The third group of amateur adult competitors entered the exposition hall on Friday in Springfield, Mass., to compete for the NEHC Adult Medal Final in the 18-22-year-old division. The second day of competition at the New England Equitation Championships featured 84 riders from seven states.
The challenging 11-fence course provided no easy options with broken lines, an end line fantail oxer that was the downfall of many horse and rider teams, and two one-stride in-and-outs. Riders had several options throughout the course to show off for the judges with tight inside turns.
Twenty-two riders made it back for a second trip, with the cut-off score set at a fairly high 75.25. The top five riders after Round 1 in order were Mariel Saccucci and Amanda Groher tied for first, (both with scores of 86.66), Rachel Crown, 84.50; Emma Johnson, 84.33; and Juliana Connors, 81.83.
The second round did little to change the rankings for most riders, with a few notable exceptions. Sarah Flink of Charlestown, Mass., aboard Logan, had a first round score of 76.00 and a second round score of 84.00, for a total of 160.00, moving from 18th to 7th place overall. Eileen McNamara of Weston, Mass., had a similar experience, with a first round score of 75.83, bettering it to 79 in Round 2, moving up from 19th to 10th place overall.
The top two riders completed Round 2 with .5 difference between them. Saccucci scored an 88.33 for a total of 174.99, and Groher a 88.83 for a total of 175.49. Both riders were asked to return to the ring for additional testing. The crowd waited expectantly having seen what the judging committee had put yesterday’s riders through.
Each rider was handed a copy of the course and the test was read aloud. Riders were asked to hand gallop fence 1, trot fence 2, counter-canter fence 7, continue down the long side, demonstrate two changes of lead and walk back into line.
Mariel Saccucci aboard Dimity Sharp’s chestnut horse Golden Rod went first. Returning to the trot after hand-galloping fence 1 was a challenge, and Saccucci managed it with just a few steps to spare. She demonstrated a lovely counter-canter and two beautiful flying changes down the long side.
Amanda Groher, of South Glastonbury, Conn., aboard the beautiful Czar-Z began her test. Her first two fences were great. She had some trouble with the counter-canter and demonstrated her lead changes from the walk to the canter before returning to the center of the ring.
It was not clear who the winner would be. Amanda had the higher score, but Mariel had performed better in the final test. We waited while all of the other riders were pinned. Finally, the reserve champion was announced: Amanda Groher. Champion: Mariel Saccucci. It was a day of outstanding riding.
As the adults clear out, the juniors pile in on Saturday. Today will feature open equitation classes, a warm-up of sorts for tomorrow’s main event: the NEHC Medal Final, where 258 riders are expected to compete. Many riders are looking forward to tonight’s “Challenge of the States,” where Saturday’s top riders will represent their state in a parade and competition. Also today is the practicum portion of the NEEC Junior Horsemanship Class.
Rider, Horse, Total Combined Score, Rounds 1 & 2
1. Mariel Saccucci, Golden Rod, 174.99, 30 points
2. Amanda Groher, Czar-Z, 175.49, 13 points
3. Rachel Crown, Nesbit, 168.16
4. Emma Johnson, Burberry, 166.58
5. Juliana Connors, Touche, 165.99
6. Emily Howe, My Mr. Darcy, 162.66
7. Sarah Flink, Logan, 160.00
8. Elysse Ruschmeyer, 159.99
9. Miranda Lekacos, Welt To Do, 157.74
10. Eileen McNamara, Neiko, 154.83
Elizabeth Howell grew up riding on the hunter/jumper circuit in Massachusetts. Now she is a horse show mom. She holds a day job at The Emily Post Institute and slings horse manure on the weekends. Her website is www.sheridesIpay.com.