A confident Meg O'Mara made it look easy aboard Vancouver to win the Pessoa/U.S. Equitation Medal Finals
October 14, 2012 – Harrisburg, PA – Over 250 of the country’s top junior riders gathered at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show to vie for the winning title during the prestigious 2012 Pessoa/U.S. Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Finals presented by Randolph College.
Under the watchful eyes of judges Geoff Teall and Bill Moroney, each horse and rider combination navigated the technical track to try and make the final callback. In an emotional ending, young rider Meg O’Mara went home with the winning prize after completing three flawless rounds aboard Vancouver. Lillie Keenan followed with the reserve championship, while Sydney Shulman and Hasbrouck Donovan finished third and fourth, respectively.
For the first round, Teall and Moroney developed a course that included a one-stride combination, an oxer-oxer-vertical triple combination, a long four-stride line, a gate fence, and multiple rollbacks and bending lines. The judges were specific that the number of strides in the bending lines was optional, and less important than the quality of the jump created by the rider.
The Course for Round One of the Pessoa/U.S Equitation Medal Finals. See Round Two course below.
“What’s most fun about judging this class is you get to do the course so you know exactly what you want it to look like,” said Teall. “We’re quite happy with both courses. They either understood it or they didn’t. There was very little variance.”
“The riders that ended up getting a ribbon- they figured out what the questions were,” added Moroney “In the second round, eight A, B and C. It was interesting to see the ones who realized it was short to long and then banked the turn and rode in well. Others just didn’t pay that much attention to it.”
“The course –when I walked it I thought it was way too soft. But, don’t tell anyone but I think I was wrong,” joked Don Stewart who trains both Donovan and O’Mara. “It ended up being a really good course. I was pleasantly surprised.”
Lillie Keenan’s trainer, Andre Dignelli agreed, ”I thought it was too soft, but I was clearly wrong. The first line was the test that most kids could not answer.”
Lillie Keenan and Clearway
Lillie Keenan’s smooth and flowing round aboard Clearway, owned by Heritage Farm, earned her the top call back position after the first round, while Meg O’Mara followed in second. The riders were asked to return in reverse order and compete over a second course, similar to the first round with the same combinations, but in the reverse direction. The callback in reverse order was as follows:
Hannah von Heidegger
After the second round, the judges asked four riders to return to the ring for a final test. They were called back with Donovan in fourth, Shulman jumped up to third, Keenan moved down to second, and O’Mara took over the lead. For their final exercise, the judges asked the riders to complete an opening circle, hand gallop fence one, canter fence two, halt and back, canter the one stride three A and three B, counter canter fence nine, counter canter fence five in opposite direction, trot fence 10, canter fence 11, make a closing circle, and exit through the out gate.
Hasbrouck Donovan and Drake
Donovan was first to go aboard Drake, who recently placed third at the 2012 USEF Show Jumping Talent Search FInals with Sylvia deToledo and took home the award for Best Horse. The pair went a little two far around the corner before halting and had difficulty holding the counter canter to fence nine. They ended smoothly and received the fourth place award.
“I had a lot of nerves. My horse was amazing,” shared Donovan, who Stewart describes as “deadly accurate.”
Shulman was next and kicked off her round with a very smooth half and was able to land in the counter canter after the double combination. She and her mount Eli, had a very good transition to the second counter canter fence, and the judges named her the third place finisher.
Sydney Shulman and Eli
“I was really excited about landing in the counter canter off the jump,” confided Schulman. “I was hoping if I tried it would work. So I tried. I was lucky that it worked! I‘ve never done the second round so I was excited just to do it. It was a better course for my horse the second time.”
“She starts every statement with ‘I have a question,’” joked Stacia Madden, Shulman’s trainer. “She also listens to the answer and she’s a great student.”
Next to make a bid for the win was Keenan riding Clearway. Keenan flowed through the transitions easily and had a very good trot jump. Her efforts through the day eventually earned her the reserve championship award.
“I’m extremely happy,” said Keenan. “Coming here is exciting and getting a ribbon is a huge accomplishment.”
“When you go to the show with Lillie you know you’ve got a chance,” said Dignelli. “She’s got it all going on. I think the horse lacked a touch of mileage. I don’t think she made any riding errors. I think she held his hand and did it just exactly right.”
Best Equitation Horse Award went to Lillie Keenan's mount, Clearway owned by Heritage Farm
Keenan’s horse, Clearway, was presented with the Best Equitation Horse Award, sponsored by Missy Clark.
“He’s one of the most special horses I’ve gotten to ride. It was his first time doing the finals. You wouldn’t know it. He’s completely unfazed,” said Keenan.
The final rider on course would prove to be the best. O’Mara and Vancouver started off with a beautiful, bold hand gallop to the first fence. She expertly landed in the counter canter for fences nine and five and maintained it effortlessly. O’Mara has been knocking at the door for a Finals win, and this time she made it happen.
According to Moroney and Teall, O’Mara’s confidence and her brilliance were the differentiators that moved her up to the first place position.
Meg O'Mara and Vancouver win the coveted prize
“The course was really fun,” said O’Mara. “It challenged riders enough but it wasn’t too hard that it was impossible. It had a nice flow to it. When I walked it I had a good feeling”
“We just brought him from California in early September. We thought he’d be a perfect match and he’s been amazing,” she said about her horse, Vancouver.
“These girls really deliver,” said Stewart of Donovan and O’Mara. “We’ve been together a long time and they know the routine. They are both very compassionate about their horses.”
Of the four top finishers, Stewart added, ”They are all good friends. They all say Sydney is the funny one. They all get a kick out of her.”
Hasbrouck Donovan, Sydney Shulman, Lillie Keenan and Meg O'Mara
1 221 Meg O'Mara
2 130 Lillie Keenan
3 236 Sydney Shulman
4 156 Hasbrouck Donovan
5 161 Lydia Ulrich
6 73 Jacob Pope
7 214 Hannah Von Heidegger
8 149 Charlotte Jacobs
9 103 Liza Finsness
10 31 Elizabeth Benson
The Pennsylvania National Horse Show continues Monday, kicking off the professional hunter divisions and the North American League Children’s Hunter Finals.
Round Two Course