Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023

Pessoa Makes It Two In A Row In Harrisburg

Harrisburg, Pa., Oct. 23

Rodrigo Pessoa couldn’t watch the jump-off for the $75,000 Grand Prix de Penn National CSI-W during the Pennsylvania National, but from what he heard in the schooling area it wasn’t an average short course.

“We didn’t have a screen there, but when I heard scores like 20, 8, 12, and 4, I said ‘This is kind of unusual,’ ” said Pessoa, who tacked up HH Ashley for tonight's featured class.



Harrisburg, Pa., Oct. 23

Rodrigo Pessoa couldn’t watch the jump-off for the $75,000 Grand Prix de Penn National CSI-W during the Pennsylvania National, but from what he heard in the schooling area it wasn’t an average short course.

“We didn’t have a screen there, but when I heard scores like 20, 8, 12, and 4, I said ‘This is kind of unusual,’ ” said Pessoa, who tacked up HH Ashley for tonight’s featured class.

An especially long jump-off (nine efforts) and a tricky track made for big problems in the short course, which featured a tight time allowed to boot. Pablo Barrios and G&C Quick Star, the pathfinder from the first round who made that track look like an amateur-level course, logged 20 points. Brianne Goutal and Onira picked up 12, and Mario Deslauriers and Urico, fresh from their trip to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and Kent Farrington aboard his newest star ride Top Gun, each marked 8.

“I think [course designer Steve Stephens] made it a little bigger, which shouldn’t really make a difference,” said Beezie Madden. “There were more jumps in the jump-off than in some. I found for my horse it was a little difficult…because they sighted in on the skinny [during a roll back to a vertical], and you had to wheel them around. It was a little hard for them to concentrate.”

After Madden logged the fastest round on Coral Reef Via Volo and still nicked the front rail of the triple bar, Ian Millar aboard Star Power—sixth of seven to go—attempted a conservative clear but erred on the side of caution, incurring 4 time faults.

Pessoa had the luxury of the last-to-go spot, but he still faced a tough course no one had mastered aboard a newer mount who’d never contested a championship-sized course.  

“It turned out the jump-off wasn’t crazy fast, and for a green horse like her that was an advantage,” said Pessoa. “I’m still finding out a little bit about her. But at the same time, when you enter these classes you try to be competitive and you try to go fast.”

HH Ashley’s single time fault in the second course proved good enough to win the day, and Madden’s 4 faults beat out Millar’s slower 4.

“Ian and I decided we were tied, because we both had stupid faults in the jump-off,” said Madden with a laugh.

Pessoa paired up with the mare in May and has been contesting 1.45- and 1.50-meter classes with her since then. This is the first time he’d taken the chestnut in a 1.60-meter class, and he couldn’t have been happier with the result.

“I’m actually a little bit surprised that she coped so well,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ridden her inside as well. I’m really pleased.”


Pessoa earned the leading rider title at the show as well, and Madden earned the open jumper championship, as well as the leading lady rider title at Harrisburg for her performances throughout the week. The two riders will face off again next week at the Washington International Horse Show (D.C.).

Rio Renoir Rules

It’s been two years since Rio Renoir showed at the Pennsylvania National, but he made a triumphant return with owner Brad Wolf. The pair claimed the grand amateur-owner and amateur-owner, 36 and over, hunter titles today, clinching the win with first and second-placed jumping rounds. Wolf edged out Stacy Arani and Bolero, who took the reserve title.

“Rio” spent 1 1/2 years recovering from an injury, and Wolf just began showing him this May.

“I honestly think that he looks better than he ever did before,” said trainer Tom Wright. “His body weight and condition are perfect, and he’s going beautifully. We took our time with him, and we have a great team of vets and shoers and rehab people that helped bring him back and perform again. Brad was smart enough to do everything the right way; they deserve the credit for this.”

Another big change was moving Rio from Wright’s barn to David Pelligrini’s barn near Wolf’s Memphis, Tenn., home giving his owner more opportunities to practice.

“When they added the handies, and the courses started getting more technical, Tom decided I’d better ride a bit more,” said Wolf, a heart surgeon who’d previously been meeting up with Wright and Rio at horse shows. “It’s worked! I get out there about twice a week, and it’s really helped me a lot.”

The other amateur-owner champion, Alise Oken, also has to work hard to find time to ride. As a student at University of Chapel Hill (N.C.), her studies take precedence over practicing on Take Away, but she makes the trek to Charlotte, N.C., to train with Steve Heinecke and Jeff Wirthman.

“I know him so well. That makes it easier since I don’t get to ride that often,” said Oken. “I’ve had him two years, and he’s just been amazing.”

Oken qualified her two jumpers as well, but she opted to leave them at home to concentrate on “Chef.”

“If you only have one, he’s the one to have!” said Wirthman. “These two know each other so well, they’re a great combination.”

A Blue-Ribbon Debut


Lydia Ulrich made a memorable Harrisburg debut this year. She earned a call back in the USEF Medal Finals last Saturday, Oct. 17, then rode her Tiger Lilly II to the top of the $5,000 North American League Low Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic.

Chloe Reid and King Of Hearts set the standard in the four-horse jump-off with a single rail. Ulrich and Tiger Lilly turned on the afterburners to squeal around the course, ticking the final fence but finishing with a blazing time and 4 faults. Nora Laue ran into trouble on Colonius, and Reid took a tumble off her second mount, Superieur, so Ulrich took the top check back to Rochester, N.Y.

“The courses were great inside, and it was a really good low course,” said Ulrich. “It was fun to ride inside and really use the whole ring. In here you have to think really fast because everything comes up so fast. I just wanted to be straight and fast in the jump-off.”

Ulrich, 16, trains her jumpers with John and Beezie Madden, who imported the mare from Europe. The two paired up a year ago, gradually moving up to the mediums and dabbling in the highs a bit at the end of the year. She hopes to campaign the 8-year-old in the high division this season.

A Clear Finish

Heading into the jump-off for the $10,000 NAL Adult Amateur Jumper Finals, Kenzie Donovan knew there was one thing she didn’t need to worry about: speed. That’s her mount, Nikon Prima Donna’s, forte.

“I wanted to be double clean and efficient in the turns,” said Donovan. “She helped me out quite a bit with the slicing and dicing.”

While six pairs advanced to the jump-off, Donovon and Prima Donna were the only two to leave all the rails up to take the blue ribbon over Teri Kessler and All That, and they did it in good time as well.

This year marks Donovan’s third appearance at Harrisburg, but her first win. As she spends most of her time at Georgetown University (D.C.), she doesn’t get to spend much time in the tack. In fact, before Capital Challenge (Md.) she hadn’t sat on a horse since August.

“I’m really lucky because Cody and Emily Williams do such a good job taking care of the horses,” said Donovan, who’s originally from River Hill, Wisc. “I’m a really lucky kid.”

Looking Ahead

Results are available at Pennsylvania National may be over, but Washingtion International’s right around the corner! 




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