Crowning Moment for Equitation Champions During the IHJA “A” Medal Finals Held on Final Day of Showplace Fall Classic Championship‏

By Kendall Bierer and Annan Hepner for Phelps Media Group.


Giavanna Rinaldi won the 2015 IHJA Junior Medal Finals during the Showplace Fall Classic Championship.

Wayne, Illinois – Sept. 13, 2015 – Over 100 horse and rider combinations gathered at the Lamplight Equestrian Center for the pinnacle moment of the Midwest’s equitation calendar, the Illinois Hunter Jumper Association (IHJA) Medal Finals, sponsored by Littlewood Farms and Friends. In its usual fashion, Showplace Productions designed a day that would become a lasting memory for the children, adults and junior riders with hospitality, unique awards and challenging courses that denoted championship status. The event signifies the end of the outdoor show season for many of the riders, yet for some it is only the beginning of the indoor finals.

So is the case with Giavanna Rinaldi, the 15-year-old hometown sensation. The young rider has traversed tracks in the pony divisions, junior hunters and even at the grand prix level. On Sunday, Rinaldi added 2015 IHJA Junior Medal Champion to her repertoire, just in time to prepare for the 2015 ASPCA Maclay Regionals.

“I am really excited about the Regionals, and I am really excited that today ended so well. I feel like I can go into the Regionals with more confidence on a nice win,” Rinaldi explained. She has only been competing in the equitation division for one year, yet she has her sights set on pursuing everything the ‘big eq’ has to offer. “The course was great preparation; Pat didn’t go easy on us, and I am glad. I know that there are going to be some scary fences and some really tough questions asked of us at the Regionals.”

Boyle challenged the junior riders with a technical track that focused on transitions, collection and finesse. The serpentine of obstacles included a hedge, chute, wooden snake obstacle, oxers, a vertical-vertical combination and a series of bending lines.

“It was a pretty long course; I was not expecting that, but it rode really nicely,” Rinaldi said of Boyle’s course design. “It had some really hard parts. It was set up nicely and was beautiful out there. They did a really nice job. It asked a lot of questions, it definitely tested your brakes.”


Giavanna Rinaldi. Photo by Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group.

Rinaldi rode to the highest score of the day, earning an 87 over the challenging course. She narrowly beat out Paige Matthies, who only moments before captured an 86 for her efforts. Only four were chosen to test, with fellow junior riders Hannah Whiting and Celia Bresch in the ranks for the return order.

The riders were instructed to line up at the far end of the Grand Prix Ring, with their backs facing the course, and when asked, begin the test phase by backing their horse away from the line-up and navigating fence 3, 6 and 10ab. Upon landing from the double combination, they then were asked to collect and transition into the trot for fence 11 and immediately halt. Picking up the counter canter, they then would take fence 13 and hand gallop fence 17, returning to the line at the sitting trot.

Rinaldi was the last to return in the reverse order, holding the highest score, and she proceeded to lay down a beautiful test track. As she landed from the final oxer, the crowd went crazy, knowing that Rinaldi would be named champion in mere moments.


Giavanna Rinaldi celebrates her 2015 IHJA Children’s Medal Championship with Sancho. Photo by Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group.

“When I took the line from the trucks to the bending line, I knew that was when I really shined,” Rinaldi said. “I really like equitation. It is a lot of fun, and it is really good for my riding. I was really nervous because I have not done too many tests before. I thought I could have hand galloped a bit more, but I am still working on that.”

Matthies was awarded the 2015 IHJA Junior Medal Reserve Championship, while Hannah Whiting earned the third place. Celia Bresch rounded out the top four, finishing on a score of 77.50 points.

Rinaldi concluded, “I thought it was really nice. I had some really nice rounds, and I really liked the show here this year. They always do a great job, and it is home for us. It’s always a special show.”

IHJA Children’s Medal Final


2015 IHJA Children’s Medal Champion Aristea Santoro. Photo by Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group.

For first-time IHJA Children’s Medal Final competitor Aristea Santoro, the 2015 Showplace Fall Classic Championship has been a whirlwind experience. On Saturday afternoon she clinched the victory in the Sore No More Children’s Medal Finals, and she then returned on Sunday to capture the win in the IHJA Children’s Medal Finals. She was called back third in the order to test with the score of 80.5 points, yet she executed a beautiful test to claim the lead.

Julia Gilman, Amy Muslin, Aristea Santoro and Zoe Dunlap qualified for the test with the cut off score of 80 placing them as the four at the top of the leader board. They were asked to navigate a shorter course with a series of challenges including backing their horse from the starting line-up, cantering fences 1, 3 and 15, transitioning to the trot to jump fence 9 and then hand galloping a brown natural oxer where they would then land and sit the trot back to the original line.

Santoro stood out above the rest with a solid distance to the first fence of the shortened course, riding a smooth and steady test that would give her the leg up to fellow contenders.


Aristea Santoro. Photo by Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group.

“I like everything about him,” 12-year-old Santoro said of her mount. “He is really easy, and his canter is really smooth. In the first round my opening fence was not as good as I would have liked it to be, so I knew that going back into the test I would need to improve. I was really excited when we found such a good distance.”

Santoro continued, “This is my first time competing in the ‘A’ Finals, and it is also my first time riding at the Lamplight Equestrian Center. I am really happy about winning both the Marshall & Sterling and IHJA Medal Finals. I have been working hard to get here. We just rode in the George Morris clinic, and my goal was to come here and win.”

Second place was awarded to Julia Gilman, who originally entered the testing phase as the leader of the pack with a high score of 82 points. Amy Muslin completed the competition in the third place, while Zoe Dunlap pinned fourth.

IHJA Adult Medal Final


2015 IHJA Adult Medal Finals Champion Meredith Wegbreit. Photo by Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group.

It was another repeat winner who took the top call during the IHJA Adult Medal Final. Meredith Wegbreit held the lead from the start of the class until the conclusion with a score of 81 points, never faltering during the test.

Wegbreit said, “The course was set so you keep one pace, which I sometimes struggle with. He was really good today, and I didn’t have trouble with that. All around I was really happy with the course and the rounds; he is such a sweet heart.”

The 18-year-old has been riding Tachman, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, for a little over two years. Although he was originally a jumper, Wegbreit has been working with him closely in equitation, even though she now competes occasionally in the jumpers to stay fresh after aging out of the juniors last year.


Meredith Wegbreit. Photo by Kendall Bierer/Phelps Media Group.

Wegbreit has been working at home on the flat, riding with trainer Lauren Schone to prepare for the IHJA Adult Medal Finals.

“We’ve worked on keeping an even canter and keeping my leg on all the time,” Wegbreit said. “I think I’ve improved the most in the canter because sometimes I start off weak, and then I end in a long, flat canter. It has been better since I’ve been working really hard on that. It was very even today.”

The lead never changed hands as Wegbreit finished as the 2015 IHJA Adult Medal Champion, and Cristen Sherrod followed closely behind for the reserve championship. The third place was awarded to Jocelyn Miller, and the fourth place went to Adeline Cordin-Blistein.

IHJA Pony Medal Finals

Ponies descended on the Lamplight Equestrian Center as the sun began to rise over Wayne, Illinois. The first group of riders stood the smallest of all the competition, but they competed fiercely for the chance to claim the championship in the IHJA Pony Medal Finals. Out of the nine qualified ponies, only four would return for the test, excelling over the difficult equitation course with different heights for their respective sizes.

Olivia Markman, 10, from Chicago, on Benlea Mizzou led the pack from the first round with a score of 80, followed by Hannah Hoch on Anisette with a 78, Ava Lucibello on Keep it Cool with a 77, and Alexis Bauman on Charlie Brown with a 75. The test asked the top four riders to canter obstacles 4, 8, 9, 11 and 1. They then had to halt after 1, rein back and perform the sitting trot back to the gate, and then exit at a walk. In the end it was Markman on her small pony that won the championship ribbon.


2015 IHJA Pony Medal Champion Olivia Markman. Photo by Annan Hepner/Phelps Media Group.

“I was really nervous in the beginning, but once I started actually going through the lines, I felt more excited and happy,” Markman said. “Sometimes, my stirrups get too high on my foot and I don’t keep my heels down, so we have been working on that.”

IHJA Adult Mini Medal Finals

Adult riders took on the challenge of the Boyle’s course in the large Grand Prix Ring. Making the top of the list out of the 11 riders was Felice Hybert on High Honors with a score of 80. Rounding out the final four was Suzie Stimm on It’s A Wrap with a 77, Lauren Lackey on Providence with a 74, and Jene Zigato on Faith with a 72.

The adult riders were asked to canter 11, 12, 4 and 8. Then they needed to halt, rein back and return to the line at the sitting trot. Hybert, from Crete, Illinois, clinched the win after a steady test, and Stimm earned reserve champion.


2015 IHJA Adult Mini Medal Champion Felice Hybert. Photo by Annan Hepner/Phelps Media Group.

Hybert competed in the Finals last year but did not make the top four so she has been determined to improve her equitation to improve to the top four test this year.

“Oh my gosh, I feel so great!” Hybert said. “He deserves it. He was so wonderful, and I love to ride him. Go thoroughbreds! I have been working on strengthening my core this year, and I have been working on turning, sitting up straight and finding the distance.”

IHJA Children’s Mini Medal Finals

Out of the starting order of 22 riders competing in the IHJA Children’s Mini Medal Finals, Isabel Scharf on Allison Gross’s Percival rode to the highest score of the morning, an 84, yet the final crowning of the champion would be decided in a test.

Four riders were asked to return to the ring for additional testing, but it was Katlyn Van Dyke, 12, who rose to the top.

Riders were asked to trot obstacle 9, canter 11, 12, 4 and 8. Next, they needed to perform a halt, rein back and then return to the line at a sitting trot.

There was a shake up in the placings during the test and Katlyn Van Dyke, 12 from Plainfield, Illinois, impressed the judges so much during her second round that she was awarded the championship. Carrie Obrecht also moved up in the rankings to become reserve champion, with Isabel Scharf in third on Wayfarer with an 83 and Vivian Sleigh on Fischer finishing fourth.


2015 IHJA Children’s Mini Medal Champion Katlyn Van Dyke. Photo by Annan Hepner/Phelps Media Group.

This is the first Medal Finals for Van Dyke, who has only been riding for two years and recently started equitation.

“I am just shaking a lot; I am so excited,” Van Dyke said. “Lead changes are something I have been working really hard on and those went well today. I just try my hardest out there! This show is amazing, and I love showing here.”

The 2015 Showplace Fall Classic Championship wrapped up with the conclusion of the IHJA “A” Medal Finals, and the Medal Final riders will also be recognized at the IHJA Year End Banquet in November. Many local riders will continue to show at the Showplace Productions’ Series at Ledges Sporting Horses in Roscoe, IL, during the winter, as well as the Minnesota Harvest Horse Show in October.

For more results, please visit