Westport, CT - September 24, 2014 - Winning one of the highly competitive ASPCA/NHSAA Maclay Regional Championships requires all of the pieces of the puzzle to come together. Riders need great talent and riding ability, a horse that allows them to showcase that talent and a trainer who is able to improve that ability and bring riders to their maximum potential.
For Ali Tritschler, all of those elements fell into place on Sunday as she rode away with the win in the Region 1 ASPCA/NHSAA Maclay Regional Championship at the Fairfield County Hunt Club. Tritschler bested a class of 80 other riders and delivered an immaculate test to clinch the victory.
"I didn't expect it at all really," Tritschler said. "It meant a lot to me to be called back in a flat group. I knew I just needed to flat well, and then I would be in. But when they called me back and tested the top four, I realized that I could actually do really well. I am still surprised, and didn't really think clearly after it!"
When it comes to the secret to her recent success, Tritschler is quick to credit the strong team of trainers at Norfield Stables LLC. Tritschler has been training with Molly Ashe Cawley, Chris Cawley and Timmy Kees for more than three years, and Kees in particular has been hugely instrumental in her equitation ring success.
"Every week Timmy has a new course set up in the ring," Tritschler said. "We have to do it one way and then do it backward. I felt really well prepared."
Kees is no stranger to bringing along junior equitation riders like Tritschler. Throughout his extremely successful career, the National Show Hunter Hall of Fame inducted trainer has coached riders to wins in the Maclay Final, the AHSA Medal and the USET Medal Finals.
"Doing this for years, you develop a good sense of how demanding the courses can be. So you don't make them diabolical, but you build forward lines and then quiet lines and you try to make them challenging enough," Kees said. "I personally put a lot of emphasis on the test because at the end of the day it's usually the test that finalizes the winner. I do spend a lot of time on tests, and she demonstrated that yesterday. She had a wonderful test, and I think if you were to talk to the judges that they would say the same thing: that she tested so well."
Kees continued: "Ali was remarkable. She went back in second, and then she did a beautiful job on the test and ended up moving up and winning it. She was great. She's extremely disciplined. She works until she gets it right. There are some people that are just gifted. I think she has an extraordinary talent, but I do think the real catalyst to all this is her work ethic. She really works at it and doesn't cheat. She rides without irons and works extra hard to get to the level that she is at."
New to the training team at Norfield Stables LLC is Rory Lenehan. Lenehan has been working alongside Kees and the equitation riders since coming on board at Norfield, and Tritschler is also extremely appreciative of his influence on her riding over the last few months.
"He used to work at North Run; he has been an amazing contribution to Norfield," Tritschler said. "Timmy helps a lot with creating a good overall picture of your round or your test. Rory gets a little nitpicky. With the two of them, it works really well."
With the talent and the top trainers on her side, the final piece of the puzzle for Tritschler was the horse, and that horse, Helio Rouge, holds a particularly meaningful place in Tritschler's heart. Her grandmother, Lucie McKinney, purchased Helio Rouge, or "Ranger," for Tritschler last fall, before passing away in May of this year. Now Ranger will always be a positive reminder of Tritschler's grandmother.
"He is so special to me, and he is just such an amazing horse. I am happier for him than me that he won," Tritschler said. "I won on him in Wellington a little but never something big enough for people to look at him and see how special he really is."
Kees to agrees that there is something extremely special about the horse, something special that Tritschler is also quite good at showcasing.
"Without question she has a lovely horse, and that's as much a part of the mix as anything," Kees said. "When you get to that level you need that special horse. She's talented and able to capitalize on what he brings to the table as far as scope and range. It's really a winning combination. She's talented without question. She works hard, and she has the right horse."
With the Regional Championships under their belts, Tritschler, Kees and the team at Norfield Stables will set their sights on the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship National Championship Final, to be held Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014 at the National Horse Show in Lexington, Kentucky.
Tritschler is not the only Norfield equitation rider making the trip to the ASPCA Maclay National Championship Final. Also turning in impressive performances at the Region 1 Maclay Regional Championships and qualifying for the esteemed championship final were Norfield riders Colette Cacciatore, Carolina Crossfield, Courtney Plutte and John Porter.