Temecula, Calif. – Apr. 23, 2022 – The West Coast’s top junior riders put their equitation skills to the test Saturday morning for the ASPCA Maclay Medal in the Grand Hunter Ring. One at a time, the young riders took to the course, designed by Meghan Rawlins, to demonstrate proper technique and impress the judges with their abilities to connect with their mounts and accurately interpret the course in order to take home a top result. After 28 trips and the flat phase, Stella Buckingham emerged victorious.
The track presented several challenges, including long runs to single fences where riders attempted inside turns, as well as a bending five- or six-stride line and a two-stride. Riders opted for various paths around the large Grand Hunter Arena, turning inside certain obstacles or going around the large trees down the centerline. Some issues arose with the vertical nearest the in-gate as the class went on, and others struggled maintaining their rhythm into and out of the five-stride line on the outside.
With the benefit of going later in the order, Buckingham came into the ring certain of her plan and executed accordingly. She and the 15-year-old Zangersheide gelding gracefully met each jump and navigated the course as smoothly as possible. They took a slightly more inside-track ride, opting for inside turns without being too risky and sacrificing the quality of the ride to do so. Without a final score announced after each round, riders had to wait patiently to see if they’d make it back for the flat phase.
Though her round was strong, there was still more testing. Once all horse-and-rider combinations had completed the jumping portion, the top 12 returned for a flat phase to further impress the judges and take home the coveted first place prize. At the walk, posting trot, sitting trot and canter, the judges observed each rider’s equitation and rhythm to help make the final placings. Ultimately, it was Buckingham with the win, and Stella Wasserman just behind her in second place with Skylar Wireman taking home third place.
Earlier in the day, junior athletes also vied for top honors in the Washington International Horse Show Hunter Phase and Jumper Phase, as well as the opportunity to be named WIHS Overall winner for the week. Topping both phases and the WIHS Overall was Nicole McMillion and Copenhagen on a score of 88 and 85 in the respective classes. Both the WIHS and ASPCA Maclay Medal serve as qualifying events for the coveted WIHS Equitation Finals and ASPCA Maclay Medal Finals, respectively, held on the east coast later in the fall.
Hunter competition concludes at Temecula Valley National Premier I Sunday with Amateur Owner Hunters and Junior Hunters taking to the Grand Hunter Arena for the final day of their respective divisions and opportunities to take home tricolors. Hunter competition resumes Wednesday with professional hunter divisions to kick off Temecula Valley National Premier II.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
On Vondel DH Z:
“He’s my star equitation horse. I lease him from Tasha Visokay. I staeted leasing him last season and he took me through indoors. He’s great. He’s so edxpeirenced; he’s done it all. He’s my once in a lifetime equitation horse. He’s amazing. He’s a little dead to ride but he is so light in the mouth and dreamy. You just kind of sit there. He’ a weirdo. He is just a very strange animal but he’s super sweet, just a lot of quirks.
On today’s course:
“The course played to both of our strengths. I like courses that are constantly asking questions and turning and whatnot. That course asked a lot of quertsions – turning left, turning right, collecting, extending – and it worked to both our strengths.”
On her goals as a junior:
“This is my last junior year. I’m going to take him back east to do the finals; I’m hoping to place well in some of those and start doing the big jumpers. I’ve been doing the High Juniors but I really want to go to Young Riders and do all those things but finish my junior years with success in the equitation.”
On her plans post-junior career:
“I’m going to really focus on the jumpers. I’m going to travel to Europe and gain some experience in a different atmosphere.”
On Nilforushan Equisport Events:
“It’s been great. I love it here. The rings are awesome, the classes are awesome, everything about it is awesome. The atmosphere is great.”
ASPCA Maclay Medal
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner
- Vondel DH Z / Stella Buckingham / Ingenium Farm
- Caracas 89 / Stella Wasserman / Elvenstar Farm
- Raffaello / Skylar Wireman / Renaissance Farm LLC
- Cavaljo / Paige Walkenbach / Walkenbach Equestrian LLC
- HD Washington / Isabella Holway
- Cervino / Djuna Lauder / Roaring Fork Farms LLC
- Debut / Jasmine Yannatta / Jasmine Yannatta
- Balko D’Elle / Aedan Mooney / Carolyn Becker