Friday, Apr. 19, 2024

Walters Winds Down Her Junior Career With A New England Victory

She makes the most of an “Opportunity” for a well-deserved win.

After competing in the New England Equitation Championships for eight consecutive years, Jenny Walters, 17, put it all together to end her junior career with a bang.

She returned home from this year’s NEEC, Oct. 25-28 in West Springfield, Mass., as New England Horsemen’s Council Hunt Seat Medal Finals champion and high-point junior rider (87.33).
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She makes the most of an “Opportunity” for a well-deserved win.

After competing in the New England Equitation Championships for eight consecutive years, Jenny Walters, 17, put it all together to end her junior career with a bang.

She returned home from this year’s NEEC, Oct. 25-28 in West Springfield, Mass., as New England Horsemen’s Council Hunt Seat Medal Finals champion and high-point junior rider (87.33).

“The New England Finals has always been special to me because it was the first finals I ever went to, when I was 11 years old,” said Walters. “I’ve been there every year since.”

Familiarity was certainly a benefit. “I’ve been there so many times that I feel very comfortable there,” she added. “The first round went very well. It was a good course for my horse and for me. I felt very confident, and that momentum carried through to my second round.

Walters placed third in 2006 and 2005, and seventh in 2004. “We had little mistakes in past years, but this weekend all went according to plan,” said Walters. “I wanted to go all the way this year and actually win it.”

Walters’ horse, Opportunity (Daniro—Gentle Keur), is a 16.3-hand, Dutch Warmblood gelding that she’s owned for 41⁄2 years.

“My trainer bought him as a green horse in Europe, and I bought him two days after he arrived in the States. He was about 7 years old,” she said. “He hadn’t done much showing in Europe. The first year we had him, my trainer showed him in the first years and I did him in the junior hunters, and we built up from there.”

She said Opportunity is irreplaceable. “He’s about as lovely as they come,” she said. “He’s a very special horse. We spent a solid year looking for an equitation horse before we found him.

“He was definitely the defining horse of my junior career,” Walters continued. “I’ve ridden lots of horses and lots of ponies, but he’s the one who really taught me to ride. He gave me a lot of success and a lot of confidence.”

 Walters has trained with Linda Langmeier of Kelianda Farm in East Granby, Conn., since she was 12 at Langmeier’s farm and as a student at The Ethel Walker School, where Walters attended high school and Langmeier is head coach.

Walters graduated this spring and was accepted at Boston College (Mass.) but deferred a year in order to finish her junior career. Walters, originally of Shelburne, Vt., is a long-time working student of Langmeier’s and lives on her farm.

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Walters has purchased a jumper and, having competed in a few grand prix classes, plans to continue in that direction.

Everything Came Together

Despite having ridden little in recent months, Amanda Powers claimed championship titles in the NEHC Amateur Medal Finals, 18-22, and the open amateur adult equitation, 18-22.

Powers, 19, is a student at Union College (N.Y.). “Being at school has kept me from riding, and I was nervous about that,” she said. “Most of the people there had been riding on teams at school or have jobs that have them riding horses every day.

“I thought it would hurt me a lot not riding every day,” she continued. “I’ve never been a natural—I’ve always had to work really, really hard at being consistent and not getting nervous.”

Powers did take the time to ride the weekend prior to the show, and she warmed up on Wednesday and Thursday. So when she walked into the ring, everything came together.

Powers rode EQ, a 16.2-hand Dutch Warmblood, who was also her mount for her last two junior years.
“We sold him in June to Gareth Benshoss, and I’ve been leasing him back for the USET [Talent Search classes] all summer, and I also took him to the Massachusetts Finals this year,” she said.

Powers, Dover, Mass., rides with Kristin Bumpus at her stable, Winter Street, in Concord, Mass. Overall, Powers was happy with her rides on the 11-year-old gelding.

“I won the warm-up class in my section, even though it didn’t go quite as well as I wanted,” she said. “It was a little long here, a little short there. But the judges liked it so that was a real confidence booster.

“I went for my first round for the Medal, and it was great,” she noted. “Last year, my last junior year, it was way too short here, way too long there, and I got a rail—it felt really bad. But this time, I knew at the end I had done a good job, even if I wasn’t on top.”

Happy Returns

After a disappointing show last year, Jean Sheptoff returned to finish the job, claiming the NEHC Adult Medal, 23-34, and the open amateur adult equitation, 23-34.

“Last year, we were winning after the first round. In the second round, we were doing great until I messed up the very last jump, and we finished eighth,” she said. “I was kicking myself about that, so it was nice to come back and do well this year. The course came together great, and the lines worked out well.”

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Her horse for both years, Condessi, nicknamed “Henry,” is 22 years young and owned by her mother, Andrea, who also rides him. Jean said the former grand prix horse was at his best this weekend.

The Hanoverian still shows spark and gets fresh on occasion. “At the Massachusetts Finals this year, we had a very good ride, except that he bucked after the first jump,” she said with a laugh.

Despite his age, Henry requires little extra care. “We get his hocks injected about twice a year and he gets joint medications, but other than that he’s an easy keeper. We try not to do too much with him, but we do keep him fit,” Jean said.

She showed at the NEEC for five years as a junior under the coaching of Timmy Kees, placing third twice, then took time away from riding for college and graduate school. She returned to equitation 11⁄2  years ago when her mom purchased Henry from trainer Geoff Teall.

With her significant other, hunter/jumper trainer Cory Hardy, Jean opened Newbury Farm in Littleton, Mass., where she’s barn manager.

Now that Jean’s won the NEHC Adult Medal, she’s setting her sights on future medal finals. “I keep thinking we have to retire Henry soon, but he just keeps getting better,” she said smiling.

Linette Dooley doesn’t let show nerves get the best of her. “I try to use them to my benefit,” she said. “I think they do make you sharper, but you can’t let them get to you so much that you forget your job out there. That’s the balance I try to achieve.”

Her strategy worked: she won the NEHC Adult Medal Final, 35 and over, and the high-point adult rider award (86.66).

“My first trip was good, not conservative, but I wish it was a little bit more flowing,” she said. “I think I got an 83 and the second person was a 78, so I was 5 points ahead going into the second round. The second round felt much better. I matched the jumps a lot better.”

Dooley trains with Armand Chenelle of Windcrest Farm and piloted London Fog to the victory. The 17-year-old, off-the-track Thoroughbred is owned by Holly Rebello, who purchased him as a youngster. Dooley had ridden the gelding at other finals and felt lucky to have him for this show.

“He lands on both leads, he’s got plenty of step, he does his changes—he’s the quintessential equitation horse,” she said. “He’s awesome. There was a long line of people behind me who wanted to lease him for this show.”

Dooley, Columbia, Conn., is a lifetime rider. “I did all the Medal/Maclay stuff as a junior, then I turned pro for a year or two. I went back and got my amateur status and groomed for someone during that time,” she said.

Linette and her husband, John, then had a son, Jack, now 21⁄2 years old. “I actually rode a lot when I was a full-time mom. But I returned to work at the end of March, and I haven’t been riding that much this year,” she said. “So, to win my class and also win the high-score among 170 adults, that was wonderful for me.”

Sarah Wynne Jackson

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