Harrisburg, Pa., Oct. 17
It was the one fence that won it for Hayley Barnhill.
After a long day of two courses, a flat test, and a switch of horses, Barnhill ended up on top of the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals. And it was the first fence she rode on Samantha Schaefer’s horse in the switch that clinched it for her. After two rounds and a flat phase, Barnhill and Schaefer were even in the eyes of the judges, George Morris and Julie Winkel. So, they brought both girls to the center of the ring, and had them dismount and trade horses, without assistance.
“That was a surprise!” Barnhill said. “The two horses were very different.” Schaefer and Barnhill were laughing and talking as they switched saddles. They both got on from the ground without problem, though Barnhill had the advantage there, since Schaefer’s Pioneer is just 16 hands, and Schaefer had to scale Podest’s 16.3 hands to mount.
“They were dead even, so we wanted to test those two,” Winkel said. “And it was the first fence that separated them in the end. When Sam went to the first fence on Hayley’s horse, she got stuck a bit at the jump. Hayley got a great feel of Sam’s horse right off the bat on the circle, and really rode up to the first fence.”
Morris and Winkel set a flowing, straightforward course for the first round that gave them 28 standouts to ride again. After the second round, which was the first round ridden backward, they had seven to come back for a test on the flat. Winkel explained that at that point, they knew Barnhill and Schaefer were ahead of the pack, but they used the flat test to sort out third through seventh places.
“Hayley’s a tough kid and a great rider,” said David Pellegrini, who has trained Barnhill, 17, for the majority of her career. “This is the greatest thrill of my career. She’s always ridden whatever I put her on, and she’s finally riding some tremendous quality horses.” Joining Pellegrini with trainer credits at Medal Finals were Kelly and Tim Goguen, Missy Clark, John Brennan, and Tom Wright.
Barnhill’s ride for the win, Podest, is owned by Emily Gardner and came to Barnhill through Clark. Barnhill began leasing him this spring. “He’s such an amazing horse!” Barnhill said. “He has a huge stride, he’s so adjustable, and he’s got the best rhythm.”
Schaefer agreed. “He’s got the best canter ever!” she said of Podest.
You can click on the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals Blog green button on the Pennsylvania National page of the Chronicle’s website, where there’s a round-by-round description of the action.
Also, full coverage, with in-depth interviews, photos and analysis, will be in the Oct. 29 issue of the Chronicle.