Devon, Pa.—May 27
Ever since the ASPCA Maclay Finals (Kentucky) last November, Carlee McCutcheon has felt the need to pinch herself. That was when she and her trainer Max Amaya sat down with Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward to discuss her riding a horse coming into his barn that they thought might make a good junior jumper.
McCutcheon started riding Coco Mercedes in January. They had great success first in the junior jumpers and then stepped into the U25 grand prix classes at the end of the winter season.
“We connected kind of right away; she’s exactly my ride, and to have the opportunity to learn from [someone] who I think is the best in the world is just so incredible. It’s been an amazing experience. It doesn’t feel real, and I’m just eternally grateful. I can’t say enough thank yous.”
Her “pinch me” moments continued at Devon, where she topped the junior jumper division following a win in the $25,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior Jumper Classic. The 17-year-old from Aubrey, Texas, also won the leading junior jumper rider award and the junior jumper style of riding award. Those two honors now join her tie for the R.W. “Ronnie” Mutch Equitation Championship on Friday.
“I’m at a loss of words really,” McCutcheon said. “It’s my last junior year, so I just came here trying to have fun, and it went better than I could’ve ever expected.”
While McCutcheon is no stranger to the jumper ring, she feels that the 10-year-old Westphalian (Chacco’s Son—Florentina), owned by Ward and Old Oak Farm, has made her a better rider.
“She’s the most incredible partner I’ve ever had in the jumper ring,” she said. “She makes me so brave, and she’s incredibly fast, so I knew that this was a good jump-off for her and a class that I knew she could for sure win.
“I have so much faith in her; I know that I can just let her go and let her do her thing,” she added. “She’s naturally very hot and very fast.”
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Don’t forget to pick up copies of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine. Junior Weekend coverage will be found in the June 12 & 19 issue, and coverage of Senior Week will be in the June 26 issue.