Traverse City, Mich. – July 28, 2019 – Debuting a new class, the 2019 Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF), presented by CaptiveOne Advisors, LLC, featured the inaugural Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship, presented by Northern Pines Farm, on Saturday afternoon. More than just a contest for the exhibitors, $10,000 was also up for grabs for the trainers of the four highest-placed competitors, upping the stakes of the unique championship. Riding Acer K, Ava Stearns of Chilmark, Massachusetts, best exemplified the correct form and skill to be named the first victor of the exciting new equitation class.
Open to riders 21 years old and under who have won a first, second or third place ribbon in equitation classes held at the 3’6″ height throughout the first four weeks of the festival, plus two hand-selected wild card entries, the Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship, presented by Northern Pines Farm, consisted of two rounds of competition held over derby-style fences. Following the first round of riding over the 3’6” course, the 12 best-performing pairs out of the original field of 29 were invited back to the Grand Prix Ring for one final chance to showcase their abilities. The class was created in memory of Dudley B. Smith, a noteworthy member of the community and friend to GLEF who passed away unexpectedly in August 2018. Smith’s granddaughter, Paige Matthies, competed in the class aboard a horse owned by Barbara Smith, her grandmother and Dudley’s wife.
Aboard North Run’s Acer K, an 8-year-old Warmblood gelding, 18-year-old Stearns consistently displayed her mastery of the proper style of riding, seemingly navigating the tracks with ease. Thanks to two textbook rides, Stearns was twice awarded top scores, which ultimately sealed her the win as the inaugural victor. Another formidable contender, Erin Floyd piloted Hays Investment Group’s Any Given Sunday to back-to-back strong performances to earn second place honors, while Matthies and Blurred Lines, owned by Barbara Smith, rounded out the podium spots.
In addition, the $10,000 Dudley B. Smith Trainer Awards provided an added incentive to the competition. With Stearns’ win, her trainer, John Brennan of North Run in Warren, Vermont, was awarded the lion’s share of the purse. Brennan added to his achievements with another top-placed duo, Tanner Korotkin and Sandalwood Farms’ Aribo, who finished in fourth place. As the trainer of second place finishers, Floyd and Any Given Sunday, Donald Stewart of Don Stewart Stables in Reddick, Florida, also received a cut of the winnings, while Melissa Hirt of Michigan-based Northern Pines Farm was the third trainer to earn a portion of the pot thanks to her student, Matthies on Blurred Lines, who finished in third place overall.
Weekly equitation competition will continue at GLEF throughout the series’ final two weeks, with one more Equitation Tuesday taking place during Week V.
Ava Stearns – Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship, presented by Northern Pines Farm, winner
On her reaction to winning the inaugural class:
“It was really fun! The courses were great and [Acer K] really stepped up to the plate. It’s super exciting to be the inaugural winner of this class. It’s named after such a great man and donated by such a wonderful family. It means so much to [the Matthies family] and to everyone here, so it was really exciting to get to be a part of it. I owe the biggest thank you to the team at North Run. All the staff really do everything to make this possible. Of course, ‘Acer’ never lets me down, so I owe the biggest thank you to him.”
On Acer K:
“[Acer K] is from North Run. He is wonderful and does everything you ask. He is game for any kind of venue, and he is really special. I just started working with him mostly this summer and he has really been a great partner.”
“This is our first time here and we really like it. It’s been really fun. We saw the town and it’s lovely. We went to dinner and walked around; Paige [Matthies] actually showed me around.”
Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship, presented by Northern Pines Farm:
Place / Rider / Horse
1. Ava Stearns / Acer K
2. Erin Floyd / Any Given Sunday
3. Paige Matthies / Blurred Lines
4. Tanner Korotkin / Aribo
5. Sophia Pilla / Campino
6. Savannah Hemby / Kasarco O.H.
7. Luke Jensen / HH Casallo
8. Ava Ellis / Campreoll
9. Cinda / Belle Zachary
10. Layla Kurbanov / Calberon B
11. Austin Krawitt / Breakfast Club
12. Aristea Santoro / My Pride Z
For more information, please visit greatlakesequestrianfestival.com.