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Youth Contest Kicks Off 68th Annual New England


Top winners in the Youth of the Year contest were

(L-R) Miller Young Fina and Julie Lagosz in the walk

and trot division; HillaryWiles Lafayette and Emma
in the senior division; and Rowan Winters
in the junior division.
(not pictured: junior
 division champion Gabrielle Blackman)



Besides being one of the largest and most competitive Morgan shows in the world, New England Morgan also boasts one of the most competitive youth contests. This year 25 youth and junior exhibitors stepped up to compete for the title of New England Morgan Youth of the Year.


The American Morgan Horse Association holds the youth contests as a way for young equestrians to compete not just in riding, but in all aspects of horsemanship. The contest consists of four phases: a judging phase, written exam, an oral presentation and a riding or driving pattern.  Each competitor receives a score for each individual phase, and the youth with the highest total score is the overall winner.


The contest is separated by age with a walk trot division, a junior division for those 13 and under, and a senior division for 14- to 21-year-olds. This year both the champion and reserve champion in the senior division qualify to compete in the national Youth of the Year contest in Oklahoma City.


The youth contest began on Saturday before the start of the rest of the show with the written exam. The exam is comprehensive, covering everything from Morgan history and showing rules to equine health and general horsemanship knowledge. Following the exam, contest participants went straight into the judging phase. In this phase, participants earn points not only by judging classes, but also giving reasons why they placed each horse as they did.


On Sunday the contest began again, bright and early, with the horsemanship patterns. Contestants may ride any seat or may elect to drive.  This phase is similar to an equitation workout or a dressage test, and is a chance for the participants to show off their hands-on horsemanship skill.  Following the patterns, contestants presented their speeches. They are given a topic ahead of time to research, prepare and create visual aids. 


Finally, on Sunday night after two days of tough competition, the awards are presented for the individual phases and for the top eight overall competitors in each of the age groups.


This year’s walk trot division winner was Miller Young Fina. This versatile equestrian, who competes in both western and saddle seat divisions, will be one to watch as she moves up the ranks in the youth contests. Reserve went to successful hunt seat rider Julie Lagosz.


In her first year out of walk trot, Gabrielle Blackman made a grand entrance into the junior division by earning the championship title. Gabrielle is also a tough competitor in English Pleasure and Saddle Seat Equitation. Also stepping up to the junior division this year was reserve champion Rowan Winters, competing this year in the hunter pleasure division.



The NEMHS Senior Youth Of The Year

 Hillary Wiles Lafayette (center) posed with

former National Youth Of The Year winners

Kerry Shanley and Erin Van Steenburgh.


The stakes are highest in the senior division, which also drew the highest numbers of the three sections. This year’s winner was Hillary Wiles Lafayette in her first year as a senior youth. Hillary competes with her horse, Three D Renegade, in the hunter pleasure, hunt seat equitation, hunter over fences, and dressage classes. Reserve champion in this tough contest was Emma Nobles, another versatile rider who has been successful riding hunt seat, saddle seat and in driving classes.


The New England Morgan Horse Show awards $250 towards the trip to the Grand National for these two talented equestrians. New England will be cheering for Hillary and Emma as they make their journey to Oklahoma City this October to compete for top honors in the Youth of the Year contest.

This year, 1994 Youth of the Year Erin Van Steenburgh once again took on the task of organizing and running this contest. The contest would not be possible without the help and support of many volunteers and trainers, as well as show manager Fred Nava and the NEMHS show committee.

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