Friday, May. 31, 2024

Amalfi Turns Into A Champion At USEF Junior Hunter Championship East Coast

Danielle Cooper might owe her mother an Italian vacation.

Cooper’s ride for the grand junior and small junior hunter, 16-17, titles at the USEF Junior Hunter Championship East Coast came by the name Amalfi through somewhat wishful thinking.

“My mom named him Amalfi because she loves Italy. It’s a place in Italy that she wanted to visit but hasn’t been able to because of my riding!” Cooper said.

Perhaps after the July 27-29 competition in Saugerties, N.Y., at the HITS-On-The-Hudson venue, the Coopers can finally visit Amalfi, the location.

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Danielle Cooper might owe her mother an Italian vacation.

Cooper’s ride for the grand junior and small junior hunter, 16-17, titles at the USEF Junior Hunter Championship East Coast came by the name Amalfi through somewhat wishful thinking.

“My mom named him Amalfi because she loves Italy. It’s a place in Italy that she wanted to visit but hasn’t been able to because of my riding!” Cooper said.

Perhaps after the July 27-29 competition in Saugerties, N.Y., at the HITS-On-The-Hudson venue, the Coopers can finally visit Amalfi, the location.

When Cooper first competed at junior hunter finals four years ago, she set her mind on winning there.

“Now I’ve achieved and even surpassed that goal,” Cooper said. “The grand championship was really just a bonus for me. I knew, going into the final round, that Jennifer Waxman had put some pressure on me.”

Waxman, last year’s grand champion rider, had the ride on this year’s Devon (Pa.) grand champion, Glass Castle.

Cooper started the competition with a 10th place in the under saddle, but then she topped the handy class.

“I did one inside turn that not many other people did, from jump 1 to jump 2,” Cooper said. “At first, [trainer Frank Madden] was a little skeptical of it and wanted me to ease ‘Malfi’ into the course, but we decided to go ahead and give it a shot after we’d seen a few people do it.”

Fortunately for Cooper, Amalfi thrives in the handy rounds and had no problem with the early inside turn. “He likes it when the jumps keep coming up and it’s a little more challenging. It helps him focus,” she said.

Waxman and Glass Castle relegated Cooper and Amalfi to second in the classic, but the blue and red ribbons combined were enough for the division championship and the grand championship.

Cooper, 17, has been riding Amalfi, a 10-year-old Hanoverian, for 21⁄2 years, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

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“We clicked together well at first, but then we hit a patch for a few months when I really had to figure him out,” Cooper said. “I’d have some good rounds, but I’d make one little mistake in each round, and I’d be in seventh place each time. I just had to really get to know him.”

By May of last year it all came back together. And when Cooper started riding with Madden in September, there was even more luster to the pair’s polish. Cooper credited former trainer Mike Zuckerman with giving her a great foundation but since riding with Madden, “I feel like I’ve really learned and accomplished a lot,” she said.

“Malfi’s a fun horse. He has a lot of personality,” she added. “He has many names. We call him ‘Pony’ because he’s so pony-like, and I call him Malfi. He came with the name Amos, so sometimes he’s called that.”

Cooper, of Oyster Bay, N.Y., will start her sophomore year at New York University this fall.

Don’t Think About A Ribbon

A win in the classic round clinched the large junior, 16-17, title for Kelly Tropin and Libertas. The tricolor was a bit of compensation for a bitter disappointment a few weeks before.

Tropin had been slated to be on the Zone 1 junior show jumping team at the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (Ky.) on July 21-26.

“But I was flatting my jumper, and he took off,” she said. “I got bucked off and landed on my head and got a concussion. I wasn’t able to go to Young Riders, and junior hunter finals was my first show back.

“I was so excited to go to Young Riders, so when I had to miss it, I thought to myself, ‘I need to give everything I have to junior hunter finals.’ So it was nice that it worked out so well,” she concluded.

Libertas, or “Teddy,” and Tropin didn’t place in the under saddle class but picked up third in the handy class. A win in the classic round secured the tricolor.

“I was so nervous before the last round, because it was the first time I’d been in a position to be able to win something big,” Tropin said.

Hot on Tropin’s heels was barn-mate and friend Maggie Boylan, who also trains with Peter Lutz and Cullen Latimer.

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“Maggie and I weren’t separated by many points, so I knew winning was within my grasp. I remember Peter telling me to just go in there and ride and not think about winning. Before I got on, he said, ‘If you think about a ribbon, you won’t get one.’ But once I got on Teddy, I felt fine,” Tropin said. “I was so excited—when I walked out of the ring after the stake class, I heard my scores and just started crying.”

Tropin bought Teddy last fall, and their first show together was the Hampton Classic (N.Y.). She hadn’t been showing hunters much but decided that for her last junior year she wanted to be a contender in the hunter ring as well as the jumper and equitation divisions.

“He’s a really special horse for me, and we have a really strong bond,” Tropin said of Teddy, a 12-year-old German-bred warmblood by Libertino. “Junior hunter finals were pretty spooky, and he was really good to me there. I think it was because we get along so well. He’s a really funny horse, and he always makes me laugh.”

Tropin, 17, will be leaving her New Canaan, Conn., home this fall to attend Dartmouth College (N.H.). She’s not sure of her riding plans after she ages out of the juniors, but she knows one thing for sure.

“Teddy is never for sale; he’s a member of the family forever,” she said.

Hasbrouck Donovan had to contend with the owner of her two junior hunter finals winners telling her what to do—he’s her trainer, Don Stewart Jr.

Donovan piloted Stewart’s Quality Time to the large junior, 15 and under, tricolor and his Confidential to the small junior, 15 and under, title.

“Hasbrouck is a quiet girl who doesn’t say too much, but when she gets on a horse, watch out,” said Stewart. “She’s a fierce competitor who forms great partnerships with all of her horses. She has a tremendous future ahead of her.”

Donovan, 15, of Gainesville, Fla., has been riding with Stewart and Bibby Farmer Hill since she was 9. She has an equitation horse and a jumper at Stewart’s, but her hunters are all catch-rides. “It was so nice to get to ride two very nice horses. I thank Don for letting me ride them,” she said.

She noted that they’re different to ride, though.

“Quality Time is a bit lazier, but he’s fun. Confidential used to be an equitation horse and just started doing junior hunters over the summer,” said Donovan. “I was very nervous. I wanted to do well, and we’d been so good in the first rounds that I knew I could do it again, so I was worried about pulling it off.”

Stewart’s student Taylor Ann Adams also carried home a title, as she won the USHJA Hunterdon Cup equitation classic.

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