Saturday, May. 18, 2024

Schaub Rides Off With WEF Equitation Championship


“Anything’s possible!” quipped Maria Schaub after winning her second consecutive R.W. “Ronnie” Mutch Winter Equestrian Festival Equitation Championship. The class proved the adage that it’s not over till it’s over, with Schaub and Maggie McAlary having to duel it out in a final test after two rounds of jumping.
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“Anything’s possible!” quipped Maria Schaub after winning her second consecutive R.W. “Ronnie” Mutch Winter Equestrian Festival Equitation Championship. The class proved the adage that it’s not over till it’s over, with Schaub and Maggie McAlary having to duel it out in a final test after two rounds of jumping.

After the two rounds, McAlary was ahead on points, with a 93.5 average from Round 1 and a 96 average from Round 2 for a total of 189.5. Schaub had totaled 188.25 with a 94.25 and a 94. But the judges—George Morris, Rodrigo Pessoa, Peter Leone and Linda Andrisani—wanted to see more on March 18 in Wellington, Fla.

McAlary and Schaub switched horses and rode the Round 2 course—which included a trot fence and a counter-canter turn to an oxer—again. Schaub went first, on McAlary’s Mid Accord, and rode well, though she struggled to fit five strides into one line.

“He jumped in nice and I thought it was going to be a little bit quiet, so I came forward a little too much there. I was trying to make sure I did the test and was as conservative as possible,” Schaub said.

The class was McAlary’s to win, but a break in concentration cost her. “Maria had landed on the counter lead and held it, which is what I’d done on my horse. [Schaub’s horse] Aaron jumped around really well, and then he landed on the counter lead. I rolled back really tight and I saw the nice distance, and I kind of forgot about keeping the counter lead and let him swap to the right. But we finished up really well,” said McAlary.

The judges considered McAlary’s loss of the counter lead more of a major fault than Schaub’s tight distance, and Schaub regained the title. And, just as she had last year, she did it on an unfamiliar horse.

A Cool Ride

Schaub, Holmdel, N.J., primarily catch-rides in the equitation, junior hunter and jumper divisions and rides with Frank and Stacia Madden at Beacon Hill. Through-out the Winter Equestrian Festival, she showed a green 6-year-old in the equitation division for trainer Jimmy Toon.

“She’s been amazing, and she’s going to be really good, but we’ve been working on developing her and she was a bit green for this,” she said.

So, Schaub got the ride on Aaron the day before the Ronnie Mutch class. “He’s fabulous; he’s a veteran of the equitation, and he’s one of the coolest horses I’ve ever ridden,” she said.

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This was the best finish in this class for McAlary, who last year won the ASPCA Maclay Finals and the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals, though she’s shown in the class for the past five years.

The unique format of this class dictates that the riders—who qualified by winning an equitation class at WEF—have no contact with anyone else for the duration of the class. Riders walk the course, school and show all on their own. Trainers, cell phones and radios are banned from the ring.

The riders are also judged on the decisions they make in the schooling area. Schooling area judges Pierre Jolicouer, Bert Mutch and Joanne Kovacs added or deducted up to 2 points from each rider’s final score in each round based on how well they prepared for the ring.

And the courses that Mark Leone designed for both rounds really tested the riders’ decision-making skills. In Round 1, they had to ride an oxer-vertical line across the diagonal in four or five strides, depending on their horse’s capabilities, and then a bending eight strides to a narrow oxer. Up one long side of the ring was a tough gymnastic line of an oxer, a tight five strides to a long oxer-vertical one-stride, and then another tight four strides to an oxer.

The course concluded over a tight one-stride of two verticals, which were built of just one white rail each—no ground lines or filler. This combination took a few horses by surprise, and they stopped.

“The one-stride was a little different than what we normally do, so I was ready for him to kind of look down into it, but he jumped through fine,” said McAlary.

“I really liked the first round course—it was challenging, but attackable, even on a horse I wasn’t familiar with. I like the gymnastic kinds of lines and tough questions. They’re more fun. They’re easier because they really make you ride,” said Schaub.

In Round 2, the airy one-stride combination was jumped again, and the judges added a trot jump to an oxer, and a tight turn in the counter-canter to an oxer. They called back 10 for Round 2, and the cut-off score of 87 showed the caliber of the class.

Contenders

Carolyn Curcio returned first and rode a confident round. Her score of 87—identical to her first-round score—put her fifth. Matthew Metell also rode well, but a rail at the last fence dropped his second-round score to a 79; he would finish sixth.

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Kacey McCann, who traveled to the WEF to compete in the Ronnie Mutch class after having had a successful season at the HITS Ocala (Fla.) winter circuit, wasn’t as consistent in Round 2. She waited until well into her turn to try to switch to the counter-canter. She did a simple change just a few strides before the jump. The judges penalized her with a score of 77.

Jessica Springsteen picked up a score of 66.5 because she had a rail after trying to fit five strides into the line across the diagonal. Amelia McArdle’s trot jump was sticky, but her round was nice for a 72.5.

Julie Welles galloped straight into the ring and directly to the first jump, making a great first impression, and she rode confidently and on an economical track. The judges rewarded her with a 94.5, to which the
schooling area judges added 1 point. She set the bar with an 185.5 total. Welles, 18, is no longer a junior rider but qualified for the class by winning a section of the USET Show Jumping Talent Search.

Kimberly McCormack, who—like Welles—rides with Missy Clark, also put the pressure on with a fluid round, scoring a 92.5. And then McAlary rode a textbook second round for a 96, taking the lead with an 189.5 total.

Zazou Hoffman, Santa Monica, Calif., is a shining example of the effectiveness of the Ronnie Mutch Scholarship, which sponsors deserving young riders to the WEF for two weeks of lessons with various top trainers. Hoffman, 15, returned to the East Coast to train with Clark, and she rode to an impressive 93.5 score in Round 1.

In Round 2, however, Hoffman seemed to forget the counter-canter on the rollback turn. She attempted to get the counter-lead at the last minute, but had to circle, which dropped her out of the running.

Schaub remained, and upped the ante with a 94. She and McAlary’s total scores were so close that the judges chose to test them again, and Schaub prevailed.

This year’s Ronnie Mutch Scholarship winners were Karli Postel, who competed in the Ronnie Mutch class, and Mathias Bayas of Ecuador.

Molly Sorge

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