Photos: Anne Gittins Photography www.annegittins.com
THE BIG E – WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA
This year marks the 48th anniversary of the New England Equitation Championships, in its traditional venue in the Coliseum at The Big E in West Springfield, MA, complete with candy apples, silent auction and equine vendors. 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.
This year’s seasoned panel of judges included Virginia (Ginny) Edwards, Rachel Kennedy, Ken Krome, Walter “Jimmy” Lee, Britt McCormick and James Waldman. Ken Krome was the course designer and designed beautiful tracks that made inventive use of the unique Coliseum arena and challenging each age group in their own skill-appropriate way.
On Wednesday, October 18th the NEHC Adult Amateur 46+ Medal kicked off the show. Jennifer Wall took home the Champion ribbon on her horse Santana (Trainer: David Oliynyk), with Reserve going to Melissa Welch on VDL Felton (Trainer: Jennifer Burke). In the 28-45 division, last year’s Reserve Champion, Mariel Saccucci, came back victorious this year to claim the Champion ribbon and the Adult Grand Champion title on Tibri’s Simply Red (Trainers: Annie Dotoli, Aster Pieters). Julie Hogan on Ferndale took Reserve and the Adult High Point Rider award (Trainers: Linda Evans and Kim Ferro). On Thursday, Meaghan Costa aboard Casstess HBC clinched Champion in the 22-27 Medal (Trainer: Wendy Brayman); Reserve went to Melissa Dander on Yes Indeed (Trainer: A. Farr). In the 18-21 section, Janet Hedges was Champion on Dauntless (Trainer: Linda Langmeier) and Reserve went to Gianna Palombo on D’Jango (Trainer: Monty Kelly).
All Junior Open sections ran on Friday. The 15-17 Open section winners were Charlotte Jumper, Josselyn Mersereau, Nicholas Lopes, Sydney Raidy and Caroline Olson. The 14 & Under Open blues went to Kaitlyn Linck, Eleanor Pieters and Andrew Read. The written phase of the Horsemanship Class also took place on Friday, taken by 81 riders. Originating at the NEEC and now in its 27th year, the Horsemanship Class combines a rider’s written test score, practicum, and first round Finals score to determine the overall top Junior Horseperson. For the first time in the history of the class, the top 12 competitors had written test scores of 80 or above.
After the written test and open rounds, family and friends gathered at the Marriott hotel for a fun-filled dinner and the traditional 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 Daniela Carvajal.
Saturday marked the fourth year of hosting the USHJA 3’3″ Hunter Seat Medal Final – East. 79 Juniors competed in round one. The top 25 returned for a second round and the top five were called back to test. Kaitlyn Linck took home the Champion ribbon on BG Touchdown (Trainers: Karolina Linck, Heather Gnewuch) and Payton Baker on Lightly Frosted earned Reserve (Trainer: April Bilodeau).
Robin Peterson was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Robin is a lifelong, highly respected New England horse person who has remained deeply devoted to our local circuit for decades. She has fostered the riding and horsemanship education of many – offering training from raw beginners to advanced – all in her quiet and unassuming but impactful way.
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 four riders and two chefs d’equipe to represent their home states – all while dressed in Halloween costumes and no help from trainers allowed! They did a fantastic job of coaching each other and riding – planning and skillfully executing inside turns and working out stride options that made all of their trainers proud.CT 1 won Gold, MA 2 won Silver and NY 1 took home the Bronze. The individual high point winner was Grace Shipman. Thanks to an anonymous donor, all teams competed for prize money to donate to a charity of their choice. Gold chose Danny and Ron’s Rescue, Silver sponsored ASPCA and Bronze supported St Jude’s.
Grace Shipman – 2023 NEHC Junior Medal Champion
Sunday’s NEHC Junior Hunt Seat Medal Final featured 176 riders. Last year’s Junior winner Amira Kettaneh and esteemed horsewoman and Sue Brainard Award recipient, Ellie Raidt, lent their voices and experience to the livestream commentary during the final.
Between rounds, a number of awards were presented:
Daniela Carvajal was named overall winner of the Katie Battison Horsemanship Award, winning the written section (with a score of 93) and the Final first round phases. Daniela’s trainer Kathy Fletcher and the team from Grazing Fields were then awarded the Cookie DeSimone Horsemanship Trainer Award.
Eleanor Pieters earned the High Point Junior Rider Award with a score of 90 aboard Tibri’s Rain King (Trainers: Annie Dotoli, Aster Pieters). Top scoring Juniors who never competed in a 3’6” final compete for a separate set of ribbons and award called the Challenge Cup. First place went to Ryleigh Orton on Casstess HBC (Trainer: Wendy Brayman).
After the awards, 28 riders were called back for round two of the Junior final. The second round course offered opportunities for riders to be bold with a long run to a single oxer, and show handiness with a bounce that rolled back tightly on a split rail.
After two rounds, the top two were separated by just fractions of a point and were called back for further testing. Grace Shipman held on to her top spot and was named Champion of the NEHC Junior Hunt Seat Medal riding Calamanzo (Trainers and winners of Norman Hall Award: Val Renihan, Chris Strucker and Olivia Goodnow). Reserve Champion was awarded to Kaitlyn Linck on BG Touchdown (Trainers: Karolina Linck, Heather Gnewuch).
The NEEC and its tight knit community of deeply devoted horse people have a long history of generosity and giving back. Several grants and scholarships are awarded each year:
Eleanor Pieters won the Mason Phelps “Spirit of the Sport” Grant. Mason created the New England Hunt Seat Medal class. This grant is 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 is awarded a complementary stall and entries at both the New England Equitation Championships and The National Horse Show, plus a stipend from each organization.
Scott Galinsky won the NEEC 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 were awarded to Daniela Carvajal and Kennedy Teasdale. Joe Medico 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.
Keely Grady won the $2,000 Joanne C. Corsiglia Scholarship Award and Gina Plano won the $500 NEHC Scholarship Award.
Adult Sportsmanship Awards: Leigh Gallagher Tricker and Sarah Baker
Groom’s Award: Nicole Melanson
Jimmy Lee Adult Judges’ Choice: Nellee Fine’s Donnybrook
Jimmy Lee Junior Judges’ Choice: Grace Shipman’s Calamanzo
Career Achievement “Nicholas” Award: Michele Foote’s Stand By Me “Brady”
Instagram and Facebook: @newenglandequitation
Winner’s Circle: Grace Shipman on Calmanzo
Standing L to R: Kate McDaniel, Parri Harnois, Linda Langmeier, Armond Chenelle, Kristen Bumpus, Monica Hunt, Chris Strucker, Olivia Goodnow, Carl Catani, Joe Dotoli, Caitlin Venezia, Cathy Grady, Kathy Fletcher, Cookie DeSimone, Olana Laffey, Kellie Monahan Riordan, Johanna Hyyppa
O/F: NEEC 2023 Junior Champion Grace Shipman on Calamanzo