Amira Kettaneh Tops NEHC Junior Hunt Seat Medal Final at 47th New England Equitation Championships

Amira Kettaneh. Photo by Anne Gittins

Edited Press Release

2022 marked the 47th anniversary of the New England Equitation Championships, in its traditional venue in the Coliseum at The Big E in West Springfield, MA. This five-day event is run by the volunteer NEEC Committee and is one of the longest running and most prestigious equitation finals in the country. 

Sunday’s NEHC Junior Hunt Seat Medal Final featured 194 riders. Otis Brown, Cynthia Hankins, Ken Krome, Robin Rost Brown, Jimmy Toon and Katrina Weinig lent their extensive experience and knowledge to the judging panel (Fun fact: Katrina was the very first winner of the NEEC in 1976 when it was held in the Providence Civic Center). Ken Krome was the course designer and designed beautiful courses that made innovative use of the space in the Coliseum. By incorporating one strides, bounces, flowing bending lines and long runs to single jumps, the courses offered stride options and challenging turns, testing each age group in unique, skill-appropriate ways.

Thirty-one riders were called back for round two of the Junior final. At its completion, there was no need for further testing – Amira Kettaneh was crowned Champion of the NEHC Junior Hunt Seat Medal (trainer and winner of Norman Hall Award: Leigh Kettaneh and Heritage Farm). Reserve Champion was awarded to Kate Hagerty (trainers: Val Renihan and Chris Strucker).

Amira Kettaneh stands for the winner’s presentation. Photo by Anne Gittins Photography

Between rounds, a number of awards were presented: Eleanor Pieters was named overall winner of the Katie Battison Horsemanship Award, winning both the practicum and riding phases.

Emi Richard earned the High Point Junior Rider Award with a score of 92. Top scoring Juniors who never competed in a 3’6” final compete for a separate set of ribbons and award called the Challenge Cup. First place went to Mimi Maddock.

The NEHC Adult Amateur 46+ Medal kicked off the show. Mary Beth McGee took home the Champion ribbon with Reserve going to Sarah Cabot. Elizabeth Kenny was Champion in the 28-45 division (and won the final as a Junior) with Mariel Saccucci taking Reserve. On Thursday, Miela Gross (last year’s 18-21 Reserve Ch) clinched the win in the 22-27 Medal age group and the titles of Adult High Point rider and Adult Grand Champion; Reserve went to Grace Jackson. In the 18-21 section, Emily Gilbert was Champion. Reserve went to Ashley Shaw.

All Junior Open sections ran on Friday as well as the written phase of the Horsemanship Class, taken by
104 of riders. Originating at the NEEC and now in its 26th year, the Horsemanship Class combines a
rider’s written test score, practicum, and first round Finals score to determine the overall top Junior Horseperson.

After the written test and open rounds, family and friends gathered at the Sheraton hotel for a fun-filled
dinner and commemorative video celebrating riders in their last year of junior competition. The juniors vote for one of their peers to win the Junior Sportsmanship Award, and this year they elected Aidan McNamara.

Eleanor Pieters won the USHJA 3’3″ Hunter Seat Medal Final – East. Photo by Anne Gittins Photography

Saturday marked the third year of hosting the USHJA 3’3″ Hunter Seat Medal Final – East. 94 Juniors competed in round one. The top 25 returned for a second round and the top four were called back to test. Eleanor Pieters took home the Champion ribbon (trainers: Annie Dotoli, Aster Pieters/Tibri Farm and Peter Wylde) and Juliette Early earned Reserve (trainer: Armand and Martha Chenelle, Windcrest Farm).

NEEC Committee members Olana Laffey and Patti Harnois were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Patti and Olana both have long and decorated equine careers and have served selflessly on the NEEC Committee for decades. Throngs of Olana’s and Patti’s families, friends and generations of their students were in attendance for the award presentation.

In the world-famous Challenge of the States, riders with top scores in the Open competed on teams of four riders and two chefs d’equipe to represent their home states – all while dressed in Halloween costumes and no help from trainers allowed.

New Jersey won Gold, Connecticut Team 2 team won Silver and New Hampshire eared Bronze. The
individual high point winner was Alyssa Bauer. Thanks to an anonymous donor, all teams competed for prize money to donate to a charity of their choice. Gold chose Danny and Ron’s Rescue.

The NEEC and its tight-knit community have a long history of generosity and giving back. Several grants and scholarships are awarded each year:

Camilla Murray won the Mason Phelps “Spirit of the Sport” Grant. Mason created the New England Hunt Seat Medal class. The grant was awarded to the Junior Rider whose essay was voted among the top three by the scholarship committee, scored the highest first round score at NEEC of the three finalists and qualified to compete at the NHS 3’3” Medal or Maclay finals at The National Horse Show. The winner was awarded a complementary stall and entries at both the New England Equitation Championships and The National Horse Show, plus a stipend from each organization.

Jill Bourne won the Fred Hunt Adult Grant. To Commemorate his dedication to the New England horse world and his service on the NEEC committee for over 40 years, the NEEC sponsored an Adult Grant of $1,000 in Fred’s name. This grant goes to a qualified Adult Medal rider who demonstrates a financial need to participate in the NEHC Championships.

The Joe Medico Junior Grants went to Helena Timpany and Jessica Girouard. Joe was a driver for JR Hudson Horse Transportation for over twenty years. To commemorate his dedication to the New England horse world JR Hudson Horse Transportation sponsors two grants of $1250 each. These grants go to qualified NE Junior Medal riders who demonstrate a financial need to participate in the NEHC Championships.

Isabel Rudaz won the $2,000 Joanne C. Corsiglia Scholarship Award, and Aidan McNamara won the $500 NEHC Scholarship Award.

  • Adult Sportsmanship: Meredith Combs and Julie Hogan
    Groom’s Award: Chalio Reyes
  • Sue Brainard Award: Paula Nicholas
    Jimmy Lee Adult Judge’s Choice: C-Star
    Jimmy Lee Junior Judge’s Choice: Top Gun
    Nicholas Award: Pomerol