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October 13, 2012

Ovation Puts In An Encore Performance At Pennsylvania National

Owner Betsee Parker (left) helped Tori Colvin collect her awards after riding Ovation to the small junior, 15 and under, and grand junior hunter titles.

Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 12

Tori Colvin, Tori Colvin, Tori Colvin. I know it seems like all we do is write about Tori Colvin. Is she really that good?

Yes, yes she is.

As we began our interview on Friday, Colvin was on a quest to find a towel. Her hands were full of pulverized apple, thanks to Inclusive’s antics during the awards ceremonies, and she wanted to clean off her gloves. Champions were gifted with bags full of apples, and Inclusive, who topped the large junior, 15 and under, section, had sussed out the situation right away, mobbing Colvin for some. Ovation had done the same when collecting his own championship, in the small junior, 15 and under, division.

Colvin was happy to oblige. You see, if you watch Colvin ride or read all about her in the Chronicle, you might get the impression that she’s a little bit of a winning robot. She turns in flawless round after flawless round, making it all look so easy. A reserved girl, she’s not prone to huge smiles or celebrations in public. But you know what? She loves the horses she rides as much as any teenager. She spends time with them, listens to them, and is happy to get her gloves sopping wet feeding them apples.

She’s not just a freakishly talented rider; she’s also a soft-hearted animal lover. In fact, her goal is to someday open an animal rescue, like Danny and Ron’s Rescue.

Colvin’s empathy for her horses is part of what makes them want to perform for her. Not everything goes right for her all the time. On the first day of the junior hunter classes, Colvin cantered from fence 1 to fence 2 on Way Cool, who was the large junior hunter, 15 and under, champion here last year. As they turned to the oxer, Way Cool balked and spun, being quite naughty. Colvin didn’t lose her cool.

She quietly patted Way Cool on the neck, eased him back into a canter, and made a sweeping, wide turn to the jump again. Way Cool dig in his toes again on the turn. Did Colvin lose her temper? Hit him, or dig her spurs in? No, she didn’t. She just subtly urged him forward and tried again. This time, Way Cool cantered out of the turn without incident and went on to finish the course beautifully. He came right back and won the handy class an hour later.

“That’s just him. He’s kind of quirky. There’s nothing I can do about it; he just does that kind of thing sometimes,” Colvin said without a hunt of frustration. She accepts that some days Way Cool might throw a wrench in the works. “I just pat him on the neck and get him confident again.”

Way Cool was out of the running to defend his title, but Colvin won it anyway, on Inclusive. She wrapped up the small junior, 15 and under, and grand junior titles on Ovation, too.

Good Rides

Hasbrouck Donovan has a similar soft, fluid style to Colvin’s, and she put it to good measure riding Confidential to the top of the small junior hunter, 16-17, division. They claimed two blues and a red ribbon on the way to the tricolor, and Hasbrouck also earned good ribbons on the 19-year-old Lyle.

It was in the stake class that Donovan ceded the win, to Jacob Pope on Kid Rock, who ended up in the reserve champion spot. Pope, the previously little-known rider who has rocketed to a different stratosphere in the past year, had just ridden Kid Rock for a few weeks before guiding him to the reserve title. And the whole point of showing him had been to get Pope comfortable in the ring before he makes a bid for the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals on Oct. 14.

“It really is like a dream,” Pope told me of the last 12 months. Last November, he won the USHJA Emerging Athletes National Training Session, earning him a spot at January’s George Morris Horsemastership Clinic.

While riding in the clinic, he caught the eye of Kent Farrington. In 1998, Farrington himself was an unknown junior taken under the wing of trainer Andre Dignelli, and he went on to win the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals. Farrington mentioned to Pope and Dignelli that perhaps a similar situation would work for them. So, Pope started as a working student at Dignelli’s Heritage Farm.

“Andre says that [trainer] Streett Moore gave me all my basics and skills, but Andre is just giving me the horses I need to do it,” Pope said. The partnership has worked, as Pope captured a convincing win in the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Final-East on Oct. 5-7.

Like A Cartoon Character

The most heated battle of the junior hunter divisions was waged in the large junior, 16-17, section. In the end, Alexandra Crown emerged with the tricolor attached to Garfield’s bridle by virtue of winning the stake class.

The most difficult part of the performance might have been the awards ceremony—Garfield almost knocked Crown over looking for treats and trying to eat the flower bouquet. “He’s kind of like Garfield the cat—he’s orange and gets into all kinds of things!” Crown said.

She’s been riding Garfield for a year and a half and felt pressure to live up to his legacy, as Garfield had two Pennsylvania National tricolors to his résumé. He won in 2009 and 2010 with former owner Samantha Schaefer. “It’s nice to get it done and keep his record,” Crown said.

Today was marathon day at the Pennsylvania National. Between the junior hunters, the pony hunters and the junior jumper Prix des States team competition, almost 400 trips went in the Farm Show Arena. Add in some awards ceremonies, and you’ve got a solid 15 consecutive hours of competition.

I’m worn out, and all I do is take pictures and do interviews. There are junior riders who rode first thing today, and came back at 9 p.m. to show in the junior jumpers. And as I was walking out of the building at 11:30 p.m., hordes of equitation horses were gathered in the schooling rings, waiting to school in the show ring. The middle of the night is the only time the ring isn’t busy with classes, so that’s when the equitation horses have a chance to get in there. It makes for long nights for trainers and riders!

You can find all of the Pennsylvania National coverage here. Check back tomorrow for pony hunter action, and all the news from the Randolph College/USEF Junior Jumper Individual Championship. Then on Sunday, it’s the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals!

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