Thursday, Apr. 18, 2024

Metell Makes The Most Of The New England Equitation Championships

In his last year as a junior, Matthew Metell makes a big splash in the equitation ring.

Matthew Metell’s fall has been jam-packed with equitation honors, and at the New England Equitation Championships, he added the New England Horsemen’s Council Hunt Seat Medal Finals champion and high-point junior rider titles to the list.

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In his last year as a junior, Matthew Metell makes a big splash in the equitation ring.

Matthew Metell’s fall has been jam-packed with equitation honors, and at the New England Equitation Championships, he added the New England Horsemen’s Council Hunt Seat Medal Finals champion and high-point junior rider titles to the list.

Metell, 17, had already won the Monarch International North American Junior Equitation Championship at the Capital Challenge (Md.) and placed second at both the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals (Pa.) and the USEF Platinum Performance Talent Search Finals-East (N.J.), before winning at the NEEC on Oct. 16-19 in West Springfield, Mass.

“The test included a walk jump, a hand-gallop jump, a trot jump, and it finished with a three-loop serpentine at the canter with simple lead changes,” Metell said. “I didn’t find anything surprising except the walk jump. I didn’t really know how my horse was going to react to it, but luckily he did it correctly.”

Metell’s mount was a 10-year-old gelding named Vintage, owned by Andre Dignelli, with whom Metell has been training since early this year at Heritage Farm in Katonah, N.Y.

An avid rider since the age of 7, Metell trained previously with Kathy Fletcher at Grazing Fields Farm in Buzzards Bay, Mass., and Teddy Demetriou at New Windsor Stables in Old Brookville, N.Y.

Metell has remained close with those at Grazing Fields Farm, Fletcher in particular. “I was glad that she’s on the New England Finals committee and so was part of the awards presentation. That meant a lot to me,” he said.

Although his hometown is in Cape Cod, Mass., Metell is currently a business student at Sacred Heart University (Conn.). “I only have class three days a week, so I’m able to keep up with showing and all the finals,” he explained. Heritage Farm is just a 45-minute drive from the Fairfield, Conn., campus, so Metell travels there to ride often.

Although he’s putting a solid effort into his college education, Metell does have plans to keep horses as a major
focus in his life. “With a degree, I’ll have a solid back-up plan, but I’ve always wanted to be some sort of horse professional,” he said.

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Old Friends

As a sophomore at Mount Holyoke College (Mass.) and an intern with the New England Patriots media relations department, Jo Jo Gutfarb was able to ride her horse only twice in the months leading up to the NEEC.

But she still won the New England Horsemen’s Council Adult Medal Finals, 18-22.

Gutfarb has owned Star, a 12-year-old Holsteiner, for seven years and competed at the NEEC with him each one of those years. “This is the first year I won here. I was fifth once as a junior, I made it to the second round another year but didn’t get a ribbon, and last year I was 10th,” she said.

When she started college, she leased Star to Olivia Napoli, who also rode him in this year’s NEEC. “He’s still leased out, so I was technically borrowing him for this show,” Gutfarb said with a laugh.

A rider since she was 3 years old, Gutfarb, of Norfolk, Mass., trained with David Oliynyk and Kristin Bumpus of Winter Street, in Concord, Mass., during her junior years.

Even with a full class schedule and a summer internship that had her working 12-hour days, Gutfarb managed to get to two shows this summer. “I had about a week off in May when I came home from school and before I started working. I went to one show and qualified for NEEC and did another class for fun in August,” she said.

Despite her lack of practice, Gutfarb handled the tricky tests of the adult medal finals with flair. “Kristin said that was the best she’d ever seen me ride him, so that means a lot,” she said. “I felt like my horse was responding well to me, and we were really a team. I hadn’t been on him for so long—I think it was comforting for both of us to be together again.”

The weekend of the NEEC was special for Gutfarb because it was like old times. “My mom and I stayed in a hotel together like we used to when I was showing as a junior,” she said. “And it was so much fun to see everyone again. The finals is like a reunion—you see everyone you know on the A circuit. You see those who have been away at school and you see that the little kids have grown up. That makes the New England finals a really fun show.”

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Gutfarb also competes with the Mount Holyoke Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team.

All In The Family

Although she felt her warm-up was “terrible,” Deidre Catani put it all together to win the New England Horsemen’s Council Adult Medal Finals, 23-35.

“I was happy to make those mistakes in the warm-up, so I could get things right when it really counted,” Catani said. She trains with her father, Carl Catani, and Abigail Greer, both of River Wind Farm in Pembroke, Mass.

“I’m fortunate that my family is in the business. That has enabled me to be showing pretty consistently throughout my whole life. I live off the farm, but the farm is my passion. I work hard at riding, and I love being around the
horses,” she said.

Catani rode Scholar, a bay warmblood gelding owned by junior rider Danielle Reny. “Her family bought him from my father, and they were so generous to let me use him. He’s a great equitation horse. I wouldn’t say he’s the easiest horse, but he does a great job,” said Catani.

The course for Catani’s class forced her to make some decisions.

“There were a couple of line options you could do: a bending three strides or a four, to six strides or seven. That’s where a lot of people either made it or they didn’t. I had my plan to do the three, and I stuck with it and it worked.

“I was hoping to have a nice trip and have a good time – that’s how you have to go in. Everyone wants to win but there’s only one winner, so you can’t be disappointed if it wasn’t you. This is a humbling sport, that’s for sure. In my first year at New England finals, I was in the 11 and under class, and it was a fluke that I even qualified. I’ve been there every year since and won in 2003. I was very fortunate to win once. To win twice is amazing.”

Sarah Wynne Jackson

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