Sunday, Apr. 14, 2024

Ferrell Finds Blue In The WCHR Professional Finals

Her consistency impresses the judges at the Capital Challenge.

With four rounds, six top riders and an outstanding list of horses for the WCHR Professional Finals, one of the
featured classes of the Capital Challenge Horse Show, Sept. 27-Oct. 5, the competition was tough.

But Sandy Ferrell, Bernville, Pa., rose to the top with consistently beautiful rides in the Showplace Arena at the Prince Georges Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, Md.

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Her consistency impresses the judges at the Capital Challenge.

With four rounds, six top riders and an outstanding list of horses for the WCHR Professional Finals, one of the
featured classes of the Capital Challenge Horse Show, Sept. 27-Oct. 5, the competition was tough.

But Sandy Ferrell, Bernville, Pa., rose to the top with consistently beautiful rides in the Showplace Arena at the Prince Georges Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Each of the four rounds that comprised the class had a different course, and the contenders switched horses after each ride according to an assigned list. During the fourth round only the top three riders returned to jump a handy hunter course.

The six top professionals in the WCHR national standings qualified for the finals, but they didn’t have an auspicious start. The lowest scores of the evening were in Round 1, with Scott Stewart’s horse, Maddox, having a hard rub, Patricia Griffith taking some cross-canter steps with her horse, Notoriety, and John French making a mistake at a single fence with his Type Cast. Jennifer Alfano and Magnolia, Erin Duffy and Class Action and Ferrell and Wilson all registered scores in the mid-80s.

The scores actually improved when the riders switched to unfamiliar horses. French scored a 90 on Notoriety and a 92 on Maddox, while Stewart turned in an 87 on Class Action. Ferrell worked in an 89 on the seasoned Notoriety, and Duffy scored a 91.66 on Wilson, who jumped in outstanding form all evening. By Round 4 the top three were Duffy, French and Ferrell.

These top three then needed to show off their skills on bending lines, a twisted track, and they finished with a gallop down to the last fence—a solid oxer headed back to the in-gate.

French, Redwood City, Calif., returned to the ring first on Class Action and tackled the course with a bold pace and tight inside turns. His scores of 95, 90 and 91, gave him an average of 92.

Ferrell’s ride was safer but solid, without major mistake, a reflection of her entire evening. The judges rewarded her with an average of 88.33–lower than French, but her total points boosted her into the lead. She said that although she contemplated making the inside turns in her final round, she chose not to because she wasn’t sure Maddox had the experience to handle them. The horse had shown in the equitation and was capable of the turns, but Ferrell didn’t want to chance a mistake by frazzling her horse.

Duffy, Pacific Palisades, Calif., the leading rider going into the handy round, had trouble getting her mount Type Cast into a rhythm and ultimately fell to third place. Stewart finished fourth with Griffith and Alfano behind him, respectively.

After the class Ferrell was all smiles and quick to point out how much she loved the format.

“I really like this class because I think it’s super amazing how behind the scenes of the in-gate everybody comes together, and we all become one team. We’re all rooting for each other,” said Ferrell. “Anybody here—grooms are helping grooms, trainers are helping trainers, riders are helping riders—and I think that’s something we don’t get to do on a daily basis when we’re showing. That camaraderie is a great thing.”

Hard Work Pays

Griffith knows first hand just how Ferrell’s comments ring true. When she walked into the ring with Vida Blue for Wednesday night’s WCHR Professional

Challenge, her plan was to just have a fun ride. She was tied with Louise Serio after the first round, but even when co-leading the class, she was still wary of accomplishing her goal: to make it into the WCHR Professional Finals.

She’d been sitting seventh in the WCHR professional standings, one place out of qualifying for the finals. She thought her fate was sealed when she watched the riders ahead of her have rounds that would put them in the
ribbons and give them enough points to keep her in seventh, and so at the last minute she changed her strategy
for the ride.

With two inside turn options on the course, Griffith, who rides and trains for Heritage Farm out of Katonah, N.Y., had planned to get an edge on the competition. But with only a few rides to go, and a few words of advice from her fellow trainer Kirsten Coe, she decided to take “Vida” outside.

“She’s best at just galloping to the jumps, so I thought, ‘I’ll just go fast around and gallop,’ ” said Griffith. “I also knew that if I took an inside turn and had a bobble, I would lose my points [from the class] anyways.”

Vida, who’s owned by Laura King-Kaplan, was practically flawless on course and retained the blue ribbon. “It was
different at 3’6″,” said Griffith. “I’d never shown her at that height, so it was an easier feeling. I just had to steer!”

In September, Griffith was sitting 23rd in the WCHR professional standings. Due to a clerical error on Griffith’s
part, her points had only counted from three shows, and so in a last ditch effort to regain some ground she borrowed a horse from Stacey Schaefer and drove to the Middleburg Classic (Va.) in mid-September.

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“I hadn’t driven a horse trailer since 1995!” joked Griffith. “I kept thinking, ‘Is this really worth it? Driving from Maryland at 5 a.m. to show a horse I’ve barely ridden?’ ”

But the plan worked, and Griffith accrued enough points to qualify for the finals.

Griffith said it was because of that show, and Schaefer’s help, that she was able to compete in Friday night’s class. “I always tell my kids, ‘You get out what you put into it,’ ” said Griffith. “You have to work hard to get what you want.”

Brubaker Has The Answers

Amy Brubaker is another rider who worked hard to make it to the finals. And when the horse that Brubaker had planned to compete in the WCHR Adult Amateur Finals was chosen for the WCHR Professional Rider Challenge, she thought she was going to be out of luck. It wouldn’t be fair to ask the horse to compete in both classes, and Brubaker didn’t have another option.

But trainer Archie Cox wasn’t going to let his rider miss her opportunity to show in the class she’d worked toward all year, so he found her a last-minute alternate. Because Brubaker doesn’t own her own horse, she usually shows Cox’s horses, but this time they had to look outside the barn.

Brubaker, Pasadena, Calif., met the aptly named All The Answers the morning of the class when she rode him for the first time. “We wanted to make sure I could stay with him because he jumps pretty hard. When I had jumped a couple of fences, Archie and Havens [Schatt] said, ‘Oh yeah, this’ll go just fine,’ ” said Brubaker, laughing.

The 16-hand, bay gelding belongs to Sherri Crawford and was at Capital Challenge with trainer, Schatt, who offered him to Cox and Brubaker for the class. The pair was a match made in heaven, and Brubaker showed off her catch riding skills when she piloted him to the win in the WCHR Adult Amateur Finals.

Because she didn’t have the advantage of practicing with All The Answers, Brubaker did the one thing she could do to make herself more comfortable in the show ring: “I came last weekend for the equitation [with a different horse], just so I could practice going in the ring. It’s really intimidating to ride in the indoor, especially for California riders, since we hardly ever do it.”

Brubaker said that riding All The Answers is an experience she won’t forget. “He just has such an amazing jump. Over the oxers, oh man, you can feel his withers come right up,” said Brubaker. “You don’t feel that very much these days, especially at the three-foot.”
 
Although she’d competed in the WCHR Adult Amateur Finals before, this was Brubaker’s first time qualifying for the second round.

Eyeing A Victory

In the Monarch International Adult Amateur Equitation Finals, Jessica Tindley and her horse, Cotton Eye Joe, posted a two-round total of 178 to win the final class on Sunday afternoon.

She admitted it was a little nerve wracking standing at the in-gate as the final competitor. “When you’re on top, the only way to go is down,” said Tindley.

She’s been paired with Cotton Eye Joe for nearly three years, and together they’ve competed in the level 7 jumpers and the junior equitation.

This is Tindley’s first year competing as an amateur, and she’s currently a student at Santa Fe College (Fla.).

The 19-year-old was thrilled with her win. “It’s probably the biggest thing I’ve done,” she said. “I’ve gotten ribbons here, but I’ve never won a class. Winning this class is really special, especially with him.”

“I was really nervous going in for Round 2,” said Brubaker. “But he [All The Answers] was so confident. He found the first two jumps for me. He said, ‘It’s OK! Don’t worry!’ And he just kept going.”

The pair turned in a stunning second round performance to receive scores of 92 from all five judges, securing their place at the top of the class.

Inspiring Confidence

Megan Edrick also had the advantage of riding a confident horse when she competed in the Emerging Professional Challenge. Riding the seasoned hunter, Lyle, Edrick was the first of 15 to tackle the course. She set a pace that allowed her to find all 10 jumps right out of stride for an 87.66, a score no one could catch.

“He has that hunter rhythm that you just get into,” said Edrick. “Lyle is full of personality and jumps to the moon.”
Sponsored by the King family, the inaugural Emerging Professional Challenge gave young professionals the opportunity to showcase their talent. Riders competed to win the cash prize as well as the Bittersweet Perpetual Trophy donated by Rachel B. Kennedy.

Edrick, Ocala, Fla., rides for Don Stewart Jr. and has been a professional for just over a year. Edrick’s plan for the class was to make an impression right from the start. She wanted to get a good pace to the single first jump and finish with a gallop down to the final oxer.
 
“I like to show a little something when I get in there to the first jump,” said Edrick. “I wanted to make sure I had a quality canter to get there.”

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Edrick has always been a fan of Capital Challenge and said she’s excited that the show now offers this opportunity.

“This show is so well done and the best come here—the best horses, the best riders—and it really inspires us to do well and get in there and let other people see us,” she said.

Top Charity

Kate Gibson also made an impression when she won the WCHR Amateur-Owner Challenge riding Charity, her 8-year-old warmblood whom trainer Peter Pletcher found for her in Europe last spring.

“I don’t do very many classics because I get tired,” said Gibson, smiling after her win. Gibson, who owns Shadyside Farm in Magnolia, Texas, has been training with Pletcher for 20 years.

Special AHJF Awards

Old Springhouse Lifetime Achievement Award: Kenny Wheeler
Jeffery Katz Memorial Award For High-Score Green Hunter: Alexa and Krista Weisman’s West Point
China Blue Farm Working Hunter Challenge Award: Scott Stewart’s Beyond
Alabama Clay Conformation Hunter Award: Alexa and Krista Weisman’s West Point
Rox Dene Award For High-Score Professional Hunter: Alexa and Krista Weisman’s West Point
Winter’s Run Sportsmanship Trophy: Mindy Darst
Heard A Rumor Perpetual Trophy: Dawn Fogel’s Osczar
In Disguise Amateur-Owner Trainer Award: Jimmy Toon
Dover Saddlery Junior Hunter Challenge: Lauren Wood, Rochester, Minn., and Tiffany Pelton, Galesburg, Mich.
EMO Trip Of The Show: Mike Smith’s Paris North and Chiara Parlagreco (adult amateur)
National Champions: Professional—Sandy Ferrell; amateur-owner—Tammy Chipko; junior—Samantha Schaefer; pony—Lillie Keenan; adult amateur—Wendy Lewis.

Gibson isn’t new to blue ribbons at the Capital Challenge—two years ago she won an amateur-owner tricolor aboard Fortune—but she’s never won the WCHR Challenge. “It’s nice to win this class,” she added laughing, “I usually choke.”

But Gibson certainly didn’t choke this time as she navigated Charity around the long course. She enjoyed the longer lines and said that the ride showed off Charity’s huge step and big jump.

“I thought the lines were a little more going. I enjoyed that,” she said. “I never had to pull; I just had to keep kicking.”

Gibson described Charity as a quiet ride. “Our big goal is to get him to go forward,” she said. “My other horse Fortune is a little bit of a puller, so I go from a pelham to a rubber snaffle when I switch horses. But I like the kick ride better—it’s more fun for me.”

Push To The Top

Eileen McNamara was another rider who picked up a big win at Capital Challenge. With each round in the Ariat National Adult Medal Finals, McNamara climbed up the standings until she finished on top riding RMW Gumaro.

The 19-year-old student at Wheaton College (Ill.) competed against a field of 28 riders, and after the first round she sat fifth. After a smooth second ride around a twisting course, she slid into fourth and qualified to test.

McNamara said that fourth place is a nice position to test from. “I look at going in fourth as ‘You can only go up.’ So I don’t really get nervous,” she said.

The panel of five judges asked the top four riders to start with a counter canter to a fence off the far corner of the ring, followed by a tight left rollback over an oxer. Riders had to roll back right, break to a trot and jump into a line, halt, and canter out over another oxer.

McNamara tackled the test and, although her distance was long to the first oxer, the judges gave her an 80.4 with a three-round total of 253.75.

She wasn’t nervous then, but she grew more and more excited as she watched the riders above her fumble their tests.

“I thought, ‘Oh, OK, I’m going to be third—that’s great! And then, oh wow, I’m going to be in the top two, that’s
amazing!’ ” said McNamara. After the last rider tested and the four women had exited the ring, somebody told her she had won. “I was in shock!” she said. “I’m still in shock!”

McNamara, Weston, Mass., has been training with Patti Harnois since she was 7.

Megan Martin and Michelle Bloch

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