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Equitation Takes The Spotlight at the Royal

by Katherine Hansil


Equitation riders work all year long to be able to compete in Kansas City where equitation takes center stage. Five national final titles are up for grabs as well as a full schedule of qualifiers and the American Royal Saddle Seat Equitation National Championship. When you looked at who had come to vie for the titles it was a who’s who list of talented and accomplished riders. To compete you had to ride with confidence, be precise in your work on the rail and during patterns and let your personality shine through.


The first equitation class on the schedule was not one of the finals but the Missouri/Kansas Equitation qualifier. Abigail Mutrux aboard Blackboard was polished and confident while she worked the ring under the direction of team DeLovely to earn the blue ribbon. This was the second year in a row for this young lady to take home the top honor. Reserve honors went to the Annalise Hall instructed Jennifer O’Keefe riding New York A La Carte.


The finals began early Wednesday morning with Phase I of the Junior UPHA Challenge Cup National Championship. Handling the judging duties were Adam Clauson, Marilyn Macfarlane and Sandy Sessink. Fourteen junior riders made the trip to Kansas City to compete for their top equitation honor. After rail work each rider performed the mandatory pattern with the following requirements: Trot a straight line up the center of the arena to the 1/3 point on the left diagonal, turn 90 degrees to your right and canter a half circle on the left lead to the 2/3 point of the center line, trot a circle to your left on the right diagonal, canter a circle to your right on the right lead, continue cantering on the right lead to the wall, turn 90 degrees to your left and trot out of the arena on your right diagonal.


After the scores were tabulated 12 riders were called back for Phase II which opened the evening schedule. The riders included: Natalie Armstrong Grunnan, Kristen Gardner, Taylor Rhea Haas, Elizabeth Hunziker, Nick Maupin, Courtney McGinnis, Taylor Newton, Belle Owen, Olivia Prentiss, Hallie Sansbury, Caroline Skinner and Callie Smith. Rail work was once again performed and you had ride at the top of your game. After review in the lineup the class retired to the paddock to await the announcement of the top 10 which included Natalie Armstrong Grunnan, Kristen Gardner, Taylor Rhea Haas, Nick Maupin, Courtney McGinnis, Taylor Newton, Belle Owen, Olivia Prentiss, Hallie Sansbury and Callie Smith. Once all 10 riders were in the ring, Nick Maupin riding Oh What A Feeling was called to receive the reserve national championship honor under the direction of Scott and Carol Matton. This would be the second year Maupin has captured this title. With anticipation in the air Peter Fenton announced the national champion title would go back to Paducah, Ky., with Callie Smith. Smith, riding Miss Majesticness, was met in the winner’s circle by stablemate and the 2006 Junior National Champion Ellen Medley Wright who was on hand to present the top honor.


Nick Maupin and Callie Smith congratulated

each other after finishing the UPHA Junior

Challenge Cup National Championship. Maupin

earned his second reserve title in his second year

of competing in the junior division. Smith had a

dream come true capturing the championship.


Early Thursday morning the senior rides held court for the UPHA Senior Challenge Cup National Championship. Once again, Adam Clauson, Marilyn Macfarlane and Sandy Sessink were on hand to mark the cards. With 21 riders set to show, two splits were held. After rail work, each rider performed the following pattern: Enter the ring without stirrups at the trot on the right diagonal, establish a straight line equally divided between the rail to your right and the judges’ stand, stop at the midpoint of that line, pick up your stirrups, canter to the ¾ point of that line on the right lead, stop, canter a circle to your left on the left lead, continue cantering to the wall at the end of that line, turn 90 degrees to your left and trot across the end of the arena on the correct diagonal showing a circle to your left at the midpoint, turn left, establish a straight line from the corner to the midpoint of the opposite rail, canter on the right lead to the 1/3 point of that line and continue cantering a circle to the right, continue cantering to the midpoint of the rail, turn right, trot out of the ring on the correct diagonal.


With all the huge talent the pattern is what separated the 21 riders and the following 13 were called back for the evening performance: Emily Abbott, Angela Darrow, Lindsay Haupt, Ali Judah, Brittany McGinnis, Jessica Moctezuma, Emma Nichols, Emily Scharpf, Sarah Jane Smith, Casey Morgan Tibolet, Eleanor Watkins, Ellen Medley Wright and Faye Wuesthofen. The riders were once again asked to perform rail work and now was not the time for anyone to let down. As in the junior championship, each rider was evaluated in the lineup and then the class was retired to the paddock while the scores were tabulated. The top 10 were announced and called back into the ring one by one: Emily Abbott, Lindsay Haupt, Ali Judah, Brittany McGinnis, Jessica Moctezuma, Emma Nichols, Emily Scharpf, Sarah Jane Smith, Eleanor Watkins and Ellen Medley Wright.


It was then time for the reserve national champion to be announced and Peter Fenton called Emily Abbott into the spotlight. Abbott was thrilled as her number was called and her mom and instructor, Kathy Conflenti, and trainer Mike McIntosh met her for the presentation. It would be the next to last senior performance for Abbott in what has been an awesome season. Then it was time for the moment these riders have been working for all year: the crowning of the champion. Like Abbott the young lady whose name was about to be called has also had an amazing season and career. As the night before it was another DeLovely rider receiving the top honor and this night belonged to Brittany McGinnis. This would mark the second jewel in the Triple Crown for McGinnis riding Amandari as she won the NHS Good Hands National Championship just a few weeks earlier.        


Also competing on Thursday were the riders for Phase I of the UPHA Exceptional Challenge Cup National Championship with nine riders competing. Marking the cards for this final was Betsy Boone, Richard Harris and Sandy Sessink. A true inspiration, this class is offered for riders who are 12 years old or older with a mental or physical handicap. After completing the rail work, the following pattern was performed by each rider: Trot a serpentine to the opposite end of the ring and return down either rail at the show/extended trot. Riders were called back Thursday evening for Phase II to perform the second set of rail work. After lineup inspection the riders, Megan Cyr, Amber Grant, Krista Koch, Emily Kowerduck, Meghan Matthews, Trevis Maxwell, Jocelyn Monroe, Nichole Monroe and Nicholas Sunder, were all awarded their top 10 awards. Then the overall reserve champion, Megan Cyr, riding under the direction of Betty Gray, was called into the spotlight. Capturing the overall championship was Amber Grant riding under the direction of Tom Johnson. Next the physically challenged reserve champion, Emily Kowerduck, and champion, Krista Koch, under the direction of Betty Gray, had their time to shine. Nichole Monroe was the next in the spotlight as she earned the reserve champion for the non-physically challenged with Nick Sunder topping the division under the direction of Paula Briney.


Amber Grant, riding Savenac’s Dixiana

under the direction of Tom Johnson, won

the overall UPHA Exceptional Challenge

Cup National Championship.


Friday was a busy day for the equitation riders. It kicked off early at 8 a.m. with 19 young riders ready to compete in Phase I of the UPHA 10 and Under Walk and Trot Challenge Cup National Championship. The large group was divided into two sections and judges Adam Clauson, Marilyn Macfarlane and Sandy Sessink selected 10 riders to come back for the last class of the Friday afternoon schedule for Phase II. It was a long day for these riders and their horses but even in Phase II they were hustling down the rail, polished and precise, for the top honor. After line up evaluation, the scores were tabulated. Caroline Cherry has had an incredible season especially since being paired with CH In Neon ERB who carried her to wins at Lexington and Louisville. Today she shone once again and earned the reserve national champion title under the direction of her team of Cindy Boel, Bonnie Zubrod and Anne Speck. The top honor belonged to a young lady who also has had a fabulous season with wins throughout the northeast circuit. Riding under the direction of Kristen and David Cater, it was Margaret McCool who captured the top title aboard Virtual Viper. Rounding out the top 10 were: Aleia Brown, Ariana Cerecedes, Eleanor Rainbolt Forbes, Cagle James, Kirwan Kennedy, Clara McCool, Peyton Miller and Alice Rowland.


David and Kristen Cater and Catie and

David McCool joined Margaret McCool

after she captured the UPHA 10 and Under

Walk and Trot Challenge Cup National

Championship aboard CH Virtual Viper.


During the middle of the Friday daytime session the age group qualifiers began with the 11-13-year-olds first to compete. Natalie Armstrong-Grunnan had a flawless performance aboard Carboness PHF, earning the blue ribbon. Taylor Newton garnered the red streamers under the direction of Shelly Fisher. In the 14-15-year-olds, Angela Darrow was in top form, earning the blue under the direction of Scott and Carol Matton. Reserve honors went to Emily Collins under the direction of Bob Jensen. The last qualifier held was the 16-17 year-olds. Jessica Moctezuma proved what a talented rider she is this week. When her horse became sick earlier in the week she had to find other mounts. This day she was aboard Brooke Jacobs’s Callaway’s Show Me When and they matched up perfectly to win the blue. Casey Morgan Tibolet, riding with an injured arm, garnered the red streamers.


During the evening performance 14 of the qualified riders came back for the American Royal Saddle Seat Equitation National Championship. After rail work and line up evaluation, the following pattern was called for: perform a pattern of your choice that includes the following points – trot a circle, canter a circle and execute one simple lead change. Once the cards were tabulated the winning number belonged to Jessica Moctezuma who had been strong all week-long in the senior final and in the earlier age qualifier. Reserve went to the Shelly Fisher-instructed Taylor Newton with Kyle Gagnon, under the direction of Marsha and Gary Garone, rounding out the top three.


Jessica Moctezuma and

Callaway’s Show Me When


Saturday was another busy day for the equitation riders. Early in the morning Phase I of the USEF Medal National Champion was held with 24 top riders on the schedule showing during three splits. Marking the cards for this final were Betsy Boone, Steve Crabtree and Renee Lavery. Rail work was performed and then the pattern was called for. In a change from the past, the judges decided to keep the pattern work primarily on the rail. Phase I’s workout required: Enter the ring at a trot, execute a serpentine with circles as follows (canter a circle and a half on the left lead, stop, trot the next two ½ circles on the appropriate diagonals, stop, canter a circle and 1/2 on the right lead), continue cantering to the rail, stop, turn right, drop your irons and trot down the straightaway beginning on the correct diagonal demonstrating one diagonal change, stop, pick up your irons and exit the ring at a trot. After tabulation 13 riders were invited to return for Phase II which would be held after the end of the Saturday day sessions. The riders returning were: Emily Abbott, Jacqueline Beck, Kyle Gagnon, Lindsay Haupt, Ali Judah, Deanna Lanigan, Brittany McGinnis, Jessica Moctezuma, Taylor Newton, Sarah Jane Smith, Eleanor Watkins, Ellen Medley Wright and Faye Wuesthofen.


During the regular session the 10 and under riders were back to the show ring for the UPHA Challenge Cup, a qualifying class for 2008. Cagle James rode with polish and determination aboard L.A. Blues, under the direction of Lewis Eckard, to capture the blue ribbon in her last walk and trot performance. Reserve honors went to Clara McCool, riding CH Evening Dazzle under the direction of Kristen and David Cater.


Cagle James and LA Blues


The 10 and under riders closed the session with their walk trot and canter qualifier. With a solider performance, Courtney McGinnis topped the class aboard CH Callaway’s Coraleen and as soon as she was out the gate she jumped off to go cheer for her sister, Brittany, in Phase II of the USEF Medal. Reserve went to Taylor Rhea Hass riding My Favorite Dolly under the direction of Jamie Bridgewater. Taylor was also honored later in the day during the presentation of the USEF Medal awards for being the youngest equitation competitor at the American Royal.


Macey Miles was there to cheer on

stable mate Courtney McGinnis


It was finally here for the 13 riders that have practiced and practiced all year long. This is what they work for – to compete and win the USEF Medal, which is coveted to be the top honor in equitation. They entered the ring and once again performed rail work. A second pattern with the following requirements was called for: Enter the ring at a trot and turn right, stop at the beginning of the straightaway, canter on the left lead to the midpoint of the straightaway, stop, canter on the right lead to the end of the straightaway, stop, trot a serpentine consisting of two half circles across the arena, beginning on the right diagonal, stop, canter a serpentine consisting of two half circles back across the arena beginning on the right lead, stop, drop your irons, trot around the turn on the right diagonal to the beginning of the straightaway, stop. Pick up your irons, trot down the straightaway on the left diagonal changing diagonals at the end of the straightaway and exit without stopping.


Once again the pattern would separate the riders. After all the scores were tabulated the top 10 riders were called back to the ring and the placings were announced in reverse order. Claiming the top 10 spot was Taylor Newton. One of the younger riders of the group, Newton rides under the direction of Shelly Fisher. Eleanor Watkins, one of the three Zubrod riders, received the ninth place. Jessica Moctezuma earned the eighth place under the direction of her proud mom, Nealia McCracken. Lindsay Haupt garnered the seventh place honor in her last senior performance. Sarah Jane Smith, from Cape Cod, earned the sixth place ribbon. Fifth place honors went to Jacqueline Beck. The anticipation built as there were four top riders in the spotlight. Ali Judah has had an exceptional year in her last year in the senior division. This day she captured the top fourth spot under the direction of Rob and Sarah Byers. The bronze medal was awarded next and Peter Fenton called Ellen Medley Wright’s number. This was Wright’s first year in the senior division and she has been on top of her game the entire way riding Kalu’s Can’t Stop The Magic. Then there were two, Emily Abbott and Brittany McGinnis.


Emily Abbott has been one to overcome many challenges this season including changing horses mid-season. Well matched the later half of the season with All About Charm, Abbott has taken on the trimmed riders with confidence. Brittany has been at the top of her game all week and season. Earlier in the week she won the UPHA Senior Final and a few weeks ago the NHS Good Hands final. This day she added the third jewel to the crown when Peter Fenton announced she captured the coveted USEF Gold Medal with Emily Abbott earning the USEF Silver Medal. It was a bittersweet day for three of the top four riders from the Medal as Ali Judah and Emily Abbott both age out and Brittany McGinnis has accomplished what all the equitation riders strive for: winning the Triple Crown of equitation.


Ellen Medley Wright, Brittany McGinnis and Emily Abbot

were all smiles after the UPHA Senior Championship.

It must have been fate these girls joined together

as they would return for the top three spots

in the USEF Medal Championship.



Instructors at the Royal:


Cindy Boel and Bonnie Zubrod directed

Jacqueline Beck, Caroline Cherry, Natalie

Armstrong-Grunnan, Lindsay Haupt and

Eleanor Watkins to their top 10 finals honors.

Scott and Carol Matton were behind their

riders’, Angela Darrow, Deanna Lanigan, Nick

Maupin and Emily Scharpf, top 10 finals finishes.


Raymond and Lillian Shively were thrilled

when Brittany McGinnis’s number was called

for the USEF Gold Medal.

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