It may have been the first time that riders from Zone 5 have brought home the Prix Des States Team Championship from the Pennsylvania National Junior Weekend, Oct. 13-16 in Harrisburg, Pa., but they're vowing it won't be the last.
And it was a nail-biting victory for the team from the Midwest. With a total of 13 faults over the two rounds, they just barely eked out the win over Zones 1, 10, and 3, who all finished tied for second with 16 faults.
Team members Alex Parrish on Cat's Charly, Joshua Vanderveen aboard Bull Run's Apollo Anton, Henry Pfieffer with Preston, and Haylie Jayne on Cartier, returned for round 2 standing in fourth. "I was expecting third at best!" said Parrish.
"We couldn't watch the final round. It was just too nerve-racking," Pfeiffer added.
They'd finished round 1 with 9 faults, just 1 fault behind Zone 3 and even with Zone 10. But all four competitors from Zone 1 had turned in clear rounds.
Vanderveen's 1 time fault in the first round looked as if it could be significant. "That would have been the heartbreaker if we'd missed the second round because of that," he said.
"We were just happy to make it to the top four!" said Pfeiffer.
But in round 2, Zone 5 riders kept adding good rounds to their score. Vanderveen redeemed himself with a clear effort, and Parrish improved from an eight-fault first round to a clear round. Pfieffer put 4 faults on the board, and after using Jayne's 16-fault last round as the drop score, Zone 5 had a 13-fault total to their names.
Meanwhile, the riders from Zones 3 and 10 couldn't put more than one clear round to-gether. They each added 8 faults to their totals, to finish with 16.
And the faultless Zone 1 team lost their margin for error completely when their first rider on course, Maggie McAlary, collected 29 faults. Julie Welles and Lapeti added another clean round, but Natalie Johnson picked up 8 faults. Their last rider, Cody Auer, had a one-rail cushion as she and her mount, Regina, stepped into the ring as the final pair.
As the buzzer sounded, Auer picked up the canter. And then the crowd's gasps followed the first rail to the ground. After two decisive strides, the clap of a hoof against the final fence was accompanied by a blend of heartbreak and ecstatic ovation as the second rail fell to the arena floor. The two rails meant 16 total faults for Zone 1 and a breakthrough win for the Zone 5 team.
The next night proved that three was a charm for Brianne Goutal and Onira, who claimed the USEF Prix des States individual championship with the only clean three rounds of the week.
The pair took the lead during phase 1 of the individual junior jumper division, the speed round, and then added another clean round in the first round of the team competition. "Going into the third round was so nerve-racking," said Goutal. "After having two clear rounds I was thinking 'Well I can either go down from here or I can win.' "
With second-placed Welles and Lapeti, finishing phase 3 with a total of 8 faults, Goutal and Onira could afford one mistake. They didn't need it, as they jumped yet another faultless round to seal thevictory.
Jack Hardin Towell, Jr. has won at the Pennsylvania National before, but this year he also earned his first best child rider on a horse title. "That's big. I've been in the running before, but I've never won it. I usually just had one horse to showâ€”Caped Crusaderâ€”and even if he was champion, it's hard to impress the judges for best child rider with just one," he said.
But this year, Towell, 16, rode four hunters, and he ended up champion and reserve in the large junior hunter, 16-17, division on Blink and Bellingham Bay, and Blink went on to claim the grand junior champion hunter cooler.
"I knew I had good horses coming here.I knew that if I rode them well, we'd do well. I had four junior hunters here, and two of them were 6, one was 7. Bellingham Bay was the only older horse I had, so three of them were actually pretty green," said Towell.
Blink, a 6-year-old Dutch Warmblood by Voltaire, arrived in the United States this spring, and Towell started showing him in the junior division in May. "I had no clue what he'd be like coming to indoors, whether he'd even get a ribbon. The first time he went in, he looked around a bit, but then he calmed down and went great," he said. "You can go to schooling shows with him, and he won't be quite as spectacular. But then you come somewhere big like this, and he goes as good as he has to."
Towell added, "I have to thank my sister [Liza Towell] a lot, because she rode him every morning and got him just right. I had three others to do, and I couldn't have done it without her."
One of those others was the catch ride Bellingham Bay. A successful junior mount in California with Stephanie Danhakl, the bay gelding moved eastwhen Laura Beth King Kaplan bought him this summer. Towell picked up the ride during the Hampton Classic (N.Y.) in September and was reserve championon him at the Capital Challenge (Md.).
After winning two classes on the first day, Jennifer Waxman started her second day of showing the medium pony Tuscany with a pragmatic attitude that eventually led to earning the title of best child rider on a pony.
"I wasn't really nervous because he'd been so good the day before, so the pressure was kind of off. But I was hoping to have solid rounds, and he was really good again," she said.
Another blue ribbon, added to a third place in the hack, brought them not only the medium pony title, but also the grand pony hunter championship.
"This is very exciting because it's his first year here, and I've never been champion here before," she said.
Waxman, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, started riding Tuscany in January. The bay pony had been a consistent winner in California with owner Caroline Spogli, and Waxman decided to lease him.
They had a great spring, which culminated in the grand and medium pony hunter tricolors at the Devon Horse Show (Pa.). "Whatever distance you get to, he always jumps well. You can really trust him," said Waxman, 13.
Another Devon winner reprised their title at the Pennsylvania National. Addison Phillips not only claimed the large junior hunter, 15 and under, championship on her Devon champion Socrates, but she also took the reserve on Who's On First.
"I was hoping it would go as well. I knew he could do itâ€”it was just a matter if I could pull it off," Phillips said of her rounds on Socrates, whom she's leasing for the year. "From the moment I started riding him, we knew how special he is. I can't thank Missy Clark enough for setting this arrangement up. He has one of the best jumps I've ever felt. That gives me a very big advantage. He's a very special horse, and you don't see many like him."
Phillips, 15, was also thrilled that her long-time mount, Who's On First pulled off the reserve championship. "He's never been champion or reserve here, so that was kind of my goal here with him. He's a great horse, and I've had him for so long, so it was nice for him to do well too," she said.
Kacey Jenkins and Signature have also developed a remarkable partnership in their three years together. The time paid off with the small junior hunter, 16-17, championship.
"This is the first time I've really been at the top in a big show like this," said Jenkins. "I just had to step up the best that I could, and he [Signature] did too. He knows when it's time."
Signature, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood, had to take 2004 off due to injury, so the bay gelding's return to winning form made her even happier. Jenkins says that riding Signature has helped foster a fresh confidence that empowers them to step up when needed. "Before, we've never been able to rise up through the pressure. But when I got on him yesterday, I could just tell he was ready to play," she said.
In the final class, Jenkins needed to place higher than fourth to clinch the tricolor. "When they called the stand-by list, I was in third and Lexi [Reed] was in first. In order to be champion, I couldn't have been bumped down," said Jenkins. They kept their spot and took home the championship cooler. "I've always been taught positive thinking," said Jenkins. "I just went in and tried to ride my best."
The Right Mentality
Alexandra Stathis did a little of riding her best too, and it paid off with the small junior, 15 and under, championship aboard her Davis Cup. "It was pretty incredible. He just walked into the ring and was fabulous," Stathis said."
It's Stathis' first year showing at the indoor shows, and she started the season off with a bang, claiming championships at the Capital Challenge (Md.) the week before with "Davis" and her new horse, Truly, the successful green conformation horse she'd just purchased from Molly Ohrstrom.
"I just have to go in the ring with the mentality that I can win, or else I'll never do well," said Stathis, 15. "Davis has gotten used to the bigger horse showsâ€”before he was a little bit overwhelmed."
Stathis, of Short Hills, N.J., started riding with Scott Stewart this year, and she thinks it's made big a difference in her riding. "I've been riding a lot more horses, since Scott has so many, and getting used to different rides, which helps a lot. And I've figured out how to put Davis on a program that keeps him happy, but still lets him be a horse and stay fit," she said.
Olivia Esse has also figured out the program for Newsworthy, the famous large pony. And it's resulted in the large pony championshipâ€”Newsworthy's third consecutive Pennsylvania National tricolor, with three different riders.
"I wasn't nervous so much because he's famous, but a little bit because it's such an important show," said Esse, 11, from Los Angeles, Calif. She's been leasing Newsworthy for the year.
Esse, who also plays the cello and is on her school basketball team, has been showing for five years, having started in the leadline and short-stirrup division. She just moved up to the large ponies this year, and trainer Randy Durand wanted her to have a good teacher.
"He's the best," Durand said of Newsworthy. "He's given her so much confidence and taught her how to be competitive. Coming here, she had some big shoes to fill, so I just wanted everything to go well and for her to be competitive. She's a very soft, very natural rider. It doesn't matter what she rides, they all love her."
Megan Davis also had some impressive records to follow. Her Far From Home was a regular winner with former owner Alexandra Arute, including a tricolor at the 2004 Devon. But this year, the ride, and wins, are all Davis'. She and "Winston" claimed the small pony championship.
"I was nervous because I knew I was in the run for being champion, but when I got on him, I could feel that he was going to be so good," Davis said.
Davis, 11, bought Winston in May 2004, but Arute showed him at Devon last year because she was still learning onhim. After Devon, she took over the reinsand has been winning ever since. "I had gotten ribbons here with him last year, and I set my goal that I wanted to do well here this year," she said. "I think we've definitely been improving. We've come a long way, even though it was good even from the start."
Even though she's from Gambrills, Md., Davis rides with Tim and Kelly Goguen, who live in Connecticut. She travels there on weekends to ride and meets them at shows.