Tampa, Fla. – Sep. 4, 2021 – The penultimate day of competition at the 2021 Southeast Medal Finals focused on fun as horse-and-rider combinations took to their respective rings for unique feature classes prior to the highly anticipated Finals Sunday, September 5. Show jumping riders dashed for the cash hoping to pocket the largest portion of the prize in the $2,000 Gambler’s Choice, presented by The Adams Group eXperience of eXp Realty. Stephanie Cook and Lord Arthur 1916 turned and burned in the Grand Prix Ring claiming the top prize, while Gretchen Swanson, Macie Sousa, and Mina Godden put forth their best collective efforts to win the Equitation Team Challenge, presented by Tenney’s Custom Saddlery.
Eager horse-and-rider pairs lined up at the Grand Prix Ring in hopes of gathering the most points to win the $2,000 purse. Open to riders of all ages and levels, competitors were allotted 50 seconds to forge their own path around the course with the goal of racking up the most points. With each fence assigned a point value based on the degree of difficulty, riders were able to jump a fence no more than twice and in either direction. It was ultimately Cook who took home the grand prize aboard one of her three mounts entered in the class, Lord Arthur 1916, Lionsway Farm’s 13-year-old Holsteiner stallion.
With the advantage of planning and executing multiple courses, Cook’s first trip aboard Vulco Monaco briefly held the lead with a score of 990. The Tennessee native laid down her winning round as the middle of the three trips with Lord Arthur 1916, scoring a whopping 1260. Her final round aboard Augusto produced a score of 1110, which would be good enough to take fourth place. The highly competitive amateur is a frequent competitor on the East Coast circuit and has racked up countless wins. Cook most recently pocketed two blue ribbons at Camp Encour in the $1,000 .95 Mini Prix and the $1,000 .95 Back To The Beach Welcome.
The race for second and third place came down to just a 20-point difference as Juliet Johansson and her own 16-year-old Warmblood gelding, TH Magic, rocketed into second place with a score of 1190. Sitting closely behind was Amy Foster who piloted Abigail Princz’s 11-year-old North American KWPN mare, Florentina HF, to a score of 1170.
In light of the 2021 3’6’’ Equitation Medal Finals Sunday, September 5, the competition took a light-hearted break Saturday evening as teams of four junior and amateur riders teamed up in hopes of turning in the highest combined score. The randomly assigned teams were given 30 minutes to strategize their course prior to the start of the class. A total of seven teams consisting of three junior or amateur riders registered with SEMF contested over either a 2’6” or 3’0” course.
Of the seven teams, it was Gretchen Swanson aboard Dominica V, Macie Sousa with Mojito Z, and Mina Godden with Calino 60 who topped the leaderboard with a whopping score of 234. Godden, the 16-year-old from St. Petersberg, Florida, was the first of the three to take to the ring. The experienced ‘big eq’ competitor who qualified for The National Horse Show last year pioneered the track with her own 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding for her two fellow teammates. Laying down a base score of 75, Godden made the wise decision of pushing for a forward seven in one of the bending lines as opposed to the tight eight strides many of her fellow competitors were riding.
Sousa, who just recently aged out of the junior division, was the second of the three to try her hand at the track posting the team’s leading score of 86 aboard her own 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Mojito Z. The 19-year-old amateur rider from Orlando, Florida, who used to compete on the junior equitation circuit, plans to continue her equitation career as an adult amateur hoping to qualify for the Ariat Adult National Medal Finals.
Sorento, Florida native Swanson was the third and final ride of the three. The 21-year-old amateur rider piloted one of Oakmore Equestrian Center’s lesson horses, Dominica V, around the course earning a score of 73. As the ringer for the team, Swanson’s solid effort aboard Emily Patterson’s 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare solidified the team’s top podium position with their combined efforts,a full 27 points ahead of the second place team.
Competition at 2021 Southeast Medal Finals comes to a close with the feature events of the week Sunday, September 5, with the Junior Medal Finals, presented by The Clothes Horse, Junior Hunter Finals, Low Child/Adult Jumper Finals, presented by Kris Di Carlo Equestrian, High Child/Adult Jumper Finals, presented by Sky Powersports, and the Junior/ Amateur-Owner Jumper Finals, presented by Infinity Farms. Top show jumping competition comes to a head with the $25,000 Dr. Eli Farri Memorial Day Grand Prix, presented by The Adams Group eXperience of eXp Realty.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Mina Godden – Equitation Team Challenge Winner On her strategy: “My horse was very spooky today in the Teco Indoor Ring, and when he came in here [in the covered ring] he was actually really calm so I had a little bit of faith in him to just get around the ring nicely. We went in the ring, walked how we were taught to do and basically just did all of our safe turns. We did not do anything too risky so we could actually just get around because we don’t show in here all the time, so it was more difficult.” On their teamwork: “I love how we all collaborated with each other and came up with a plan together and helped each other with the jumps. I think that was a really good sign of teamwork from all of us.” On Calino 60: “My horse’s name is Calino 60 and he is a 16.1 hand Holsteiner. He actually did the jumpers until about this time last year and we have just been doing the big equitation. Last year we went to the National Horse Show equitation finals, so that was his first time in an indoor arena. He is becoming a very good boy in the eq ring and it is still all very new to him, but I am very proud of how he is turning out.” On her future plans: “We just qualified for the National Horse Show again and we could go and do the 3’6” Maclay [ASPCA Maclay Finals], but he is just not quite there yet. But, I have a lot of faith in him that he is going to do good at Finals this year after riding in the indoor ring today.” Macie Sousa – Equitation Team Challenge Winner On her round: “I have a lot of faith in my horse, I put a lot of trust in him and he trusts me. He was very brave with the weather that has been going on today. We went around and we just did what we know how to do and I was very happy with our performance and the way our whole team worked together.” On their teamwork: “After every teammate went in we all gave our advice on how to help the next teammate or how to make it easier and what they could change from our round to do better.” On Mojito Z: “I own Mojito Z, I bought him about three years ago. We do the big equitation, and we also recently started doing the Amateur/Owner Hunter so that was a nice change of scenery. Last year we did the ASPCA Maclay and traveled all over Florida for the equitation and have slowly been doing bigger classes.” On her future plans: “Sadly, I aged out of the juniors last year, but we are working on doing a lot of amateur and adult classes. This year I will be doing the THIS Adult Equitation, the Amateur/Owner Hunter, and hopefully next year we will do the Ariat Adult Medal.” Gretchen Swanson – Equitation Team Challenge Winner On her strategy: “My horse has never been in the [Teco Indoor Ring] until today so she was a little spooky and had a little episode at the beginning of the round. I tried to ride a little more conservatively but she was fighting me a little bit and we just got around. We kept everything up and she got all of her changes and she was a good girl so I am happy with it.” On Dominica V: “My horse is actually a lesson horse from Oakmore Equestrian Center. Her name is Emmy, she is 14-years-old, and she used to do the 1.20m jumpers and was very good at it, but she had surgery 2 years ago and has slowly been coming back from it. We have been doing the smaller stuff, but she has been a very good girl.” On her future plans: “I plan to mainly show at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala over the winter season.”