Wellington, Fla. – March 24, 2017 – Sixteen-year-old McKayla Langmeier of East Granby, Connecticut, returned to claim the blue ribbon in the 2017 George H. Morris Excellence in Equitation Championship, after earning the reserve champion title in 2016, on Friday evening under the Vankampen Covered Arena at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival showgrounds. Langmeier, who trains at family-owned Kelianda Farm, won the 2015 ASPCA Maclay National Championship, and was thrilled to add Friday night’s win to her growing list of impressive accomplishments aboard a mount that is still very new to the equitation ring.
“I was not expecting to win because I thought I was coming in second,” said Langmeier. “[Calberon B] is a newer mount for me and new to the equitation so I thought he handled the atmosphere here fantastic. He’s been doing the jumpers, but I have been doing him in the equitation since the start of the year.”
Throughout the past 11 weeks at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), junior riders have been diligently competing to qualify for this year’s equitation championship.
The tenth annual George H. Morris Excellence in Equitation Championship was held in three rounds with 39 riders competing in round one. The top 15 returned for round two and the top four were called back for further testing to determine the final placings.
Unique to this event is that riders are solely responsible for walking the courses, schooling and preparing themselves and their mounts all on their own. Communication with trainers is prohibited and each rider is required to turn in their cell phones prior to the start of competition. In addition, riders also receive a schooling score after both the first and second rounds of schooling ranging from -2 to +2 points from judge Eric Straus. The schooling score, which is based on time management, efficiency and any questionable practices or procedures from the riders, is added to the combined total of the two panel scores and divided by two to determine the round average.
The two panels of judges on Friday consisted of Ralph Caristo, Chris Kappler, Bobby Braswell and Frank Madden.
Round one began with a bending line from a vertical to an oxer, which set the tone for the judges’ scorecards. The course also applied rollbacks, a skinny wall, which many caught rails at, two double combinations and a wide hay bale obstacle in the shape of an arch, which riders had the option to jump and rollback over on the left, middle or right side for both fences six and seven.
“The first line, I thought, got a lot of people — you had to measure,” said judge Madden. “You couldn’t just jump and go.”
As 26th in the order in the first round, Langmeier piloted Calberon B, owned by her mother, Linda, to a smooth and consistent performance, deciding to choose a path less traveled for the option hay bale fences by taking the middle option and rolling back on the right lead to jump back over the left side of the hay bale. The majority of the riders in the first round chose to jump the right side and roll back over the middle on the left lead.
Langmeier concluded round one with a score of 178 from the two panels of judges plus one point for schooling for a total score of 179. Taylor St. Jacques, trained by Andre Dignelli of Heritage Farm, and Charisma led the way heading into the second round with a total score of 182, including one point for schooling, while Langmeier sat in second place.
“I was a little nervous going into [the second round] because I was second last year and then coming back second again, but I was ready for it,” said Langmeier.
In the second round, the top 15 returned to show over a similarly challenging track, yet it was Ava Stearns, Coco Fath, Langmeier and St. Jacques who impressed the judges enough to be selected for further testing in the final round, which asked the talented young riders to counter-canter fence one (an oxer), rollback and canter fence two (a vertical), counter-canter fence three (an oxer), trot fence six in the reversed direction from round two and hand gallop fence 11.
Receiving two points for schooling for a total score of 182 after the second round, Langmeier executed the test flawlessly as third to go, demonstrating a beautiful flying change to achieve the counter-canter after fence two to secure the championship.
“My strategy in the test was to hold the counter lead,” said Langmeier. “I’ve had issues in the past not holding it so I was going to try and go inside the hay bales. I ended up going around and then I saw the previous tests land the counter lead after the second fence, but I decided to do the flying change. In my head, I was definitely hearing my mom say, ‘You better hand gallop and hold the counter lead!’”
With a first round score of 174.50 and 179 in the second round, as well as two schooling points for both rounds, Stearns and Eclipse, owned by Missy Clark and North Run, secured the red ribbon, landing and holding the counter-canter effortlessly after fence two and demonstrating a strong hand gallop to fence 11.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” said Stearns. “I have an incredible mount, Eclipse, and he’s very experienced. He was actually second here last year with McKayla! He’s just an all-around great horse and I was so lucky to be able to have him tonight. I was really excited to do the class because he’s so special, and he handles everything so well. He’s so handy and everything that you ask of him he’ll do perfectly so that made it really fun.”
After receiving the highest scores from both the first and second round, earning a 187.50 with two schooling points in round two, St. Jacques finished in third place, after an inside turn to fence 11 hindered her ability to properly show off her hand gallop in the test.
“It’s a different atmosphere than we are used to here,” said St. Jacques. “It was a lot of fun under the lights. I thought Charisma was incredible today; it was a really good class overall. He’s a very special horse and he’s [Andre’s] favorite so I’m very thankful that he allows me to ride and show him. Everything I asked him to do he did absolutely perfectly tonight; he could not have gone any better.”
Rounding out the top four in the testing phase was Fath and Hillside Farm LLC’s Class Action. The pair also earned a 177 in the first round and 178 in the second round, including one point for schooling in both rounds.
“It was a privilege to judge the class and be involved in building the courses,” said judge Madden. “I thought the second round ended up being quite important. I thought that really represented those who were trying to win the class. The skinny jump with the inside turn caught a lot of people in the second round. I thought the test was great.
“I loved McKayla’s horse landing on the right lead on fence two and making the flying change,” continued Madden. “It was a great class. I hope the girls enjoyed the courses and the tests.”
These equitation riders don’t stop here. There is still a full weekend of competition to go for Week Eleven at WEF, and many riders will transition to the jumper ring next week on Sunday, April 2, for the $25,000 Hollow Creek Farm U25 Grand Prix Finale.
Final results: 2017 George H. Morris Excellence in Equitation Championship
*Please note: Round three scores were not announced.
1 4216 CALBERON B MCKAYLA LANGMEIER
R1/J1 88.00 R1/J2 90.00 1.00 179.00
R2/J1 89.00 R2/J2 91.00 2.00 182.00 361.00
2 802 ECLIPSE AVA STEARNS
R1/J1 84.50 R1/J2 88.00 2.00 174.50
R2/J1 87.00 R2/J2 90.00 2.00 179.00 353.50
3 2540 CHARISMA TAYLOR ST. JACQUES
R1/J1 90.00 R1/J2 91.00 1.00 182.00
R2/J1 90.50 R2/J2 95.00 2.00 187.50 369.50
4 912 CLASS ACTION COCO FATH
R1/J1 87.50 R1/J2 88.50 1.00 177.00
R2/J1 90.00 R2/J2 87.00 1.00 178.00 355.00
5 4851 BELLA VIDA GIAVANNA RINALDI
R1/J1 84.75 R1/J2 89.00 2.00 175.75
R2/J1 85.75 R2/J2 84.00 2.00 171.75 347.50
6 927 STALLONE MADISON GOETZMANN
R1/J1 87.00 R1/J2 79.50 2.00 168.50
R2/J1 88.00 R2/J2 88.00 2.00 178.00 346.50
7 922 KASKADE SAMANTHA COHEN
R1/J1 84.25 R1/J2 87.50 2.00 173.75
R2/J1 85.50 R2/J2 85.00 1.00 171.50 345.25
8 4197 ACTION PAINTING SARA MCCLOSKEY
R1/J1 84.00 R1/J2 87.00 2.00 173.00
R2/J1 83.00 R2/J2 86.00 1.00 170.00 343.00
8 938 GEMBER EMMA WUJEK
R1/J1 86.00 R1/J2 85.00 2.00 173.00
R2/J1 86.00 R2/J2 82.00 2.00 170.00 343.00
10 6192 CARL EMMA KURTZ
R1/J1 86.75 R1/J2 85.75 1.00 173.50
R2/J1 86.50 R2/J2 81.00 2.00 169.50 343.00
11 5682 BALLON HALEY REDIFER
R1/J1 86.50 R1/J2 84.50 2.00 173.00
R2/J1 85.00 R2/J2 78.00 1.00 164.00 337.00
12 949 COPPERFIELD 39 ELLI YEAGER
R1/J1 83.50 R1/J2 86.00 -2.00 167.50
R2/J1 82.00 R2/J2 77.00 2.00 161.00 328.50