The top 10 riders were required to switch mounts for the Final Work-Off, and were ranked as followed returning in reverse order:
• Elizabeth Benson
• Meg O'Mara
• Hasbrouck Donovan
• Michael Hughes
• Catherine Tyree
• Jacob Pope
• Victoria Colvin
• Gabrielle Bausano
• Sarah Milliren
• Kristen Lutz
Benson drew Catherine Tyree’s mount Patrick for the Final Work Off and it worked out perfectly. Their smooth effort in the ring was rewarded with an average score of 90.33, bringing their total to 270.832, which would be good enough for the prestigious victory.
This championship came through a great deal of planning and preparation after an injury kept San Remo VDL (left) out of the show ring last year. “We got him three years ago and he’s perfect for me. Last year I wasn’t able to show him, so this year he had a little bit of a break before coming here.”
Patrick also proved to be a suitable mount for Benson and she was pleased with the draw. “He was definitely comfortable from the start,” she stated. “I wasn’t as nervous as last year. Going in on him I think he was more my ride, he was easy to open up and get down the first line and throughout the course.”
“I definitely thought going down the first line you wanted to set the tone and not be too weak,” she continued. “The liver pool down to the bending line was hard for me on my horse, but I think I fixed that with Patrick.”
Stacia Madden, Benson’s trainer, was not surprised about the victory for the talented rider. “I do feel the judges don’t like to lose the winner when they perform consistently and haven’t left the door open,” she explained. “I didn’t get to see many others go, but I didn’t think Elizabeth left the door open. She had a lead going into it and I thought it was going to pan out that way.”
“It really comes down to the day and whose day it is,” added Madden (right). “When you look at it on paper there are at 15 kids that could win these finals on any given day. Here are a lot of variables, the course, the weather, and the venue. With the girls maintaining school and such a high standard f riding is just amazing. You want to think that this sport gets you the whole way, but education is very important. I think it sets a good precedence.”
The 18-year-old rider began her freshman year at Auburn University this fall and began preparing for Indoors with the riding team. “We ride five times a week whether hacking or jumping around,” she commented. “They make sure my eye is still working with such a break. It helps to be at a school where you can ride all the time.”
“I can’t even put this win into words,” concluded Benson. “I am thrilled and excited. I didn’t imagine I would be in this spot.”
Hasbrouck Donovan had the top score in the Final Work Off, having drawn Benson’s mount San Remo VDL. Their average score for the round was a 91, which brought Donovan’s total to 269.833 and earned the Reserve Championship. It proved to be an excellent ending to her last junior year before joining Benson at Auburn University.
“This is my fifth year doing these Finals,” said Donovan. “Elizabeth told me San Remo VDL was really fun and all you have to do really is steer him around. He was awesome. I think the bending five you really had to make sure your horse was with you."