Katherine Strauss aboard San Remo VDL. Photos by Shawn McMillen Photography.
Alexa Aureliano Wins THIS National Children’s Medal Finals; Allison Fithian Victorious in North American Adult Equitation Championships
Upper Marlboro, Maryland – The Capital Challenge Horse Show hosted three major equitation finals at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center on Sunday as part of Equitation Weekend, presented by BigEq.com. In the Private Tutoring Services North American Junior Equitation Championships, the win went to Katherine Strauss of Southampton, NY riding San Remo VDL. Alexa Aureliano of Old Brookville, NY was victorious in the Taylor Harris Insurance Services (THIS) National Children’s Medal Finals on Qualitat. Allison Fithian of Monterey, CA captured the win in the North American Adult Amateur Equitation Championships riding Lucky D’ Etenclin. The Capital Challenge Horse Show continues through Sunday, October 9, with hunter competition beginning on Monday, October 3. Every class of the 2016 Capital Challenge Horse Show is live streamed. Watch at tv.coth.com or www.capitalchallenge.org.
A field of 103 entries in the Private Tutoring Services North American Junior Equitation Championships contested the course set by Kenneth Krome with assistance from Joe Carnicom. Riders were scored by a panel of six judges including: Jeff Ayers, Jim Clapperton, Shane George, Scott Hofstetter, Tony Sgarlata, and Scott Williamson.
At the end of the first round of competition, Strauss and San Remo VDL sat in third place with a score of 89.08 while Emma Kurtz of Hudson, OH and Clearway held the lead with a score of 91.33.
The top 20 returned in reverse order of their standings for a second round, and Strauss’s second round score of 91.33 quickly shot her to the top of the leaderboard with an overall score of 180.41.
Sophie Simpson on You Wish, owned by Ashland Farms, and Kurtz and Clearway, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, were the final two to return, and while both would execute strong rounds, neither would match Strauss’s performance. A second round score of 88.33, coupled with her first round score of 90.00, would give Simpson a 178.33 total to keep her in the second-place position. With a score of 84.33 in the second round, Kurtz would finish in third with a 175.66 total.
While the judges had the option for additional testing of the top four, a greater than two-point difference between Strauss and Simpson meant that the courses set by Krome had done a well enough a job of differentiating the top riders and no additional testing was necessary.
“It is a really fun equitation final to do the courses for,” Krome said. “The format is the best, where every rider is scored. Having two rounds and having the top twenty to come back really allows me to vary the tests and to do interesting things in the second round. My goal is to help the riders improve this week. This is leading up to [the Pennsylvania National Horse Show], so you’re trying to prepare them for that and present them with enough good challenges so that they learn some things that they can brush up on before the next finals.”
Strauss finished second in last year’s Private Tutoring Services North American Junior Equitation Championships riding Canterbury, so being able to come back and earn the win this year on a new mount, San Remo VDL, was particularly exciting for Strauss.
“I’m so happy,” said Strauss, who trains for the equitation with Stacia Madden at Beacon Hill Show Stables. “I was so fortunate to ride San Remo in this class. He is just so perfect. This was actually only my third show on him. Stacia of course knows him really well, so she has been able to help expedite forming a relationship process. He does everything I ask of him, literally; I couldn’t have asked more of him today.”
San Remo VDL was ridden to great success, including the win in the 2012 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Equitation Final, by owner Elizabeth Benson, and the horse has had a special place in the hearts of the Benson family and Madden since.
“He’s kind of a part of [the Benson family],” Madden explained. “We decided after the Devon Horse Show last year that we were really going to try to teach him how to turnout properly and give him some appropriate time off, which he had never had because he was a little bit of a social misfit.”
After enjoying a year of turnout and relaxation at John and Beezie Madden’s farm in New York, San Remo VDL returned to Beacon Hill this summer, but Madden did not have a particular rider in mind for the 16-year-old Warmblood gelding.
“I was hoping for a good rider for him to come down the pike,” Madden said. “Katherine had three top equitation horses; she wasn’t really on my radar at that point. Then one of her equitation horses is actually going to get the San Remo treatment and is going to be out in John and Beezie’s field, so I talked to her and her parents about seeing if they would be open minded to leasing her San Remo. They’re so great and want Katherine to be in this sport and want her to be in it as well as she can be. So they said absolutely.”
The Private Tutoring Services North American Junior Equitation Championships presented the pair with the perfect opportunity to come together for a major equitation final and to further prepare for the remainder of the indoor season.
“It’s great preparation for the rest of the finals,” Strauss said. “You sort of have the outdoor classes to warm you up and then transition you for the indoor classes. It’s great to just practice riding under pressure with this championship format.”
Strauss continued, “Obviously this is our first show indoors, so you have to start thinking a little bit more quickly. All of the jumps were sort of right off the edges of the ring and everything came up a little bit quickly. One thing that Stacia’s really helped me with, and that I started working on with her last year, is thinking more quickly when you start riding inside and being ready for everything to come up quickly. Stacia sets up extremely difficult courses at home at Beacon Hill. I think that really prepared me well. Taking everything that I learned with Stacia at indoors last year and applying them to today has helped.”
As part of the big win, Katherine Strauss and Stacia Madden were presented with the George H. Morris Equitation Championship Trophy, donated by Frank Madden and Stacia Madden. The North American Equitation Champion Groom’s Award, sponsored by Holly Hill Farm, was awarded to San Remo VDL’s groom, Oscar Aguillara. Strauss also received the best Equitation Rider Award, sponsored by Karen Healey and Karen Healey Stables, and Stacia Madden was awarded the Leading Equitation Trainer Award. The EMO Equitation Trip of the Show award, sponsored by EMO Insurance Services and presented to the rider with the highest scoring round on Saturday, went to Madison Goetzmann who scored a 90.5 while competing in the 15-Year-Old Equitation.
Alexa Aureliano Tops THIS National Children’s Medal Finals
Alexa Aureliano of Old Brookville, NY earned her first major equitation victory on Saturday in the THIS National Children’s Medal Finals riding Qualitat, a seven-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Heritage Farm.
Aureliano, who trains with Andre Dignelli and Patricia Griffith at Heritage Farm, scored an opening average score of 86.50 to put her in fourth place heading into the second round, which welcomed back the top ten riders.
“The first round, I loved the course,” Aureliano said. “There weren’t any mishaps or anything. It was just a nice smooth round. I was happy about it because I knew that I was in the top ten, so I was glad that I had a nice first round.”
After scoring a 90 in the second round, Aureliano climbed up the leaderboard into second place with a cumulative score of 176.50. That put her just behind Camryn Halley of Oviedo, FL on Renoir, who held the lead in both the first and second round with scores of 88.25, 89.66, and a cumulative 177.91.
“The second round, I was a little nervous going in, because I knew that if I wanted to accomplish my goal to win the THIS, I needed to step up my game a little bit,” Aureliano said. “It was a little bit of a challenge for me, but I really liked it.”
With less than two points separating them, Aureliano and Halley were called back for additional testing. The test required riders to canter directly to a triple bar, then take a trot fence off a bending line before rolling back to a two-stride line, halting, and finally demonstrating a counter canter over a last vertical. With a seamlessly executed test it was Aureliano who rose to the top of the list and clinched the win.
“I can’t even explain my feelings right now,” Aureliano said immediately following her victory. “I’ve been working so hard to accomplish this goal, and it was just accomplished!”
Third place went to Grace Pearson of Seattle, WA on Beau Van Het Keyershof. They scored an 85.33 and an 85.66 for a 170.99 total.
Aureliano has been training with Heritage Farm for the last five years, but she is somewhat unique in that her horses are kept at home a little more than an hour away from the Katonah, NY based farm.
“She and her mother are a good team, and they’re real workers,” said Patricia Griffith.
“They work hard, and Alexa’s very thankful to have the supportive mother driving the truck and trailer up for every lesson and taking care of the horse and grooming at most horse shows. It always seems to be the harder you work, the luckier you get. That’s definitely a motto that I like to live by. With her that proves to be true.”
Qualitat’s groom, Hector Arias, also won a special groom’s award.
Allison Fithian Victorious in Adult Equitation Championships
In the North American Adult Amateur Equitation Championships, it was Allison Fithian of Monterey, CA who was victorious riding her longtime mount Lucky D’ Etenclin.
Fithian led through both rounds and won by an impressive margin of more than 11 points after earning scores of 88.83 in the first round and 91.00 in the second for a 179.83 total.
For the New York University (NYU) graduate, competing Lucky D’ Etenclin at Capital Challenge is a happy reunion and, as trainer Stacia Madden explained, like taking care of “unfinished business.”
“She has a chemistry with this horse that is just second to none,” Madden said. “I felt a little bit bad for her in her last junior year because he got a little bit injured. She was third at Medal Finals that year which was unbelievable. Then she had to use a different horse for Maclay Finals.”
Following her last junior year, Fithian pursued her degree in hospitality management and Lucky D’ Etenclin, a seven-year-old Selle Francais gelding, was leased out to junior riders.
“I got him back this year to ride him, so it’s really just so special to come back and bring it all together!” Fithian said.
Fithian has her sights set next on the Ariat National Adult Medal Finals on Friday, October 7, at Capital Challenge.
Finishing in second was Helen Voss of Versailles, KY on Prosecco 24. Voss earned scores of 84.00 and 84.66 for a 168.66 total. Finishing just half a point behind Voss for third were Tracey Gorin-Byrne and Sunman with a first round score of 84.33 and a second round score of 83.83.
The North American Adult Equitation Champion Groom’s Award, sponsored by Holly Hill Farm, went to Lucky D’ Etenclin’s groom, Oscar Aguillara.
For additional information, full results, and live stream coverage from Capital Challenge, please visit www.capitalchallenge.org.
About the Capital Challenge Horse Show
Now in its 23rd year, the Capital Challenge Horse Show sets itself apart with a distinct and unique focus on preeminent hunter and equitation competition. Held each autumn at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD, the 2016 edition of the Capital Challenge Horse Show will take place October 1-9. The nine days of competition will include prestigious equitation events and the World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Finals with many of the country’s best horses and riders competing in junior, amateur, and professional hunter divisions.