Southeast Medal Finals Sees Record Entries and Big Wins For Ashton Alexander and Summer Hill‏

By Emily Riden for Phelps Media Group

Jacksonville, FL – September 25, 2015 – Since its inception, the Southeast Medal Finals has continued to grow and improve each year, and this year’s show was no exception. From September 17 – 20, 2015 at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center, a record number of entries vied for wins in the competitive medal finals and the ASPCA Maclay Region 3 Final held on Sunday.

Among the shows’ winning headliners were Ashton Alexander and Summer Hill, winners of the ASPCA Maclay Region 3 Final and the Phelps Media Group Junior Medal Final, respectively.

Alexander’s win in the Region 3 Final at Southeast Medal Finals marked back-to-back victories in the class for the junior, who, under the tutelage of Don Stewart and Bibby Farmer Hill, is consistently a top competitor in the equitation divisions.

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Ashton Alexander topped the ASPCA Maclay Region 3 Finals podium for the second year in a row. Finishing in second was Jordyn Katz, while third went to Mary Elizabeth Cordia. Photo by Randi Muster.

“Ashton really delivered this weekend,” Stewart said. “She’s been riding with us for about 10 years; we raised her. She’s like family because she’s been with us forever. She was a student of Dave and Stacy Sanderson, but they moved, and she has been with us ever since.”

Alexander’s win came aboard Fernway Park, a veteran equitation mount owned by Stewart with whom Alexander has competed successfully for years and with whom she will travel to Lexington, Kentucky for the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship Championships at the CP National Horse Show.

Second place in the ASPCA Maclay Region 3 Final went to Jordyn Katz, trained by Tiffany Morrissey and riding her own Dexter, while Mary Elizabeth Cordia rounded out the top three aboard Thrift Shop and under the training of Stewart.

Serving as the ideal host to the ASPCA Maclay Region 3 Finals is just part of the line-up for the Southeast Medal Finals. This year the Southeast Medal Finals offered Junior, Adult, Children’s, 2’6″ Adult and Pony Medal Finals, as well Junior, Low Amateur-Owner, High Adult, High Children’s, Low Adult and Low Children’s Jumper Finals. This is the first year that the Southeast Medal Finals offered separate Child and Adult classes in both the medal and jumper finals, and all were met with rave reviews.

In the Junior Medal Final, sponsored by Phelps Media Group, the win went to Summer Hill, who also now trains with Stewart and who earned the top call aboard Efendi.

Hill was the first in the ring out of a huge field of 92 horse and rider combinations, and she laid down a seamless round that would hold up as the best all the way through to the end.

“She came straight in and delivered a just beautiful round,” said judge Jen Drahan. “She scored 90, but had she gone later in the class that might have even been a 92.”

Hill’s additional testing in a ride-off of the top 12 contenders matched the quality of the first round, securing her the victory.

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Summer Hill, winner of the Phelps Media Group Junior Medal Final. Photo by Randi Muster.

“By the time we turned our heads to look at her, her horse was in front of her leg, and she nailed theride-off just as well as she did the first trip,” Drahan said. “To me that was the big challenge for those top riders. The top four had to sit there through eight others in the line-up and then immediately gallop and do a ride-off. The top riders actually had a bigger challenge coming back, and Summer nailed it.”

While Hill’s ride stood out as the best in the class, Drahan noted that she and her fellow judges were continually impressed by the quality of competition.

“As judges, we were commenting to each other on how nice the quality of horses and riders was,” Drahan said. “The numbers were huge, and we saw so many nice horses and riders.”

Joining Drahan on the judging panel were Carol Coleman, Dale Pederson and Ron Smith, while Chance Arakelian and Jack Towell presided over the Maclay Region 3 Final.

The quality of horses and riders was showcased throughout the weekend in all of the Southeast Medal Finals classes, including in the GGT Footing 2’6″ Children’s Medal Finals where the win went to Ava Allegre aboard Panda Shamu and trained by Natalie Johnson Russell.

This year, GGT Footing returned as the sponsor of the 2’6″ Children’s Medal Finals, and GGT sales manager Cynthia Brewster-Keating is proud that the leading footing company can continue to be a part of event.

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Ava Allegre and Panda Shamu accept the top honors in the GGT Footing 2’6″ Children’s Medal from Cynthia Brewster-Keating. Photo by Randi Muster.

“I believe in giving back to the industry, especially to the young junior riders that will be our futureOlympians,” Keating said. “The company as a whole, we like to support high-end, quality events – in particular, ones that are for these junior riders that are doing the medals.”

Keating continued, “I thought James [Lala] did a great job. They had adorable prizes; there was a fabulous Friday afternoon barbecue at [Geddaway Farm]. It was a great event.”

Joining GGT Footing as a sponsor this year was Boy-O-Boy Bridleworks, created and run by Amanda Hood. As the title sponsor of the Boy-O-Boy Bridleworks Low Children’s Jumpers, the company, which specializes in beautiful handmade ribbon browbands, belts and dog collars, donated exquisite, customized Southeast Medal Finals belts to all winners throughout the weekend.

“I used to ride with James [Lala] when he was a trainer and when he was there in Massachusetts,” Hood said. “I kept up with him over the years. Then, I started this company about a year ago, and I thought a sponsorship would be a nice way to continue keeping up with James and also just to get Boy-O-Boy products out there.”

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Southeast Medal Finals belts designed and created by Boy-O-Boy Bridleworks and presented to winners throughout the horse show.

The idea for the style of the handcrafted belts and browbands came from braided ribbon browbands Hood had seen throughout England and Ireland.

“I had this little jumper called Boy-O-Boy who was really kind of pony like – very handy, very small – and I always tried to find him one of those browbands. It turns out that kids make them in Pony Club there, and so I tried to learn how to do it. Finally I did and I made him browbands,” Hood explained. “Then I’d take them to horse shows here in the States and people would be like, ‘Oh, I’ve always loved those browbands. Where did you get them?’ I ended up making them for friends and people I came across at horse shows, and people were always telling me I should sell them. A lot of my friends had browbands that I made them, and I made them matching belts. I started getting more and more interest in the products. When that happened, I decided to finally turn it into a business.”

Hood continued, “It seemed like a natural thing to use the belts as awards, and it was a good fit with James and the Southeast Medal Finals. A lot of people have actually gotten in touch with me since, and people seem to be really happy about it. It’s just been really positive.”

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Roya Shirzad and Rainbow Brite, winners of the Boy-O-Boy Bridleworks Low Children’s Jumper Finals.Photo by Randi Muster.

Earning a belt of her own and the win in the Boy-O-Boy Bridleworks Low Children’s Jumpers were Roya Shirzad and Rainbow Brite.

Other winners in the Southeast Jumper Finals included Julia Curtis and Hamiro in the Geddaway Farm Low Junior Jumper Final, Amy Nelson and Popstar in the Wellington Quarantine High Adult Jumper Final, Erika Jakobson and Van Gogh in the North Run High Children’s Jumper Final, Laura Birnbach and Forte in the Long Creek Farms Low Adult Jumper Final and Elizabeth Craven and Cantor in the Southeast Low Amateur-Owner Jumper Final.

“I got Cantor in March of this year, and he has been amazing from day one,” said Craven, who trains with Alan Korotkin and Castlewood Farm. “I recently moved up to the low AO jumpers in July of this year. Going to the SEMF show was our fifth show at that height, so I just wanted us to have good solid trips.”

Craven continued, “Going into the Low AO Jumper Finals I really hoped we would do well, and Cantor was exceptional. He gave 100 percent over the course, which was technical but straightforward. The jumps easily fell even if barely touched. After the last fence, I couldn’t believe we kept all the jumps up. Even in the Junior Jumper only one went clear. When we won being the only clear round I couldn’t stop smiling! He is such an amazing horse, and I’m so lucky to have him.”

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Elizabeth Craven and Cantor. Photo by Randi Muster.

Rounding out the wins in Southeast Medal Finals were Lindsey Tomeau in The Riding Habit Adult Medal Finals, Kristen Butler in the Ovation 2’6″ Adult Medal Finals and Camryn Halley in the LJ Enterprises Pony Medal Finals. Tomeau, who trains with Allison Sweetnam at Sweet Oak Farm, earned the win aboard Quigley, while Butler claimed her top call aboard Straight Up and under the instruction of Katie Young. Halley’s Pony Medal Finals win came aboard Caleche with trainer Laura Barrett-Gurtis.

In addition to the Southeast Medal Finals classes, the horse show offered a full array of hunter and jumper divisions throughout the weekend.

Riders qualify for Southeast Medal Finals through their placings in Southeast Medal Finals Qualifying Classes at member events. To learn more about the Southeast Medal Finals, please visit www.southeastmedalfinals.com or find the show on Facebook here.