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Pleasure Equitation Medallion Finals

The pressure is on for dozens of teens focused on the series of pleasure equitation finals this fall.   For some of them, it’s their last ride in the division they’ve competed in so long and the last shot of winning the gold or the medallion or the cup.


Sarah Lawson took a little pressure off her plate earning the top spot in the Saddle and Bridle Pleasure Equitation Medallion Finals at St. Louis.   This 16-year-old rides under the direction of Shelley Fisher and got her start riding in third grade in 4-H. This poised high school junior might surprise you when she tells another animal she loves to show is pigs.  “I am involved in FFA and am working on an SAE program in Equine Science.”


Sarah Lawson

Senior Pleasure Equitation Medallion Champion


In response to winning the Medallion after a long day of competition, Lawson said, “I was totally shocked! It was unexpected. I was just so proud of my horse! I was hoping to have strong rail work and just take everything in, enjoy the moment and learn!”


Lawson has her eyes set on attending William Woods University or Purdue University and for now would like to be a horse trainer.  And she’s already learning from the best trainer and teammate she fondly calls Pepper.


“Pepper is such a young smart horse, who is so willing to do whatever you ask of him. He's taught me so much and I just adore his young, bubbly personality,” Lawson said.


Nick Maupin doesn’t have time to be nervous, he seems to be more focused on his colleagues in pleasure equitation who count on his humor and charm.  He started riding when he was seven after tagging along to some of his mom’s riding lessons.  In addition to riding he also plays lacrosse.  He lives in Sussex, Wis., and this 14-year-old is getting ready to take on the senior division next year.  He finished in reserve in the UPHA Challenge Cup then earned the top award in junior medallion competition in St. Louis.  Maupin said he was happy to place well in both but, “I was even happier that I had such great rides.” 


Maupin’s goal this year is to not hold back. “My trainer, Carol, always said that she would rather have me screw up while being exciting, rather than to not screw up and be boring.” 


Maupin also likes the challenge of equitation versus performance divisions. “I think equitation is more challenging than performance in the aspect that that we work extremely hard on our form while getting the most out of our horses, like performance riders. I think good equitation makes any horse look much better.


Barnmates Nick Maupin and Kristen Gardner

Junior Pleasure Equitation Champion

and  Reserve Champion respectively


Kristen Gardner is one of the riders who relies on Maupin’s friendship to stay focused and grounded.  She headed into the fall finals with an exciting win right off the top at Indianapolis.   Her colleague, Maupin finished in reserve but quickly made his way to share victory pictures after their rides.   Gardner did the same thing after finishing in reserve in St. Louis. 


“I think I was the first one back to Knollwood,” recalled Gardner.  “I went straight there after getting off my horse.”  Gardner is thankful for her mom’s dedication to her riding and what she loves. “She takes me three times a week to ride and it’s 45 minutes each way.”


She is very thankful for the dedication from trainers Jonelle and Robert Gardiner who have made sure she has the right horse and is always in top form and ready for her rides.  Gardner, like Maupin, will enter the senior division next year but is first focused on the Mane Event in Springfield, Ill.


The Mane Event will be Victoria McHenry’s final ride in pleasure equitation.   While it’s something she has focused on since she first started riding at Cascade Stables in New Orleans, she’s excited and focused on the pressure of the competition.  The pressure is shared by her parents, Lewis and Vicky McHenry, who take turns traveling states away with their daughter for the final leg of her long equitation career.   Her teammate, CH Creditworthy, is a tough one but one of the best if you believe in her and know what she needs.


“She knows her patterns,” said McHenry of her horse. “When I’m calm, she’s calm.”


Senior Pleasure Equitation Medallion

Reserve Champion Victoria McHenry

with Barbe Smith


Victoria, fondly called “Red” by trainer Barbe Smith and assistant trainer Jeremy Granier, is a senior in high school in New Orleans.   It’s her final round in the pleasure equitation ring and so far she’s finished on top at Indiana and St. Louis.   She keeps it all in perspective, always confident and focused as she handles not only her nerves, but the nail biting she knows is happening outside the ring from her family, friends and trainers who want her to do so well.   


Victoria is headed to the Mane Event and is also focused on deciding upon the right college for next fall.  But she promises there is one thing she is sure of, “I will continue to ride.” 


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