Things were a little quieter than usual for Alexander Alston this week at the USEF Junior Hunter National Championships—East Coast. The 17-year-old rides with North Run, so typically there’s plenty of hustle and bustle to keep his days busy. But with most of the team on the road at other shows, Alston came to the show in Devon, Pennsylvania, hosted by Brandywine Horse Shows, with just his equitation mount Campreoll, his junior hunter *Cash* and North Run assistant trainer Maggie Gampfer. With Gampfer and a little help with Vincent Desiderio, Alston served as his own groom for the championship.
Alston kicked off his show Monday with a win in the large junior hunter, 16-17, classic round before turning his focus on the USHJA Gladstone Cup Equitation Classic—East. On July 12, 138 riders started the three-round class, which began with a classic round. Twenty riders progressed to the handy phase, and then the top six riders (Alston, Natalie Jayne, Dominic Gibbs, Kyla Sullivan, Riley Hogan, Skylar Wireman) returned for a work-off where they swapped horses.
Alston swapped onto Jayne’s mount Charisma, and after a strong performance there, he moved up the rankings to take the win.
“Our first round was good,” he said. “I kind of just got on a good gallop and kept going, so everything fell into place for that. My plan for the second round was to stay in the same place and not make any big moves that could cost me. I really wanted to just be consistent and hold where I was in the order with a solid round.
“Switching horses was interesting,” he added. “Luckily, I figured [Charisma] out quite quickly, and I felt like he was straightforward, so I felt like I got a great horse to switch on to. I was quite happy with my round.”
Alston, who is from Gahanna, Ohio, has been riding Missy Clark’s Campreoll off and on all year. The 15-year-old Swedish Warmblood (Camarao M—Precis) is a veteran of equitation finals with a number of top junior riders.
“ ‘Brian’ is very easy-going, and I feel like I can rely on him, which was nice to know, going into a class like this with three rounds,” Alston said. “He is a straightforward horse with quite a bit of experience, so he was a great partner in this class.”
Gampfer was thrilled to see Alston shine.
“It is awesome to have Alex win this class,” she said. “We always put this horse show on our schedule every year for our junior hunters, so obviously we have to bring an equitation horse with us to compete in the Gladstone [Cup Equitation Classic]. I love this class because the first phase is just a classic hunter round. For me, to get on and get a gallop where you can just jump to make it look even, is great. Then you can use the second round to go for it a bit more. It is kind of hunter derby style where you can lay down a great trip in the first round, then really go for it in the handy and do the handiest thing you can achieve. I like the final six, too, where they swap horses. It shows a rider test and that it isn’t just a partnership, but can you hop on a new horse and handle the pressure of possibly being on top or moving up, and can you adjust to the horse quickly enough. I think it is a real rider test in my opinion.”