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Press Release


Julie Welles won the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search East Coast Finals.

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Welles Wins USEF Show Jumping Talent Search East Coast Finals, Maida Captures West Coast Title

Written by: Jennifer Wood
Client: United States Equestrian Team Foundation
Release Date: 2005-10-11

Jennifer Wood for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

MEDIA CONTACT: Jennifer Wood of Phelps Media Group, Inc. International at (561) 753-3389 or at

WEB SITE: Phelps Media Group, Inc. International Press Releases and Photos are available for download at

Photo Credit: Julie Welles won the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search East Coast Finals. Photo by Flashpoint Photography.

Welles Wins USEF Show Jumping Talent Search East Coast Finals, Maida Captures West Coast Title

Gladstone, NJ- October 11- The East Coast Finals for the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search were held this past weekend (October 8-9) at the historic Hamilton Farms in Gladstone, New Jersey. Also the home of the USET Foundation, the farm was the site of a showdown between some of the best young riders in the country. The West Coast Finals were held at the LA International Jumping Festival at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, on September 21-25, 2005.

Seventeen year old Julie Welles of West Simsbury, Connecticut came away with the win at the East Coast Finals in a demanding four phase competition. She rode to victory on Lando, owned by Gabby Slome. “He adjusts well to anything,” said Welles of her spectacular mount. “He didn’t care about the rain, he was great in the flat phase, and I felt really comfortable in the jumping phase.”

Her trainers, Missy Clark and Linda Langmeier, were also presented with the USET Foundation Leading Trainer Award in memory of Hugh B. Cassidy, III of Long Island, NY. Welles won the French Leave Award, which was donated to the U.S. Equestrian Team by the Gerald A. Nielsen family of Darien, CT. The trophy is named for the horse which Sandy Nielsen rode when she won the first USET Medal Finals East in 1982.

While the constant rain was a nuisance to the competitors, Clark said that the ring at Hamilton Farms where the USET Foundation has their headquarters could not have been better. “The weather entered into the equation, but the footing was fantastic at Gladstone. It really was a true testament to whoever put that ring in and did the maintenance over the years. Other than the torrential rain, it was so pleasant to not have the footing be a factor,” she remarked.

The USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals is a demanding competition for riders up to 21 years of age. It has produced some of the top show jumping stars of today who often go on to compete for the USEF in international and Olympic competition. Some previous winners include Joie Gatlin, Meredith Michaels, Richard Spooner, McLain Ward, and Lauren Hough.

On Saturday, the riders completed the flat phase, a two-minute time period where judges observed the riders’ ability to prepare their horses for jumping, followed by the gymnastics phase, where horse and rider were tested on communication and physical ability to successfully navigate a course composed of a variety of lines of jumps. The gymnastics phase was designed by judge Karen Healey.

“It’s a demanding final,” said trainer Missy Clark. “This competition was something she was fairly well versed in with this horse. We felt pretty well prepared, as best you can be!”

On Sunday, all riders returned for the third phase, a timed show jumping course. At the conclusion, the four best riders, as judged over the course of the weekend by Healey and Conrad Homfeld, were invited to return and compete against each other to determine the champion. With the score card wiped clean, each rode a new and shorter course of jumps on each of the four riders’ horses. “I think I was most nervous on my own horse,” Welles remarked. “All of the horses were so nice and went a different way, so it was challenging for us. I ride so many different horses that it’s like second nature for me. It was my favorite part of the weekend.”

“All the girls did a nice job, but maybe the difference with Julie was that she was incredibly consistent on all four horses,” said Clark. “I wasn’t really nervous about having her do that, because she does that all day, every day. She rides a lot of different horses at my farm and with Linda. She was brought up in that system.”

“Julie was remarkably consistent throughout the competition,” said Healey. “Not only is she a beautiful stylist, but she has great empathy for the horses. They want to go well for her.”

Welles came into the competition knowing that it was one of the harder Finals to compete in. “I came with an open mind, stayed confident, and it worked,” she concluded.

2005 USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals- East Coast
1. Julie Welles, 17, of West Simsbury, CT, riding Lando, an eleven-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, owned by Gabby Slome
2. Maria Schaub, 16, of Holmdel, NJ, riding Orion, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, owned by Cloverleaf Farm
3. Maggie McAlary, 15, of Amherst, NH, riding Mid-Accord, an eight-year-old Hanoverian gelding
4. Natalie Johnson, 18, of Greenwich, CT, riding Chagall, a 12-year-old Warmblood gelding
5. Addison Phillips, 16, of New York, NY, riding Ricochet, a 12-year-old Warmblood gelding
6. Carolyn Kelly, 17, of New York, NY, riding Kontiki, an eleven-year-old Hanoverian gelding
7. Blythe Marano, 17, of Bedminster, NJ, riding Moon Dance, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding
8. Nikko Ritter, 17, of Oviedo, FL, riding Clover Count, a 16-year-old Irish Bred gelding, owned by Linda Bakker
9. Andrew Welles, 17, of Long Lake, MN, riding Edesa’s Lennetaler, a ten-year-old Holsteiner gelding, owned by Crooker Syndicate.
10. Catherine Wright, 18, of Old Chatham, NY, riding Mardi Gras, a 24-year-old Westphalian gelding, owned by Brian Walker

The West Coast Finals were held a few weeks earlier, but named a winner that is sure to be recognized in the future. Alex Maida of Danville, California, was the top rider at the competition. The 17 year old rode her own horse Vincenzo and was trained by Gry and Duncan McFarlane, with help from Susie Schroer.

Maida was awarded the Denali Memorial Perpetual Trophy. The Denali trophy was donated to the U.S. Equestrian Team by Mrs. Maya Z. Hamburger of Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Denali was a racing quarter horse that was foaled in Alaska and went on to win state championships in pole bending and then to a new career in show jumping. He won grand prix events in California and Arizona and was a Junior Jumper champion with rider Melanie Hamburger.

Maida had an incredible Finals experience. She showed in her first Talent Search Finals two years ago and was hoping to finish in the top ten this year. She surpassed that goal with ease, as she led the competition in each and every phase. “She won all of the phases with both judges and with every horse in the test,” confirmed Gry McFarlane.

Maida received high praise from judges Leo Conroy and Ray Texel. “The primary thing we look for at the Talent Search Finals is consistency,” Conroy commented. “There was no question that she was the most consistent in all of them.”

“She really rose to the top,” Conroy went on to explain. “When it got to the final four, she slammed the door.”

“I was kind of shocked,” said Maida with a smile. “I found out I was on top after the flat phase. Luckily, Gry kept me really calm, because I wanted to go in and have a really good over fences round.” Maida has ridden with the McFarlanes since she was nine years old and is “like a member of the family,” said Gry McFarlane. “It was such a sweet victory. She’s a very talented young girl and is truly a nice, gracious young lady.”

When she returned for the test for the top four riders, Maida knew she would have to switch horses. “It was the first time I’ve ever switched horses. Everything happened so fast, but it was really fun,” she commented. “All of the horses were so different!”

While the judges expected execution of the course on the four different horses, Conroy also mentioned that, “Style counts.” “On the other horses, Alex was able to attain the style that we originally found so attractive,” he said.

Maida noted that the work-off course was a very good test that stressed adjustability of the horse. “It worked on shortening and lengthening of your horse’s stride,” she said, “and your horse should have been better at the end of the course than when he started out.”

Maida’s own horse seemed to have no trouble navigating the courses. “Vincenzo’s really soft and kind of sensitive,” she explained. “But, he’s so reliable. He wants to do well.”

Although her main focus now is on equitation, Maida is also looking forward to competing in the jumper ring next year. McFarlane believes that her equitation experience will help her in her new endeavor, “Duncan and I are big believers in equitation as a means to the jumper ring, not as an end itself.”

Maida’s plans for the fall include traveling east to show at Capital Challenge, the USEF Hunt Seat Medal Finals in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the ASPCA Maclay National Championship in Syracuse, New York. “This will be my first time coming east,” she revealed. “This year will be for experience, and next year will hopefully be for a top ten finish- or maybe to win!”

2005 USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – West Coast:
1. Alex Maida, 17, of Danville, CA, trained by Gry and Duncan McFarlane with help from Susie Schroer.
2. Natalie Rae Medlock, 18, of Orange, CA, trained by Leslie Steele.
3. Megan Edrick, 19, of Woodland Hills, CA, trained by Mike Edrick, Karen Healey, Joie Gaitlin, and Nick Karazissis.
4. Hannah Selleck, 16, of Thousand Oaks, CA, trained by Nicki Simpson and Karen Healey.
5. Shelby Wakeman, 15, of Westlake Village, CA.
6. Bliss Heers, 18, of Olivenhain, CA.
7. Karrie Rufer, 20, of Sacramento, CA.
8. Morgan Taylor, 18, Salinas, CA.
9. Veronica Tracy, 15, of San Juan Capistrano, CA.
10. Lauren Hester, 18, of Rancho Santa Fe, CA.

Photo Credit: Julie Welles won the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search East Coast Finals. Photo by Flashpoint Photography.


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