Traverse City, MI – July 6, 2012 – Sun and a light morning breeze set the stage for the $10,000 Open Jumper Welcome Prix today at Horse Shows By the Bay, as 30 competitors eagerly challenged the Evie Frisque (Ontario, Canada) designed course. Sponsored by Positive Step Farm and Patrice Schreiber, today’s competition is the first of four $10,000 Open Jumper Welcome Prixes to be hosted by the Horse Shows By the Bay Equestrian Festival throughout the month of July in scenic Traverse City, Michigan.
While the competition saw just five double clear rounds, Evie Frisque’s course was flowing and inviting with enough technicality that riders had several options in both the first round and jump-off. It was Donald Cheska aboard Ericka Baran’s ‘Ad Fundum’ who bested the field by mere fractions over Allison Robitaille and Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s ‘Cover Girl.’ In the jump off, where most cruised from fences two to three in a galloping six strides, Cheska opted to do seven strides stopping the clock at 32.196 seconds. Knowing that he held up a bit, Cheska put the pedal to the medal and flew around the show’s signature ‘lighthouse.”
Entering the ring several horses later, Robitaille mastered the first round on Cover Girl. In the jump off, it looked like Robitaille was going to edge Cheska out by leaving a stride out from fence two to three, but the clock indicated otherwise stopping in 32.218 seconds.
When asked what his strategy was today, Cheska laughed and said, “To simply stay on course!”
“Ad Fundum is naturally a fast horse and if I can make it to the jump off, I know I have a really good shot. And, it helps that we’ve had him in the barn since he was five years old and I know him like the back of my hand. He’s everything you want in a horse – brave, honest, strong hearted – and when I make a mistake, he’s as forgiving as any horse can be. What more can you ask for?”
Ad Fundum normally competes in the Amateur Owner Jumper divisions with his owner Ericka Baran, however, Cheska is “fortunate” to get the ride when Baran has other obligations. The 12 year-old Belgium gelding by Clinton, according to Cheska, “really likes it here.” “And so do we! Last year we planned to compete at Horse Shows By the Bay for three weeks and ended up staying four weeks. We’ll do the same this season as everything is done so well, the environment is wonderful and I haven’t met a staff member who isn’t smiling.”
It was also all smiles for Cheska’s six-year old daughter Chapin. After joining her dad in his celebratory presentation and riding astride for the victory gallop around the Grand Prix Arena, Chapin added “I had my fingers crossed so no one would catch daddy’s time!”
Not close behind Cheska and Robitaille, was Lillie Ross on Pako who simply flowed around the first course looking like she was competing in an equitation class. In the jump off, Pako’s massive stride got Ross close to the lead in 32.978 seconds putting her in the third position.
Rounding out the double clear rounds with powerful performances were Calvin Dobbs on Ultimate VDL, placing fourth with a jump off time of 33.595 seconds, and Ormsby Hill, ridden by Liza Finsness, claiming the fifth place slot with a jump off time of 33.672 seconds.
The Grand Prix Arena also saw the first in a series of equitation classes with the USEF Platinum Performance Talent Search Medal Class and the Washington Equitation Classic Jumper Phase.
Amid beautiful skies overlooking a magnificent vista, the young exhibitors eagerly galloped around the Grand Prix Arena for the first time of the Festival and then returned for the flat portion of the USEF Platinum Performance Talent Search. On top of the leader board was Liza Finsness with Kelcie Brophy in second, Kalvin Dobbs in third and Kaitlyn Alsup rounding out the top four placings.
The Washington International Equitation Classic Jumper Phase concluded the equitation competition for the day. Earning the top three placings were Liza Finsness (first), Brett Burlington (second) and Lauren Steiner (third). Coupled with competition in the Hunter Phase, all of the scores were tallied and the Washington International Equitation Classic concluded with a tie at the top. Both Brett Burlington and Liza Finsness were awarded the blue ribbon with Kelcie Brophy capturing third place.