The Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals aren’t usually a friendly competition; it’s one of the nerve-wracking finales of an equitation rider’s year. But it is for Brianne Goutal and Sloane Coles, the close friends who finished first and second tonight, Oct. 16 in Harrisburg, Pa., at the conclusion of the Pennsylvania National Junior weekend.
Coles and Goutal swapped places at the top of the standings; at the end of the first round, Coles stood on top of the 25 riders judges Cynthia Hankins and Scott Hofstetter called back to ride again. “Sloane was very solid the first round. Her position was great. But the first round was very close. We had her in front of Brianne by just one point,” said Hofstetter. “They’re both stylists, which we loved.” Both riders train with the Beacon Hill team, Frank and Stacia Madden, Krista Freundlich and Max Amaya.
In the second round, Goutal showed just a bit more polish than Coles. “She has an amazing natural ability. She’s so accurate, but also flowing and forward,” said Hankins.
Goutal solidified her place on top in the final test. Five riders: Goutal, Coles, Julie Welles, Maria Schaub and Blythe Marano had to test on their own horses over a course that included a tough counter-canter turn, a trot jump, two changes of lead and a hand gallop to the last oxer. Both Coles and Goutal landed in the counter-canter and held it around the tight turn, and struck a great hand-gallop to the last.
Coles actually was called back to the final test in third, behind Goutal and Welles. But Welles had a rail at the first jump, and a weak counter-canter, which dropped her to third. Maria Schaub moved up from fifth to fourth with a flawless test, while Marano’s awkward trot jump dropped her from fourth to fifth.
The first-round course Hofstetter and Hankins built this year was a classic Medal finals test. It forced the riders to ride off their eye, plan and execute a flowing track, and be precise to each fence. There weren’t any of the “tricks” of the finals courses of latter years, but complex, yet straightforward, questions.
Riders started off over a wingless square oxer, going away from the ingate, and then bent left to a straw jump vertical. A tight rollback off the end of the ring led to a white oxer, which was followed by a sharp right turn to a vertical, and then an immediate left to an oxer-to-oxer one stride in-and-out. This first group of fences caused their chare of problems. Some horses seemed surprised by the sharp turn off the rail to the oxer at no. 3 and either stopped or had the back rail. And many riders had difficulty negotiating a fluid tight turn to the following vertical. And some, slowed down by that twisting and turning, didn’t build up enough impulsion again to make the long one stride in the in-and-out work.
After the in-and-out, riders cantered around the end of the ring to a unique line. A wingless stone wall was the first element, and riders had an option at two split-rail verticals–set side-by-side but staggered about 6 feet–in the middle of the line, which concluded with an oxer. They could either jump to the outside, pushing for a long four strides to the right split-rail fence, and then a short four strides to the oxer. Or, they could jump to the left, with a short four strides to the other split-rail fence and a long four strides to the oxer. Ninety percent of the class chose to jump to the right, going from the long distance to the short, though both seemed to ride well.
Then, riders cantered around the end of the ring to a bending two-stride combination of verticals. Set right in the corner of the ring, this combination took quite a few horses by surprises, and there were multiple stops here. Then, they circled around to a wooden coop, followed by a rollback to the right, and a long gallop to the first of two fan oxers, set a bending five or six strides apart. Another rollback led to a long gallop straight down the ring to the final oxer. The course tested the riders’ ability to maintain impulsion and control around twisting turns and off blind approaches, and to ride distances off their eye.
Most of the riders expected to do well appeared on the stand-by called after all 283 riders had gone. But there were some notable exceptions. Addison Phillips, who won the WIHS Equitation Classic Finals last year, rode conservatively, and had some rubs. Hardin Towell, named best child rider the night before, had a rail behind in the two-stride combination. Carolyn Kelly’s horse took exception to the stone wall and stopped, though she finished up well. None of them made the final callback.
The second course was just as simple, yet demanding. Riders started over a six-stride line of verticals down the long side of the ring, then turned back to an oxer, then rolled back to a one-stride combination of split-rail verticals. Then, they turned right to an oxer, and then back again to another split-rail one-stride. Then came a difficult four-stride bending line to an oxer, and a rollback to a six-stride bending line. Riders finished with an oxer off a turn and a long gallop to the final oxer.
Great trips over the second-round course vaulted Lauren Hester from 16th to 11th in the end, and Henry Pfieffer from 13th to 10th. Alex Maida, who won the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search-West Finals a few weeks ago, rode a great round to move up from ninth to seventh. Morgan Taylor was called back in 11th, but when her horse hit the back rail on an oxer and tripped, after a weak approach, she dropped out of contention. Josephine Nash, third in the Medal finals last year, rode somewhat imprecise turns, taking her from 10th to out of the ribbons. Kimberly McCormack was called back in fith, but saw a long one into the second one-stride and ended up sixth.
In other action over junior weekend, Jack Hardin Towell had a banner few days, taking the championship and reserve in the large junior hunter, 16-17 division with Blink and Bellingham Bay, and claiming Best Child Rider On A Horse honors. Jennifer Waxman won three over-fences classes with Tuscany to take the grand and medium pony championships, and the Best Child Rider On A Pony title. Other champions included: small junior, 15 & underâ€”Davis Cup (Alex Stathis); large junior hunter, 15 & underâ€”Socrates (Addison Phillips); small junior hunter, 16-17â€”Signature (Kacy Jenkins); small ponyâ€”Far From Home (Megan Davis); large ponyâ€”Newsworthy (Olivia Esse). The Zone 5 team of Haylie Jayne, Joshua van der Veen, Henry Pfieffer, and Alex Parrish made history by claiming that zone’s first victory in the Prix des States junior jumper competition.
Pessoa/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals
Oct. 16, Harrisburg, Pa.
1. Brianne Goutal–Frank & Stacia Madden, Krista Freundlich, Max Amaya
2. Sloane Coles–Frank & Stacia Madden, Krista Freundlich, Max Amaya
3. Julie Welles–Missy Clark & Linda Langemeier
4. Maria Schaub–Frank & Stacia Madden, Krista Freundlich, Max Amaya
5. Blythe Marano–Missy Clark
6. Kimberly McCormack–Missy Clark & Kristy McCormack
7. Alex Maida–Susie Schroer & Duncan McFarlane
8. Emma Lipman–Jimmy Toon & Shachine Belle
9. Tatiana Dzavik–Bob Braswell & Christina Schlusemeyer
10. Henry Pfieffer–Polly Howard