For Medal Finals Winners, Success Starts at Harrisburg

Making it to the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final is the goal of many junior riders. Photo by Brittany Oliver Photography

A look back at five riders who came out on top and went on to international stardom

By Emily Randolph/Randolph PR

Ronnie Mutch, Victor Hugo-Vidal, Bernard Traurig, Chrystine Jones, Conrad Homfeld, Mark Leone.

Reading through the list of past winners of the Adrian Van Sinderen Memorial Trophy is much like reading a who’s who of top names in equestrian sport. 

Since 1948, the trophy has been awarded to the winner of what is now the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final, and it serves as much more than a mark of great equitation and horsemanship. History has proven that winning the USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final is also a strong indicator of future success in equestrian sport. 

Among the 73 winners to date are several Olympians, dozens of top international competitors and many young riders climbing the ranks of the sport. 

“It’s so prestigious for a young person to win,” says Heritage Farm trainer Andre Dignelli of the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final. “They carry that title for the rest of their life.” 

In 1968, the Hunter Seat Medal Final made the move from the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden to the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, PA, where the prestigious class continues to be held today.  

Here is a look at one winning rider from each of the past five decades of the Hunter Seat Medal Final at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show.

Katie Monahan 

On October 15, 1972, page 10 of The New York Times read, “Katie Monahan of Bloomfield Mills, Mich., finally, after nine tries, achieved today her goal of winning the hunter seat medal of the American Horse Shows Association. Competing in a record group of 136 riders, she received the championship ribbon at the opening session of the 27th annual Pennsylvania National Horse Show. 

She was runner‐up in the competition in 1968 and finished in the final group the other years. In 1969 she won the Alfred Maclay Trophy at the National Horse Show in New York.” 

While much has changed since, Monahan’s exceptional horsemanship abilities have stood the test of time. In 1986, Monahan helped the U.S. show jumping team clinch gold at the World Championships in Aachen, Germany; she has ridden in six World Cup Finals and is today recognized as one of the best trainers in the world. 

Monahan-Prudent was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 2016.

Katie Monahan riding Perfect Stranger to the 1972 AHSA Hunter Seat Medal Final victory. Photo by Budd

Laura Tidball 

In 1981, Laura Tidball made history as the first Canadian and youngest female to win both the ASPCA Maclay Final and the AHSA Hunter Seat Medal Final. Two years later, Tidball began competing at the Grand Prix level, and by 1984 – at the young age of 20 –Tidball made her Olympic debut. Following the 1984 Olympics, Tidball went on to again represent Canada at the 1986 World Championships, the 1987 Pan American Games, and the 1988 Olympic Games. 

“All of my training was in the equitation ring,” Tidball-Balisky told Horse Sport previously. “Two years after I became a professional, I was on the Canadian Equestrian Team. I was able to take everything I learned and further my career. The equitation prepares you for intense pressure situations. It prepared me for being able to handle high-pressure situations like being on a Nations’ Cup team. Equitation taught me that calm, cool nerves get you a long way.”

Today, Tidball-Balisky has the distinction of being one of only three trainers who have both won the Hunter Seat Medal Final and coached a rider to the win, with student Melanie Walters earning the win in 1993. 

1981 AHSA Hunter Seat Medal Final winner Laura Balisky pictured with her winning mount, Glen Owen, and Timmy Kees (left) and Ronnie Mutch (right). Photo Courtesy PNHS

Kent Farrington 

Kent Farrington is well known for a lengthy and continuously growing list of show jumping accolades, including a team silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But before he was one of the world’s top show jumpers, he was making his mark in the equitation ring.  

At age 17, Farrington rode Toronto to the win in the AHSA Medal Finals under the tutelage of Heritage Farm and Andre Dignelli. 

Kent Farrington won the 1998 AHSA Hunter Seat Medal Final aboard Toronto. Photo Courtesy PNHS

Jessica Springsteen

Twelve years before making an impressive Olympic debut in Tokyo and helping the U.S. show jumping team clinch the silver medal, Springsteen wore a gold medal as the winner of the 2009 USEF Hunter Seat Medal. 

That year, under the guidance of Stacia Madden and Max Amaya, Springsteen and Papillion 136 topped a field of 237 entries for the win. The following year, Springsteen began to direct more of her focus on the show jumping ring. 

Equitation “teaches you so much,” said Springsteen to Practical Horseman. “The Grand Prix courses are as technical as equitation courses.” 

Jessica Springsteen was named the Best Child Rider at the PNHS in 2004 and won the Medal Final in 2009. Photo Courtesy PNHS

Brian Moggre 

Among the most recent champions of the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final is Brian Moggre. Moggre topped the class in 2018 aboard Efendi, and not long after his victory at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, burst onto the international show jumping stage. 

“Whenever you’re doing the equitation, it’s about making the course seem as seamless as possible,” said Moggre. “It really disciplines you as a rider, and I think that helps with the jumpers. It’s about having the discipline to ride a track well and making it look as effortless as possible. My personal opinion is that, with all the equitation, it’s not really about your position over the jumps — that’s not what’s going to get you to excel in the bigger jumper classes. When it comes down to it, equitation is about pure, genuine riding.” 

Since his Medal Finals victory, Moggre’s riding ability has helped propel him to top results around the globe. Most recently, Moggre was the U.S. team’s first reserve for the Tokyo Olympics, and in September, he and Balou Du Reventon jumped double clear to lead the U.S. to victory in the prestigious CHIO Aachen Nations Cup before also finishing second in the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen.

Brian Moggre reacts to learning that he won the 2018 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final. Photo by Brittany Oliver Photography

To Be Decided 

The question of who will next etch their name into Medal Finals history will be decided on October 17 at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show.  

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*This story was originally published in the October 2021 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!