Grace Debney Holds the Lead to Win the Palm Beach International Academy North American Junior Equitation Championships
Following the opening round of the PBIA North American Junior Equitation Championship, a field of 133 junior riders was narrowed to the top 20 competitors, who returned in reverse order of their standings for a second round.
With the first round high score of 92, Debney was the final rider to return for the second course, where she held the lead, earning a score of 94.66 for an overall winning score of 186.66.
Second place with an overall score of 183 went to Riley Hogan of Warrenton, VA, riding Wengen, owned by Don Stewart. Audrey Schulze of Ridgewood, NJ, rounded out the top three with a score of 178.24 on Castellan W, owned by Riverbrook Sport Horses LLC.
“I definitely felt a lot of pressure going in because Riley [Hogan] laid it down. She had a beautiful round, so I definitely had to go in there and do my best,” said Debney of heading into the second round in the top spot. “I have so much confidence in the horse, so I knew after the first jump that I could take a breath.”
Though Debney took a breath, she remained poised to take on an unexpected challenge in the second round and held onto her lead in more ways than one. “[Quimby] landed [on the left lead] instead of the right [lead] after the second jump, so I had to hold the counter lead [in a bending line to fence three],” she explained. “I was happy with how I handled that. I thought he settled in, and it was good he didn’t get nervous because sometimes he can.”
Debney is no stranger when it comes to victory gallops and is glad to have started the equitation finals season on a high note with this championship.
“I thought the course was really, really well designed today,” said Debney of the course designed by Ken Krome. “The first round was hard enough, and this class really prepares everyone for [Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunt Seat] Medal Finals, [ASPCA Maclay Championship], and [Washington International Horse Show Equitation Finals], so I thought it was great.”
Though Debney is a serious competitor, she credits her partner of three years, Quimby, owned by Debney’s Temple Equestrian LLC, for enjoying the experience no matter the result. “I’m definitely having a lot of fun out there with him,” she shared. “It’s great because I think he is so much fun and he is always looking to do his best. Even if we don’t have the greatest round, I know that we at least both had a good time!”
For the victory, Debney was presented with the Best Equitation Rider Award, sponsored by Karen Healey. Debney’s trainers, Samantha Schaefer and Kate Conover, received the Leading Equitation Trainer Award, sponsored by Leslie Steele & Acres West, and Quimby’s groom, Luis Diaz, was presented with the North American Equitation Champion Groom’s Award, sponsored by Holly Hill Farm.
The EMO Equitation Trip of the Show, sponsored by EMO Insurance and presented to the rider with the highest scoring equitation round in the age group equitation division, went to Dominic Gibbs of Colorado Springs, CO, who earned a score of 93 in the 17-Year-Old Equitation.
The Glena Wirtenan Sportsmanship Trophy was also awarded on Sunday to McKenzie Fitch of Collegeville, PA. This inaugural honor is given to a junior Equitation Weekend competitor, selected by the stewards and schooling supervisors, that exemplifies qualities of a true horseperson, sportsmanship, horsemanship, and turnout of both horse and rider.
PBIA North American Junior Equitation Championships Results
Place / Rider / Horse / Overall
1/Grace Debney / Quimby / 186.66
2/ Riley Hogan / Wengen / 183.00
3/Audrey Schulze / Castellan W / 178.24
4/Alexandra Ryden / Vagrant Z / 178.08
5/Hensley Humphries / Imaginator / 177.03
6/Alexa Leong / Showcase / 175.33
7/Alissa Brandt / Caracas 89 / 174.26
8/Elena Haas / Cornell 22 / 173.03
9/Augusta Iwasaki / Attendu De Lannois Z / 172.16
10/Libbie Gordon / Ucatoni / 170.77
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