Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 11
As the saying goes, first impressions mean everything.
Kelli Cruciotti certainly made a good first impression on the judges, Julie Winkel and Scott Hofstetter, leading from start to finish in the Pessoa/US Hunt Seat Medal Final.
“She went early in the class, and we couldn’t stop thinking about it the whole class,” said Winkel. “We’re like ‘Oh my God, that girl was so good,’ and kept going back to her to compare the other riders, and it was like wow. Then to come back in the second round and do it again, we’re like, “Oh my God, that was awesome.”
“The thing that stood out with Kelli’s first round was the way she rode the first line,” Hofstetter said, “The first jump she really came forward, and it was kind of a blind turn, and she left the stride out. She looked like right away like she was going to go for the seven strides, so we really liked that.
“She was just so forward everywhere on the course and seemed to be knowing everywhere where she was and she had a great partnership with her horse the whole time. That’s what stood out to us. She was very confident with the way she started,” he finished.
Cruciotti, Elizabeth, Colo., paired up with her longtime mount Monterrey, and her relationship with him gave her the confidence to go for it.
“I’m very overwhelmed by everything and my horse,” she said. “He was amazing. I couldn’t have asked him to be any better. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime partner.”
Cruciotti has quite the team behind her. She trains with her mother Cindy Cruciotti along with Peter Wylde and Don Stewart—all of whom had nothing but praise for the 18-year-old.
“She’s one of the most gifted riders I’ve ever known,” said Wylde. “She’s incredibly talented, and I think she’s going all the way. I think this is just the beginning of her big thing that she’s going to do in this sport.”
See Cruciotti’s first round here:
Hunter Holloway has been on a bridesmaid streak in the big eq finals, and she continued it again, taking second aboard Any Given Sunday.
“He’s an amazing horse, and he comes through for me every time,” said the 17-year-old from Topeka, Kan. “He’s a very trustworthy. He’s always Steady Eddie and handles very well through the turns.”
Stewart, who also helps train Holloway, was quick to point out that their secret to success lies in their drive to work.
“They work like dogs. They want to do well,” he said. “They’re ferocious as far as competition goes. They’re a lot of fun to help.”
Mckayla Langmeier rounded out the top three with Eclipse—a horse she first sat on two days prior to the final. “He’s really fun to ride,” she said. “He’s really scopey and brave. He just walks right in there and performed the best he could.”
Eclipse, an 8-year-old warmblood, is owned by Missy Clark. Sophie Simpson piloted him to fifth in the Medal Final last year.
Want to know about what makes the top three riders special? Be sure to pick up a copy of the Oct. 26 print issue of The Chronicle of the Horse for in-depth coverage of the Pessoa/USEF Medal Final and the rest of the Pennsylvania National Junior Weekend.