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Madison Square Garden Hosts Good Hands Finals Winner Sarah Thordsen

by Devon Garone
Emotion, competition, and camaraderie all ran high this year at Madison Square Garden. Annually, the world's most famous arena holds one of the equitation world's three finals at the National Horse Show. Thirteen of the sport's finest competed in the "Good Hands" Finals this year in the 118th edition of the National Horse Show, two more than competed last year. The event was held on Saturday, Nov. 3 and broken up into two sections. The first section, held at 10:00 in the morning, tested the riders on the rail and then with the traditional "figure eight" pattern. During the afternoon, the riders rode on the rail and were tested individually once again, this time with a more challenging pattern.

The pattern was posted just after the morning phase, just after the riders were informed that all 13 would be returning for the afternoon phase. "It's a challenging pattern," agreed stable mates Lucinda Hartley and Jennifer Fisher. The riders commented on the workout created by judge Lisa Waller. All riders agreed that they liked the challenge and were excited to rise to the occasion.

The pattern read as follows: Trot to the midpoint of the rail going the first direction of the ring. Stop. Pivot facing the midpoint of the far corner and divide the line into two sections, the first half cantering on the left lead and the second cantering on the right lead. Stop. Pivot to face the center of the ring. Trot on the left diagonal one fourth of the way down the center of the ring. Stop. Pivot to the right facing the rail. Canter a circle to the left and continue cantering to the rail. Stop. Turn to the right and drop your irons. Trot around the corner and down the rail without irons. Stop. Pick up irons, and exit the ring.

After all 13 had executed the workout, the Top 10 were called out and they entered the ring. Once trophies, red carpet, and presenters were in place, Sarah Thordsen was crowned victorious. Poised and elegant, Sarah accepted the tricolor to win the final. Devon Garone earned the second place honors.

The rest of the ribbons were as follows: Renee Zubrod, Lucinda Hartley, Betty Cox, Caroline Gillespie, Tasha Sandler, Caitlyn Spring, Shannon Connor, and Becca Peterie. At her press conference following the competition, Thordsen commented on this win being her first senior equitation attempt. After several top 10 rides in the junior finals, Thordsen entered the senior finals with a bang.

Overall, after talking with some of the riders about competing at the Garden the feelings were unanimous about the privilege of showing at the world's most famous arena. "It has been an honor," says third year competitor Caitlin Spring. "I love being able to represent Saddle Seat Equitation at Madison Square Garden."

Second year competitor Lucinda Hartley says she especially wanted to come to the Garden this year. "I wanted to support New York City this year as well as the National Horse Show." From the drilling press conference to the high society New York City audience, from the thrill of showing in the home of the New York Knicks to the excitement of competing for one third of equitation's most prestigious finals, this year at Madison Square Garden was a once in a lifetime experience.

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