The third leg of the four-part Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series was held on Thursday of Week IX of the Winter Equestrian Festival. Amidst rough weather with rain and thunderstorms, eight teams of four gathered to compete under the looming storm clouds hanging over the International Ring for the $20,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Team Event.
Team E was comprised of riders from Zone 2, which included Charlotte Jacobs with Promised Land, Lydia Ulrich riding Santos Utopia, Gabrielle Bausano showing Ubico H, and Lillie Keean aboard Vanhattan, and they outshone the competition with five clear rounds and only a four-fault total score.
Overcast skies and bouts of torrential rain plagued the two-round competition, but riders remained focused on the course that included many technical aspects. A number of riders found fault at a skinny vertical following the open water, as well as the vertical-vertical double combination at the end of the course, which was designed by Leopoldo Palacios. Only five riders from the teams produced clear efforts during the first round, but after jumping it once the rounds only improved with 12 fault-free rounds during the second half of the event.
“I think everyone goes in after making some mistakes in the first round, so it is all about going back in and perfecting it,” said Jacobs after her team’s victory. “The temperature certainly dropped and it started raining, so I think that helped keep the horses fresh and ready to go.”
Two of the perfect rounds at the beginning of the event were produced by Team E, which was headed by the Zone Two Chef d’Equipe, Ralph Caristo. Ulrich and Keenan each traversed the track with ease, and Jacobs had an unlucky rail at the double combination, which gave them a four-fault total. Keenan had some extra pressure as the anchor rider, after Bausano was eliminated early in the competition, giving her the drop score and making her unable to return for the second round.
Team H had great luck during the second round, putting the pressure on Keenan, who was the last to show for Team E. They still held the lead, but one error would cost them the victory. Although there was a minor error at the liverpool before the double combination, the fences stayed up. Keenan cut it close, crossing the finish line 87.87 seconds with a time allowed of 88 seconds, but it was still perfect and Team E led the evening’s victory gallop.
“Going into the second round I definitely felt the pressure, especially because this was my first time on a team,” explained Keenan. “I have had pressure before, but I really had to block it out this time and he was up to it. Being on a team is really fun. It is nice to have the element of having to rely on each other, but when you win your winning for yourself and for other people. It is nice to have other people that you can discuss the course with, you can plan it out, and it’s a great experience.”
Although Bausano did not return for the second round, the ladies appreciated her supportive attitude and recognized that she tried her best. “Gabrielle tried so hard and it just wasn’t really her day and the horse didn’t want to play,” said Keenan. “Seeing the elimination on the board was not a great feeling, but she stuck around and is so supportive. We sat on the sidelines holding hands and she cheered everyone on, so she is such an important member of team.”
Urlich produced a stellar double clear effort with Santos Utopia, which helped the team’s score immensley. “I got Santos Utopia last year at the very end of circuit, so I have had him almost a year,” she commented. “I took him to Spruce Meadows over the summer, and David Arcand had him last year and did really well with him in these same classes. He is just an amazing horse and he makes it easy, so hopefully I will get to do Young Riders this year and just keep going.”
Jacobs was aboard her veteran mount Promised Land for the night’s competition. “Promised Land is doing well,” she said. “I have had him for about a year and a half. He is 18 now and getting up there, but he came out today and did fantastic. We don’t show him often because he is older, but I made a mistake today and he just kept going; I am really happy with him.”
Chef d’Equipe Ralph Caristo concluded, “I just want to say one thing about these girls: They came, they conquered, and now they are going home with the blue. Thank you girls!”
The Artisan Farms Young Riders Series will come to a close this Sunday at the Stadium, where Jacobs, Keenan, Ulrich, and Bausano will all compete for top honors.