Mill Spring, N.C. – Oct. 30, 2021 – As one of the most prestigious equitation championships of the year, 40 top junior riders were invited to compete in the 2021 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Equitation Final. Typically set at the prestigious Capital One Arena, competitors saw a change of venue for a second year to the Tryon International Equestrian Center. The three-phase final began with the hunter phase Friday, October 29, continuing Saturday, October 30 with the jumper phase and the final work-off between the top ten competitors. In the end, it was Dominic Gibbs that rose to the top of the leaderboard, impressing the judges with consistent rounds over the course of the competition and a flawless final work-off.
The judging panel, consisting of Ralph Caristo, Sissy Wickes, Anne Kursinski and Callan Solem, set a flowing track for the hunter phase of competition. Taking the early lead was Grace Debney aboard Quimby with average scores of 92.5. Unfortunately two time faults and a deep distance in the jumper phase would be too costly for the pair and leave them out of the running for the final work-off.
The leader after the jumper phase was Gibbs and Cent 15, who moved up from the third place position after earning a score of 90 for a two round total of 178.75. He was followed closely by Skylar Wireman with Fix Blue and Tessa Downey with HH Moonshine who were tied with a total of 175.50 points.
The final work-off required the top 10 riders to swap horses to ride the jumper phase course for a second time. With only three warm-up fences before entering the arena, the athletes had to quickly adjust to an unfamiliar horse in order to produce a consistent round. Judges combined athletes’ scores from the hunter and jumper phases with their work-off score to calculate which rider would lead the victory gallop at the end of the evening.
Returning in reverse order, California’s Augusta Iwasaki was aboard Natalie Jayne’s mount Charisma and laid down a near flawless trip, easily moving up from sixth place in the standings to eventually claim the third place honors.
The pressure was on for the two remaining riders, Wireman, also from California, riding Cent 15 and Gibbs aboard Fix Blue. Wireman showcased an excellent effort, smoothly navigating the course with her new mount. Although he had a few points in hand, Gibbs knew he would still need to be near perfect to beat Wireman, and that’s exactly what he executed, traversing the track with ease aboard Fix Blue. The judges awarded the duo’s flawless effort with the 2021 WIHS Equitation Championship title, while Wireman would take home the reserve champion title.
Saturday marked the final day of Gibbs’ junior career, and while he knew he wanted to end on a high note, he worked hard to keep the nerves from overwhelming and stayed focused on being consistent throughout the three rounds of competition. He focused on the partnership with veteran mount Cent 15, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Mountain King Ranch LLC, and the strong support he has at Beacon Hill Show Stables with trainer Stacia Madden. His focus and determination paid off with three smooth performances to close out his junior career with the championship title.
The 2021 Indoors season is wrapping up, with only one major equitation final remaining, the ASPCA Maclay National Championship during the National Horse Show in Lexington, Kentucky. Stay tuned to Phelps Sports for complete coverage of the Maclay Finals and the National Horse Show.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Dominic Gibbs – 2021 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Equitation Final Champion
On his victory:
“I’m absolutely on cloud nine. This is actually my last day showing for the year, last day of my junior year, and last equitation class and I’m just ecstatic to end it on such a high note.”
On the Washington Equitation journey
“I knew the Washington is always about consistency, that’s why it has two different classes. I was really just hoping to stay consistent and have the three best rounds that I could. As for Skylar’s horse, horse swaps are always a little bit difficult because you don’t know them and haven’t swapped on to them before, but I absolutely loved him and he really gave it his all.”
On his relationship with Cent 15:
“Actually, Cent has won this final before. Last year he won it for Tessa Brown [who swapped on to him]. My relationship with him, I feel like I know him like the back of my hand. I had originally bought him to be my High Junior Jumper, which obviously didn’t work out, but he has shined as a star in the equitation ring since day one. I’m really just so lucky to have such an amazing horse that I’ve had as a consistent partner through my last few junior years. I’m really happy to have him and win on him again.”
On his mental game coming into WIHS
“Mental game has always been a really big thing for me. I used to struggle with nerves a lot, but having done the equitation for a few years now and really knowing what the finals are like, having that under my belt is a really good thing coming into my final season. Knowing my horse, trusting my training, and trying to deliver my best rounds were the thoughts in my head. Trying to keep the last show in the back of my head and not think about that was another thing.”
Stacia Madden – Dominic Gibbs’ Trainer
On working with Dominic:
“I remember the first time I saw Dominic. It was at Lake Placid and he was on this dapple grey horse, he had on a bow tie and long curly hair sticking out of his helmet and I looked up at the scoreboard and I said ‘Who is that kid from Colorado?’ So I was introduced to him and asked if I could help him at the 3’3” finals. Katie [Prudent] was nice enough to involve us early on and just turn the reins of the equitation department over to us. The most gratifying part of Dominic’s career with Cent is it’s a horse that he brought along himself. He did all the work. I am not going to say the professionals that help at Beacon Hill didn’t have a huge part in developing him also, but Dominic didn’t start off winning every class on him and he didn’t give up. He always realized the strengths that horse had to offer. He was always looking to get better each round and didn’t care if he had a mistake as long as he was learning from it.
“What was most impressive to me was medal finals for his last junior year didn’t go the way he wanted. I thought he delivered nice rounds but for whatever reason he didn’t ribbon, but he didn’t get distracted. He came here saying ‘I know I ride well, I’ve got a nice horse and I want to end my career well.’ He was not distracted at all that coming back third is just a ranking and he really learned that through his relationship of doing the equitation – what it’s like to deliver when it matters and not get distracted by the way things start off.”
Skylar Wireman – 2021 WIHS Equitation Final Reserve Champion
On being reserve champion:
“I’m really grateful and it was a good experience. This is my second year doing the Washington Finals. Last year, I brought a horse from home that is more of a jumper, so it wasn’t my best medal final but it was a good experience. Like Dominic said, the Washington is about consistency in all the rounds. The horse I rode today, Fix Blue, I rode for the first time this week, so he was a bit of a new mount for me. I was still getting to know him, but he was really great. Getting to switch onto Cent – I love that horse so much, he is absolutely incredible. The fact that Dominic did it all himself – he’s amazing.”
Augusta Iwasaki – Third Place
On her WIHS experience:
“I think this is my sixth year doing the Washington Finals. This year, I was on a horse that I started showing around this time last year and I’ve been working with him all year to get him ready for this. This has been my favorite class to do on him all year, so I was really excited to do this one. Yesterday, I had a little bit of a messy hunter phase, so I wanted to have the best jumper phase that I could. He really delivered and I am so grateful to everyone that got us here. Everything lined up today and I am super grateful.”
Sissy Wickes – WIHS Equitation Judge
On the 2021 WIHS Equitation Finals:
“I think the Washington equitation class in general is great because it combines the technical and stylistic aspects of equitation riding. These finals bring out the skill in every rider in both of those aspects. These three kids were amazing. I love the fact that Augusta moved up from the hunter phase to the jumper phase and then to the finals. I’ve judged Dominic many times and I’m consistently amazed by him. He’s so soft and so accurate, and to get off his horse, which I’ve seen him ride before, and onto the other horse, it was like glass. Callan Solem said, ‘If you closed your eyes you couldn’t hear him cantering his course.’ That’s how soft he is. That’s incredibly technical. Skylar, we were rooting for you both days – you’re an incredible rider and very soft. It’s easy to go out there and get the job done, but it’s hard to go out there and get the job done and look elegant and composed, and the three of you did that so well. It was a great couple of days and you all did a wonderful job.”
Place / Name / Horse / Hunter Phase / Jumper Phase
1. Dominic Gibbs / Cent 15 / 88.75 / 90
2. Skylar Wireman / Fix Blue / 86.5 / 89
3. Augusta Iwasaki / Attendu De Lannois Z / 85.5 / 88
4. Tessa Downey / HH Moonshine / 89.5 / 86
5. Luke Jensen / Conthacco / 83.87 / 86.50
6. Catalina Peralta / Clover / 80.75 / 89
7. Mimi Gochman / Andretti BH / 85.5 / 87.75
8. Natalie Jayne / Charisma / 86.5 / 87.25
9. Alexander Alston / Campreoll / 86.5 / 88.75
10. Zayna Rizvi / Finnick / 86.5 / 82.75