Photos: Anne Gittins Photography www.annegittins.com
THE BIG E – WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA
This year marks the 46th anniversary of the New England Equitation Championships and all were thrilled to be back in its traditional venue at The Big E in West Springfield, MA. This five-day event is run by the volunteer NEEC Committee and is one of the longest running and most prestigious equitation finals in the country. All five days were livestreamed on ClipMyHorse.TV.
Scott Alder, Jennifer Bliss, Gary Duffy, Ellen Raidt, Danny Robertshaw and William Sparks brought their experience and expertise to the judging panel. Scott Alder was also the course designer and made beautiful use of the Coliseum with flowing bending lines that offered stride options and challenging turns, testing each age group in different, skill-appropriate ways.
On Wednesday, October 20 the NEHC Adult Amateur 46+ Medal kicked off the show. Christina Marchand emerged as Champion with Reserve going to Bruce Thalman. Wynatte Chu won her section of the Open and was Champion in the 28-45 division with Leigh Gallagher taking Reserve. On Thursday, Nikki Diamantis won her Open and was the 22-27 Medal Champion. Miela Gross earned Reserve and also won her Open section. In the 18-21 group, 2019’s Junior Medal winner Taylor Madden kept up the trend of winning her Open section and was Medal Champion once again as well as Grand Adult Champion. Reserve went to Lila Ouellette.
All Junior Open sections ran on Friday as well as the written phase of the Horsemanship Class, taken by 104 riders. Originating at the NEEC and now in its 25th year, the Horsemanship Class combines a rider’s written test score, practicum, and first round Finals score to determine the overall top Junior Horseperson.
After the written test and open rounds, attendees in person and via livestream were treated to a equitation course strategy session. All six judges generously hosted an open Q&A forum where they discussed what constitutes a winning round in their eyes. Then, family and friends gathered for a fun-filled dinner and commemorative video celebrating Juniors in their last year. The Juniors vote for one of their peers to win the Junior Sportsmanship Award and this year they elected Iona Adams-Kruger.
Saturday marked the second year of hosting the USHJA 3’3″ Hunter Seat Medal Final – East. 98 Juniors took to the ring for round one. The top 25 returned for a second round and the top six were called back to test. Ella Witt took home the Champion ribbon (trainer: Luke Olsen, Redfield Farm) and Haley Edwardson earned Reserve (trainer: Linda Langmeier, The Ethel Walker School).
At the completion of the USHJA Medal, judge Danny Robertshaw of Danny and Ron’s Rescue was surprised with a parade of dogs who were adopted through his rescue! The NEEC made a donation to Danny and Ron’s in honor of the occasion and several of the Challenge of the States teams selected the rescue as their charity. A birthday celebration for judge Gary Duffy followed and then it was time for arguably the most anticipated class of the weekend…the world-famous Challenge of the States!
Riders with top scores in the Open competed on teams of five riders and a chef d’equipe to represent their home states – no help from trainers allowed! The Adults got to join in the fun this year with a team of their own.
Connecticut Team 2 won Gold, the New Jersey team won Silver and Massachusetts Team 1 eared Bronze. The individual high point winner was Jocelyn Mercereau. Thanks to an anonymous donor, all teams competed for prize money to donate to a charity of their choice. Gold chose DD’s Senior Sanctuary.
Sunday’s NEHC Junior Hunt Seat Medal Final featured 209 riders. Last year’s Junior winner, Ellie Ferrigno, along with esteemed trainer and ‘R’ judge Tom Brennan lent their voices and knowledge to the livestream commentary during the final.
Between rounds, a number of awards were presented:
Jerry Kenney was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Jerry is a lifelong New England horseman who got his start in the business as a teenager. His farm, Ascot Riding Center, made many rider and horse careers. A large and ebullient group of Jerry’s family and friends were in attendance for the award presentation.
Lindsey Bihuniak was named overall winner of the Katie Battison Horsemanship Award, winning both the written test and practicum phases.
Annalise Manoog earned the High Point Junior Rider Award.
Top scoring Juniors who never competed in a 3’6” final were eligible for a separate set of ribbons. First place went to Dakota Pandolfini.
After the awards, round two was underway. At its completion, there was no need for further testing – Annalise Manoog was the unequivocal winner and crowned Champion of the NEHC Junior Hunt Seat Medal (Trainer: Kathy Fletcher, Sam Berger, Amber Viera and the team at Grazing Fields Farm). Reserve Champion was awarded to Tessa Brown (Trainer: Kyla Makloghi of Rosemont Farm & Greg Prince).
The NEEC and its tightknit community have a long history of generosity and giving back. Several grants and scholarships are awarded each year:
Daniela Carvajal won the first ever Mason Phelps “Spirit of the Sport” Grant. Mason created the New England Hunt Seat Medal class. The grant was awarded to the Junior Rider whose essay was voted among the top three by the scholarship committee, scored the highest first round score at NEEC of the three finalists and qualified to compete at the NHS 3’3” Medal or Maclay finals at The National Horse Show. The winner was awarded a complementary stall and entries at both the New England Equitation Championships and The National Horse Show plus a stipend from each organization.
Katie Kirwin won the inaugural Fred Hunt Adult Grant. To Commemorate his dedication to the New England horse world and his service on the NEEC committee for over 40 years, the NEEC sponsored an Adult Grant of $1,000 in Fred’s name. This grant goes to a qualified Adult Medal rider who demonstrates a financial need to participate in the NEHC Championships.
The Joe Medico Junior Grants went to Kyla Sullivan and Briana Skoog. Joe was a driver for JR Hudson Horse Transportation for over twenty years. To commemorate his dedication to the New England horse world JR Hudson Horse Transportation sponsors two grants of $1250 each. These grants go to qualified NE Junior Medal riders who demonstrate a financial need to participate in the NEHC Championships.
Rebecca Lafrance won the $2,000 Joanne C. Corsiglia Scholarship Award and Jenna Woods won the $500 NEHC Scholarship Award.
Adult Sportsmanship: Jessica Snider and Abigail Hopkins
Groom’s Award: Keilyn Carrissame
Sue Brainard Award: Susan Kremenzky and Dominic Silvestri
Jimmy Lee Adult Judge’s Choice: Contador
Jimmy Lee Junior Judge’s Choice: Davide
Nicholas Award: Oliver
For more information and detailed results: www.NewEnglandEquitation.com
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