Lexington, Ky., Nov. 6
Sarah Milliren knew she had to lay it on the line in the last testing round of the ASPCA Maclay Final.
She’d been on top of the stand-by since the start of the class and was called back in first for the flat phase. But in the flat phase, Michael Hughes had edged in front of her. So, in Round 2, Milliren rode a bold round on Terrapin Station and impressed the judges. Hughes was tentative and conservative in Round 2, and he dropped out of the lead.
Judges Kip Rosenthal and Cynthia Hankins decided to bring back three riders for further testing after Round 2—Milliren, Elizabeth Benson and Demi Stiegler. “Those three came back with scores within 1 point of each other,” Rosenthal said. The judges asked them to trade horses, with Milliren on Stiegler’s horse Vigo, Benson on Milliren’s Terrapin Station, and Stiegler on Benson’s Calito 7, and ride the entire Round 2 course again.
Benson, who was riding with a cast on a broken wrist, got jumped loose over the first fence by Terrapin Station, losing her stirrup. “I didn’t get to see Sarah go, so I really didn’t know what to expect from her horse,” Benson said. “I got a little long to the first jump, and he jumped really hard.” The round put her into third.
Stiegler got the ride on Benson’s Calito 7, and she tipped her hat to Benson after she got off. “You really do a good job on him. He is not an easy ride,” Steigler said. She never quite got a feel for Calido 7’s pace and missed her distance to the hand-gallop jump.
It was all up to Milliren. She quickly established a forward and confident pace on Stiegler’s Vigo and rode him to a very authoritative round. “She said ‘I’m just going to go for it,’ ” Rosenthal said. “When she picked up her gallop, you could see that win it or blow it, she was going to take a shot.”
A Role Model
The win rendered Milliren, 17, a bit speechless. The Sapula, Okla., teenager grew up riding with Joey Brumbaugh but caught the eye of trainer Don Stewart when Stewart was teaching a clinic in Oklahoma. “No matter what she was riding, she delivered,” Stewart recalled. “She can ride anything you put her on. We worked out a way she could come to the East Coast and ride and show with us a bit.”
“Sarah’s a natural. She’s easy to teach, and she works well under pressure. I want to ride like her one day!” Brumbaugh said.
Stewart matched Milliren with Terrapin Station, who is owned by his clients the O’Mara family. She and the flashy bay won the Region 5 Maclay qualifier.
Simple, But Effective
The judges, in collaboration with course designer Richard Jefferies, set a Round 1 course today that tested a rider’s ability to know his or her horse’s pace and control their track. They had to canter up the long side to an oxer at fence 1 set directly away from the in-gate. More than one horse spun at the in-gate and refused to even approach the first jump. From fence 1, they rode a slight bending line of seven strides to a vertical. Then, riders had an option. There was a large square of jumps in the center of the ring. For fence 3AB, riders could jump an oxer-vertical one-stride, or a vertical-oxer one-stride. Only a handful of the 199 starters aimed at the oxer-vertical side.
Then, riders circled around and approached the square from the other side, negotiating a two-stride combination of Swedish oxers. They then circled around to an oxer and a vertical, then tackled a tough line down the long side. They had to jump an oxer at the end of the ring, canter out of the corner to the solid ASPCA wall, and then turn in five or six strides to an oxer.
After that oxer, riders had another decision to make. There was a combination of verticals set in a “V” with the right side of the fence forming a bounce of varied distances, and the left side forming a one-stride of verticals. Riders had to plan where their horse’s stride might fit into the combination and then be very precise in their line of approach. Around 10 of the riders in the first round jumped the bounce option. They then had a long gallop to the last jump, a triple bar.
For Round 2, Jefferies and the judges set another flowing track. It included some original aspects, such as a box of bushes that marked an area in the end of the ring where riders had to show a walk transition. When they picked up the canter again after walking through the box, they had a quick tight turn to a one-stride combination. The challenge was to create enough impulsion immediately in the canter to jump the combination successfully. Also riders had another angled vertical combination to master. They had to trot into a one-stride of angled verticals. The fence didn’t cause many problems. The course also called for a hand gallop down the long side to a triple bar.
ASPCA Maclay Final
Nov. 6, Lexington, Ky.
1. Sarah Milliren
2. Demi Stiegler
3. Elizabeth Benson
4. Chase Boggio
5. Victoria Colvin
6. Michael Hughes
7. Catherine Tyree
8. Schaefer Raposa
9. Savannah Jenkins
10. Connor Perrin