Tampa, FL - April 5, 2012 - Riders demonstrated their proficiency in the equitation classes at the Tampa Equestrian Festival's Tournament of Champions today. Earning the top accolade in the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship class was Hanna Marco on Careman. Testing Jose Gamarra's equitation course to first place in the Pessoa USEF Hunt Seat Medal was Morgan Ward riding Blitz DU Maris. In the Amateur-Owner Hunters Robin Swinderman earned two blues for her efforts aboard INXS.
The ASPCA Maclay course, by Bolivian designer, Jose Gamarra, tested the skill and ability of both horse and rider. The course began with a sharp turn to an oxer on the outside line. It continued on the far side of the arena to a tight rollback presenting fence two, and a left lead to a vertical-oxer combination on the outside line. Another turn to the left introduced a long diagonal bending line, and continued into a right turn leading to a vertical. With a right turn and a strong gallop, riders took a single vertical and finished over the final oxer.
Only four horse and rider combinations were called back after the challenging over fences portion. They were asked to demonstrate their abilities on the flat, following the careful and precise directions of the judges as they attempted perfection while under the scrutiny their scrutiny. In the end, it was Hanna Marco and Careman who earned the blue ribbon for their delivery of a well executed over fences round, and their demonstration of polished, classic form. Morgan Ward aboard Blitz DU Marais was second. Meg Mitchell and Rue Royale earned the third place prize.
Marco trains with Don Stewart of Ocala, FL is working hard to qualify for the ASPCA Maclay Finals to be held at the Alltech National Horse Show in early November. She and her eight-year-old horse Careman demonstrated their wonderful relationship to the judges throughout their efforts in the equitation class.
"I thought the first jump was slow but he was awesome and the rest was pretty good, " shared Marco about her round. "The turn to the first jump was a little awkward, but everything else was pretty straight on. It was a good course."
Morgan Ward piloted Blitz DU Marais to a flawless first round of the Pessoa USEF Hunt Seat Medal. Ward along with Meg Mitchell Hanna Marco and 296 all were called back for the work out after guiding their horses around Gamarra's challenging course.
Gamarra's Pessoa USEF Hunt Seat Medal course began with a vertical at the far end of the arena set on the diagonal towards the far end of the ring. Riders then had to turn left to a vertical-oxer combination on the diagonal turn right over an oxer-oxer combination on the opposite diagonal. From there, they continued to make a roll back leading to a vertical. With a right bending gallop to the seventh fence, they finished over the final outside line-a daunting vertical-oxer combination going away from the in gate.
The riders entered the ring as the anticipation began to build. The test created by judges Leo Conroy, Linda Hough and Ronnie Beard would challenge the young riders and determine the winners. All horse and rider combinations were asked to canter fences one, two and three, then halt and back up three steps, continue by picking up the canter and jump fence four. Upon landing they then were asked to come down to a sitting trot go back to the in gate and walk out.
Ward delivered a definitive halt after fence three and immediately executed the three straight steps back, cantered off and jumped the last jump and transitioned perfectly to her sitting trot. The judges acknowledged her performance by awarding Ward the top prize.
Ringside after the win, trainer, Emil Spidone exchanged light-hearted banter with his student asking, "Who's your favorite person?" Ward smiled and laughed as she responded, "I guess Emil Spidone." The trainer and student have created a very special bond with Ward recently taking her step toward the hunter and equitation rings and away from her championship days in the pony rings. Today was another highlight on her ever-growing and expanding resume. Spadone has been there every step of the way.
With the days performances is was not evident to spectators or judges that Ward only recently purchased Blitz DU Marais. Ward elaborated, "I just got her two days ago from Don Stewart. I don't know a lot about her yet, but I was really thrilled with the way we worked together today. I think we are a really good fit."
Ward continued, "The course was a little different. I'm used to the hunter rounds. I liked it. I've been with Emil for seven years now, he knows me pretty well."
The Main Hunter Ring was wet after a late night rain, but remained completely rideable for the Amateur-Owner Hunter classes as a testament to the tremendous footing at the Tournament of Champions. Psychologically, the wet footing kept all of the riders on a conservative track for the handy class, except for one. Lauren Muller from Brandon, FL, aboard her own Irresistible Opportunity, was the only rider to attempt tight rollbacks and an inside turn, executed perfectly after laying down a solidly smooth and flowing first round. Her trainer, Mary Louise Powers praised her performance from ringside. The duo eventually secured the second place ribbon for their efforts in the handy round.
When asked about her execution of the more aggressive options in the handy hunter class, Muller replied, "It was a lot of fun. My horse has a lot of heart. She's a Warmblood and she's nine years old. She was my Junior Hunter and now it is my first year doing the Amateurs. She's amazing, she's all-around my best friend."
"I have trained her since she was showing the small ponies and now she's doing the amateurs," shared Muller's trainer, Powers. "She's ridden with me the whole time and she rides phenomenally. She works so hard, she really works at it and it shows. She is a really good rider. She does all her own braiding. She breaks babies at home. She is such a great kid...well she's not a kid anymore, she's an adult!"
But it was Robin Swinderman from Morristown, FL, and her gelding INXS who put in the winning rounds in both classes, repeating the honors received last week. INXS exhibited not only perfect distances and pace but also demonstrated his beautiful, round jumping style. Tomorrow will conclude the Amateur-Owner and Adult Amateur divisions, and the champions will be named. With a clear sky on tonight's schedule, it is sure to be a true competition in the hunter rings as nobody holds back.
Friday, The Tournament of Champions continues with activity in the Main Hunter Ring beginning at 8:00 am sharp for the Junior and Amateur-Owner Hunter divisions. During the Tampa Equestrian Series, riders will have the opportunity for championship and reserve championship honors in the Professional Hunter divisions, Junior Hunter divisions, and Amateur-Owner Hunter divisions. The event also features the Tampa Series Hunter High Score Circuit Awards in several hunter divisions, which will be awarded during the 40th Annual $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational presented by G & C Farm, at Raymond James Stadium.
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.
Photos By: Hanna Marco and Careman; Morgan Ward and Blitz DU Marais; INXS and Robin Swinderman; Irresistible Opportunity and Lauren Muller. Carrie Wirth/PMG. Photograph may only be used in relation to this PMG Press Release.