Tampa, FL - The Bob Thomas Equestrian Center was filled with riders as the fourth day of competition commenced. After last night's Tampa Bay Welcome Stake CSI 2*, it became apparent that the jumper divisions were feeling a competitive edge as the Low and High Junior/Amateur-Owner classes got underway in the Covered Arena. Blue ribbons were awarded to Ashley Prusak and Rabin for their amazingly accurate and speedy double-clear effort during the Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers, and to Alexa Adelson who rode Padie Blu Cardu in the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers Power and Speed class. Later in the afternoon, it was Heather Villemaire and Ca Va who took control of the course, mastering the track and riding to the top of the leaderboard in the Adult Amateur Jumpers.
Course designer Michel Vaillancourt challenged horse and rider alike as the jumpers faced his demanding design. He implemented an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination, liverpool, vertical-oxer double combination and tight rollbacks, testing the riders as they attempted to defeat his intricate course with fast and clear results.
KC Van Aarem and High Five were the first to complete the first round course without fault and move into the jump-off during the Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers. The pair quickly galloped to the first obstacle, and keeping a quick pace throughout the course, left each rail in its cup. The duo broke the beam at 32.472 seconds, setting the standard for the remainder of the class. It seemed as though no other rider would be able to beat their time and accuracy, with Meg O'Mara and Tebow earning another double-clear round, but proving unable to master Van Aarem's time. The pair took the third place honors for their clear effort and more conservative time of 34.624 seconds.
As Ashley Prusak and Rabin entered the ring as the penultimate rider, it was obvious that the talented duo refused to take "no" for an answer. Expertly, Prusak navigated Rabin throughout the first round course, leaving all rails intact as they crossed the finish line. Almost instantaneously, the pair picked up a fast pace, and began their race against the clock. Prusak had already ridden the short track earlier in the class aboard Hip Hop; however, they had sacrificed accuracy for speed, incurring 12 faults and earning the fifth spot, so Prusak decided to learn from her mistakes. The pair took wider turns, using their large stride to their advantage, tripping the timer at 31.944 seconds.
Samantha Prusak and Vendelier were the only four-fault effort in the jump-off. An unlucky rail at the second obstacle pushed the pair into the fourth place position, finishing the course with no other faults and stopping the clock at 35.529 seconds.
"I went first on my horse Hip Hop and we got going too fast in the jump-off, so I knew that when I went in on Rabin that I would have to go slow and efficient," Ashley explained. "He is very uphill and heavy in the mouth, so sometimes it can be hard to keep him light, but he is very brave and will jump anything you put in front of him. I am so proud of him, especially since this is his first time showing in the circuit."
When Ashley first bought Rabin two years ago, he had to undergo an intensive surgery that limited his performance for the next couple of years. After working closely with him, Ashley has begun to bring him back into the limelight, first showing him at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL, and now securing top spots in the Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers. "It is so nice here in Tampa, it is very inviting and has a relaxing environment," Ashley continued. "I think that coming here was definitely the right choice for us as we continue to rebuild during this circuit."
The $1,000 Adult Amateur Jumper also saw a highly competitive group this afternoon. Seven horse and rider combinations were able to master the first round, moving into an extremely heated jump-off, but it was Heather Villemaire and Ca Va who came out the victors.
Miss Kitty, exhibited by Katherine Edgell of Menham, NJ, was the first to enter the ring for the Adult Amateur Jumpers. The pair was successful throughout the first course, moving into the challenging jump-off. Their impressive time of 31.426 seconds set the pace for the rest of the competitors; however, in the end it only proved good enough for the fifth place honors. It was Caroline Carr and Top Chic D who would be pinpointed for the rest of the class as the pair to beat-tripping the timer in 28.469 seconds. Edgell tried her turn in the ring again aboard her second mount, Elsa, attempting to surpass their previous attempt and secure the winning spot. Although they came close, with a time of 29.839 seconds, they eventually took the third place honors.
Villemaire and Ca Va provided the most riveting first round, surprising the spectators as the 12-year-old gelding saved Villemaire through the triple combination, correcting a bad distance that could have cost them the chance to continue into the short course. "I knew that we had to be careful. My horse takes care of me and I had some bad distances in the first course. In the jump-off I thought we had to go fast and make the tight turns," Villemaire described. "He takes good care of me, he is a great confidence builder. We really know each other well; we have been a team for the last six years and have a wonderful relationship."
Villemaire continued, "The footing is perfect here, he jumps great in it, and the courses are beautiful. It has been about ten years of me making Tampa a permanent stop on my winter schedule. I love this show, and it really is a lot of fun."
During the jump-off, Villemaire left nothing to chance. With a strong pace to the opening line, she cleared each and every obstacle with ease. She made the inside turns necessary and kept a strong pace, blazing across the finish line with all rails in place and tripping the time at 28.348 seconds. Villemaire elaborated, "The first time I ever tried him in Wellington, he actually jumped outside of the ring. I didn't know how to ride him, and I had given him a little too much outside rein, so he saw the fence out of the corner of his eye and decided that it looked like a challenge and jumped sideways into the crowd. After feeling him soar over that with no fear, I knew I had to buy him, he'll jump anything."
Earlier in the day the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers showed over the course in the Covered Arena. Alexa Adelson and Padie Blu Cardu, owned by Starbit Partners, LLC of Scarborough, NY, led the way by completing a clear first round. They then repeated their fault-free effort during the jump-off, setting the pace at 33.205 seconds, which proved durable with the duo taking the top award.
Following shortly after, My Weber and Available Poetic Othello, owned by Availablejumpers.com of Ocala, FL, also posted a clear first round attempt. As they continued into the short track, it became clear that their pace was too conservative to take over Adelson's previously set time. The pair posted a clean jumping effort, but one time fault earned them the third place prize. Van Aarem piloted Mastermind to the second place finish with a double-clear score and time of 34.424 seconds.
The Tampa Equestrian Series' first week, the Tampa Bay Classic, will continue through Sunday, April 1 with the $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier CSI 2*-W Grand Prix of Tampa-the final qualifying event for the 2012 World Cup Finals in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. The 40th Annual $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational, presented by G&C Farm, will be the highlight event on the final day of the series, the Tournament of Champions CSI, to be held April 7 at the Raymond James Stadium. The world's top horses and riders will gather to compete under the lights during one of the premier show jumping events in the United States.
For more information on Stadium Jumping, Inc. and the 2012 Tampa Equestrian Series please call (941) 744-5465. To download a copy of the prize list, please visit www.stadiumjumping.com.
Photo Credit: Ashley Prusak and Rabin take home the blue with their speedy and accurate double-clear effort in the Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG