“Carly is the whole package, which is what we’re really looking for here,” said Peter Wylde. “She’s a compassionate horsewoman, she has incredible work ethic in the stables, she knows how to take care of horses and she wants to learn more, and she’s an incredibly good rider. I think she has a big future in this sport.”
At the conclusion of the 2014 USHJA Emerging Athletes Program National Training Session, Wylde listed these reasons and more for why he and his fellow clinicians dubbed Carly Williams the overall EAP champion after three days and a Nations Cup-format competition.
It wasn’t just her talent that earned Williams the winning title this weekend at the University of Findlay (Ohio). Her assigned horse Flo Rida, or “Pete,” was arguably the most difficult mount in the program this year, and constantly presented Williams with challenges that she strove to meet and conquer. In the end, her persistence and patience impressed the top professionals evaluating her work.
Pete, an 8-year-old Thoroughbred gelding owned by Julia Hogan, was hot and stubborn when Williams first rode him on the flat Thursday, and he was so fresh and wild on Friday that Wylde opted to get on and work out some kinks himself before handing the reins back over to Williams.
But Williams, who trains with and catch-rides for professionals like Tommy Serio and Brooke Kemper out of Lexington, Va., rose to the occasion and gave Pete the steady and strong ride he needed throughout the weekend. There was a visible difference in Pete’s attitude and performance from Friday to Saturday, which Williams attributes to a new trust formed between the horse and rider.
“The first day I rode him he was a touch strong but I thought I was going to like him,” said Williams, 19. “We rode in a new bit on Friday and he was still strong, so we tried another bit and that didn’t work, and another and another. We got the pelham finally and that one worked better, thank goodness.
“Saturday he was so much better, so I was like, ‘OK, I think we can handle this. I think we won’t die!’ ” she joked. “I think the bit definitely helped and he was quieter after I rode him and Peter rode him. I think he might have trusted me a little more too, which didn’t hurt matters. He respected me and I respected him.”
So on the last day, Williams was confident that their work together would help her at least put in decent rounds aboard Pete in the final competition, formatted like a Nations Cup—where four teams of four compete over two rounds of jumping, with a tie-breaking jump-off.
Mock Nations Cup, Real Results
Each team was assigned a clinician as their Chef d’Equipe, and chose their team name in the theme of top international show jumpers: Voyeur, Rothchild, Cortes ‘C’ and Barron. Before every rotation of four riders went on course, Wylde warmed them up by having them jump a few of the fences on course and offering last-minute advice.
It was Team Voyeur (Halie Robinson, Abigail Grace Kelley, Bailey Fuller and McKenzie Kasper) and Team Rothchild (Cody Wooten, Albigail Graham, Nina Vogel and Carly Williams) that came out on top after two full rounds. The clinicians then chose two riders, Robinson and Graham, to represent their teams in a timed, shortened jump-off round.
Robinson won the class for Team Voyeur with a quick, clear round aboard Skylar. Team Rothchild finished in second place, while Team Cortes ‘C’ placed third.
“This year we’ve had the best group of riders and horsemen that we’ve ever had,” said Wylde. “It was a very close competition. Everyone came together with their horses and really brought what they’ve learned about them and with them into today and did a great job.”
Next came the ride-off, a showdown between five riders chosen by the clinicians for the title of EAP Champion. The riders—Wooten, Vogel, Hart, Williams and Dani Roskens—jumped the same jump-off course, but, in true Nations Cup style, they switched mounts for their final test. Instead of being timed, the five were judged based on their rider ability.
Williams rode Cavillino, or “Turtle,” the gelding Sunny Drescher won the championship title with last year, in the ride-off. Turtle is generally much more manageable than Pete, and Williams was able to show the clinicians what she was made of when it really counted.
“There’s a pretty big difference [between Turtle and Pete],” said Williams. “Turtle is really fun and a lot less stressful! He’s pretty quick and every [distance] came up nicely, and he’s pretty adjustable so that was definitely helpful.”
But it was Williams’ all-around performance with both horses—especially the problem horse Pete—that convinced Wylde and his fellow clinicians to name her champion.
“She pulled off two rounds on that horse today that were very presentable, very acceptable rounds on a horse that’s extremely difficult, and I have to say, I don’t think there are too many kids that could have done that with that horse—or too many riders, even. She did a beautiful job with him.
“When we gave her a chance to ride a better horse, she did it excellently,” he continued. “That was so exciting and interesting for us to see how she could go from having these difficult riding experiences over the whole weekend, to her one moment to shine on a really good horse, and she was just fabulous. It was excellent riding.”
Wooten, who rode Dillon this weekend and Phillip Williamson’s original mount Wendell in the ride-off, earned the title of reserve champion and a spot beside Williams in the upcoming 2015 George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session in Wellington, Fla.
Williams plans to catch-ride her way through the Winter Equestrian Festival winter circuit in Wellington, Fla., this year and soak up as much knowledge as she can as she pursues her goals of becoming a professional.
“I just want to learn,” said Williams. “It was so interesting learning about what a horse needs and some of the top-level FEI stuff this weekend. I’d love to work with somebody in the future that does FEI [competitions] and do all of that someday.”
More USHJA EAP Nationals awards:
- Best turned out horse went to Dani Roskens’ Gatsby, the only grey in the program.
- Dillon, Cody Wooten’s mount, was named overall outstanding horse.
- Stable manager Lizzy Traband received the sportsmanship award, voted on by the program’s finalists.
- Lizzie Bailey was presented with the award for outstanding stable manager
USHJA Horsemanship Quiz Challenge Finals awards:
- Sabrina Jain had the highest written test score, while Sara Sprague received the highest practicum score.
- The team representing the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association, Emily Dengler, Kabisa Baughen and Emily Garrett, finished in first place. Zone 2 came in second and Zone 3 was third.
- Zoe Conlee was the overall winner of this year’s Horsemanship Quiz Challenge