Most of us, when aiming to compete in the North American Adult Amateur Equitation Championships, would have a mount lined up at least a few weeks in advance, allowing adequate time for introductions. But most of us aren’t Jordan Allen.
Coltrane arrived at Ken and Emily Smith’s Ashland Farms in Lexington, Kentucky, just a week prior to Capital Challenge.
“I rode him for the first time yesterday,” said Allen of Kevan Husky’s 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Careful—Can-Can). “I just feel really lucky to ride him. He’s so easy. I asked, ‘What is the trick to him?’ He just flatted in the morning, and he was amazing this morning and in this class. I’m really excited and so happy with him.”
The 19-year-old from West Bloomfield, Michigan, aged out of the junior ranks last fall and hadn’t focused as much on equitation this year. But if she had cobwebs to brush off, she didn’t show it—topping the equitation championship on Sept. 25 at the World Equestrian Center in Wilmington, Ohio, where Capital Challenge relocated from the normal venue in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, due to Prince George’s County’s tightened regulations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel really lucky to be able to do this, especially in these unprecedented times,” Allen said. “With everything going on, we’re so lucky to show. The World Equestrian Center has done the most incredible job. The facility is amazing. I’ve heard amazing, amazing things. I can’t wait to come back.”
A sophomore at the University of South Carolina, Allen elected to take online classes this semester. And while simultaneously taking a full course load of seven classes, she’s traveling to shows with the Ashland Farms crew.
“They’re like family to me. I can’t even put into words, they’re the best people ever,” said Allen. “I just feel very, very lucky to be part of such a family. We love each other so much. There’s no one else I would rather start our days at 4 a.m. and leave at 8 for. We have the best time. We love each other. I feel lucky to ride there.”
Hudkins Finds Redemption
Last year, the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Children’s Medal Final didn’t go to plan for Campbell Hudkins. So when she returned this year, at the higher height for the EMO Insurance Agency/USHJA 3’3″ Jumping Seat Medal Final—East, Hudkins focused on her mental game.
“I came into this weekend hoping I’d have solid rounds and do well,” said Hudkins, 13, who trains with Max Amaya of Stonehenge Stables and Stacia Klein Madden of Beacon Hill Show Stables. “I got up at 6 a.m. and rode in the ring. I did my age equitation, rode my jumper and took about five hours in my hotel room. I stayed there and didn’t even think about the show, and then I came out and walked the course and had about three hours inside. I really concentrated on me rather than the course, and I think that helped to keep me calm and not stress out.”
Things didn’t start out as she hoped. After the flat phase, Hudkins sat in 75th place. But her third-placed performance in the gymnastics propelled her to eighth coming into the last phase of the class. And in that final phase, the hours of detachment from the nerve-wracking show environment paid off as she claimed the win with Maverick Helmer’s Canterbury.
“I can’t even believe that I just won,” said Hudkins, Farmington, Connecticut. “I got the highest score I’ve ever gotten, an 89.50. That was really, really exciting. After that, I was just really hoping that I could at least get a ribbon. I’m so happy that I got first. I couldn’t even believe it.
“Maverick also won this class in 2017 with Canterbury, so that was exciting that he could do it again,” she continued. “We call him ‘Fruit’ in the barn, and he’s the best horse I could ever ask for. He really tries hard and works and understands and tries to help you. Since I’ve been riding him for 2 1/2 years now I’ve really gotten to understand him. And he’s helped me come up from 3’ to 3’6”, and that’s been amazing that I qualified for Medal and Maclay Finals my first year doing the 3’6’ on him.”
Rauschenbach Makes Her Equitation Debut
For Madison Rauschenbach, 17, the jumper ring with its speed and turns always called her. But this year she added equitation to her radar when she started training with Don Stewart.
“It’s been nothing but wonderful. It’s been such a pleasure,” said Rauschenbach of Newburgh, New York. “I do the jumpers a lot more. I wanted to have good rounds. I just tried to stay calm, cool and collected. [My horse Iwan is] so easy. I know that I go in the ring, and he’s going to be right there with me.”
Though the Dutch Warmblood gelding (Quasimodo VD Molendreef—Katarma) is only 7, he was game to take Rauschenbach to her first equitation final, the Palm Beach International Academy North American Junior Equitation Championships.
“He is the most precious little animal,” said Rauschenbach. “He goes in and does his job every single day. He doesn’t spook. He’s just so lovely. He’s so game to do anything. I could not love him more. He’s so sweet on the ground. He just kind of wants you to cuddle him all the time.
“He loves bananas,” Rauschenbach added. “He had a banana before the first round, after the first round and before the second round. That’s his key! He loves bananas so, so much. He’s like a little monkey.”
Rauschenbach topped both rounds in a starting field of 100 competitors, with scores of 89.33 and 91.33. Taylor Griffths-Madden followed in second place with a combined score of 177.79.
“I didn’t do the equitation really until this year,” Rauschenbach said. “I was trying not to get nervous, but I kind of went in there, the first line, and I was like, ‘I just need to relax.’ I kind of took a breath here and there, and he couldn’t have been any better. He was outrageously perfect.”
Experience Pays Off For Dayner
For the last two years, Schuyler Dayner arrived at Capital Challenge with the mindset of adding experience and miles to her resume. But this year, she upped her goals: She wanted a ribbon in the EMO Insurance Agency/USHJA Jumping Seat Medal Final and the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Children’s Medal Final.
“I felt more comfortable this year after doing it a couple times,” said the 13-year-old from Odessa, Florida. “The first few years I was a little nervous, so this year I was much more confident.”
With her own Gambino, she finished 10th in the Jumping Seat Medal, and Dayner closed out the equitation weekend at Capital Challenge with a win in the THIS Medal Final. Dayner trains with her mother, Heather Dayner, but worked with Madden and Beacon Hill Show Stables at Capital Challenge.
“He’s really a great horse for my first few times at finals and getting around,” said Dayner of the 14-year-old Irish Draft Horse (Rock Rimmon Silver Diamond—Pearl Drop). “In my first course I was just aiming for high 80s so I could come back for the second round, and in the second round I was really nervous, so I was just trying to stay calm. I was just trying to think about having a nice round and not psyching myself out and staying consistent in the scores.
“It really felt amazing,” she continued. “I came here expecting to get a ribbon. I didn’t expect to win.”