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Equitation Takes Center Stage at the UPHA/American Royal


by Katherine Hansil

Kansas City is the show for all shows especially if you are an equitation rider. This year the schedule added another final to its list bringing it to five championship finals including the UPHA Junior Challenge Cup, UPHA Senior Challenge Cup, UPHA Exceptional Challenge Cup, UPHA 10 and Under Walk and Trot Challenge Cup and USEF Saddle Seat Medal. Also held were age group qualifiers and the American Royal Saddle Seat Equitation National Championship. In every class it was a who’s who of the top riders in the country, meaning you always had to be on your game. You had to ride with confidence and let you personality shine through. Your patterns had to be flawless, when called for, making all your points with smooth transitions.

The finals began early on Wednesday morning with Phase 1 of the Junior UPHA Challenge Cup National Championship Final with Donna Pettry-Smith, Barbe Smith and Lisa Waller handling the judging duties as they would for all the UPHA Finals except the Exceptional Challenge Cup. Nancy Troutman was on the panel for this final with Donna Pettry-Smith and Barbe Smith. Thirteen junior riders made the trip to Kansas City competing for their coveted title. After railwork each rider performed the mandatory pattern, which required the following:

Walk into the arena to the beginning of the straightaway. Trot on the right diagonal to a point ¾ of the way down the rail and continue to trot half a circle. Stop. Canter the second half of the circle on the left lead. Stop. Pivot left and trot on the left diagonal to the center point and continue to trot a circle to the right. Stop. Canter the same circle to the right and continue cantering to the rail. Pivot left and trot on a diagonal line to the out-gate demonstrating two changes of diagonal beginning on the right diagonal. Stop. Exit the ring.

In the evening, Phase 2 was held with all 13 riders called back including: Natalie Armstrong Grunnan, Katie Bowen, Katie Cunningham, Elisabeth Hunziker, Nick Maupin, Ellen Medley Wright, Abigail Mutrux, Leann Patterson, Caroline Skinner, Lyndi Skinner, Callie Smith, Hali Steenhoek and Andra Trakalo. Phase 2 included railwork where riders were called to show their ringmanship skills. After the cards were turned in the top 10 were called back to the ring.

When the reserve champion was called out the entire Knollwood group was ecstatic including the rider Nick Maupin. Maupin, who is in his first year out of academy, caught everyone’s attention with his honed skills aboard Oh What A Feeling. That night, however, belonged to Ellen Medley Wright who would not be denied in her final week as a junior competitor. In the spotlight all year this young lady took it up a notch proving what a talented rider she is by performing with a solid workout and extraordinary railwork aboard CH Timeless Drifter. Rachel Machamer, the 2005 champion, met Wright in the winner’s circle for the presentation.

The remaining top 10 riders included: Natalie Armstrong Grunnan riding Carboness, Katie Cunningham riding The Heir In The Throne, Elisabeth Hunziker riding Highpoint’s Primavera, Abigail Mutrux riding Worth The Trip, Leann Patterson riding Cash Crop, Lyndi Skinner riding Guided By Magic, Callie Smith riding Who Needs Mama and Hali Steenhoek riding Open All Night.

On Thursday the senior riders held court competing for their UPHA Challenge Cup National Championship Final. Twenty-seven riders were on the schedule to compete and they were divided into two sections with each section full of riders with huge talents. After railwork each rider performed the required pattern. The pattern was as follows:

Enter the arena and canter a straight line on the right lead to point A, which was directly in front of the judges’ stand. Turn left. Trot a circle on the right diagonal and continue trotting to the rail. Turn right. Canter a diagonal line on the left lead to point B, ¾ point in the center of the ring, and continue cantering a circle. Stop. Canter a diagonal line on the right lead to the rail. Stop. Turn left. Drop irons and trot around curve to the end of the straightaway. Stop. Pick up irons. Exit the ring.

With all the exceptional talent on the rail, the pattern was what separated the riders and 13 were called back for Phase 2. Those riders included: Jacqueline Beck, Shana Jo Brown, Alexandra Flynn, Tara Grom, Lindsay Haupt, Ali Judah, Michelle Krentz, Brittany McGinnis, Jessica Moctezuma, Emma Nichols, Mary Catherine Swinson, Casey Morgan Tibolet and Eleanor Watkins. With these 13 hitting the ring Phase 2 was an extraordinary class to watch with each team finding their spots and showing their absolute best.

The top 10 were called back to the ring after the judges’ scores were tallied. It was time for the reserve champion to be announced and Peter Fenton called Casey Morgan Tibolet into the spotlight. Meeting her was trainer Erin Boggs-Richey. Tibolet has had an exceptional year aboard Undulata’s Time To Shine and has much to look forward to in the future. Capturing the top honor was Jacqueline Beck riding Pinstripe Dancer. Beck was greeted in the winner’s circle by her instructors Anne Speck, Cindy Boel and Bonnie Zubrod.

Rounding out the top 10 were: Shana Jo Brown riding Hatcher’s Pride, Alexandra Flynn riding Kalu’s Can’t Stop The Magic, Tara Grom riding CH Absolutely Exquisite, Ali Judah riding Feng Shui, Michelle Krentz riding CH Louisville Lass, Brittany McGinnis riding Amandari, Jessica Moctezuma riding The King’s Talent and Emma Nichols riding CH Worth The Scene.

Also competing on Thursday were the riders in the UPHA Exceptional Challenge Cup National Championship Final with nine riders competing. This class is a true inspiration as it includes riders who are 12 years of age or older with a mental or physical handicap. After completing the rail work, each rider performed the required pattern work:

Trot a serpentine to the opposite end of the ring. Return down either rail at a show/extended trot.

Riders were called back Thursday evening to perform the final phase of the railwork. Earning the National Championship title was Alison Dolan riding Castlebar Knickee. Betty Gray instructs Dolan and what is amazing about this rider is that she is legally blind. Also recognized were: Sierra Launer, Steve McGovern, Robert Castellitto, Lisa Huddleston, Jeremy Quintiliani, Ginny Clark, Nellie Owen, Nicholas Sunder and Jeane Whittenburg.  

Friday was just as busy as the UPHA 10 and Under Walk and Trot Challenge Cup National Championship Final and age groups and the American Royal Saddle Seat Equitation National Championship were all on the schedule. The young stars started off the morning at 8 with a large group of 24 on the schedule to compete. These riders were divided into three sections with 10 being called back for Phase 2, which ended the afternoon session. It was a long day for these young riders and their horses but the top 10 returned, showing their hearts out for the top honor. After railwork and further judging in the lineup the cards were turned in and the reserve champion was called out first.

Fresh off a win at Louisville, Aleia Brown proved worthy of the honor with her flawless performance aboard Something Is In The Heir. Brown rides under the direction of Cape Cod. It was time to honor the champion next and it was the unflappable Gavin Gagnon capturing the title. Gagnon rode strong and focused aboard Callaway’s One In A Million under the direction Marsha and Gary Garone.

In between Phase 1 and 2 for the young riders, the afternoon session was held which included the age group qualifiers that were judged by Lewis Eckard, James Nichols and Bill Waller. First up were the 11-13 year-olds and it was Nick Maupin back in the spotlight to earn the blue under the direction of Knollwood. Reserve honors went to another Junior Challenge Cup Finalist, Hali Steenhoek.

In the 14 and 15 year-olds Jackie de la Parte topped the class aboard Keeper Of The Stars. De la Parte was in top form making it hard to believe this is her first equitation appearance in 2006. Reserve honors went to Meaghan McQueen.

The 10 and under riders were next to compete with Abigail Mutrux earning the blue aboard Worth The Trip. This was the second blue of the week she earned for the DeLovely banner as she also won the Missouri-Kansas Equitation class on Tuesday morning. Natalie Armstrong Grunnan earned the reserve 10 and under title with Jennifer Keefe receiving the reserve in the Missouri-Kansas qualifier.

Last to qualify were the 16 and 17 year-olds. Topping this qualifier was the exquisite Mary Catherine Swinson riding L.A. Blues. Michelle Krentz earned the reserve title for the Knollwood banner.

After qualifying during the morning, 10 riders returned that evening for the championship. After railwork the following pattern was called for with four riders being asked back for the extra work:

Working off the rail the first way of the ring, canter ½ the length of the ring on the right lead. Stop. Canter another ¼ of the ring on the left lead in a straight line and then perform a cantering circle to the left and continue cantering a straight line to the rail. Stop. Reverse. Beginning on the right diagonal trot back down the same line at the show trot showing two changes of diagonal changes. Stop. Return to the line-up.

Capturing the Saddle Seat Equitation National Championship in her final senior ride was Mary Catherine Swinson. Reserve honors went to the newest face in the division, Nick Maupin. Hali Steenhoek and Lindsay Haupt rounded out the top four, respectively.

Saturday was almost as busy for the equitation teams. In between the two USEF Medal Phases, the young 10 and under riders took center stage in the afternoon session to qualify for 2007 in the UPHA 10 and Under Walk and Trot. With 18 riders on the schedule management split the class. Winning section I was Courtney McGinnis riding CH Callaway’s Coraleen with Caroline Moeller and Lady Gabriella earning reserve. In section II Brianna Meyer captured the blue aboard CH Callaway’s Royal Request. Avis Van Zomeren earned the red streamers riding Cosmopolitan Magic.

USEF Medal Final Phase 1 began at 8 a.m. for the USEF Medal Finals preliminary with 28 riders scheduled to compete. Marking the cards for this final were Nancy Becker, Lynn Harvey-McNamara and Nancy Troutman. The riders were divided and they competed in three different sections performing railwork and the preliminary class pattern, which consisted of:

Enter the arena and turn right. Trot a diagonal line to the midpoint of the straightaway on the right diagonal. Stop. Drop your irons. Trot a circle to your left on the right diagonal. Change to the left diagonal as you come out of the circle and trot a diagonal line to the midpoint of the turn. Stop. Pick up your irons. Turn to face the midpoint of the next straightaway. Begin on the right lead and show a change of lead at the halfway point of the diagonal line. Without stopping, canter a circle to the left at the midpoint. Continue cantering to the halfway point of the last segment. Stop. Trot the remainder of the diagonal line on the left diagonal. Exit without stopping.

After tabulation 12 riders were called back for the final phase that afternoon including: Jacqueline Beck, Shana Jo Brown, Alexandra Flynn, Kyle Gagnon, Ali Judah, Michelle Krentz, Nick Maupin, Brittany McGinnis, Ellen Medley Wright, Jessica Moctezuma, Mary Catherine Swinson and Casey Morgan Tibolet.

Once again railwork was performed with each rider having a last chance to prove their ringmanship and afterwards each performed the Phase 2 pattern:

Divide the center line into thirds. Enter the ring and trot 1/3 of the way down the center line on the right diagonal. Stop. Turn left 90 degrees. Perform a serpentine consisting of two half circles using 2/3 of the length of the ring to the far end. Canter the first half circle on the right lead. Stop. Canter the second half circle on the left lead. Stop. Drop irons. Trot on the right diagonal around the corner into a serpentine consisting of two half circles across the end of the ring. Stop. Pick up irons. Perform a line change at the canter beginning on the right lead. Change leads every 4 strides to the end of the straightaway. The number of lead changes will be determined by your horse’s length of stride. There is no right or wrong number of changes as long as you use the remainder of the straightaway. Stop. Exit the ring.

After all was completed the top 10 were called back to the ring. Before the placings were announced the Youngest Rider Award was given to Nick Maupin who really has made a name for himself this week, ending a great first season will several top honors.

Next the placings were announced in reverse order. Earning the top 10th place in her first appearance in this final was Ellen Medley Wright. Jacqueline Beck received the ninth place award. Casey Morgan Tibolet captured the eighth place ribbon with Mary Catherine Swinson in for seventh. Sixth place went to Shana Jo Brown in her last appearance after seven consecutive performances in this final. Fifth place went to Ali Judah in her first Medal final. Michelle Krentz ended her senior career with a strong fourth place finish. Brittany McGinnis was honored next with the yellow streamers.

Then they were down to two: Alexandra Flynn and Kyle Gagnon. It was quite suspenseful as Marsha and Devon Garone held hands and Lillian Shively walked up and down the ramp. These two have shown against each other for many years and today was both of their final appearances. Now all that was left was for Peter Fenton to announce the Reserve Medal Final Champion. Kyle Gagnon who rode with the determination and consistency he has shown time after time was called out as the reserve winner. That would mean that this afternoon belonged to Alexandra Flynn and after hugging her horse, Kalu’s Can’t Stop The Magic, she met the DeLovely team in the winner’s circle. Flynn had magical day closing out her career earning the most prestigious final with two extraordinary phases.

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