Joe Dotoli & Gerry Reeve
The New England Finals had a very modest beginning in 1978. It was actually the brainchild of Mason Phelps (then living in Rhode Island). He approached NEHC officers, Mrs. Gerry Reeve and Mrs. Liz Rooney, and a few area professionals with the idea. At that time the equitation division in New England was very weak, and this was a way to strengthen it.
The first committee was formed to work on the event. That committee included; Mason (now living in Florida), Julie Ulrich (now living and training in France), Jamie Mann (now living and training in California), Nancy Ciesluk, and Joe Dotoli. It began as a single class at one of Mason’s horse shows.
After a few years it became big enough to stand-alone. It has moved from Shamrock Stables in Rhode Island to Flying Horse Stables (Hamilton Equestrian Center) in Massachusetts, to Forrest Hills (New Hampshire) and finally found a home for six years at the Mt. Holyoke College Equestrian Center. The event continued its geometric growth, and in 1993 was moved to our present home, the Eastern States Coliseum in W. Springfield, Mass.
The NEEC now stands as a tribute to what can be accomplished when horsemen and horsewomen work together for the good of the sport. For many years people around the country have referred to the NEEC as the finest regional medal finals in the country.
The five days of competition are packed with fun, excitement and great competition. Wednesday and Thursday are dedicated to our adult riders.
Friday is the kick off for our junior riders. This is a day for fun and serious competition. The day has 4 sections of 15-17 Open Equitation divisions. Then Friday continues with the Horsemanship test back at the host hotel. Juniors qualify in their open classes and represent their state in a team competition. There is nothing else anywhere like this class. Everyone has a great time cheering for his or her team.
Each year approximately 500 riders, parents, trainers, and their friends attend the Junior Celebration. This special event is dedicated to the graduating juniors. The evening begins with dinner. After dinner, each junior in his or her last year is presented with an hand painted picture frame as a memento of his or her years at the New Englands.
Then, everyone is ready for the main event of the evening, the video presentation, which has become a great tradition at these finals. Graduating riders also receive a copy of the video.
The Katie Battison Horsemanship Competition, which begins Friday evening with a written test, continues all day Saturday with the top scores being tested on their horse care knowledge during the Saturday Practicum Phase.
Sunday is the day for intense competition at NEEC with the New England Medal Finals and the final phase of the Katie Battison Horsemanship competition (the first round of the medal is the riding phase for those still in contention). The top eight placings of this prestigious award are presented between rounds of competition.
The final rounds of competition keep spectators fixed on the scoreboard as they watch the scores go up and predict who the next New England Equitation Champion will be.