Tryon, NC – October 12, 2020 – Caelinn Leahy (Maple Park, Ill) added a victory and a Style Award to her resume at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show during the Neue Schule/USEF Junior Jumper Prix des States held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center this past weekend. Leahy and her 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, Dymendy, kicked off the competition with a big win in the Welcome Speed Class out of 38 entries, six-seconds faster than the second place finisher. Representing Zone 5, Leahy and the team just missed a spot on the podium by fractions of a second in the Prix des States Team Championship, finishing in fourth place. Leahy endured pouring rains to finish sixth overall in the Individual Championship standings on the final day.
In addition, Leahy was honored with the William C. Steinkraus Style Award, presented to the Prix des States junior jumper rider who best exemplifies the American style of equitation and the respectful, dignified, courteous, and workmanlike manner of a true sportsman.
“It was a huge honor to receive the award,” said Leahy. “I’m super thankful the Pennsylvania National Horse Show was able to hold the competition. They did a great job of making it feel as special as Harrisburg is with a class under the lights and late afternoon classes. They were able to keep an exciting atmosphere for the competition even though we weren’t indoors and there weren’t spectators cheering for the teams. We cheered for each other and focused on the team aspect of the competition instead.”
This was Leahy’s third time qualifying and attending the championships. She was able to qualify two horses despite the shortened season, qualifying on P&F Cordillo Z, owned by Outland Farms LLC of Austin, Texas, along with Dymendy.
Even with the change in venue for the championships, Leahy said she felt ready for the competition due to Schaefer’s training program, which involves “cross-training” as Leahy puts it. Horses and riders get a combination of exercises from relaxed trail rides and galloping in their hilly grand prix field to flatwork and gymnastics. Schaefer also had Leahy compete in some FEI classes at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival and the Split Rock Jumping Tour to prepare for some tougher courses.
“When we aren’t showing we don’t jump much,” added Leahy. “We work on keeping the horses conditioned by using exercises with cavalettis and simple gymnastics. We’ve worked a lot on my strength and position as well. Steve (Schaefer) says if you are an effective rider you will have a good position naturally. Although I don’t show in much equitation, good riding is staying smooth and being effective at the right times, so the style award was definitely validation of that philosophy for me.”
Leahy made the most of the unusual Covid-19 year, graduating from Elgin Academy as Valedictorian and giving a virtual graduation speech instead of at a live ceremony, as many other high school graduates also experienced this year. Leahy focused on working out to get stronger and discovered the benefits of eating properly, treating herself as any athlete. Although the family farm, Bellis Show Jumping, was closed to the public during the lockdown, Leahy and trainer/stepfather Steve Schaefer, took the responsibility to keep the horses fit and healthy until their riders could return. Leahy also researched sports psychology and says it helped her concentration and focus when dealing with pressure while competing.
Leahy and Dymendy have been together for about two years chalking up numerous Junior Jumper Classic wins including WEF, a win in the $25,000 Grand Prix at Lamplight in 2019, a win in the $5,000 Welcome Stake at Tryon Summer 2019, second in the $25,000 CP National Grand Prix WEF 6 2019, and a third place finish in the $50,000 Hits Chicago Grand Prix in July 2020.
Leahy also recently won the 1.30m Speed Class at Split Rock in Ohio on Halo, one of the two eight-year-olds she is bringing along. Happiness is the other young horse, who won the High Junior Jumper Classic at Hits Chicago this past September. Leahy sometimes steals a ride on Schaefer’s grand prix horse, Zarkava, and has done well in the junior jumpers with her. The talented young rider also ended up sixth overall in the Large Junior Hunters 16-17 at the USEF Junior Hunter Championships 2020 aboard Executive Order, owned by Nancy Schmid.
Leahy is now juggling riding with online school at Vanderbuilt University. She originally planned to attend classes there but the pandemic lead her in a different direction for the year. With the championships behind her, she looks forward to WEF and more challenges with her pal, Dymendy, which include some U25 and FEI events. She hopes to participate in future team events as well. In the past she has participated on the Irish team at WEF in the Children’s Jumpers and on the U.S. team for a competition in China.
“Dymendy is the horse of a lifetime for me,” smiled Leahy. “She is the sweetest horse in the barn and a total competitor. She loves to go fast like me, she loves the sport and wants to win. She tries her heart out for me every time and I’m so grateful to Twenty23 LLC for allowing me to ride her. I’ve never ridden a horse like her before and can’t wait to see where we go.”