The drive to Colorado was worth it for junior rider and Arizona resident Jeffrey Tolson (Sherry Templin, trainer), who topped the ASPCA Maclay Regional Final at High Prairie Fall Classic (Sep 13-16) riding his Insigna. The pair, who has shown in venues across the U.S., found the Chris Collman-designed course more technical than expected.
“The hardest parts were the first and last lines,” said Jeffrey, who is a junior at Brophy College Prep in Phoenix. “The first line was a bending line to a combination where there was a ten-stride to a one to a one. In the ten-stride, you really had to get straight and go all the way to the rail because it was not a direct line. The big rampy oxer into the triple made the first jump ride a little short and then you had to go for the second one stride.”
The last line also tested Jeffrey and Insignia. The jump in was a large Swedish oxer bending out to the rail and then a ride back in over a “very spooky” white jump featuring two poles with a big gap in the middle. Jeffrey was worried his horse wouldn’t see the jump well and have a rail down, but they sailed through it and emerged the winner. For the first time in Region 6 history, all 17 of the riders who qualified for the final showed in it.
Although he hails from Arizona, Jeffrey knew several people in the class. As for those he didn’t know, he made an effort to introduce himself. “I really like to know my competition and make friends with them because without someone to laugh with before I walk into the ring, I get really nervous,” he said. “It was nice to be able to joke around with the other riders before I went in, especially before we flatted.”
Jeffrey began riding when he was ten on a pony he claims to have fallen off of too many times to count. He has competed in everything from children's jumpers to junior hunters to the “big” equitation classes. This well-traveled rider has shown in numerous venues outside of his state, including Colorado, California, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Georgia to name a few. He trained with Don Stewart over this past summer and enjoyed the variety of horses he got to ride in many different classes.
As for his plans for next season, Jeffrey wants to get back into the jumper ring. “Next year, I am really hoping to get a jumper. I have always told myself I would wait until this year was over and then switch because while I absolutely love the jumpers, I wanted to have a good base in the equitation and hunters.”
Perhaps he will meet up with the winner of the $10,000 High Prairie Mini-Prix, Armando Hassey. Riding Eminem (Taggert Enterprises, owner), Armando rose to the top of the leader board and stayed there. “This horse is new for me,” Armando said. “The first time we showed was the week before.”
Armando’s familiarity with international course designer Catalina Cruz from his time in Mexico made him all the more excited to jump the course, and the eight-year-old Belgian Warmblood beneath him felt confident entering the ring. Even so, he wanted to take things slowly in order to test his horse but not overwhelm him with challenging lines they faced. “It probably was good that I was able to go at the end," Armando remarked. "I wanted to ride well and jump clear. I was really surprised that we were the only ones to go clean. While we were ready to jump off, it was a nice reward to win the class without having to do so.”
Over in the hunter ring, the juniors ruled the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby. Junior rider Hannah Holik (Randy Henry, trainer) not only was the highest placing non-professional in the USHJA National Hunter Derby, she won it aboard Tauche Rouge (CzechMate LLC, owner), one of two mounts she had in the class. The other, Dominick (also owned by CzechMate LLC), took home the sixth award.
Junior rider Kelli Cruciotti (Cindy Cruciotti, trainer) also performed well in the derby when she rode Nicole Lyvere’s Promo to second place. Kelli competed in virtually all the rings at the show and had an impressive win in the USEF Regional Medal final aboard Papparazi (Serenity Farms, owner). Katherine Pitts (Michael Dennehy, trainer) and Emily Ryan (Lorelei Cudney, trainer) rounded out the top three in the regional final.
The High Prairie Fall Classic was the final chance to get in on the 2012 $1,000 LEGIS Hunter Rider Challenge, which awarded a $500 cash bonus and lettered jacket to Jennifer Rhodes, who was the highest earning professional rider during the season, and Hannah Holik, who was the highest earning non-professional rider in the USHJA National Hunter Classics held during the four LEG shows in Colorado.
Photos: Jeffrey Tolson's road trip from Arizona proves worthwhile when he wins the ASPCA Maclay Regional Final; Armando Hassey shows his mastery in the $10,000 High Prairie Mini-Prix; Hannah Holik rules the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby Photos: Horse and Ryder Photography.