Following two rounds of jumping and one final test Sunday at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, a field of 206 entries was narrowed down to one 2023 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final winner: Carlee McCutcheon, 17, of Aubrey, Texas, aboard Chacco Star.
Second place went to Medal Final first-timer Noah Nelson aboard Cassini, and Kate Hagerty finished in third riding Magic Moment.
The exceptional final test came after a first round that McCutcheon acknowledged “wasn’t my smoothest first round,” and saw them in 14th place of the top 25 riders invited back for the second round. Her performance there vaulted her into second place to earn a spot in the final, six-horse test.
Among other questions, the test asked riders to trot a fence, counter-canter two fences and demonstrate a hand gallop down and over the final fence before immediately coming to a halt. With Chacco Star, McCutcheon not only answered every question, she did so exceptionally well.
In the first counter-canter, the winning duo landed the lead and held it through the turn, and later in the course, McCutcheon seamlessly executed a flying change to the counter-lead. After the pair established a strong hand gallop down to the final oxer and then nailed a definitive halt, the crowd gave a loud cheer of approval for the test they had just watched.
“I just wanted to do something a little special, so I tried to hold the counter-canter from the first jump, and it worked out well,” McCutcheon said. “[“Chacco”] was just super. I couldn’t ask anything more of him.”
Watch their winning final test, courtesy of USEF Network and ClipMyHorse.TV:
McCutcheon has been partnered with the 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Chacco-Blue—Carieny Z), owned by Kennedy McCauley, for going on two years, and the pair has seen great success together in that time.
“He’s truly the best partner I could ask for,” said McCutcheon, Aubrey, TX. “I’m just so grateful to everyone that has allowed this partnership to come together. He’s amazing. He’s one of a kind for me. I don’t think I could do this with anybody else. He just makes me so brave. I know he can do any test, so I’m never overly nervous for any tricky questions that the course may ask.”