By Meghan Blackburn
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For the first time, the 2016 Ronnie Mutch Equitation Championship was held as an actual class, rather than a tallying of points for high point rider across all equitation divisions at the Devon Horse Show.
Lucy Deslauriers, of New York, N.Y., who trains with Stacia Madden from Beacon Hill Show Stables, rode Class Action to the top of the class. Daisy Farish of Versailles, Ky., was a close second.
“It’s an honor to qualify, let alone come out with a win,” Deslauriers said. “This show and the championship have a lot of prestige and tradition. It was definitely a little bit trickier having another class and finding a few more distances, but I was overall very excited to do the class.”
Eight riders qualified for the championship class. In order to qualify, they must have won a section of either the WIHS Jumper Phase, the Pessoa/USEF Medal, the USEF Talent Search or the ASPCA Maclay.
First on course was Ellie Ferrigno, who was the final to qualify from the third section of the ASPCA Maclay earlier Friday afternoon. The Connecticut based rider put in a solid round, and would end up fourth.
Katherine Bundy had two blues under her belt after topping her sections of the Maclay and Pessoa Medal, but she came into a sticky spot underneath the Devon Horse Show sign, and it put her into sixth place overall.
Then came TJ O’Mara, who was hoping to break the spell of his family coming in just under the top score. But he asked a little too much of his seasoned mount, Kaskade, and they had an uncharacteristic refusal down the outside triple line. They placed eighth.
When riders were called back to be pinned, Farish and Deslauriers—both on gray horses—were the final two left. Ultimately, Deslauriers’ round prevailed. Even though the daughter of top show jump rider Mario Deslauriers has two equitation horses, she picked Class Action for the test today. She had already piloted the veteran “Parker” to a win in her WIHS and Talent Search sections yesterday.
“I felt really confident in my rides yesterday on this horse,” Lucy said. “He had been in this ring twice already, so I knew it would be a good decision to choose him. As long I didn’t mess up, he was going to do his job. He feels really great, especially for being 17. We try not to do too much with him and respect his age. He knows his job. We try to do as much as we can, but trust that he’ll respond.”
Reserve champ Farish rode a lovely round, and had her own opinion about the addition of this new championship at Devon.
“I think [the class] was awesome and added another element of challenge,” Farish said. “It brought a whole other feeling to it. First we have all our classes, and now the added championship class. It gives it an important feeling.”
Madden sits on the USHJA equitation committee, and some insight to the decision to update the format of the Ronnie Mutch Championship.
“I think it’s important for everyone to understand that we weren’t trying to add another class or see more jumping,” Madden stated. “We really wanted to give these kids an opportunity at a national horse show like this to compete head-to-head in the middle of the show year instead of making them wait until the end. I like the format, and I thought it ran well. It was a very different vibe behind the scenes, for me anyway. You had more focus on the class and less focus on all the point calculations.”