Traverse City, Mich. – Aug. 25, 2020 – The 2020 Adequan®/USEF Junior Hunter National Championship – East Coast reached its conclusion Tuesday at Flintfields Horse Park, the host site of Traverse City Horse Shows, but not before 67 equitation contenders took their turn in the limelight during the USHJA Gladstone Cup Equitation Classic – East, presented by Intermont Equestrian at Emory and Henry. A three-round class that combines the precision of equitation and handiness of hunters over a course set at the 3’6″ height, the contest featured some of the country’s most decorated equitation riders, with each vying for a chance to earn a coveted spot in the final work-off. Impressively leading the day from start to finish, Grace Debney demonstrated her equitation expertise following three standout rides that consistently pulled in top marks from the judges to emerge as the 2020 East Coast victor, adding another accolade to her growing list over the course of three days of riding.
The East Coast event was open to any Junior rider that had qualified in applicable equitation classes at a competition with a start date between June 1, 2019 and May 31, 2020. The competition began with a classic round, then the field was whittled down to the top 20 to return in reverse order of the standings for the handy phase. Finally, a work-off, during which the top riders swapped horses, served to finalize the scoring of the elite contenders.
Course designer Andy Christiansen offered competitors a chance to shine in the classic round over 15 creative fences that simulated riding over hunt country. Collectively, riders rose to the occasion with 23 individuals earning a first-round score of 80 or higher from the judges panel that consisted of Mark Jungherr and Sissy Wickes. At the midway break, Grace Debney held the lead with a score of 90 points thanks to an exemplary trip aboard Temple Equestrian LLC’s Quimby, the mount on which she earned the Overall Grand 3’6” Reserve Championship and the Small Junior Hunter 15 & Under tricolors just one day prior. As the round progressed, talented horse-and-rider pairs chased her down, but Debney remained the frontrunner headed into the handy phase. Gwyneth Babington was hot on her trail with 89 points on Wildfire, and Dominic Gibbs rounded out the top three with a score of 88 aboard Clover.
Twenty combinations were invited to return for the second portion of the class, with the cut-off score sitting at a lofty 81.50 points. The handy pattern challenged participants to successfully trot a fence, hand gallop and complete a bounce, in addition to a number of changes of direction and rollbacks. Sixth-to-last in the order to take another turn around the ring, Austin Krawitt piloted Vendredi Riverland to the first 90-point score of the handy round, which pushed him to the top of the scorecard with a total of 176.75 points. Three trips later, Gibbs and Clover usurped the frontrunners with an effortless performance that earned them a total score of 179. Not willing to be outdone, Debney and Quimby once again led the way, maneuvering the handy track to the tune of 89.50 points to settle on a top score of 179.50 overall.
To finalize the results at the top of the leaderboard, the judges called back the top-scoring four riders for testing that included the trot fence, bounce and rollbacks, all done on different horses. For the final testing, riders were not allowed any assistance from their trainers, putting emphasis on their horsemanship. Ellie Ferrigno, Krawitt, Gibbs and Debney each rode one final abridged track on a borrowed horse in order to determine the order of the final four finishers. The first two to ride, Ferrigno jockeyed Kim Farlinger Equestrian’s Vendredi Riverland and Krawitt’s trade was Olivia Robertson’s Astro De Ravel. Gibbs went next on Quimby, and Debney closed out the day with the reins on Sail Horse Investment’s Clover.
Back on their original horses, the top four were rewarded for their efforts. Debney rode with experience beyond her years and was honored with the distinction of the 2020 USHJA Gladstone Cup Equitation Classic champion, while Krawitt jumped to the reserve championship. Ferrigno rounded out the podium spots and Gibbs closed out the top-four rankings.
As the trainer of the victor, Samantha Schaefer and Kate Conover was awarded with a prize of $5,000, and Haleigh Landrigan was rewarded with $500 as the groom of Quimby, the winning mount. Suzanne Mancheski’s HH Moonshine, ridden by Tessa Downey, was distinguished with the Best Equitation Horse Award.
Tuesday marks the conclusion of the junior championships in Traverse City, but the Traverse City Fall Horse Show, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, will begin Wednesday. Hunter, jumper and equitation exhibitors will have a chance to compete before the start of the 50th American Gold Cup, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, on Wednesday, Sept. 2.
Grace Debney – USHJA Gladstone Cup Equitation Classic, presented by Intermont Equestrian at Emory and Henry, champion
On her win:
“It means a lot because we’ve had this horse since he was 7 years old and he is my first equitation horse. I was his first rider in the equation, so to win at such a nice venue is really big for me and my horse. It’s really special. He started in the equitation classes pretty much right away when we got him. We imported him from Europe about two years ago and he started in Florida after that. Even though it’s been a pretty weird year, we’ve worked a lot to get here, so it means a lot to be able to be successful in a final like this after working so hard.”
“He is special because he just honestly wants to have fun every time he steps foot in the ring. He is just happy doing anything, he always just wants to do his best. He loves his job so much and I think that’s what really helps me. I showed in the [Adequan/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships – East Coast] too and he was happy to do everything.”
On the work-off:
“I really liked switching horses. I think it’s fun and I like to see how the other horses ride, and it gives me a chance to watch my horse with someone else. So I really liked that format.”
On Traverse City Horse Shows:
“This is my first time here and I love it. We are definitely coming back next year. It’s an awesome venue, everything is so beautiful and there is a lot to do around the show as well which is nice.”
Sissy Wickes – Judge
On the class:
“I think Andy Christiansen did an amazing job on the course and it’s always a challenge to create a course that can appeal to everybody and be manageable but also be challenging enough that it weeds the top riders out a bit because it is a big class. I think the entire grounds crew here throughout Junior Hunter Finals and the Gladstone Cup did an amazing job. I think the class was very successful, there were very few people that I think went home unhappy. It’s a great format and it’s exciting to judge. Of the top four riders that ended up coming back, a couple of kids ended up having a few unfortunate missteps but I think four really top riders came back and weeded themselves out. I think we feel pretty good about the job we did.”
On the top four:
“They were consistent riders, they were beautiful riders. Grace [Debney’s] first round impressed us because she picked up a pace and never changed her pace. It was absolutely beautiful and it was soft and efficient. I think that is the point of equitation – to look good but to also be functional and not work against your horse and work with your horse and it was really pretty. In the work-off, it was great to see how proficient all of the riders were getting on different horses, which were different shapes and sizes and levels of rideability. I think all of the riders should feel great about the job they did.”
Samantha Schaefer – Debney’s Trainer
On the class:
“I think she had a great week. [Grace] knows Quimby really well. This kind of format for a class where the ring is big and you can set the gallop, I think it really showcases that horse’s ability to really go like a hunter and it’s seamless. I thought her first round, in my opinion, was one of the best rounds she has ever had on the horse. She walked in, she looked comfortable the whole time, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I think the second round was comparable. I thought she did a nice job. I think any time you have to get on horses.”
On the work-off
“When she got, obviously she had a lot to lose because she was sitting on top, but I thought she was very efficient in her warm-up, didn’t waste a lot of time, and right off the bat looked like she had been riding the horse her whole life. She has had a lot of opportunities with catch riding, so I think that helps in times like this.”
Kate Conover – Debney’s Trainer
On the day’s activities:
“[Grace’s] first round was breathtaking. We are really proud of her. She kept her composure, and we always kept saying, ‘It’s not the battle, it’s the war. Be consistent and keep at it.’ We walked the course and we did what worked for our horse. It was nice with all of the options and we can’t say enough about this venue. It was a beautiful course and it was set up really nicely for our horse to show off how hunter-y he is. We can’t say enough about Traverse City Horse Shows and this event they put on considering the circumstances we are going through right now in the world.”
“He just showed here [at Adequan/USEF Junior Hunter National Championships-East Coast] in the Small Junior division and was champion, he was Overall Reserve Grand 3’6’’ Champion, and just won this class. I can’t say enough about that horse. I love the horse, he’s enjoying and having fun out there. He’s special to me.”
USHJA Gladstone Cup Equitation Classic, presented by Intermont Equestrian at Emory and Henry:
Place / Rider / Horse / Owner / Score
1. Quimby / Grace Debney / Temple Equestrian LLC / 270.50
2. Vendredi Riverland / Austin Krawitt / Kim Farlinger Equestrian /268.75
3. Astro De Ravel / Ellie Ferrigno / Olivia Robertson / 261.50
4. Clover / Dominic Gibbs / Sail Horse Investments / 255
5. For Asgard / Alexander Alston / North Run/Missy Clark / 169.50
6. Any Given Sunday / Alexia Rule / Donald Stewart / 168
7. E.V. Commander / Hannah Hoch / Hannah Hoch LLC / 167.50
8. Imaginator / Hensley Humphries / Hensley Humphries / 165.50
9. Kenan / Skyler Fields / Skyler Fields / 165
10. Love Sun / Mary-Grace Segars / Cheryl Sims / 164