Harrisburg, Penn. – Oct. 13, 2019 – Junior riders from across the nation gathered to compete in the 2019 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Sunday, October 13. After three rounds of tenacious competition, Emma Fletcher aboard Bournedale emerged victorious, topping a field of an impressive 239 competitors.
In the first round of competition, 239 riders competed over a course of 12 obstacles, including two one-stride combinations, several bending lines and roll back turns. The track challenged riders’ ability to calmly steer and adjust while maintaining consistent pace and position. The course consisted of a combination of hunter and jumper style jumps in a track put together by judges Cynthia Hankins and Kip Rosenthal.
Jordan Allen rode a seamless round aboard Quite Cassini, answering all of the difficult questions asked of both horse and rider throughout the course to send the pair into an early lead. As just 38th in the order of go, Allen maintained her lead through the remaining 200 riders in the first round as the clear leader for Hankins and Rosenthal.
For the second round of competition, judges welcomed back the top 25 riders. The course comprised of 10 obstacles, and began by asking athletes and their mounts to show their best with a hand gallop directly to fence 1. The most demanding part of the course, however, was the counter canter to fence 3, followed by a roll back turn to counter canter fence 4. Many athletes fell victim to the difficult turn, unable to hold the counter lead or stay organized enough to tackle both fences without an issue. In the end, just six riders would be invited back to test over a shortened track for a chance at the top spot.
The top six riders included Fletcher, Sam Walker, Allen, Erin Floyd, Tessa Brown and Zayna Rizvi. Tackling the test in reverse order, riders were asked to canter directly to fence 10, followed by fence 7a and 7b. Riders had to demonstrate a transition to a clearly defined walk before cantering down the bending line to fence 3 on the left lead. As riders turned the corner past the lineup, they then had to demonstrate a turn on the haunches from left to right, remaining in the center of the ring. In reverse direction, riders returned to fence 3 on the right lead, transitioning to a clearly defined walk before cantering on the 7a and 7b backwards. To conclude, riders were asked canter on to fence 12, followed by a walk with a relaxed rein, patting their horses while returning to the lineup.
Riders received their instructions mounted in the ring, with no further opportunity to walk the course, converse with their trainers, or school their horses. The test course asked many questions of the remaining six riders, so a strong trust and understanding of their mount was vital for a successful round.
Rizvi, Brown, and Floyd were the first three riders to tackle the course, each adding their own unique style and flair. Next in the ring was Allen who sat in third place, eager to take back her lead. Allen showcased an impressive round, executing a spectacular turn on the haunches with her horse smoothly rotating 180 degrees without lifting a back foot. Walker followed Allen’s ride, with another skilled round, but faced difficulty with the turn on the haunches.
In the end, Fletcher maintained her lead to earn the coveted championship title riding the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. Allen’s impressive test would ultimately mover her up into the reserve champion spot, with Walker claiming third place honors.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Emma Fletcher – winner of the 2019 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals
“I’m very excited because I had the privilege of choosing between two awesome horses that I love. I ended up choosing a younger 7-year-old that really hasn’t done this before. I went to USET Finals and that’s pretty much the extend of his finals career. He was feeling amazing this past week so I decided to ride him. The course, every jump presented itself nicely. He ate up the lines. His stride is large and it just worked out really well. I’m just excited to make my parents super proud.”
On her horse:
“My mom is in touch with a lot of of local professionals so we had a local professional contact us and tell us that they had a few jumpers that they had imported from Holland. So they brought over a few horses, he was 6 years old at the time. I tried him and he had a few things to be made up still but he had an amazing canter and a great brain. We went to Old Salem for his first equitation class in the States and we decided with Don Stewart to purchase him and it was great decision. He’s come along so well and he’s just one of the best minded horses I’ve ever sat on. He’s just never proven to me that he will do anything bad – he’s fantastic.”
On preparing for Medal Finals:
“Everything starts with flat work. I did a lot of flat work with both my horses. Just doing lessons with Linda [Langmeier] and my mother [Kathryn Fletcher]. USET Finals was a great way to set up for this show, especially for the second round.”
On winning Medal Finals:
“Strangely enough, my mom and I had a feeling that today was going to be a good day. I didn’t expect it was going to be this good of a day. This just means everything to me. I know this sounds cliche but growing up with a trainer as a parent, you watch it and you want to do it and I really got to show that I know how to do it and everything fell into place today so it just means everything to me, really.”
On her test:
“I think my horse, just being a touch green, he was very anticipatory of everything that was going to happen next. I think doing the walk in the middle of the lines, he was a little perplexed why we were doing it so he wanted to go ahead a just canter, and for the turn on the haunches as well, so I just had to just kind of be behind the game mentally so slow my brain down and that helped him relax a little bit. That’s what was most challenging for me.”
Jordan Allen – 2019 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals reserve champion
“It started out great! I have the mega of equitation horses, so I just feel lucky to be able to ride him. No one deserves a horse like him so it was very exciting. In the first round, that was one of my best rounds, I’ll remember that for the rest of my life – he didn’t put a foot wrong. Of the eight years that I’ve been doing this, these were some fo the best courses and best judging. It was exciting having a second round that really made everyone think. You had to think about if your plan didn’t go right. It was great judging and my horse was amazing.”
On preparing for Medal Finals:
“I ride with Ashland and I can honestly say I haven’t seen my stirrups since the beginning of the summer and anyone that knows me can attest to that. I would school without them so I’m just lucky to have Ashland for pushing me. As much as it takes, all the lessons and everything, and we train really hard, it also takes them believing in you so to have your whole team behind you is special.”
On her test:
“It was very important to slow your mind down because you’re always thinking about the next thing the whole day and through the course. You always had to be using your eyes and the next thing was very important so I also thought that it was important that my horse could do all the tips and tricks. He turned on the haunches on a dime – he’s amazing. So I think it was important to know your horse and know what do do properly. It was definitely a hard test.”
Sam Walker – 2019 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals third place
“This was my third final and final season with Waldo who is owned by Missy Clark and John Brennan of North Run. I’m really proud of myself. We put in two solid rounds in the first and second round. I thought my test went pretty well so overall I’m happy.”
On preparing for Medal Final:
“I haven’t ridden Waldo in a few months. I live in Canada and the Missy is based in the U.S. so we never ended up connecting at the same horse shows after Lake Placid but I can say when I was at home, I stayed dedicated to make sure I was preparing myself the best that I could and do well. I know Missy and John’s program and of course Waldo was going to be ready to go. It was really nice to get here and I got back on him and it felt like he hadn’t skipped a beat so I was really really proud of him today.”
On his test:
“I thought the test was great actually. I didn’t think it could get more complicated after the second round. I was super happy with how my horse handled it. I was as composed as I could be and we caught everything out of stride and he did everything I asked. Maybe I rushed my turn on the haunches slightly but other than that, I have nothing else to say.”
Judge Kip Rosethal:
“It’s a long long day and it was so close and by the end it was wonderful. I think what won it for [Emma Fletcher] was the turn on the haunches. She did that beautifully and her jumps were very nice. Her turn on the haunches was a real turn on the haunches in my opinion. She was great, they were all great! It was a very small difference between the top 14. They were all in the 90s. It was such small fractions. So the second round for sure seperated them and changed a lot of them around and we had to call back six because they were that close. They were all very very good.”
Judge Cynthia Hankins:
For the turn on the haunches, you always have to capture the outside hind leg. It was a simple thing and I could see that that horse was a little bit green, he got a little bit antsy. The first thing she did was walk forward and around and she wasn’t’ afraid to step it up and go to the last jump. You can play it safe and it was close enough with those six that taking that shot, going backwards after 7 a-b and stepping up her canter and saying ‘watch this’ to the next jump, that makes a big difference. It could have gone either way but she [Fletcher] knew where she was, she stayed confident and she stayed chilly when she needed to be chilly and she took a shot when she needed to take a shot. Excellent riding today. There was a lot going on in the second round and there were some that some in the top 25 that, it’s not like there was a huge gap in the 25th and the 1st. They were all quite close so you were able to see some people that went early on and execute everything beautifully. It was hard for us because there were some changes and we’re talking only fractions. And one thing you guys have to be aware of is you’re nervous but we’re nervous too! When you’re going, we’re really rooting for you and we want you to do the best that you can. Some of you make a mistake and we go [makes hard gesture]. It was a long day for you and us too and we’re trying to do the best that we can. It was an incredible group of riders. Normally there is like 2-3 at the end of the year but not this year. There was a group of you that pulled it right out. I’m proud of all of you! I congratulate all of you.”
- Emma Fletcher
- Jordan Allen
- Sam Walker
- Tessa Brown
- Erin Floyd
- Zayna Rizvi
- Ava Stearns
- Farah Rizvi
- Avery Glynn
- Ellie Ferrigno
- Emma Pacyna
- Blaire Spencer
Reserve: Maeve O’Donovan