Edited Press Release
Ocala, Fla. – March 25, 2022 – The 2022 HITS Equitation Championship took center stage on Friday night at the HITS Ocala Stadium as part of the Ocala Championship Week. Working hard to qualify for this special event, 28 riders showcased their skills over two rounds of competition under the lights in the Stadium. At the end of the night, it was West Coast athlete Stella Wasserman whose top scores earned the winning title with Munich. Fellow Shadow Ridge rider Abigail Gordon placed second aboard Heartbeat Z, while third place went to Madison Ramsey riding Maguro.
“This is such a cool class for juniors to be able to do,” expressed Wasserman after her victory lap. “You get to practice being on your own and training yourself. You get to feel like you’re kind of being a pro – it’s a really cool opportunity for juniors. You also get to do it with all your friends and kind of lean on each other, so that’s also really fun.”
Open to junior and young riders who placed first, second or third in the USEF Medal, ASPCA Maclay, USEF Talent Search, WIHS Equitation, M&S Junior Medal or EJ Haun Medal during the 2022 HITS Ocala circuit, there were 28 qualified entries competing on Friday night. Course designer Marina Azevedo set a smooth, technical track for the gymnastics round with a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination, a bounce combination and a trot fence. Riders were worked individually, as trainers were not allowed to walk the course with the participants or assist with schooling. While the schooling area was not scored, observations were shared with the judges, and could be considered in scoring.
Following the first round of competition, judges Jeanne Marie Miller and Irving Evans invited the top 12 riders to return in reverse order to showcase their skills over a shortened course with a double combination and multiple options to be conservative or leave strides out in bending lines.
During Wasserman’s first round, she kept a forward pace and flowed through the course with Munich, a 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding owned by Elvenstar Farm. Her score of 86 during the first round ranked her second, and with another flawless performance she moved up to the top position with a combined score of 174.
“I walked the first course and was feeling really good about it,” explained Wasserman. “A lot of it complemented the way my horse goes. On my way to the first jump, I thought it is my kind of course, so it was my time to go and do what I came here to do. [The second round] I wanted to be handy and show off a gallop, but I didn’t want to go crazy and then blow it. For example, in the second line, there was an option to do an eight or a nine and I chose nine, but then the last line you could do a nine or a 10, and I chose nine to show a little pace, but also not go too crazy.”
Munich is still a new horse for Wasserman, but she knew he would excel at this unique event. “He’s great! He’s brave and he’s done this all a million times,” she noted. “He’s reliable so I know I can count on him. When I start warming up, I kind of get in my own space and I try to really focus on what’s going on underneath me with my horse.”
Wasserman’s trainers Kate Conover and Samantha Schaefer of Shadow Ridge also train Gordon, who earned a first round score of 81 with Heartbeat Z. Gordon knew the pressure would be on to climb the ranks, and she easily rose to the occasion, earning an 85 during the second round for the second-place honors. Just a half of a point behind her was Ramsey, whose score of 82 from the first round was combined with her score of 83.5 from the second round for a 165.5.
The fourth-place award was presented to Hugh Turner riding Gaesbekers Gangster. Turner earned a first round score of 85, but was unable to duplicate the effort during the second round, earning a 75 for a 160 total score and the fourth place award. The leader after the first round was Katie Triantos with Viva Henri, having earned a score of 87 with a smooth and even performance over the opening course. With a few errors during the second round, their combined score of 159 would only be good enough for fifth place. Ella Witt rounded out the top six, earning a total score of 158.5 aboard Itteville.
Seventeen-year-old Wasserman of Los Angeles, California, was thrilled to spend the winter on the East Coast and round out the season with the HITS Equitation Championship title. “This is my first year here and there are so many fun classes like this! They have a lot of awesome grand prix classes that I can start to step into. They have a lot of great classes and I love this ring. It’s really special!”