Whitney Kent used the USEF Zone 5 horsemanship championship to prove she knows her stuff not just on horseback, but also on paper.
Held on Sept. 24 in conjunction with the Kentucky National horse show in Lexington, Ky., the class included a written exam, an under saddle phase, and a round over fences.
Kent, 16, who works with Tammy Provost and Wendy Newby, rode clean, consistent rounds on her gelding, Arto, a 10-year-old Hanoverian. She finished second in the flat phase with a score of 85, and second over fences with an 88. A score of 78 on the written exam clinched the win, with a total score of 251.
“He was a good boy,” said Kent, of Zionsville, Ind. “He’s been very good for me.”
Kent and Arto have been together for nearly a year. They compete in the equitation division as well as the junior hunters. Kent finished fourth in the Region 4 ASPCA Maclay Regional the night before the zone finals, so she’s qualified to compete in both the USEF Medal finals in Harrisburg, Pa., on Oct. 15 and the ASPCA Maclay finals in Syracuse, N.Y., in November.
Close on Kent’s heels was the overall reserve champion, Emily Van Der Walde. Van Der Walde won the written section with an 84, was fourth in the flat phase with an 80, and third in the over fences with an 86, leaving her only 1 point shy of Kent’s total.
“I enjoyed the written portion of the exam,” she said. “Once you read the book, you knew where they were coming from.” The book of course being George Morris’ Hunter Seat Equitation, from which the questions were taken.
Van Der Walde, who has been riding with Polly Howard of Temperance, Mich., for three years, really likes her new equitation mount, Malibu, who she’s been riding since June.
The 10-year-old Hanoverian carried his rider on a smooth trip over fences. “He was very good. He goes to the fences, but he’s willing to wait if I ask. I maybe could have ridden a bit better in the flat, but he was great.”
Van Der Walde and her sisters, who also ride, moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Michigan in order to train with Howard. The 14-year-old freshman also rides in the junior hunters and the junior jumpers.
“I enjoy the jumpers, but I really like the hunters,” she said. “That’s where I got started.”
Van Der Walde also plans on making the trip to Harrisburg. She would also like to make it to the Maclay finals.
The written exam proved to be a critical portion of the class. Composed of 26 questions, including multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, name matching, and true and false questions, it proved to be very tricky if the riders hadn’t read Morris’ book. The overall championship eluded Laura Pfieffer, winner of the hack and flat, because of a low score on the written exam.
The Zone 5 committee put together a tempting grand prize package, including a $2,000 grant, a $500 gift certificate to Ann Hubbard’s tack shop, and a beautiful wooden tack box from Saddler’s Row, along with a cooler, shirt and bridle. The trainer’s award included a gift certificate and a mirrored crop holder.
In addition to the second annual horsemanship class, Zone 5 also offered an inaugural $5,000 scholarship competition. Junior and amateur riders living in Zone 5 and members of the U.S. Equestrian Federation and U.S. Hunter Jumper Association were invited to enter.
Entrants must be consistent competitors in the A-rated equitation divisions and have qualified for at least one national medal final in the last three years. In addition, they must be in the top 20 percent of their class, and meet strict GPA and/or SAT score standards. Competitors were considered based on the quality of their written essay, along with their letters of recommendation and financial need.
When all the dust cleared, Ronne Proch, a freshman at Dennison College in Grandville, Ohio, received the top prize. The Chagrin Falls, Ohio, resident is studying neuroscience, and the scholarship will go toward her tuition.
“It’s great,” she said with a grin. “Every little bit helps.”
In the essay portion, Roche said she simply told the story of her horse. “That was easy to write,” she said. Proch qualified for the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals in 2003 and managed to meet the strict academic criteria.