Julie Welles spent a lot of time last winter practicing trot jumps. And at the New England Equitation Championships, held at the Eastern State Exposition in West Springfield, Mass., Oct.22-24, she nailed the trot jump on her way to the win in the New England Junior Medal Final.
The Junior Medal Final attracted 192 riders. The first round was a nice, flowing course of 12 jumping efforts. A broken line across the middle of the ring that could be ridden in five, six, or even seven strides proved the most difficult for some riders.
After the first round, Kathryn Stenberg stood first, with Chris Karpowicz in second and Welles in third. Stenberg, Karpowicz, and Welles were also impressive in the second round, all scoring in the high 80s. The second round was slightly shorter and included a triple combination. After the second round, the six-judge panel of Steve Wall, Anthony D’Ambrosio, Rob Bielefeld, Carol Molony, Linda Andrisani and Sue Ashe invited five riders back for further testing: Welles, Stenberg, Karpowicz, Jo Jo Gutfarb, and Sarah Quagliaroli.
The test asked riders for a hand gallop and a trot jump. The year before when Welles, West Simsbury, Conn., placed third she had to ride without stirrups in the test. “I was glad that I didn’t have to ride without stirrups again and that the test was pretty much a normal course,” she said.
Still, it did have a trot jump. “During Florida last year I messed up a trot jump in a handy hunter class and from then on the whole rest of circuit I was grilled at trot jumps,” said Welles, who rides with Missy Clark and Linda Langmeier. “All my lessons we practiced trot jumps.”
Clark helps Welles at the shows and was the one who made her practice so many trot jumps. Langmeier teachers Welles at The Ethel Walker School (Conn.), where Welles, 16, is a junior.
Welles rode a beautiful test, this time melting back perfectly for the trot jump. “I just tried to ride it like I’ve been taught,” she said. “I tried not to lean, not to drop my horse, and not to rush it.”
Welles, who does not own a horse, rode Willow, who is owned by North Run and Clark. She leases a junior jumper, and in the equitation, she competes on horses Clark gives her to ride. She also catch-rides in the hunters.
Although she had never shown Willow, Welles felt confident on him. “He’s so smooth and soft in his mouth,” she said.
Her smooth ride was enough to give her the win over Stenberg. Karpowicz finished third, Quagliaroli fourth, and Gutfarb fifth.
For Welles, who has two more years left as a junior, this was her first big equitation final victory, although she’s had other top placings, including a ninth-placed finish in this year’s BET/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals-East.
While Ruth Drumm just missed the cut-off for the second round of the Junior Medal Final–she finished 26th–she was thrilled with her win in the Katie Battison Memorial Horsemanship Challenge. “It means a lot to me to get recognized for horsemanship at a horse show since that’s not usually something anyone seems to notice or celebrate,” she said. “All my friends have grooms so it’s nice be recognized for taking care of my own horse–it’s pretty special.”
Drumm, 17, trains with her mother Cathy Drumm, and Bob Braswell and Christina Schlusemeyer of Quiet Hill Farm in Ocala, Fla.
A record 130 riders took part in the first round of the Horsemanship Challenge–the written test. The top 25 riders after the written test were then challenged in the practicum by past Junior Medal winner and Tufts University (Mass.) veterinarian, Kate Chope, and Carol Molony. The final piece of the challenge included the riders’ scores from the first round of the Junior Medal Final.
Drumm credits her mother for helping her learn to be a horsewoman. “My mom is a professional so I grew up around horses and learned from her,” she said. “My mom also kind of forced me to do Pony Club. I didn’t think it was very cool at the time, but it really did help me learn a lot about taking care of horses.”
A senior at Lenox Memorial High School (Mass.), Drumm plans to defer college for a year to ride. Her mother just moved her stable to Londonderry, Vt., and Drumm will finish school in Lenox before moving too.
Trainer Fred Hunt, Brewster, Mass., was surprised with the Martin Simensen Lifetime Achievement Award. “As they got ready to announce it I was wondering, ‘Who’s it going to be this year?'” said Hunt, who is on the NEEC Committee and has been a New England trainer for more than 25 years. “I had no idea it would be me. It means a lot to have your colleagues and peers single you out.”