Tag Archives: Allison Fithian

John French Caps Stellar Week at Capital Challenge with WCHR Pro Finals Victory

John French. Photos by Shawn McMillen Photography.

Allison Fithian Captures ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals

Upper Marlboro, MD – October 7, 2016 – Hunter and equitation expertise were featured at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, presented by World Equestrian Center, on Friday. In the WCHR Professional Finals, sponsored by Madison Hills Farm, the top six hunter riders in the country went head to head over three rounds, with John French leading the victory gallop. Allison Fithian won the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals, sponsored by ARIAT International.

The Capital Challenge Horse Show, held at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD, runs through Sunday, October 9. Every class of the show is live streamed and available to watch online at tv.coth.com or www.capitalchallenge.org.

The WCHR Pro Finals used the same three-round format as last year. Riders switched on two donated horses for the first two rounds, then brought a horse of their own for the third and final handy round.

French set the tone for the night and started with an unbeatable lead by riding Alant, an eight-year-old gelding owned by Elli Yeager, to a score of 90.66 (90, 93, 89). In the second round, he piloted Everglow, an eight-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Quidam de Revel owned by Whish, LLC. French jumped ahead again with judges’ scores of 91, 89, and 92 for an average of 90.66.

In the final handy round, French rode Small Gesture, a seven-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Catoki owned by Chris Iwasaki and Elizabeth Reilly. Yet again he had the best score, this time a 90, for a three round total of 271.32 and the win.

French had a dominating nine-point lead over second place finisher, Scott Stewart, to take his fourth WCHR Professional Finals win in the 23-year history of the class.

French is comfortable with the format of the WCHR Pro Finals, in that he often hops on horses for the first time at a horse show. Catch-riding two horses tonight was nothing new. What was new, however, was his mindset.

“I actually this year just tried to not think so much,” he said with a smile. “That was my new thing, just to go in there and don’t even think. That’s something that I read in sports books about how people like golfers get ready or get in the zone. I always read ones that say you just don’t think when you get nervous or for a big competition like this. I just tried that, and it worked pretty good.”

Stewart placed second with scores of 86.16 on Show Me, 87.83 on Redeemed, and 88.33 on Reality for a total of 262.32.

Stewart was unsure of how his horses would go, but was pleasantly surprised at the results.

He described, “I had a couple of rubs in the first round, but he was really fun to ride. He was really easy. The bay mare I got to see her go first. I wasn’t quite sure how I’d ride her because she seemed a little sensitive. She was nice, but she actually was probably the hardest ride for me. You couldn’t use your leg too much. You had to just let her be. In the end, she went around quite nice. Reality I’ve had forever, so I know him really well. He’s fun. He did a good job.”

Third place went to Katie Gardner, who was riding in her very first WCHR Pro Finals. She scored an 84 on Redeemed, 87.5 on Show Me, and 87.33 on Crush for a total of 258.83.

Gardner admitted she was too quick to the single oxer on her second ride, Show Me, and Redeemed had more of “an equitation feel”, which suited her just fine.

“It was really my comfort zone. I love the equitation, and I wish I could do it all over again. So it was really neat that way,” she said.

“Just to get to do it was such a thrill,” Gardner said. “Honestly being a little bit of an underdog was, I think, an awesome thing for me. My first time in there – just go in there and do the best I could. It was just a blast. I’m really honored.”

Hunt Tosh received fourth place after scoring 86.33 on Dreamliner, 87 on Pure Imagination, and 85.16 on Gotham for a 258.49 total.

Tosh remarked about the camaraderie that the riders have with each other when preparing for the WCHR Pro Finals. “We’re usually talking (and) comparing notes,” he said. “You always try to help each other out. It’s a fun class. It’s special to be in it every year. It’s a very special class, and just to be in this group of riders is always fun.”

Slotting into fifth place was John Bragg. He rode Everglow for an 86, Alant for 86.66, and Early August to an 82.66 for a total of 255.32.

“Unlike John, I don’t ride that many different horses,” Bragg revealed. “I sort of produce my own and show them. I’m sort of spoiled that way. So it for sure was a challenge for me to just sort of get on and go for it, if you will. It was fun and challenging. It makes you a better rider, to go out there and feel the pressure to perform.”

Kelley Farmer placed sixth. She scored 87.66 on Pure Imagination, 80.33 on Dreamliner, and 73.33 on Publicized for a 241.32 total.

“It was a great class as usual,” Farmer said. “Thank you to everyone who loaned us those horses. That was very generous of them.”

She added with a smile, “I screwed up tonight, but that was on me, nothing else. I was excited to be here and be in this group.”

For his win tonight in the WCHR Professional Finals, French was presented with the “All the Way” Perpetual Trophy, donated by Elizabeth Busch Burke and Lysa Burke Horkan. The Far West Farms Perpetual Trophy donated by the Karazissis Family was given to Alant, owned by Elli Yeager, given to the donated horse with the highest cumulative points of the WCHR Professional Finals.

Fithian Tops ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals

Since its inception in 1994, the ARIAT National Adult Medal has given adult riders the opportunity to compete in a competitive equitation class over fences 3′ in height. The classes are held at select shows across the country and riders collect points to qualify for the Finals.

Allison Fithian and Lucky D' Etenclin
Allison Fithian and Lucky D’ Etenclin

One of those riders is 23-year-old Allison Fithian of Monterey, CA. She and Lucky d’Etenclin, a 17-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Narcos II, completed two fantastic rounds to win. In the first round, they scored an 88.33 and led the class of 30 entries.

The top 10 from the first round returned for the second round over a course designed by Ken Krome. Fithian rode to an average score of 88.66 for her second round and a total of 176.99 for victory.

She noted, “I felt pretty confident that if they were going to test, I could at least get in that top four, and I’d be alright. I was more nervous this morning before anything started and before I knew how I was going to ride today. I felt pretty confident going into the second round.”

Second place with a total score of 172.83 (86.83, 86) was Helen Voss. With scores of 86 and 86.33 and a total of 172.33, Tonya Johnston placed third.

Fithian has owned “Lucky” for nine years, and he was her equitation horse when she competed in the big equitation as a junior rider. They placed third in the USEF Medal Finals together, but a small injury kept Lucky out of the rest of the finals for Fithian’s final junior year. Fithian went to college at New York University, and Lucky was leased out to several top junior riders at Beacon Hill, such as Lucy Deslauriers, Victoria Press, Gabriella Bausano, and Megan MacPherson.

“I finally got him back this year and got to ride him again,” Fithian said. “I’m just really happy to have been nearly as successful on him. He’s a really special horse, and I just get along with him really well. It kind of felt like unfinished business on him, like I could have done a little bit more. I was a little sad at the end of my junior year when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to ride him again and (I wanted to) see if I could do something more on him.”

Fithian got the ride back on Lucky in May, and they competed at three horse shows before Capital Challenge. The Ariat National Adult Medal Finals were always a goal. “We were like, ‘If we’re going to do the equitation on him, we’ll go win Ariat Finals.’ That’s what we’re going to go do,” she confirmed.

Preparing at Beacon Hill with the junior riders for their finals helped, Fithian said. “I felt super prepared because back at the barn all of the juniors are getting ready for indoors, and I get to practice on all of those courses and occasionally get to have lessons with them which is always very enlightening and makes me work a little bit harder. I definitely felt very prepared especially with the win last Sunday,” she recalled.

Fithian was referring to her victory in the North American Adult Amateur Equitation Championships during Equitation Weekend at Capital Challenge. Winning another final in one week was made extra special when her family was here from California to watch her.

While Fithian didn’t ride Lucky for four years, giving him up is something that she says will never happen.

“He is very special. I’m never going to sell him ever; he’s too special,” she said. “When I bought him, we really made him into what he is. He was just some horse that someone imported from Europe. I did his first equitation class on him, and he’s my baby. I’ll never sell him. He’s not going anywhere.”

Fithian felt like her victory was a redemption of sorts. “It feels really, really good. I want to cry. I just have the best horse and a great team behind me. It feels really good to do this well as an adult still. I feel really proud of myself that I’m still able to compete at that level. It’s kind of verification for my riding abilities. It means a lot. I’m so happy that he’s feeling so great still and is doing so well.”

The winner of the $2,500 WCHR Adult Amateur Challenge, sponsored by Kate Considine & Willow Brook Farm, was Mahalo, ridden by Katie Robinson, with a score of 86. Lindsey Evans-Thomas and Valencia placed second, while Dawn Fogel riding Spotlight was third.

Round 1 of the North American Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Challenge Cup kicked off with a $5,000 speed class. Lacey Gilbertson and Bijzonder came away with the win with a clear round in a time of 59.740 seconds. Second place went to Sandra Zimmerli and Zaza, who posted a time of 63.111 seconds. Callie Seaman and Dakota were third in 65.060 seconds.

CORRECTION: Missy Luczak-Smith and Executive won the 3’3” WCHR Amateur-Owner Challenge, held Thursday, Oct. 6. Lindsay Maxwell, who was announced as the winner following the class, was determined to be ineligible due to cross entering in the 3’6” Amateur-Owners.

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.

Emily Riden
Jump Media

Katherine Strauss Wins Private Tutoring Services North American Jr. Equitation Championship

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.

Alexa Aureliano aboard Qualitat
Alexa Aureliano aboard Qualitat

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.

Emily Riden
Jump Media