By Randolph PR
Harrisburg, PA – Following four rounds of testing, a field of 223 of the nation’s best junior riders was whittled down to the new 2021 Dover Saddlery/US Equestrian Hunter Seat Medal Final champion: Grace Debney of Hampden, MA.
Finishing second in the class, held as part of the 75th Pennsylvania National Horse Show at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA, was Zayna Rizvi of Wellington, FL, riding Finnick. Third place went to Eleanor Rudnicki of The Woodlands, TX, aboard Travis Scott, and Skylar Wireman of Bonsall, CA, rounded out the top four riding Eretto.
“It’s a huge honor to even be here at this show, so it’s such an honor to win,” said Debney, 17, who trains with Samantha Schaeffer and Kate Conover of Shadow Ridge and who earned the victory aboard Quimby, owned by Temple Equestrian LLC. “I came in here with really high hopes and really high goals, and I’m so happy that I was able to achieve them. It’s just one of those shows where everyone is here, and everyone is competing. I’m just so happy to be at the top of the list.”
Following the first round of competition, the judging panel of Thomas Brennan, Emil Spadone and Geoff Teall narrowed the starting field down to the top-25 competitors who then returned to contest a new course.
“I thought the first course rode very nicely and asked some good questions and separated them,” said Teall. “The level of riding was outstanding. We had some very naturally talented riders. We had some very disciplined, well-schooled riders. We had combinations of both. It was a great field to pick from for sure. After the first round, we had 13 riders, if not more, with scores in the 90s, which is amazing. Normally we would have five or six if we’re lucky. So, it was really well done today.”
The field of 25 riders was then further narrowed down to the top four, with Rizvi returning first to complete the test that included two counter-cantered fences, a halt, a hand gallop and a sitting trot.
“In the initial testing, I had to go first, so I was a little bit nervous about that, because I didn’t get to watch anybody go,” said Rizvi, who had moved up from 12th into the top four and whose seamless test would ultimately move her from fourth into the top two. “I thought I did a really good job, answering the questions it asked – the counter canter, the halt. I was really proud of my test.”
At the conclusion of the test, the judges asked Rizvi, who trains with John Brennan, Missy Clark and Maggie Gampfer of North Run, and Debney to complete it again – but this time after having swapped horses.
“They were both so consistently good, and there was so much movement from round one to round two to the test that we felt [Rizvi and Debney] had earned, and both deserved, an opportunity to – for lack of a better word – duke it out themselves. They had attained that level where they were so skilled and on such good horses.
“I think the longer story here though is you’re seeing the depth of our bench in equitation getting so vast with so many good rounds, all the high scores [Geoff Teall] was talking about, and just how competitive it is,” continued Brennan. “Your testing has to get more creative and without being gimmicky. This seemed like an opportunity to let these two real stars of the sport today come out and give it another go.”
At the end of the final test, it was ultimately Debney who will have her named added to the Adrian Van Sinderen Memorial Perpetual Trophy. The Best Equitation Horse Award and the Doris H. Clark Memorial Perpetual Trophy, donated by Missy Clark, was presented to Ivano S, ridden by Elizabeth Cram and owned by Celia Cram.
Each of the top 12 riders was presented with a cooler, a halter provided by Dover Saddlery, and a Dover Saddlery gift card. The top three also received EquiFit D-Teq boots, and, as the winning trainers, Schaefer and Conover received a $500 gift card to Dover Saddlery and a keepsake trophy.
For full results of the 2021 Dover Saddlery, USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final, click here.