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November 21, 2005

Ewanouski Heads Winning Grazing Fields Contingent At New England Equitation Championships

Christopher Ewanouski of Scituate, Mass., became the first rider to win both the NEHC Junior Medal Final and the Katie Battison Horsemanship Award at the New England Equitation Championships, Oct. 20-23 in West Springfield, Mass. Ewanouski also became the first male rider to win the NEHC Junior Medal Final since Adam Ottomanelli in 1993. He joins the ranks of Olympians Peter Wylde and McLain Ward, who were crowned in 1981 and 1992, respectively. Ewanouski, who trains with Kathy Fletcher at Grazing Fields Farm in Buzzards Bay, Mass., rode Sam I Am, an 8-year-old, dark bay warmblood that he co-owns with Fletcher. "He is the greatest," Ewanouski said of "Sam." "I could not have done it without him." Fletcher purchased the gelding as a green prospect two years ago from S&L Farms, and the horse has taken to the equitation ranks like a seasoned campaigner. "Sam has so much heart," said Ewanouski. "He will jump anything from anywhere. He never says 'no.' " After the initial phase of competition, Ewanouski, 17, stood in second place behind Alexandra Solsvig riding Borealus. A brilliant second round by Kim McCormack aboard Sundance moved her into the second spot, with Ewanouski standing solidly in third. Following a challenging test of the top six, McCormack and Ewanouski appeared to be neck-in-neck. "At that point, neither one of us stood out as the clear winner," said Ewanouski. "It was a very close competition." Judges called for a retest of the top two, with Ewanouski taking over the reins on Sundance and McCormack getting the ride on Sam I Am. The test included a trot fence, a hand gallop fence, a tight rollback, and two changes of lead. "Fortunately I was able to get a good rhythm and just keep going," said Ewanouski. "Kim's horse is very nice; I really enjoyed riding him." For Ewanouski, the win capped off many years of hard work. While he has been riding since the age of 6, the show world is relatively new to him. "I rode at a local barn and also worked there for many years," he said. "I did some local schooling shows but nothing at this level." A recent high school graduate, Ewanouskihas been a working student at Grazing Fields since 2003. "Chris spends every waking moment at the barn," said Fletcher. "He will spend eight hours working and then ride for another four. He is such a hard worker—a true horseman." Ewanouski believes that this work experience benefited him in the horsemanship competition, which included a written test and a hands-on practicum. According to the NEHC rulebook, the horsemanship award is pre-sented to "the 'all-around horseperson,' who not only rides well but understands the great importance of quality horse care." The award is presented in memory of Katie Battison, a talented junior rider who died in a car accident in 1998. "Working at the barn has taught me a lot about horsemanship," said Ewanouski. "My horses are like my pets. Not only do I have to care for my horses (and those of others) on a daily basis, but I want to do so. It is something that is very important to me." Ewanouski is the latest in a line of Grazing Fields riders who have won the NEHC Junior Medal Final in recent years. Sara Wytrzes was victorious in 2000, followed by Sophie Coppedge (2001), Whitney Hollinger (2002) and Georgina Coolidge (2003). Ewanouski is honored to be in such company. "It is a wonderful feeling to be able to continue the tradition," he said. "I owe so much of my success to Kathy [Fletcher]. She has helped me so much with my focus and my confidence in the show ring. I cannot say enough good things about Kathy and everyone else at Grazing Fields." Ewanouski has been accepted to Fairfield University (Conn.) and has deferred admission until next fall in order to focus on his riding. "Chris' parents and I are insisting that he go to college," said Fletcher. "Even if he decides to become a professional rider, it is important for him to have an education and broaden his horizons." After college, Ewanouski plans to pursue a career in horses, and Fletcher believes that he will succeed. "Chris is a talented rider and a hard worker, and he really loves the animals," said Fletcher. w DeTemple Surprises Herself Another Grazing Fields student, Karen DeTemple, claimed championship honors in the NEHC Amateur Medal Final, 35 and over, aboard Clifford, a chestnut warmblood owned by Kathy Fletcher's mother. "I had to switch gears pretty quickly," said DeTemple, who primarily rides in the jumper divisions with her horse, Delgato. "I returned from the Fidelity Jumper Classic [Mass.] in September and had a few equitation lessons on Clifford to get ready for the finals." Young rider Ali Wagstaff currently leases Clifford but graciously allowed DeTemple to ride him in the finals. "Clifford has the biggest heart in the world," said DeTemple. "I loved him from the moment I first rode him. He's so funny—he can be quiet or fresh, yet his expression never changes." DeTemple, a professional event planner and mother to a 17-month-old son, Morgan, has only been riding for about 10 years. Competing against lifelong riders, she was amazed to be called back to test along with the eventual reserve champion, Patricia Phelps. "I had never been called back this high in any finals," DeTemple said. "The test of the top two involved jumping three fences, trotting a single jump and hand galloping an oxer. Patty went first. I was nervous, so I just closed my eyes while she rode the test. I sat quietly on Clifford until it was my time to ride." The tactic paid off for DeTemple, who performed a flawless trip. When she was announced as the winner, DeTemple was ecstatic. "I couldn't believe it. I started crying. I just couldn't believe it," she said. Like Ewanouski, DeTemple said she owes her success to Fletcher and everyone at Grazing Fields. "I moved here from San Francisco four years ago and was so fortunate to find Kathy and Grazing Fields," she said. w Coolidge Reunites With Cocoa Georgina ("Nina") Coolidge, also of Grazing Fields, reunited with Katelyn Denby's Cocoa to claim the top spot in the NEHC Amateur Medal Final for riders aged 18 to 22. The pair also won their open equitation class. It was a key win for Coolidge, the 2003 NEHC Junior Finals champion and a sophomore at Washington & Lee University (Va). "It was actually my first time riding since August," Coolidge said. "I was so happy to ride and show my favorite horse." Fletcher was pleased that Coolidgewas able to get the ride on Cocoa. "Nina and Cocoa are great partners," Fletcher said. "Right before last year's Finals, Cocoa sprained his hock, so Nina was unable to compete. She was working in our office this summer and asked if she could start riding him again for this year's finals. It all worked out." The 14-year-old, bay warmblood, whom Coolidge leased for a while as a junior rider, earned the judges' award as best equitation horse. The veteran has garnered numerous wins with both Denby and Coolidge. "He is not one of the easiest to ride," said Coolidge, "But once you figure him out, he is so much fun. You know he will always put in a good round." Coolidge did just that, and judges called her back to test along with second-placed Regan Duffee. For the test, the two were required to switch mounts. "Regan's horse is very different from Cocoa, but he was a very good ride. It was a close competition and could have gone either way," said Coolidge. "One thing that helped me was the fact that I did intercollegiate riding last year, so I had to ride all different types of horses." After a season away at college—and away from finals competition—Coolidge was thrilled to be back at the NEEC. "I just love the atmosphere. I enjoy being in the equitation ring," she said. "New England was the first finals I ever did, back when I was 12. It is always a lot of fun. Everyone from Grazing Fields comes to the show to cheer us on, and we always have several kids and adults competing." Coolidge's excitement continued as her younger sister, Lucy, was announced as the winner of the sportsmanship award. "It was awesome for her, and for me," she said. "Lucy definitely deserved it." The NEHC's lifetime achievement award for a horse was presented to Missy Clark's black gelding, Brother. The award is givenin honor of Nicholas, the winner of the1989 finals with Kristen Bumpus. Brother, who earned ribbons in numerous equitation classes with riders such as Matthew Brown and Vanessa Haas, was ridden at this year's finals by Michael Hughes. Brother won the 1998 NEHC Junior Medal Final with Jenna Kieley in the saddle.
 
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