Katherine Strauss and All In (©Al Cook – alcookphoto.com)
Harrisburg, Pa. – The team from Zone 2 took home the Team Gold for the second consecutive year with the best possible score to win the Prix des States Team Championship of the Neue Schule/USEF National Junior Jumper Championships at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, presented by The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund. Zone 4 won the Silver and the Bronze went to Zone 5.
The Zone 2 team consisted of Madison Goetzmann (Skaneateles, N.Y.) riding Wrigley, Katherine Strauss (Southampton, N.Y.) aboard All In, Lauren Fischer (Bedford Hills, N.Y.) on Tosca du Feugre, and Eliza Month (Scarsdale, N.Y.) with Calumpi. The formidable foursome captured the title with three out of the four going double-clear over the Steve Stephens-designed course to finish with a zero fault score.
Ralph Caristo served as the Zone 2 Chef d’Equipe and was especially pleased with the victory. Caristo has held the position for many years, but he was unable to make the trip in 2015.
“I had to judge last year so Krista Freundlich substituted for me and she did a fantastic job,” said Caristo. “This is what we strive for. The girls really rose to the occasion. I told them to just go in there and have fun. They had enough experience so they knew what to do, and they did it.”
In a modified Nations Cup format, the seven teams and individual riders jumped the same course twice with one drop score permitted from each round. Although the top six teams moved on to the second round, the battle for Gold was really between Zone 2 and Zone 4. At the conclusion of the first round, Zone 2 held a slight lead with a zero score and Zone 4 was second with four faults.
Brett Burlington (Coral Gables, Fla.) led the way for Zone 4 going double-clear on Bluf. Cooper Dean (Fayette, Ala.) on WEC Quidam-Quidam had a total score of four faults, Sophie Simpson (Jupiter, Fla.) ended up with a total score of 12 faults on Why Not, and Helen Graves (Franklin, Tenn.) was the drop score on Armani to give the team a final score of 16 faults.
Strauss and Fischer had already piloted double-clear rounds for Zone 2, but Month was eliminated in round two, so the team needed anchor rider Goetzmann to do well in order to use Month as the drop score. Goetzmann also rode to a double-clear, clinching the Gold for the team.
“I had so much confidence in my horse and Ralph Caristo gives all of us so much confidence, so I didn’t feel too much pressure,” said Goetzmann on riding last. “I felt like I had a great team behind me and my horse was absolutely amazing. I thought it was an excellent course. There was a tight time allowed and a few wide oxers coming out of short turns. You really had to understand how to ride the track and be able to ride efficiently and smooth in the indoor ring because we are used to riding in a big outdoor ring throughout the season.”
Goetzmann and Strauss were also members of the 2015 Gold-medal winning team, which Strauss believes may have helped them win the title.
“It’s a huge adjustment riding indoors,” said Strauss. “Things come up quicker; you have to adjust to the way the lines ride. Maddie and I have been in this class many times before on the same horses so we were expecting those turns and the way this ring rides. It felt great coming here with such a great team.”
It was the first time Fischer and her mare had competed in the Championship and she was thrilled with their inaugural run. “I am really proud of my mare. It was her first time doing anything like this. She really came out on top and gave me two nice clear rounds. I thought the course was challenging, the time allowed was definitely a factor. You really had to know your horse for this course.”
Month, who had a less successful night than her teammates, also thought the course was challenging. “The oxers were pretty wide,” said Month. “It was crucial for you to keep pace but keep a connection to your horse. I think it tested a lot of us. I feel so lucky to be part of such an awesome team.”
The team of Zone 5, with Caelinn Leahy (Maple Park, Ill.), Alexandra Pielet (Highland Park, Ill.), Giavanna Rinaldi (Wayne, Ill.), and Dana Wille (Dexter, Mich.), snagged the Bronze with a score of 37 faults.
The Championship culminated on Saturday with the top 60% from Phases I and II for the Neue Schule/USEF National Junior Jumper Individual Championship. In a nail biting fight to the finish, Strauss took top honors riding All In, owned by Katherine Strauss, LLC. The win was all the more special as she was competing in her final year as a junior rider.
“I couldn’t have been happier with the way my horse jumped this week, I am so proud of him. This is my third year competing with him here and it feels great to finally come back and have this finish,” said Strauss. “This has been a class that I have watched for many years and to represent Zone 2 and compete with riders that have worked so hard to get here all year is so special. I’m even more thrilled to have this win with my teammates and my barn mate. It’s a true testament to how strong the Zone 2 riders are.”
In the final phase of the Championship, scores are carried over from the previous two phases. The top three, Strauss, Goetzmann and Fischer, all entered the final phase of the competition without having knocked down a single rail. The margin between them was one and one half faults, meaning there was no room for error in order to capture Gold.
Riding in reverse order of merit, Fischer was the first of the three to ride. Fischer and her mare, Tosca du Feugre, were easily negotiating the Steve Stephens-designed course until the final fence, where they came in at an awkward distance and the mare made a herculean effort to leave the rails intact.
“I didn’t see anything,” said Fischer about the distance at the final fence. “I was like, it’s the last jump, I can’t have it down and I panicked, but I knew she had my back. I said, ‘Come on Tessa!’ And she cleared it. She’s a good girl. She had my back. In the beginning she really didn’t like me very much. It took me actually 12 months to figure out how to ride her so it makes this moment more special.”
Goetzmann followed Fischer riding on Wrigley. Fischer had already gone clear and Strauss was waiting in the wings, so the pressure was on. The young rider had no problem going clear and clinched silver.
“It’s such an amazing accomplishment,” said Goetzmann. “My horse, Wrigley and I continue to grow and grow. I’ve had her for about two years now and each show our partnership gets better and better. It’s an amazing feeling having both of my teammates finish well. No matter what the end result was, I was going to be happy.”
As the final rider of the 18 who competed in the final phase, Strauss had a long wait before entering the arena. Her teammates had already gone clear, so she and All In needed to be flawless to win gold.
“These two definitely put the pressure on, they are so hardworking, so talented and so accomplished,” said Strauss. “I was definitely nervous, but I had total confidence in my horse. He’s such a special horse.”
Strauss also won the William C. Steinkraus Style of Riding Award, sponsored by Karen Healey Stables. The award is presented to the Prix des States Junior Jumper Rider who best exemplifies the American style of equitation and the respectful, dignified, courteous and workmanlike manner of a true sportsman.
Classic Communications for the USEF