Devon, Pa.--July 8
Yasmin Rizvi just moved up from the ponies last year, but her rounds with Flirt in the U.S. Junior Hunter National Championship-East Coast (Pa.) proved she’d made the transition well.
Once again, Skip Bailey’s courses at the Devon showgrounds were riddled with option fences, including a combination that could be jumped in three different ways, giving riders a chance to show off their horses. As the last to go in the handy hunter round, Rizvi had the chance to evaluate the best plan based on what she’d seen others perform.
“For example, the first jump, if everybody did the harder option then we would do that too, but not a lot of people did it, so we decided to do the other one,” she said. “It mostly depended on what the other horses did so I could stay in first place.”
Before Rizvi got the ride, the warmblood of unrecorded breeding showed successfully in the junior hunters with Grady Lyman in California. “He’s really slow and he’s really sweet,” Rizvi said. “I can always trust him and he’s really fun.”
In addition to the small junior, 15 and under, title, Rizvi and Flirt took home the overall 3’6” grand junior champion title as well.
“Yasmin’s had a great weekend,” said her trainer Patricia Griffith of Heritage Farm, “We’re really proud of her. She put in two awesome rounds. She was very consistent.
“We love the horse,” she continued, “We’ve had him for over a year, and he’s been amazing for us, and it’s really exciting.”
Watch Rizvi's handy round on Flirt...
Colvin's Blue Again
Defending champion Victoria Colvin brought one of her greener mounts, Canadian Blue, and was impressed with how he handled Bailey’s difficult track. “The handy was like derby finals pretty much. I didn’t think he would do very well, but he did!” she said with a smile. Canadian Blue ended up the small junior, 16-17 overall champion.
“He got a little quick, and I was grateful there was a hand gallop and I just let him go and it was perfect,” she continued. "I thought he was good overall.”
Colvin and the chestnut warmblood (Converter—Larissa K) were fresh off of a championship at Devon (Pa.).
“He loves this show,” she said. “The last two years he’s been champion at Devon. He just loves it here so we thought we’d bring him back again.”
Colvin’s large junior mount, Inclusive pulled a rail in the classic round, so she decided to save him and not contest the handy round since she plans on taking him to the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships (Ky.) in August.
When Caroline Dance’s name was announced as the overall champion of the large junior hunters, 16-17, with her horse Show Time, she couldn’t believe it. “It’s insane,” she said. “I don’t even know what to say; I’m really speechless.”
Dance, of West Chester, Pa., purchased Show Time last summer and said that the German Warmblood of unrecorded breeding is a once-in-a-lifetime horse. “He’s just so good and he isn’t phased by anything,” she said.
“Going into the handy I was really nervous and I wasn’t confident in myself at all,” she continued. "I don’t even remember half the round to be honest, it went by so fast. Going to the last line, I was nervous, but I knew he’d take care of me.”
Dance, 14, rides with Louise Serio, who also happens to be her godmother.
New Mount, No Problem
When competition started on Monday, July 7, Morgan Ward might not have known her large junior, 16-17, mount Indorada 3 very well, but she proved she could handle the pressure by turning in a top score in Monday’s classic round. She followed that up with third place in the handy round for the division championship, just 2/10 of a point ahead of reserve champions Cosil and Annie Diehl.
“I was a little nervous because I didn’t know her, but they told me good stuff about her, so I was confident in the ride,” Ward said. Ward said it wasn't hard to switch horses because Indorada 3 was similar to her small junior Comisssario, who finished as reserve in the small junior, 16-17 section.
“They’re really scopey and big strided,” she said. “Obviously this one’s a little taller, but they’re both really nice, so it was kind of easy for me to go from a small to a large.”
Kelly Arani normally pilots the Westphalian mare (Indorado—Cinderella), but since she had another large junior, Antwerp, owner Catherine Pasmore Sales LLC and trainers Leslie Emerson and Kaitlin Campbell had to make a decision.
Ultimately, they decided to have Arani stay on Antwerp because they had an established partnership—the pair finished as reserve champions in the large junior, 15 and under division. Having seen Ward ride before, Pasmore, Campbell and Emerson were comfortable having Ward pilot Indoraba 3.
“We were excited to give her the opportunity as well as get a really awesome ride for our mare,” Emerson said. “She did an amazing job.”
Worth Waiting For
For Olivia Easton, winning the 3'3" junior hunter, 15 and under overall championship at Junior Hunter Finals was something she’s been dreaming about.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment since I started riding at 6 years old,” she said. “To do it with this horse, who has been pretty much my soulmate, is incredible. I’ve never been so happy.”
Easton and Martel had a commanding lead over second-place finisher Emma Ecklin and Forever following Monday’s classic round, but after Ecklin laid down a stellar trip in the handy, Easton started to feel the pressure. “To watch the girl in front of me have such a nice round, I was so nervous,” she said. “But I put a little cross on my horse’s neck, and I was off.”
Easton scored just outside of the top spot in the handy, but her previous performance helped her clinch the division championship along with the owner-rider award and the overall 3'3" grand championship.
The 16-year-old from Key Biscayne, Fla., rides with Karen Flynn, who coaches the University of Miami. Easton’s had Martel since 2013 and said that the Selle Francais (Harlevent De Breka—Viatka De La Dire) rarely has a bad day. “If he’s in the right mood, you cannot beat him,” she said.
Coming From Behind
Of all of the winners, Casey Menna made the biggest move up the leaderboard with her own Ubora for the national title in the 3'3" junior hunter, 16-17 division. The pair went into the handy round sitting eighth and had quite a bit of ground to make up.
“I was really surprised,” Menna said. “I wasn’t thinking I was going to take this today. I watched all day, and then I didn’t really breathe too much when it was time to get ready so I just left it all out there." Thanks to her bold decisions on course, she was the only rider to earn a score in the 80s from all three judges.
Menna, of East Norriton, Pa., has owned Ubora, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Opan—Nebora), for two years and moved up to the junior hunters earlier this year.
“The handy round is her favorite class,” Menna said. “She’s pretty fun. She likes the jumps. She’s definitely excitablel, but when it counts, she’s always there.”
Menna, who trains with Amy Haskins of Gwyn Meadows Farms, says that she wouldn’t have made it to the championship without her trainer. “She’s the best,” Menna said. “She’s always given me confidence; she means a lot to me.”