September 30, 2013--The Capital Challenge Horse Show began today at the Prince George's Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD. This is the first day of the Capital Challenge Equitation Championship Weekend, presented by Bigeq.com. The Capital Challenge Horse Show runs through Sunday, October 6. The equitation age divisions were held today with over fences classes in the outdoor and indoor rings, joined by a flat class indoors. There were seven age division champions rewarded.
Alison Cooney of Chappaqua, NY, was the 17 Year Old Equitation champion on Wittewa. The division is sponsored by Frank Madden Show Stables. Cooney placed first and third over fences and was second on the flat. The reserve champion was Abigail Johnston on Caden, who finished second over fences and first on the flat.
Cooney has ridden Wittewa, or "Leon" as he's known in the barn, for two years. She described the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding as "a goofball." She continued, "He was so soft today. He was on an open stride, and he helped me out. He's a great horse."
After finishing fourth in last year's North American Junior Equitation Championships and riding in her final junior year, Cooney was excited to start out with a championship. "I'm so excited. It's such a nice way to start out," she acknowledged. "He feels good and I feel like we're working well together, especially indoors. You have to adjust a little bit, adjust your eye. I feel ready, and he's perfect."
Bigeq.com sponsored the 15 Year Old Equitation division, and Victoria Colvin of Loxahatchee, FL, won the championship. She rode VIP Z, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Hemmingway. Kelli Cruciotti and Monterrey were third in both over fences classes and won on the flat for the reserve championship.
In the few years that Colvin and VIP Z have been partnered, Colvin said that the handsome dark bay has become more accustomed to the show life. "We have a good partnership and finally understand each other," she noted. "At first he was always fresh. Now he's perfect. I ride him for 10 minutes and he goes in the ring."
While some riders must find an adjustment when moving into the indoor arena, Colvin said she likes it better. "You can't go too fast because it's smaller and enclosed," she laughed. "I think it's easier."
Of her victory, she said, "It's great to start off with a win, but I'm not at ease for the rest of indoors! It doesn't get any easier."
Also sponsored by Bigeq.com, the 13/14 Year Old Equitation division awarded the champion ribbon to 14-year-old Katherine Strauss of Southampton, NY. Strauss split victories on two horses. She rode Atlantic, an eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, to the win in both over fences classes, and then got the ride on Abigail Johnston's Caden for victory on the flat.
Strauss explained her switch, "I'm 5'9 1/2", and Atlantic is a very small horse. Caden is about 18 hands, so I fit him better. I showed (Caden) at a one day horse show to get some points before. The horse I was showing colicked and we also won there. He has been so great for me, and Abby has done such a great job bringing him along. I'm so grateful that she let me ride him."
This is Strauss' fifth year competing at Capital Challenge. She revealed, "Capital Challenge has always been my worst show all year because I'm riding every day all summer and then I go back to school and can only ride after school on one horse and on the weekends. So I always struggled here. I'm so happy that I finally pulled it together!"
She knew that coming into the indoor arena wouldn't be a problem. "Atlantic is such a brave horse; I can trust him a thousand per cent. At Old Salem with Frank Madden and Jen Griffiths, we have a beautiful indoor there. We practiced and I felt really confident there that he'd be 100% in the indoor," she remarked.
The reserve champion in the division was Thomas O'Mara, who rode Kaskade. They placed second over fences and second on the flat. O'Mara was also victorious in the North American Junior Flat Equitation Championship. The North American Junior Flat Equitation Championship is a fun and competitive class only found at Capital Challenge. O'Mara was the last rider to return into the lineup in first place. The reserve champion ribbon went to Melanie Selleck on Presidio.
The final junior equitation age division of the day were the 12 Year Olds, sponsored by Bigeq.com. The championship for the second year in a row went to Emma Wujek of Grosse Pointe Farms, MI. She rode La Duc to first and fourth places over fences and won on the flat. The reserve champion was Daisy Farish on Santorini, who was second and third over fences and third on the flat.
While Wujek was successful here last year, she had a disadvantage coming into today's show. After a riding accident and a broken tibia, she had two months off. Today's classes were just her fourth day back riding. "It feels really good!" she said.
Wujek gave credit to "Duck," an eight-year-old Warmblood gelding that she has been riding for a year. "He's a sweetheart. He's been off since I haven't ridden him. He's a really, really good boy," she said.
Bigeq.com also sponsored the Adult Amateur Equitation division, which was split into two sections. The champion of Section A was Meredith Combs of Harvard, MA, on Cassius. They placed fifth and first over fences. The reserve champion was Nicole Lyvere on Drumline, who finished second and fifth over fences and third on the flat.
Combs has been riding Cassius, a 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding, for three and a half years. The pair competed in the junior equitation together before moving into the Adult divisions this year. "His nickname in the barn is 'Perfect Horse.' He's a doll," she effused. "If I can get it together and ride really well, he'll do it perfectly. He's super sweet and very forgiving. I love him."
They plan to show in tomorrow's North American Adult Amateur Equitation Championships and the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals on Friday. "It's really exciting to start off on the right foot and feel confident in my rides. I feel really ready for ARIAT Finals," Combs said. "It's my first year as an adult, and it's meant a lot to me to get to the ARIAT Finals. Being so successful is a really great introduction to my week here at Capital Challenge."
The Section B champion in the Adult Equitation was Conor Perrin from Orange, CA. He rode Gelato, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Cavalier, to first and sixth places over fences and a win on the flat. The reserve champion was Julia Gildea on Manchester, who was first and second over fences and third on the flat.
Perrin and Gelato have been paired together for five years. They started out in the Children's Hunters and have progressed through the 3'6" equitation in Perrin's junior years. Now that he is an adult, Perrin is happy to have Gelato. "He's amazing. I'm able to do him in some of the hunter classes because he's just very versatile. I want to keep him as long as I can," he said.
The two learned together as they moved up. "He jumped very round at that point, and I wasn't a very good rider at that point in my career. As he became less and less green, I was able to get better and more in sync with him," Perrin described. "When I first got him, he was hard to change leads on and jumped very round because he was a jumper. He was very young and green. He's become a lot braver. He's definitely made me a lot more confident. He's the type of horse that I can always rely on. I always know he's going to take the jump no matter what mistake I may make."
Perrin is excited to contest the North American Adult Amateur Equitation Championships tomorrow afternoon.
The Taylor Harris Insurance Services (THIS) National Children's Medal division championship went to Brett Burlington on Sunman, while the reserve champion was Haley Davis riding Captain Jack. Burlington was second and fourth over fences and won on the flat. Davis received first, third, and fifth place ribbons.
Tomorrow's schedule concludes the Capital Challenge Equitation Championship weekend, presented by Bigeq.com. The day starts with the North American Equitation Championships of two rounds. Following that is the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Children's Medal Finals and the North American Adult Amateur Equitation Finals.