Edited Press Release
Upper Marlboro, MD – October 11, 2023 – The Capital Challenge Horse Show, held September 28-October 8 at Prince George’s Equestrian Center, once again set a wonderful backdrop for the North American League (NAL) National Finals, which saw new champions crowned for the 2023 season.
After qualifying at over 600 participating horse shows in the U.S. and Canada throughout the year, many talented hunter and jumper horse-and-rider combinations vied for prestigious NAL National titles and generous prizes donated by NAL and its sponsors. Each Final awarded $10,000 in prize money, with champions receiving an NAL coolerette, non-slip pads donated by ACE Equestrian and gift certificates donated by EquiFit, SmartPak and The Clothes Horse. Additionally, all ribbon winners received glass jars with peppermints courtesy of Deer Creek Farm LLC, and every finalist who competed was given an NAL gift bag (sponsored by Rolling Acres Show Stables) with an assortment of gifts including a dated stall plaque and travel bag.
The NAL offers year-long series in six divisions – Adult Hunter Presented by LAURACEA, Children’s Hunter Presented by Charles Ancona, Adult Jumper Presented by SmartPak, Children’s Jumper Presented by EquiFit, Low Junior/Amateur Jumper Presented by R & R Hunter Horses and Medium Junior/Amateur Jumper Presented by Parlanti. The high point winner of each division’s year-end standings received a gift from Topline Ribbon Wreaths and DCTM, LLC.
$10,000 Adult Hunter Final
Presented by LAURACEA
Although Julia McNerney has only owned Cascartini for about a month, the flashy Holsteiner gelding is no stranger to the hunter ring. After watching “Marty” compete successfully in several International Hunter Derbies with trainer Havens Schatt, McNerney, of Washington, DC, figured she would test their new partnership in the $10,000 NAL Adult Hunter Final Presented by LAURACEA. She wound up being thrilled to walk away with top honors on a 170.37-point score.
“It’s the first time we have shown indoors together,” McNerney said. “I was really happy with how the distances came up in our first round and how balanced he was through all the turns. Then, in the second round, I really tried to carry pace and have a nice little hand gallop to the single jumps. He’s a spectacular jumper, so I wanted to make sure to highlight that when we returned.
“He’s a big horse with a big personality,” she added. “He’s definitely a bit of a mooch around the barn. If I don’t come with treats, I just shouldn’t come at all. In that way, we get along very well. We have a bunch of big personalities at Milestone, and I can’t thank the team enough for helping me to do it all!”
For her win, McNerney received a special gift from LAURACEA in addition to the other prizes given to all winners.
Meghan Rohrbaugh Bear of Mechanicsburg, PA, earned second place aboard R&R Sport Horses LLC’s Fievel K. Third went to Judy Rutkowski of Center Valley, PA, and her Spanish Harlem.
$10,000 Children’s Hunter Final
Presented by Charles Acona
Lakshmi Jeyanandarajan of Irvine, CA, made her first trip to Capital Challenge a winning one, presenting her 16-year-old Hanoverian Cross gelding Ratatat against a competitive field in the $10,000 NAL Children’s Hunter Final Presented by Charles Ancona. She and “Nick” quickly jumped to the top of the leaderboard with a first-round score of 85.75 points, and they maintained their lead with an 83.25-point second-round score to bring home the win with 169 total points.
“Nick’s really such a sweetheart,” Jeyanandarajan said of her partner for the last two years. “We’ve never been here, it was our first time showing at night, and he was just such a good boy. To be in a prestigious ring like this, I just wanted two solid rounds. I knew he had the jump to place high in the class, but I never thought we could have won it our first time!
“There was definitely pressure going into (the second round) with the high score and coming back last,” she added. “You know you can do it, but you want to make sure to have a good ride and put in the best round you can. My trainer wanted me to relax, breathe, and not be nervous, so I tried to take that advice and stay in our rhythm. This is definitely my top win and all-time top achievement with this horse.”
Taylor Abraham of Aiken, SC, finished second with Leanna Lazzari’s UFO De Nisi on a 163.25-point score. Taking third with 162.25 points were Campbell Cauthen of Lexington, KY, and DCTM LLC’s Quoriolis Effect SCF.
$10,000 Adult Jumper Final
Presented by SmartPak
Riding with steady efficiency over the initial course and setting a blazing time to beat of 36.048 seconds in the jump-off, Kendall Casaccio of Marmora, NJ, and her Indigo ES claimed top honors in the $10,000 NAL Adult Jumper Final Presented by SmartPak. The pair have developed a great understanding of each other since becoming partners in the spring of 2022 under the watchful eye of trainer Emil Spadone.
“I’ve ridden with Emil since I was about 14 years old, and he’s always given me really awesome horses,” Casaccio said. “Indigo is such a sweet horse in the barn. She can be a little quirky, a little spooky at certain things, but I just love her to death. I did do a winger in the last line (of the jump-off), riding it in seven strides which was a bit of a stretch, but I really committed and she had my back. That was all I could ask for.”
Afterward, Casaccio walked around the schooling area with Indigo ES as if in a pressure cooker. “My heart was racing, because my time kept being announced as the one to beat, the one to beat, the one to beat,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, did all these horses go and I held onto it this long?’ Typically, going first is the worst spot in the jump-off, but I was so happy to hold onto it for all that time. I have been so hungry for a win like this with this mare. She’s amazing, and it really means a lot.”
Chasing Casaccio’s time but ultimately taking second place was Charlotte Powers of Leesburg, VA, who stopped the clock in 36.625 seconds with her Escot 6. Madison Smyth of Dayton, MD, and her Encore claimed third in 37.197 seconds.
$10,000 Adult Jumper Final
Presented by EquiFit
Bringing home victory in the $10,000 NAL Children’s Jumper Final Presented by EquiFit was Collin Sweetnam of Wellington, FL, and Sweet Oak Farm’s Just Noble, who sliced and diced their way to a double-clear time of 34.58 seconds. Sweetnam watched his older sister, Olivia, ride the 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare nicknamed “Noelle” for several years before taking over the reins at WEF this year. He has been coached every step of the way by his parents, Shane and Allison.
“Noelle is pretty small, but she’s very, very quick,” Sweetnam said. “The first round was pretty tricky for us in a small indoor under the lights. There was a lot of pressure, but I think we handled it well. My dad inspires me a lot and actually called me before we went in to go over the course.
“When we went clear, I just got some water and chilled out for a second, then went over my jump-off,” he continued. “I was nervous in the first round, but in the second I was like, ‘I got this. I’m prepared.’ There were no really sneaky turns; I just went really fast and tried my best. Noelle was amazing, and it was very fun zipping around that ring.”
Vivian Golden of Wyomissing, PA, and her Chester tripped the timers on a faultless 35.167-second score for second place. Grace Lowe of Arlington, VA, guided her Kilbrackan Blue Jay into third with a double-clear time of 37.961 seconds.
$10,000 Adult Jumper Final
Presented by R&R Hunter Horses
Following an unfortunate rail in the NAL Children’s Jumper Final that knocked her out of the final placings, Hailey Guidry of Wellington, FL, returned to the ring with only one goal for the $10,000 NAL Low Junior/Amateur Jumper Final Presented by R & R Hunter Horses: ride two clear rounds. She and Byzance Mail did that and more, securing a first-place finish in a faultless time of 33.468 seconds.
“‘Bee’ is such a queen,” Guidry said of Honor Hill Farm LLC’s 12-year-old Selle Français mare. “We got her earlier this year, and she’s been so perfect overall. We’ve won so many classics already, and I feel so lucky to be able to come here on her. My plan for our jump-off was to go smoothly, try not to have any rails, and be very quick. It rode very well for her since she’s a tiny little mare and can go around the turns pretty quickly. Honestly, I was surprised at how fast she could go because I’ve never actually gone that fast with her! I’m very proud of our round.”
Bringing home second were Maddie Tosh of Milton, GA, and Julia Curtis’s Kennedy VD Rechri with a double-clear time of 33.992 seconds. Guidry also finished third with Ezmeralda EH Z, another entry from Honor Hill Farm LLC, after stopping the clock in 34.497 seconds.
$10,000 Adult Jumper Final
Presented by Parlanti
For their first indoor show together, Isabelle Ehman of Milton, GA, only wanted a good experience with Aston Des Etisses, the 13-year-old Selle Français gelding her Double E LLC just bought in the spring. She and “Aston” gave each other 100% in the $10,000 NAL Medium Junior/Amateur Jumper Final Presented by Parlanti, tripping the timers fault-free in a blistering 33.832 seconds for the championship.
“We definitely didn’t expect these results this weekend, but I’m super happy with how he was!” Ehman said. “He has a really big stride, and he’s quick across the ground and very adjustable. We had a plan going into the ring beforehand, just trying to be super tidy everywhere and riding the least number of strides possible. Our first-round course didn’t seem too bad, and then we were able to execute our jump-off exactly how I wanted.”
As the first pair to return for the jump-off, Ehman and Aston set a speedy time to beat that ultimately gave them a 1.5-second lead over their fellow competitors. “He’s got quite the personality, especially if it’s dinnertime, but overall he’s just the sweetest horse,” Ehman added. “He has experience with 3* and 4* grand prix, so he’s very trustworthy and I know he’ll always have my back. I just love him so much.”
Elise Stephens of Whitefish Bay, WI, claimed second in 35.393 seconds aboard Ashland Farms’ Diablo. Olivia Sweetnam of Wellington, FL, and Triple S Group’s Ina finished third in 35.967 seconds.
For the first time, the Capital Challenge also hosted NAL Welcome classes prior to each Final, with the winners crowned as follows:
- $1,000 NAL Adult Hunter Welcome – Stephanie King of St. Augustine, FL, and her Limitless
- $1,000 NAL Children’s Hunter Welcome – Cauthen and Quoriolis Effect SCF
- $2,500 NAL Adult Jumper Welcome – Alyson Gurney of Washington, DC, and her Black Friday
- $2,500 NAL Children’s Jumper Welcome – Guidry and Taylor Landstrom’s Colina SN
- $2,500 NAL Low Junior/Amateur Jumper Welcome – Elodie Watrous of Wilmette, IL, and Horatio Street Ventures LLC’s I Mose VLS
- $2,500 NAL Medium Junior/Amateur Jumper Welcome – Ehman and Aston Des Etisses
The NAL qualifying season runs from September 1 – August 31. NAL qualifying classes are open to all competitors, but only current members are awarded points. Annual memberships are only $45 per rider.
Further information on the North American League series is available by calling 717-867-5643, emailing NAL@Ryegate.com or online at www.ryegate.com. Follow the NAL on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NALFinals.