Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 11
Above the fences that decorated the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center, a row of banners hang from the ceiling, listing out the zones that have dominated the $15,000 Neue Schule/USEF Prix Des States in the class’ 40 years. The last two years have belonged to Zone 7, but Zone 10 and Zone 2 were at a tie for most wins overall with 12 victories each leading up to tonight’s class.
And this year, the Zone 2 team, consisting of Mimi Gochman, Ned Cunniffe, Sophee Steckbeck and Sophie Gochman, demonstrated that history of domination and edged out Zone 10 as the winningest team.
While other teams tallied faults throughout the first round, Zone 2 collected faultless zeros. And since no dropped score was needed, anchors Sophie and Carola BH didn’t need to jump.
The second round was much the same, with just Steckbeck and Alania ending with one pole down. But that 4 fault score was enough for Sophie to not enter the ring again. Zone 2 were clear and away the victors. (But perhaps it was always meant to be since the song they chose to blast in the speakers at Harrisburg, “Welcome To New York,” is sung by Taylor Swift whose favorite number is 13. Coincidental is it not?)
“It feels very secure,” said Mimi, who rode Street Hassle BH. “I feel like I did my best. Our team did our best. And it’s nice to have it assured that we’re going to do well. It’s not as much pressure I guess. [It’s] is really nice to just go in and focus on our round instead of focusing on whether or not we’re going to let our team down or something like that. I just went in trying to go clear.”
“It felt great to have only three riders go in and just knowing that it was going to go well,” said Cunniffe who rode Buckle Up. “Last year was kind of my first year stepping up into these bigger classes. And before that I wasn’t really as into riding. I was more into other sports. But this past summer I’ve kind of gotten into it a little more and practiced more and realized how much I liked it. It kind of became a goal at the beginning of this year to just get on the Prix Des States team. So this is kind of a surreal experience.”
And though Sophie didn’t have to compete, she still accomplished an objective. Though she won the $7,500 Neue Schule/USEF National Junior Jumper Individual Championship last year on the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Dutch Capitol—Warola), she still wanted to gain a team gold.
“I haven’t gotten a team gold yet so that was my goal, to go in and get team gold,” said Sophie. “I was happy with that gold and just to get that once was a big deal. I didn’t feel the need to do it again with her. She’s such a special horse. I wanted to save her legs.”
Though Zone 2 was the clear gold medal winner, a jump-off had to determine silver and bronze when Zone 7 and Zone 5 finished with a 12-fault score. In the end, Zone 7 took second followed by Zone 5.
“The riding sport is such a person and horse sport,” said Mimi. “It’s never been like a team sport except for you and your horse. So it’s nice to come together as fellow riders that are just as competitive, just as good, amazing competitors. To be on a team is really fun. It’s cool though to see how it pans out.”