The highly-anticipated third and final day of the first Southeast Medal Finals featured the ASPCA Maclay Region Three Finals. A group of 37 skilled riders determined to master Alan Rheinheimer's course competed for today's top prize. The course tested the ability of the rider to lengthen and shorten, to be subtle with the adjustments, to land and turn and to put it all together with confidence and poise.
|Meg O’Mara and Vancouver|
|Liza Finsness and Fedelio|
|Hasbrouck Donovan and Drake|
After the first round, the class was split in two for the under saddle portion of the competition, followed by the announcement of a test for six riders. The riders included Mackenzie Michaels, Meg O’Mara, Hasbrouck Donovan, Liza Finsness, Hannah Marco, Geoffrey Hesslink, and Sylvia De Toledo.
After the last test was performed, the winners were announced in descending order, adding to the drama and suspense. In the end, it was the elegant and confident performance of Meg O’Mara who rode Elevstar Farm’s Vancouver flawlessly to earn her the coveted prize. O’Mara recently won the National PHA Junior Medal Final and the Platinum Performance/USEF Talent Search Medal at HITS Saugerties. In addition, O’Mara just piloted Sintara IV to the win of the $25,000 David Yurman Show Jumping Derby at the Hampton Classic. O’Mara trains with Don Stewart and Megan Hedrick.
“I’ve done regionals for three or four years now,” said O’Mara, 18 and in her last junior year. About her mount, Vancouver she shared, “He’s only 7. He’s the smartest horse ever. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s really educated. I want to thank Jim (Hagman) for letting me ride him.”
“Yesterday they prepared us very well with the bending one-stride,” she continued. “We knew they were going to set something like that up with an option. Today it was a little simpler, because it wasn’t a one or a two. So we decided to go with the simpler option- the outside to the outside in seven/six. Because it is regionals we wanted to be in the ranking so I was happy with the course today.”
“There’s safety in numbers,” said O’Mara’s trainer Don Stewart from Don Stewart Stables in Ocala, FL. “We had six in the class and five out of six in the workout. We almost got beat. It was down to the last straw. She delivered,” he said of O’Mara. “She won the first two phases then showed them all that she deserved it. The cream always rises to the top and we got it done. She’s paid her dues. She’s been with us for five years. Mary Babick from New Jersey gave Meg her background and taught her how to ride fresh horses. That’s where she got that beautiful position.”
“She’s a wonderful student and really smart in the ring,” added trainer Megan Edrick. “She always wants to do well and she’s always on top of her game.”
Liza Finsness secured second place with gorgeous rounds aboard Fedelio. Finsness just won the Zone 4 USEF Pessoa Hunter Seat Medal Finals and the Southeast Medal Finals Saturday.
“He was perfect in the test,” said Finsness of her horse, Fedelio. “I’m so used to how he rides, he is so smooth. The first line was longer than I thought it was. I just closed my leg and made sure he got there. I knew he would leave the ground even if there was a little bit of a distance. He can cover that up so well. I actually added. I did the seven to the bending seven. Most people were doing seven to the six but the seven got a little bit longer than I thought it would be so I added a stride, but it didn’t look bad at all−so my trainer didn’t care. I’m excited for finals now.”
Hasbrouck Donovan garnered the yellow ribbon. Donovan won the Southeast Junior Equitation Classic Saturday and has been earning a name as a top young rider.
“It was a little nerve wracking for the test but my horse did really well,” said Donovan about Drake, owned by Stewart and Derbypie LLC and Donald. “I was very happy.” Donovan started in the ponies with Bibby Hill when she was 10 or 11 and moved up to the horses with Stewart.
“Drake was doing the jumpers in Palm Beach this last winter and we got him and turned him into an eq horse. He’s adapted to it really well.”
“It was a tough course,” said Southeast Medal Finals Judge, Kip Rosenthal. “It gave the kids lots of options. You didn’t have to have one particular kind of horse to jump the course. It was a good riding contest. The top kids were exceptional. The high score was a 95, then a 93 and 92−it was really, really good. When we called the six back to test it didn’t change around much. Brian (Lenehan) was great to judge with.”
Susie Humes, renowned equestrian, was on hand to represent the Alltech National Horse Show, where the ASPCA Maclay finals are held at Alltech Arena in the Kentucky Horse Park.
“I’m thrilled the National asked me to represent them,” she said. “I think this is one of the best medal finals I’ve been to. They did an outstanding job, it’s a beautiful arena, beautifully decorated, great course from Alan, beautifully judged by Kip and Brian and great workout−I am just totally impressed. I just called a few exhibitors who go off to other places and told them ‘If you have a choice, come to Jacksonville. It is the best!’ If I had a young child and I was going to do this again, I would come here. I think it’s that nice. Breakfast, dinner, free food. Bob is always smiling and nice. Jim is always asking if we need anything. It’s very rare. The group of riders at the top here could easily be the winners at the finals. The top group was fantastic. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at the National.”
“It was more than I thought it would be,” confided show producer, Bob Bell. “It was what we planned but when you get Alan (Rhenheimer) and James (Lala) involved you even get grander than you expected. This horse show is like a piece of potter’s clay. We are going to mold it into a bigger and grander event. We started with a three-day event, we thought that was the best way to get started. But now we’ve talked to a lot of exhibitors and trainers and we’re going to be working over the next six or seven months to put together our plan for next year. It will be bigger. It will be grander, it will have more classes. We want more show managers to host Southeast Medal Final qualifiers at their horse shows. We hope that the Maclay will award us the Regionals again because that was an integral part of what we did. We have a contract with the facility in place for next year.”