Friday, May. 24, 2024

Watch Why They Won: Downey Shines In Gladstone Cup—East

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Tessa Downey moved 11 places up the standings over three rounds of competition Wednesday to top a field of 107 riders in the 19th annual USHJA Gladstone Cup Equitation Classic—East at the kickoff of the Adequan/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships—East.

Downey, 18, of Houston, lead a Texas takeover at Flintfields Horse Park (Michigan) aboard her own HH Moonshine, taking first in the class while fellow Texan Carlee McCutcheon finished second with Kennedy McCaulley’s Chacco Star, who also was named best equitation horse by the judges.

Downey finished the first round of competition in 12th place. With a score of 86.35, she was securely above the handy round cutoff score of 80 but more than 5 points off of leader McCutcheon. All 38 competitors who made the second round were within 12 points of each other.

A standout handy round lifted Tessa Downey, aboard HH Moonshine, 11 places to win the USHJA Gladstone Cup Equitation Classic—East on June 28 at Flintfields Horse Park (Mich.). Andrew Ryback Photo

“My goal was to win this equitation championship, so I really rode to win and I was instructed to ‘go as tight as you can and take all the tight turns,’ ” Downey said. “So for example, there was an outside or inside option to jump one. I chose the inside, spookier option, and I think that decision really paid off because it really set the mark for the rest of the class.”

Judges Robin Rost Brown and Andrea Wells set a demanding handy course that included trot and hand gallop fences to determine the top six riders who would return for a final work off. Downey’s handy track set her apart, earning a 93, the highest score of the class, and a secure lead heading into the final on a two-round total of 179.25.

Also making the final round, in which the riders swapped horses, were Eve Westfall, McCutcheon, Olivia Sweetnam, Blythe Goguen and Caroline Signorino. Taking to the ring in reverse order, impressive rounds from the first five put the pressure on Downey, who returned aboard Westfall’s mount Kasteel WS. Despite her unfamiliar mount, Downey held on to her lead to win. 

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“I ride with Peter Pletcher and Ken and Emily Smith at Ashland Farms,” Downey said. “Ashland is famous for their sales business, so I’ve had a lot of opportunities to ride many different animals— green, seasoned, all the kinds—so all the credit to Ken, Emily and Peter for putting me on animals and just making me comfortable in that scenario.”

McCutcheon, of Aubrey, Texas, finished second after adding a 83.75 in the handy round to her first-round leading score of 92. She returned in the final round on a score of 175.75 with Sweetnam’s Ustica to move up one spot and collect the reserve ribbon. Westfall, who rode her final round on HH Moonshine, finished third (176.25).

See complete results here.

Watch Downey’s handy round, courtesy of USEF Network:

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