November 1, 2015--The CP National Horse Show has been going since 1883, while the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship Championship has been around only since 1933. But ask most people what class they associate most with the National, and the odds are that they will mention the Maclay.
This year, the usual marathon one-day format was dropped for a two-day competition. The first round, which drew 153 riders, was held yesterday. The top 30 came back this morning to ride on the flat (one test involved a flying change from the counter-canter in front of the judges) and then they all jumped a new course.
To me, it seemed a little easier than initial route. The first fence yesterday was a triple bar off the rail, with seven strides to the signature ASPCA Maclay wall on the rail. There were lots of refusals; that's one way to weed out the chaff.
But amazingly, the first rider to go, at 6:30 a.m., was still number one when the class was pinned shortly before noon today. It was the luck of the draw that McKayla Langmeier had to break the ice in the first round, but it was an omen. She stayed number one throughout the class and wound up getting her name on one of the most revered trophies in horse sports.
"She was our American Pharoah, that's for sure," said Ralph Caristo, the beloved perennial Zone 2 Young Riders chef d'equipe, who judged the class with Olympic gold medalist Chris Kappler.
Ralph was referring to Pharoah's wire-to-wire win in yesterday's Breeders' Cup Classic, seen by many in a room set aside in the Alltech Arena for wagering and watching. And McKayla, too, went wire-to-wire.
Actually, McKayla's performance yesterday made Chris a little nervous. He had designed the course with Bobby Murphy and had made the striding "right at the edge of what you could do without putting people into trouble."
Then came McKayla.
"I had a momentary panic because she walked in and rode the course exactly the way Ralph and I wanted. It was like she read my mind and I said, `It's too easy.' I was worried."
But many other riders obviously weren't up to 15-year-old McKayla's level.
"What we were really looking for was who had a plan, executed the plan and looked like they were really doing it," Chris said.
But back to the trophy. One of the names engraved on it is Linda Kossick. Now Linda Langmeier, she won it in 1983 and is McKayla's mother. Another first--there has never been a mother/daughter winner before.
I talked with Linda about how it feels to know that her daughter's name will be on the trophy as well. Click on the video to hear what she had to say.
Lucy Deslauriers, who was named the runner-up in the Maclay, had a huge weekend. She won the USEF U25 championship for riders under the age of 25 (duh) and did a fantastic job aboard Hester, the only entry to log no penalties at all in two grueling rounds. And then she had to get up and ride in the Maclay today on Great Expectations. That's a perfect name in connection with Lucy, because the expectations for her are indeed great. She is the daughter of Lisa Tarnapol Deslauriers and Mario Deslauriers, both of whom have ridden for the U.S. Equestrian Team.
DiAnn Langer, the USEF young rider chef d'equipe, emphasized that the U25 category is where the country's future medals are coming from, and how encouraging it is to see the standard that was displayed at the show.
Third in the Maclay went to Madison Goetzmann, the amateur-owner/junior jumper champion. These kids are versatile and ride in a variety of divisions. So much for being an equitation specialist.
Things didn't start out well for McKayla when one of her boot zippers malfunctioned. Crisis!
And she didn't bring a spare pair. Luckily, Anthony DiSimone, a barn manager at North Run for McKayla's trainer Missy Clark, loaned her his boots. And they fit.
Everything fell into place after that for the Connecticut teen. Skyfall, her horse, is a true partner, albeit with some cute little quirks. Click on the video to hear what McKayla had to say about her day and her horse.
I find it interesting that in the old days, Maclay winners were trained by one, or at the most, two people. Today, there is a cast of thousands, it seems. I talked with Missy about that, and her star pupil.
If you're wondering where today's $250,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Lexington grand prix is in this round-up, click on this link to read the story.
And if you want to see more photos from the show, go to www.facebook.com/practical horseman. There will be a photo gallery up on Tuesday as well.
In 10 days, I'll be in Toronto at the Royal Winter Fair, which is one of my favorite shows. Who doesn't like maple sugar candy? And cows. And butter sculptures. I could go on and on, but it's a terrific horse show too. I'll fill you in November 12, so be sure to look for my postcard that morning.