USEF Official Diane Carney Talks About the 2019 American Tradition of Excellence Equitation Championship

Judge Cynthia Hankins, Whitethorne LLC's Georgy Maskrey-Segesman and Judge Diane Carney. Photo Blenheim Equisports.

San Juan Capistrano, CA – June 22, 2019– USEF licensed official Diane Carney of West Palm Beach, Florida, was honored to judge with Cynthia Hankins, Wellington, Florida, at the 2019 American Tradition of Excellence Equitation Championship produced by Blenheim Equisports and presented by Whitethorne LLC. The event is a top-notch educational opportunity, held in the Oaks International Grand Prix Fieldin San Juan Capistrano, California. The competition combines education and feedback from the officials along with the experience and mileage of showing in a finals atmosphere.

“It is an excellent combination of championship level equitation competition with education,” commented Carney.  “Any of the 94 riders that participated in this outstanding format are better prepared for the fall finals. The class allows for riders with different levels of experience to test their skills and go forward with homework to work on before the fall competitions.” 

Presented by Whitethorne LLC and Georgy Maskrey-Segesman of Whitethorne Ranch in Somis, California, the class consists of three phases. The first round is a 3’3” course designed by Karen Healey, with hunter and equitation style fences in which riders are given one score by the two judges while scribes record the judges’ comments for each of competitors. Riders had to first stop by the judges’ stand for inspection before proceeding to the first jump. With both Hankins and Carney being adamant about details, this allowed them to see the riders’ turnout and tack up close.

“As each rider stopped at the judges box, the placement of their foot in the iron, rein length, how they held the Pelham reins, their horses turnout, the condition of the tack, if the saddle pad fit their saddle, keepers, etcetera, were observed for the overall impression. Comments were made on the rider’s card with general information of the corrections this panel would encourage. I will say this is very useful information as Cynthia (Hankins) is judging the USEF Hunt Seat Medal at Harrisburg for 2019,” added Carney.

Phase 2 included an educational evening, with Mental Skills Coach, Erika Westhoff, M.A., and a question and answer session with Carney and Hankins, while the written comments from the judges were handed out to each rider. Trainers and riders were treated to a lovely evening at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel for the session.

Courses designed by Karen Healey.

Phase 3 was a more difficult equitation track at 3’3” with riders returning in reverse scoring order. Scores from both rounds were added together for the rider’s total. Even those who did not receive a score in phase one were permitted to return for a second attempt in phase 3. The top six riders were called to the ring for a work-off, which included a trot jump and the counter canter off both leads as well as a sequence of jumps off of tight turns. 

“Having commented on 90+ riders each day, my recollection regarding the comments is very basic; set your pace to the first fence, as we saw nervous riders or greener riders too slow to fence one.  Also straightness, riders created cross canters by hand to leg not leg to hand steering, and last, have a determined attitude. Many riders finished stronger than they started. These comments are why this great format of an equitation championship is so important!” said Carney.

The top riders and officials participated in a press conference to finish off the educational experience. 

Carney and Hankins have both judged the ASPCA Maclay Medal Finals, Carney in 2016 and Hankins in 2011. Both judges stick to basic traditional American riding theories as found in George H. Morris’Huntseat Equitation book andHankins’ video series, FormFollows Function

“As officials, we walked both courses and agreed on the questions being asked by Karen Healey’s jump selection and the distances between jumps. Equitation is a test of the rider’s communication with the horse to collect and lengthen. Equitation is not just a question of the longest strided horse or the horse with the most scope. We were looking for the smoothest effective rider with the best execution of lengthening and shorting. The top six for the work off were those riders after the two days,” explained Carney. 

“The work off test was balanced with questions on both counter leads and short turns off both leads, finishing with a long unrelated straight line to a triple bar. The most difficult part of the test was the tracking left counter canter, a transition to the posting trot, and a left turn to a trot fence. The other very difficult question of the test was the long unrelated gallop to the triple bar. Keeping the horse focused on where they were going, staying straight, and getting a forward to the base distance was a separator. 

“I very much enjoyed the judging opportunity with Cynthia and enjoyed the outstanding hospitality by Whitethorne and Georgy Maskrey-Segesman.”

Payton Potter aboard Khaled with trainer Leslie Steele, Georgy Maskrey-Segesman of Whitethorne, Charlotte LaRoux from Butet, Ecole Lathrop from Valencia Sport Saddlery, and Melissa Brandes of Blenheim EquiSports. Photo Blenheim Equisports.

Fabulous prizes to were handed out to the winners thanks to gracious sponsors. Winner Payton Potter received a Butet saddle and cooler thanks to Butet and Valencia Sport Saddlery, an EquiFit backpack, and gifts from Noelle Floyd. Potter’s trainer, Leslie Steele, earned a $10,000 bonus!

Awards were also handed out for the Leading Amateur Rider sponsored by Noelle Floyd, which went to Shannon Davidson, trained by David Bustillos and Most Improved Rider, which went to Alison Raich, trained by Lesley Bulechek. The Leading Junior Rider was of course, Potter. 

Carney will continue to the Franktown Meadows 10-year anniversary celebration to provide commentary for the beautiful stand alone hunter derbies, featuring the $30,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, held on Sunday, June 23rd.Saturday, June 22nd, features the $5,000 Non-Pro Hunter Classic and the $10,000 Franktown Meadows 3′ Hunter Derby.

For more information on Diane Carney’s schedule, visit the website at

About Diane Carney

Diane Carney is a lifelong, dedicated horsewoman, emphasizing horsemanship in every aspect of her world.  Her versatility and in-depth knowledge as a grand prix rider, hunter rider, clinician, USHJA certified trainer, event organizer, commentator, course designer, USEF R judge, USEF International Disciplines Committee member and former USHJA Board of Directors member, gives her a well rounded perspective on the industry.

Carney’s judging resume includes the 2016 ASPCA/Maclay Medal Finals, the New England Equitation Championships, WEF, HITS Thermal, Bend Oregon, Blenheim CA, Flintridge and Sonoma, CA; LA Masters, Kentucky Summer, The Ridge at Wellington, the Sunshine Series USHJA $100,000 Hunter Prix, HITS $500,000 Hunter Prix, IEA and IHSA, SEC Championships, the USEF Pony Finals, Gulfport and the West Coast Equitation Final at the USHJA Championship.

Over the last 35 years, Diane has continued the mission of spreading knowledge and horsemanship through clinics and supporting programs that raise the level of horsemanship for riders, trainers and owners. In addition to the annual George H. Morris Chicago clinic, Carney coordinates the USHJA Gold Star clinics. (inset photo Carney with Hunter Holloway at the Galway Classic)

Carney is available for clinics, judging, sales, commentary and private clients.

For more information on Diane Carney, visit the website at



1. Payton Potter – Khaled– 93.5/ 88/ 88 = 269.5
2. Julia Stone – Let’s Go – 92/ 80.25/ 85 = 257.25
3. Ella Frey– Radcliffe – 93/ 85/ 74 = 252
4. Madison Nadolenco – Quieri – 83/ 84/ 70 = 237
5. Rylee Shufelt – Alleto – 83.75/ 86/ 60 = 229.75
6. Violet Lindemann-Barnett – Cantoblanco – 90/ 87/ 50 = 227
7. Brooke Morin – Durango – 86/ 81 = 167
8. Shannon Davidson – Empire – 89/ 78 = 167
9. Laila Klinsmann – Saludo – 94/ 72.75 = 166.75
10. Reeve Sykes – Ciabatta – 91/ 73 = 164
11. Rose Kauffman  – Skloff – 84/ 79.5 = 163.5
12. Katrina Pattinson – Lancaster – 83.5/ 76.5 = 160