would highly recommend this experience to other U25 riders.”
Next, Ebeling and Status Royal OLD headed to Crozet, France, for their second stop on the tour. The pair swept the CDIU25 classes with improved scores after their time training in Europe. Ebeling and Status Royal OLD won the CDIU25 Intermediate II test with a score of 68.794%, the CDIU25 Grand Prix 16-25 test with a score of 69.231%, and the CDIU25 Grand Prix Freestyle with a score of 71.915%.
“I’ve been lucky to compete in Europe for the second year in a row with my mount Status Royal OLD,” said Ebeling. “Over the last two years, Status and I have racked up six top placings, winning U25 Grand Prix classes in Crozet, Grote-Brogel, and Compiègne in 2022. Competing at these big international events and doing well has been great for my confidence as a Grand Prix rider.”
Similarly, Nichols and Elian Royale had an influential experience abroad. They began their European tour at CSI/CDI Twente in Geesteren, Netherlands, from June 8-10. Nichols (Yorba Linda, Calif.) and the 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Premiere Sport Horses were seventh in the CDIU25 Intermediate II test with a score of 69.608% and fifth in the CDIU25 Grand Prix 16-25 test with a score of 70.897%. The highlight of the competition was in the CDIU25 Grand Prix Freestyle where the pair finished third with a score of 73.375%.
“Competing in Europe, especially at the U25 level, is an experience like no other. You are in the mix of very talented up-and-coming riders, and it really inspires me as well as increases my determination to succeed,” said Nichols. “In Europe, I was able to study the best of the best ringside, which is an invaluable experience. Overall, it was a fantastic tour! I am so thankful for USEF for the opportunity to represent my country in Europe on the U25 Tour.”
Nichols and Elian Royale continued to hone their skills during their time in Europe, leading to a stellar performance at CDI Kronenberg, in Kronenberg, Netherlands, from July 27-30. The duo swept the CDIU25 classes in a dominant fashion. Nichols and Elian Royale won the CDIU25 Intermediate II test with a score of 67.549%, the CDIU25 Grand Prix test with a score of 67.436%, and the CDIU25 Grand Prix Freestyle with a score of 73.975%.
“Competing in Geesteren and Kronenberg was a great experience overall, specifically the level of competition at these shows,” said Nichols. “Geesteren was an observation event for the youth Dutch riders. This meant everyone brought their A game and it was amazing to go head-to-head with the top riders in the world. Seven out of the top 10 U25 world-ranked riders attended Geesteren. Finishing with my first podium finish at Geesteren will always be a highlight for me. In Kronenberg, I finished the weekend with three wins, gaining great experience each day.”
Williams was thrilled with the results achieved by Ebeling and Nichols. The U.S. athletes competed against stiff competition and were able to perform well under pressure.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Erin and Ben. Geesteren was Erin’s first time competing at the U25 level in Europe. She went against many of the best Dutch U25 riders, a number of whom are high up on the FEI U25 World Ranking List, including the combination in the number one spot,” said Williams. “Ben, who has competed at the U25 level in Europe before, is having a great year on Status Royal OLD. It is exciting to see them really come together as a partnership.”
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The USEF International High Performance Programs and the USEF High Performance Pathway Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, the philanthropic partner to USEF. High Performance Program support is also provided by the USOPC and USEF sponsors.