Friday, May. 24, 2024

Reese Merna Keeps Her Cool For R.W. ‘Ronnie’ Mutch Championship Win At Devon



Devon, Pa.—May 24

Before the third section of the ASPCA Maclay at the Devon Horse Show, Reese Merna was feeling the pressure. She’d been following along with the points her fellow competitors earned in the equitation classes and knew she needed at least fifth in the Maclay to win the R.W. “Ronnie” Mutch Equitation Championship.

So when the judges called her third heading into the flat portion of the class, she took a deep breath.

“I was just kind of like, ‘OK, I just have to flat my very best and just not drop down in the flat at all,’ ” she said.

Reese Merna rode Castlefield Spartacus to the top of the R.W. “Ronnie” Mutch Equitation Championship at Devon. Kimberly Loushin Photos

The 17-year-old did just that, maintaining her position in the Maclay for third. Combined with a win in a section of the Washington International Jumper Phase, a win in a section of the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal and third in the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search, she earned 22 points to take the championship title.

“It’s really special,” she said. “I’ve looked up to a lot of the riders who have won it before, and competing against so many incredible riders, it’s a real honor.”


It was a tight competition for the Ronnie Mutch title. The past two years, there was a tie for the top honors, and it very nearly happened again this year.

“I think that’s just a testament to the level of riding at this horse show because you could’ve had potentially a four-way tie for this overall award,” said Merna’s trainer Stacia Madden. “You could’ve potentially had a three-way tie, and then you could’ve had a sole winner. I think she was the last one to go, if I’m correct, of the riders that were in contention. So she had to have it in the back of her mind that she needed to deliver, but at the same time not let it get in the way of the end game because the award is special; it’s important.

“But we always talk mostly about trying to have our most consistent horse show and trying to deliver our best performance,” she continued. “I always talk about we’re not trying to put ribbons on the tack room. I think this was a really good example of trying to just stay in the game and deliver your very best class, and then you will be rewarded for it.”

Reese Merna earned two blues and a pair of yellow ribbons on the way to the championship title.

Merna, Mendham, New Jersey, tacked up Castlefield Spartacus for all four classes. She’s been riding him since last November following the indoor show circuit and said that it took a couple of weeks to get to know West Hill’s 10-year-old Oldenburg of unrecorded breeding, but that they were a pretty good pair early on.

“He is a really seasoned horse,” she said. “He is super sweet on the ground, incredible to ride in the ring, super fun. He’s an amazing horse; I’m very lucky.

“My favorite thing about him is probably his personality,” she added. “He’s very sweet; he’s very cuddly on the ground. He loves to be around people. He’s a really sweet horse.”


Merna rides with Madden and the team at Beacon Hill.

“We’ve been working a lot on my timing a lot. I think [that’s] the main thing we’ve really been working on, like timing with the jumps and making sure I’m asking him to push across the oxers at the right moments,” she said.

Taylor Cawley won the William Cooney Jr. Style & Sportsmanship Award.

Madden said she was proud of how Merna handled the pressure and was particularly pleased with her student’s dedication since her own horse is out due to injury.

“She just immediately said, ‘I need to do what’s best for my horse. I want to give him the appropriate time so that we can have him back for finals if possible, and what do I do in the meantime to keep going and stay sharp?’ ” said Madden. “And came here and right out of the box was able to win the first class. Last year she had time faults in the second class, or she probably would’ve won the second class, and she might have been winning this award last year as well.

“But that just shows you how much it’s important to have these experiences and learn from them and not get discouraged by them, because if you’re a rider that gets discouraged by them you don’t take the opportunity to learn and come here and be sitting where she is now,” she added.

Christian Dominguez was given the Hannah Micayla Serfass “Best Overall Performance” Trophy as the top ride across all the sections of the ASPCA Maclay.

The Chronicle has a pair of reporters at Devon bringing you photo galleries, stories from the competition and more at Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to make sure you don’t miss a thing. You can see a full report from the entire competition in the June 17 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.

Important Links: Devon Horse Show website / Detailed schedule / Results and orders of go / All the Chronicle’s coverage



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