When Carlee McCutcheon was called back third for the final work-off of the WEF Equitation Championship on March 24, she knew she’d have to do something special to move up to the top spot. The judges had taken away the top four riders’ stirrups for the test, which included a halt, two counter-cantered fences and a hand galloped jump.
“I went second in the test, so I had to make a plan quickly, and Jordan [Gibbs] put in a beautiful test so I knew I’d have to do something hard, but Chacco is very talented, and I think he wants to win, so the harder the test, the better he is, and the better he jumps,” said McCutcheon of her mount Chacco Star, a 15-year-old Chacco-Blue gelding owned by Kennedy McCaulley. “I chose to land the counter lead after the wall and hold it, and I know that’s one of my horse’s strong suits, so I was confident I was able to do that and then just hand gallop the last jump and stay on that without my stirrups.”
Judges Archie Cox, Abby Blankenship, Tammy Provost and Lillie Keenan moved the Aubrey, Texas, rider to the top of the podium, with Eleanor Rudnicki in second and Jordan Gibbs in third.
The unique format of the WEF Equestrian Championship removes trainers and all outside help from the equation. Riders must walk the course, make their plan and warm up without assistance from a trainer. Riders hand in their cell phones at the start and can only be helped by one groom in the schooling area.
Diane Landreville and Dan Reed observed the warm-up for the first two rounds and awarded riders a score ranging from -2 to +2 points based on their time management, horsemanship and effectiveness in the schooling area. Those point were either added or subtracted from their overall score.
McCutcheon trains with Max Amaya and TJ O’Mara at Stonehenge Stables and her grandmother Colleen McQuay.
“Winning this class doesn’t feel real yet,” said McCutcheon, 17. “I would like to thank TJ who puts in so much work to make these horses perfect for us and everything he does for us, and Max Amaya, and the whole team at Stonehenge. And to thank my grandparents and parents for pushing me and believing in me enough to make this all come true.”
Watch the winning work-off, courtesy of Wellington International: