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The Cream Of The Crop

From Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. on, the Royal is “all about equitation.” Lexington, Louisville and the shows that host other Finals have undeniable importance to the division, but there is something about the American Royal Finals that sets it apart form the rest…..It’s the last show of the year, it’s the last equitation ride as a junior exhibitor for some, and the two big finals and the American Royal Championship bring the best competitors from all over the country.

It’s a marathon for horses, riders, parents, trainers and grooms, but equitation riders have an opportunity to be judged by three entirely different judging panels in the UPHA Finals, the USEF Medal Finals and the American Royal qualifying classes and championship.

The number of riders competing in each class was very close to 2003. The Exceptional Challenge Cup was up by two riders. The UPHA Junior Finals was down by three in 2004 with a total of 19. The Senior UPHA Finals was up one this year with 27 riders. The American Royal Championship saw an increase of four and finally the USEF Medal Finals had 30 riders this year and 32 in 2003.

UPHA Junior Challenge Cup Finals

There is something unique about each final. In both the Junior and Senior Finals, showmanship is paramount throughout the class. It must be judged as a continuous class and must be evaluated using a 1/3-1/3-1/3 analysis. In Phase 1, the rail work portion and the individual workout constituted 1/3 each of overall judging or 2/3 of the total class. Phase 2 (only rail work) made up the remaining 1/3 of the total class.

An outstanding panel of judges welcomed the Phase 1 riders to the ring. Michael Craghead, Ellen Beard-Arnold and Maria Gilman had 19 riders to judge in two groups. Each rider was assigned a numerical score for their rail work and all riders executed an individual workout which came from tests 1 – 12 in the rule book.

Six riders from both Section A and Section B were called back for the Wednesday evening championship. Rachel Machamer from Section A and Brittany McGinnis from Section B had the top scores on the rail.

The workout was excellent, with each segment earning a possible 10 points. Brittany McGinnis and Jessica Moctezuma led the competition with their workout scores both from Section B. Amber Lynn Lowery rode in Section A and was next in line demonstrating great precision.

All numerical scores were computed and 12 fabulous riders came back for the championship on Wednesday evening. They all rode with great determination and maturity. After the line-up, they all exited the ring and the final score was computed.

First came the Top 10 Awards. Ashley Stine instructed by Gary and Marsha Garone. Rachel Machamer instructed by Bill and Lisa Waller. Jennifer Roberts instructed by John Whalen. Amber Lynn Lowry instructed by Nancy and Bill Becker. Olivia Weber instructed by Sarah and Rob Byers. Chelsea Jo Roby instructed by Jo Cornell, and followed by Lindsey Kellner(Knollwood Farm) and Casey Tibolet (Cape Cod). The scholarships and trophies were awarded to the unanimous winner Brittany McGinnis, trained by Lillian Shively and the DeLovely team. The unanimous reserve champion for the second year in a row, was Jessica Moctezuma. Jessica is instructed by her mother, Nealia McCracken.

Senior UPHA Challenge Cup Finals

Sponsored by RaDon Inc., and Freedman Harness, the Senior UPHA Finals has its own judging criteria. Showmanship is paramount throughout the class and each phase earns a numerical score for every rider. Please refer to the Junior UPHA story for the specifics.

The class had three sections with nine riders in each section. Again Michael Craghead, Ellen Beard-Arnold and Maria Gilman had the difficult job to name the new champion. They designed a challenging work-out with the seven different segments. Each segment was worth a possible 10 points, the judges used a low of 1 point to a high of 9 points to evaluate each segment.

In Phase 1 Section A railwork, Sarah Taylor and Renee Zubrod had the top scores. In Section B, Kyle Gagnon and Tate Bennett led their section. In section C, Kelsey Nicole Smith and Emily Garten were ahead.

In the pattern phase, Section A leaders were Sarah Taylor, Elke Trilla and Renee Zubrod. In Section B, Kyle Gagnon and Tate Bennett scored highest. Section C was led by Kelsey Nicole Smith and Mandy Martin.

From these scores, 12 riders were selected to ride in the evening championship. This was an outstanding group of riders. They all displayed a lot of skill and showmanship throughout this final rail work. The judges tied the class and retired them to the paddock area.

The top 10 competitors were then called back to Kemper Arena. Each rider received a Top 10 award and scholarship money. Those ribbons went to Kelsey Nicole Smith, instructed by Scott and Carol Matton; Lisa McClaren, instructed by Julie Wroble and Dale Arnston; Sarah Taylor and Emily Garten instructed by Cape Cod Farm; Alexandra Flynn and Mandy Martin, instructed by Lillian Shively and Team DeLovely; Renee Zubrod instructed by Cindy Boel; and Jessica Saft instructed by Bill and Lisa Waller.

Two riders with top scores throughout the competition were named champion and reserve. Reserve honors and a $1,000 scholarship went to Tate Bennett, the 2004 Good Hands winner who is instructed by Renee Biggins.

The Senior UPHA Champion and winner of a $2,000 scholarship is this years World's Grand Champion rider and last year's UPHA Junior Challenge Cup National Champion, Kyle Gagnon. Gagnon came to the winners circle with Gary and Marsha Garone.

UPHA Exceptional Challenge Cup

The UPHA Exceptional Challenge Cup National Championship Class celebrated four successful years at the American Royal. Rene Biggins originally brought her plan and idea for this class to the UPHA Equitation Committee and continues to lend her support and enthusiasm to this great class.

This year, Lynn McNamara, Cecile Hetzel Dunn and Barbe Smith judged the entire class with great skill and compassion. Mary Gaylord McClean, Radon, Inc., and Freedman Harness were the sponsors of the class and presented the awards for the Friday evening Finals.

Seventeen riders who qualified during the year came to the Royal with their coaches,helpers and mounts. It is a tribute to all involved to watch them work as a group on the rail and complete an individual work-out. In true UPHA style, each rider received a numerical score for their rail ride and their serpentine.

Twelve riders were called back for the championship on Friday Night. Brittany Rock was named Champion. She was guided every step of the way by her Instructor Kelly Hulse who together with her husband Mark are successful Missouri trainers. Brittany was the only saddle seat rider in the class.

Reserve Champion was Deb Lewin instructed by Gail Pace from Wylie, Texas. Third was Sophie Friese, and fourth was awarded to Skyler Heidleberg riding Caravelle owned by ASB owners Mr. and Mrs. Paul Briney and instructed by Paula Jo Briney.

After the class was completed, Kathy Gray , winner of the 2001, 2002, and 2003 finals gave a demonstration ride for the audience that has loved and appreciated her skills and her love for the sport. Her Mother and instructor Betty Gray continues to support the Exceptional Equitation Finals with wonderful riders every year. .

American Royal Saddle Seat Equitation

The American Royal qualifying classes read like a whos who in equitation and the championship was hard fought. Melissa Moore, Nancy McConnell, and Nelson Green had their work cut out for them from start to finish.

The 10 and under walk and trot class had an open class with 14 entries and a championship class with 10. Abigail Mutrux won both classes riding Worth The Trip and is instructed by Missy Hughes and the DeLovely Team. Kelsey McDonald, a World's Champion and Finals winner settled for reserve in both classes. Elisabeth Hunziker was third in the open class and fourth in the championship. Claire Talley was fourth in the open class and third in the championship. Maya Manilow rode well for fifth in both classes.

Five confident competitors rode in for the walk, trot, and canter class for 10 and under riders. A many times champion in the walk and trot ranks, Callie Smith rode up for the blue for instructor James Nichols. Caroline Skinner was second followed by Katie Cunningham and Kate Lovejoy.

In the Mo-Kan class for riders 17 and under, Jordan Underwood was the unanimous winner for instructor Rene Biggins. Representing Touchtone Farm, Brooke Bowen was second and Brooke Jones claimed third.

The 16 and 17 year old age group was loaded with 11 talented riders. Ashley Alden claimed the number one spot with Kelsey Nicole Smith a strong second. Renee Zubrod had a great week at the Royal and placed third. Sarah Taylor and Joel Dorignac were fourth and fifth.

There were eight riders in the 14 and 15 year old age group. Michelle Krentz, instructed by Scott and Carol Matton, rode Jazz March to victory. Shana Jo Brown was second followed by Emma Nichols and Tara Grom.

Fourteen enthusiastic riders came to Kemper Arena for the 11 to 13 age group. Rachel Machamer made the top ride for instructors Lisa and Bill Waller. Jessica Moctezuma made another smart ride for the second place ribbon and Jennifer Roberts rode the beautiful Carboness for third. Chelsea Jo Roby rode her heart out for fourth.

The American Royal National Equitation Championship had many great awards for the Grand Champion. Ten riders came through the gate all vying for a shot at the championship loot. In the line-up, six riders were called to do the workout that was announced in the ring. Ashley Alden was the unanimous winner and took home the Harsh Memorial Trophy, the Charles and Helen Crabtree Perpetual Trophy in honor of Bill Harsh, and the Dorothy Dukes Ford Memorial Trophy. Ashley is instructed by Donna Pettry Smith. Jordan Underwood was awarded the Reserve Championship. Renee Zubrod was a popular third in this strong class and Kelsey Nicole Smith, the big winner of the USEF Medal Final, was fourth.

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