Faith Schuttemeyer and Blackjack Ace the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Children’s Medal Finals
Equitation Weekend, presented by BIGEQ.com, during the 30th anniversary of the Capital Challenge Horse Show in Upper Marlboro, MD, continued on Saturday, September 30, where nine more championships were awarded. Faith Schuttemeyer, 14, of Boynton Beach, FL, led the victory gallop in The Show Place Arena at Prince George’s Equestrian Center after winning the Taylor Harris Insurance Services (THIS) National Children’s Medal Finals with a final score of 256.15. Hailey Guidry, 13, of Wellington, FL, piloted Cornet’s Sunshine to the reserve championship honors, and Brooke Hagerty, 15, of Terrebonne, OR, rounded out the top three aboard Mascotte vd Withoeve.
Riders spend the year earning points towards qualification of the finals with only the top 41 invited to compete at Capital Challenge. Three panels each composed of two judges oversaw the class, where riders contested the Ken Krome-designed course in reverse order of qualification. Mark Jungherr and Chris Wynne made up the first panel, while Virginia Edwards and Michael Tokaruk sat on the second panel, and Mark Bone and Sissy Wickes represented the third panel. Each panel provided one score, and the average of the three resulted in the rider’s overall mark. The top 10 then returned for a second round in reverse order of their first-round scores, with Schuttemeyer last to come back on her first-round score of 87.66.
“I thought everything walked pretty straight forward,” said Schuttemeyer, who trains with Michael DelFiandra of Grafton Ridge in South Salem, NY, along with her mom, Kristin. “In the first course, I wanted to make sure I got up the first line, and then the rest was pretty smooth. For the second course, it was the same thing. I just wanted to make sure I got up the first line.”
Schuttemeyer was able to duplicate her stellar first-round effort in the second round, scoring an 87.83, yielding a two-round total of 175.49. Guidry improved upon her first-round score of 85.50 to earn an 88.33, totaling 173.83. Because the two riders were only separated by 1.66 points, judges called them back for a test, which featured a counter canter and hand gallop. In the end, it was Schuttemeyer’s work-off score of 80.66 that propelled her to victory on an overall score of 256.15.
“It’s pretty nerve-wracking when you’re waiting to test,” reflected Schuttemeyer. “My trainer says to trust my eye and take a deep breath. I was focusing on the counter canter because the angle to the first jump was a little challenging. After that, I was trying to be careful not to swap leads in front of the second jump, and then I was focused on doing the inside turn after the hand gallop to the last two jumps.”
Schuttemeyer’s mount for the class, Blackjack, was paired with Schuttemeyer’s mom in the jumper ring 10 years ago. He then reconnected with the family four years ago, becoming a formidable partner for Schuttemeyer as she began her foray into the equitation classes.
“He’s really sweet,” shared Schuttemeyer. “He’s pretty easy and very fun to ride. He’s always going for the next jump. He is so special.”
Their win in the THIS National Children’s Medal Finals marks a triumphant sendoff for the 24-year-young Hanoverian gelding, owned by Gabriella Salazar, who will now celebrate his retirement with lots of apples.
In the outdoor arena, Taylor Cawley, 14, of Wellington, FL, bested a field of 23 for the title of North American Junior Flat Equitation Champion.
Cawley, who trains with Beacon Hill Show Stables in Colts Neck, NJ, rode Oki d’Eclipse, owned by Sea Horse Investments. The duo began their partnership earlier in the year at the Devon Horse Show.
“This is his first year doing the equitation,” explained Cawley of the nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding by Catoki. “I was very proud of him. He’s always been good in flat classes. I mostly tried to focus on keeping him straight. We have been working on extensions and collections a lot, so I was happy with how he was out there. He has a very big stride. I knew as long as I kept the extensions, I could really show it off. He was really, really good.”
Judges excused riders as they whittled down the competition.
“I was mainly trying to stay calm, keep my position relaxed, and not get too stiff,” continued Cawley. “I was really happy when I was in the top 10, then the top three, and then on top. I was hoping to finish in the top 10. I was second in the flat in my age division, so I didn’t necessarily think that I was going to win but I’m glad I did. I was very happy.”
Earlier in the day, six Section B age group equitation division champions and reserve champions were named as follows:
And Just Like That Lakshmi Jeyanandarajan and Ratatat Win the $10,000 North American League Children’s Hunter Finals
Day three of the 2023 Capital Challenge Horse Show concluded with all eyes on The Show Place Arena as Lakshmi Jeyanandarajan, 17, of Irvine, CA, guided Ratatat over two beautiful rounds for the top overall score of 169.00 in the $10,000 North American League (NAL) Children’s Hunter Finals, presented by Charles Ancona. Taylor Abraham, 16, of Aiken, SC, rode Leanna Lazzari’s UFO de Nisi to the reserve championship honors with a total score of 163.25, while Campbell Cauthen, 13, of Lexington, KY, completed the top three with a score of 162.25 aboard Qoriolis Effect SCF, owned by DCTM LLC.
Twenty-nine riders qualified for this year-end final by accumulating points in the NAL Children’s Hunter competitions throughout the year. After the first round, the top 12 returned in reverse order of merit, where Jeyanandarajan came back last, carrying the high first-round score of 85.75 from judges Virginia Edwards and Mark Jungherr.
“There was definitely pressure going into the second round with the high score and coming back last,” said Jeyanandarajan. “In your mind, you know you can do it, but you want to make sure to have a good ride and put up a score that’s good enough to stay on top. So, there was pressure, but I just wanted to go in there and ride my best and wherever we ended up, we ended up.”
Once again, Jeyanandarajan guided Ratatat to the best score of round two, this time earning an 83.25 to seal the deal for the overall win.
“My trainer wanted me to relax and breathe and not be nervous,” shared Jeyanandarajan, who rides with Mitch Endicott and the team at Bridgeport Farms in San Juan Capistrano, CA. “I think he knew that if I put in a good ride, especially with the score we had in the first round, we could be up there in the placings. I just tried to take that advice, take a breath, and make sure to stay on the rhythm.”
Ratatat has been with Jeyanandarajan for almost two years, having been passed down from another student at Bridgeport Farms. The 16-year-old Hanoverian-cross gelding has given Jeyanandarajan experience from the Short Stirrup division through the Children’s Hunters, with this year’s Capital Challenge Horse Show their biggest competition to date.
“He’s really such a sweetheart,” commented Jeyanandarajan of her mount. “He’s never been here, and I’ve never been here. It’s our first time showing at night, and he is just such a good boy.
“This is definitely my top win and all-time top achievement on this horse,” she continued. “Capital Challenge is such a prestigious show. It’s even better than I expected. You can really feel the atmosphere, so to come here and do that well, I’m very proud of my horse. I never thought I could win like that, especially coming into it not quite sure of how we would do against the best of the best. To do that well at a show like this is very special.”
The North American League Finals are the culmination of the NAL’s year-long Series that includes classes at hundreds of horse shows across the United States and Canada. The NAL offers year-long series in five divisions: Children’s Hunter, presented by Charles Ancona; Adult Hunter, presented by LAURACEA; Children’s Jumper, presented by EquiFit; Adult Jumper, presented by SmartPak; Low Junior/Amateur Jumper, presented by R & R Hunter Horses; and Medium Junior/Amateur Jumper, presented by Parlanti. The NAL series conclude with year-end finals for those who accumulated the most points in their divisions over the course of the season.
The 2023 Capital Challenge Horse Show proceeds on Sunday, October 1, with the Palm Beach International Academy North American Junior Equitation Championships and the $10,000 NAL Adult Hunter Finals. Competition continues through October 9.
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