Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135 Win 2021 The Dutta Corp./USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Championship

Woods Baughman and C'est La Vie 135. Photo by Leslie Potter/US Equestrian

By Leslie Potter for the US Equestrian Communications Department 

Mill Spring, N.C. – With a huge number of entries, the final day of competition at the 2021 Tryon International Three-Day Event was just as full and exciting as the days that preceded it, with show jumping taking place from the cool morning into the evening under the lights. By the end of the day, a new four-star national champion emerged.

The top three positions on the four-star leaderboard had minimal changes throughout the three phases, but it came down to a nail-biting conclusion nonetheless.

Standing in third place, Sharon White (Summit Point, W.Va.) and her 2012 Holsteiner gelding, Claus 63, lay down a challenge to the top two by turning in a clear jumping round that added only 0.8 time penalties to their score. It was a moment of truth for Claus, as this event marked his first CCI4*-L.

“He’s a super show jumper,” said White. “He felt his body, definitely, from yesterday, but he was really good to listen to me in the warm-up, and loosened up well. I just did some low wides to get his back working, and then he was a real competitor in the ring. I was really thrilled with that. He got in the arena and was like, ‘I’m on it!’ And that was really fun.”

Will Coleman (Gordonsville, Va.) piloted Chin Tonic HS, Hyperion Stud, LLC’s 2012 Holsteiner Gelding, around a careful round that ended with an unfortunate rail on the final combination. With another 0.4 time penalties, Coleman dropped below White but managed to stay in the top three with the talented bay gelding.

“This was Chin’s first four-star long. It’s only his third advanced start, so he’s quite green,” said Coleman. “We’ve been producing this horse since he was just a baby, and this was a very proud weekend for us. I thought he handled the whole weekend with class and showed everyone how exciting his future could be.”

Overnight leader Woods Baughman (Lexington, Ky.) entered the arena with a rail in hand, but the pressure was still on as he set out to maintain his lead with C’est La Vie 135, the 2008 Hanoverian gelding he co-owns with his parents, Kim and James Baughman. The pair turned in a textbook round to finish double clear and maintain their first-place finish, improving from their third-place finish at this event in 2020.

Baughman admitted that he had some nerves heading into the final phase.

“I wasn’t doing so good this morning,” he said. “My hand was shaking so bad and I was just trying to drink coffee. But he’s so genuine and he jumps so well, by the time I was done warming up I was relaxed because he’s not going to touch a rail. I just let him do his thing.”

Baughman rides with Sharon White and works as her assistant trainer, and jockeying for a top spot in the class leads to some good-natured competition in the barn.

“We’ve been joking because whenever we compete against each other, I’m always half a point behind her,” he said. “The only other time that I was beating her was at Bromont a couple of years ago, and I was so excited that I forgot my show jumping course and did a circle. So I walked my course a few times today and was really glad that I did that.”

As the 2021 CCI4*-L Eventing National Champion, Baughman wins a flight for a horse from title sponsor The Dutta Corp., a prize valued at $20,000. He has potential big plans for his ticket.

“I definitely want to get over [to Europe] as soon as possible,” he said. “I’d like to move up to five-star next year. I’m not sure that Badminton would be a good choice, so maybe one in the fall.”