U.S. Teams Shine at 2017 U.S. Saddle Seat Invitational/Test Event

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April 8, 2017--The 2017 U.S. Saddle Seat Invitational/Test Event concluded on Thursday, April 6, at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry, Ga. The U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Stripes and Stars Teams delivered strong performances against teams from Canada and South Africa. Under the guidance of coaches Devon Garone (Richmond, N.H.), Kristin Logan (Hampton Falls, N.H.), and Christy Parker (Brunswick, Ga.), the Stripes Three-Gaited section won gold and the Five-Gaited section won silver. The Stars Three-Gaited section won gold and the Five-Gaited section was part of an unprecedented tie for gold with South Africa under the guidance of coaches Avery Bul (New Orleans, La.), Scott Matton (Hartland, Wis.), and Michelle McVey Haisch (Cave Creek, Ariz.).

Athletes from the United States, Canada, and South Africa performed rail and pattern work in front of the judging panel comprised of Lewis McKim of Canada, Jaco Jonker of South Africa, and Lisa Cunningham Waller of the United States. This year, the competition featured a Junior and Senior competition. South Africa and the United States fielded Junior and Senior Three- and Five-Gaited Teams and Canada fielded a Junior Three-Gaited Team.

The competition opened on Monday, April 3, with the draw of donated horses. Each team had the opportunity to practice on the selected horses for 20 minutes in the respective sections. These horses were unfamiliar to the athletes, making this competition a testament to the skill and tenacity of the athletes and their ability to compete with such ease and comfort on new mounts.

“Our team members had great attitudes and were extremely flexible while practicing on different horses,” said Devon Garone, a coach of the Stripes Team. “Their poise under pressure and adaptability to different horses and situations led them to success!”

“We asked so much of the U.S. Team this week, from jumping on unfamiliar horses, to handling the crazy weather during their rides, and even having them compete in an intense game of laser tag,” said Christy Parker, a coach of the Stripes Team. “These riders delivered 100% every time. I could not be any prouder of our team’s tenacity and performances!”

The competition officially got underway on Wednesday morning with the Senior competition railwork phase. The Junior competition immediately followed. The U.S. Team members confidently rode their unfamiliar mounts and performed well. Coaches had the opportunity to substitute athletes for a segment (rail or pattern) where the horse/athlete combination fit best. The U.S. Team utilized this method during the Three-Gaited and Five-Gaited segments, which was a successful tool in managing the horse/athlete combinations and scores.

"All of these kids handled riding new horses, switching horses, and a few catch rides beautifully,” said Avery Bul, a coach of the Stars Team. “They were never phased, stayed calm through their patterns, and gave it their all. We couldn't have asked for a better group to work with, the double-gold is icing on the cake for this experience."

“These kids were fantastic! They were so coachable; everyone came from a great background with solid foundations,” said Scott Matton, a coach of the Stars Team. “This was one of the greatest thrills I have ever had! This is what the horse business is about, this is the real deal, and I am still on a high bursting with joy. The kids will remember this for the rest of their lives.”

After much anticipation, the U.S. Teams and supporters were excited to hear the results announced during Thursday evening’s Awards Ceremony. The Senior competition was awarded medals first, followed by the Junior competition. The athletes received their medals and stood on the podiums with the winning countries’ anthems played. Following the Awards Ceremony, the teams from each country were presented at the start of the evening session at the Pro Am Charity Horse Show.

“I was so proud to coach the Stars Three- and Five-Gaited Teams as they rode their hardest in search of a gold medal,” said Michelle McVey Haisch, a coach of the Stars Team. “None of them had nerves; they were just more excited to ride as a team for the USA. They all rode as hard as they would at a show!”

“It was wonderful experience,” said Kristin Logan, a coach of the Stripes Team. “I’m very proud of our teams and coaches and looking forward to our next event.”

The U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Stripes Team consisted of the following athletes:

Three-Gaited

The Three-Gaited section of the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Stripes Team (Sarah Bennett)

The Three-Gaited section of the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Stripes Team (Sarah Bennett)

  • Frannie Gefke (Brooklyn, Wis.)
  • Raven Gropp (Augusta, Ga.)
  • Jacquelyn King (Tyler, Texas)
  • Joseph Plunkett (Tucson, Ariz.)
  • Nicole Rodriguez (Grand Blanc, Mich.)
  • Victoria Walz (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.)

Five-Gaited

The Five-Gaited section of the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Stripes Team (Sarah Bennett)

The Five-Gaited section of the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Stripes Team (Sarah Bennett)

  • Emily Hopp (Bellevue, Neb.)
  • Matt Huke (Westfield, Ind.)
  • Anne Pateman (New Orleans, La.)
  • Holly Sarette (Goffstown, N.H.)
  • Lindsay Slemmons (Birmingham, Ala.)
  • Jade Woods (Altoona, Iowa)

The U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Stars Team consisted of the following athletes:

Three-Gaited

The Three-Gaited section of the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Stars Team (Sarah Bennett)

The Three-Gaited section of the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Stars Team (Sarah Bennett)

  • Grace Allison (Ringoes, N.J.)
  • Michael Arquilla (Woodridge, Ill.)
  • Lora Becker (Sac City, Iowa)
  • Ellie Grosspietsch (Cross Plains, Wis.)
  • Audra Lee (Binghamton, N.Y.)
  • Hallie Ricci (Allentown, N.J.)

Five-Gaited

The Five-Gaited section of the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Stars Team (Sarah Bennett)

The Five-Gaited section of the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Stars Team (Sarah Bennett)

  • Cecelia Bolka (Dayton, Ohio)
  • Ainsley Budzinski (Mukwonago, Wis.)
  • Madison Kobylski (Asbury, N.J.)
  • Olivia Schumacher (Sergeantsville, N.J.)
  • Téa Snider (Carmel, Ind.)
  • Madeleine Wood (Edmond, Okla.)

US Equestrian would like to thank the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter and the Pro Am Charity Horse Show for hosting this event as well as the officials and the volunteers. In addition, the organizers extend a special thank you to the following list of horse donors, as this event would not have been possible without them.

  • Absolute Equine, LLC
  • Anne Winograd
  • Ashley Brandies
  • Brooke Zell
  • Bryn Anderson
  • Bunny Braun
  • Cascade Stables/Barbe Smith
  • Catherine Moore
  • Christy Parker
  • Courtney Huguley
  • Diane Dorsey
  • Five Gaits Farm
  • Heather Boodey and Pat Jenkins
  • Helen Rich/Landon Farm
  • High Caliber Stables
  • Hope Long, LLC
  • Joy Rodak
  • Krystle Lee
  • Laura Alvis
  • Legacy Saddlebreds, LLC
  • Linda Weber
  • Loren Raines
  • Lori Nelson
  • Mary Jo Schmidt
  • Pam Roush
  • Reagan Upton
  • Reimer Stables
  • Rita Dennis
  • Veronica Tenerowicz
  • Virginia Gesler
  • Wamble Farm LLC/Julie Wamble

The 2017 U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Team efforts are supported by the USA Equestrian Trust and the United Professional Horsemen’s Association. US Equestrian is pleased to partner with American Jods, who supplied practice jods for the 2017 U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Teams. Additional support has been generously provided by Elisabeth Goth, Jack & Debra King, Golden Creek Farms Inc., the Walz Family, and multiple patron and stall donors. 

For more information about the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Teams, 2017 U.S. Saddle Seat Invitational/Test Event, or for a complete list of our supporters, go to www.usasaddleseatworldcup.org.

For additional information or questions regarding the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Teams, please contact Lori Nelson, Senior Director of National Affiliate, Competition and Alliance Partner Relationships, at (859) 225-6957 or at lnelson@usef.org.