Lexington, KY - As a 6-year-old, Dr. John Stutts peeked through the fence at a Louisville, KY, riding club to watch the horses warm up. That little boy fell in love with American Saddlebreds, and today, as a grown man, he turned a childhood Saddlebred dream into reality.
Stutts and a dozen other qualified riders displayed their competitive ability within the adult amateur equitation division, trotting and cantering Friday on the historic Red Mile Race Track in Lexington, KY. The 2011 USEF Saddle Seat Adult Amateur Medal Final was particularly exceptional because it was the 75th anniversary of the Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show.
Stutts, a pediatric gastroenterologist from Louisville, KY, rode CF Cool Night Out to the title of Champion. Reserve champion honors went to Joel Dorignac of New Orleans, LA. The bronze medal winner, Casey Morgan Tibolet of Charleston, WV, rounded out the top three.
"I am very excited," Stutts said of his first-place win. "It sounds corny, but people talk about dreams coming true. A dream came true for me today."
That early childhood aspiration began at Rock Creek Riding Club, where Stutts had a real seat to a show at age 7. The following year, he pleaded for riding lessons. They never came, but he did get a riding magazine, and continue to watch in amazement the Saddlebred show world.
Years later, as Stutts neared his 40th birthday and reflected on the past four decades, he asked his parents about any of their own regrets. Their answer: his never having riding lessons. So four years ago, at age 39, Stutts changed that. "It was my intent to ride equitation - it's really my personality," said Stutts, whose mother watched today's championship ride via an online livefeed - her eyes filled with tears.
Stutts, who began riding open saddle seat equitation classes in 2010, was trained to Friday's win by Zubrod Stables, who took home the "trainer's trophy." As champion, Stutts was honored with a cast resin sculpture crafted by internationally acclaimed artist Patricia Crane, as well as a Freedman Harness handcrafted leather bag, the traditional USEF gold medal, and a bouquet of roses. He also received a cooler and engraved stable halter for his mount.
Reserve prizes included a silver medal, bouquet of roses and a cooler and engraved stable halter. Top 10 ribbons are also given.
The riders performed on the rail as a group and were also required to complete an individual pattern selected by the judges.
The American Horse Shows Association (AHSA) equitation medal was established in 1937 by the fourth President of the AHSA, Adrian Van Sinderen, as part of his strategy to connect horse people across the United States. Since its inception, the event has been held at the Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show.
In 2001, the tradition of the medal program was extended to the adult amateur exhibitor by offering the USEF Saddle Seat Adult Amateur Medal Final. The Final was created for adult amateur riders to continue to participate in the dis¬cipline of saddle seat equitation.
Amateur riders age 18 and over are eligible to compete in the USEF Saddle Seat Adult Amateur Medal Final by placing in an official qualifying class during the specified qualification period.
The final results of the 2011 class were:
Champion - Dr. John Stutts of Louisville, KY; trained by Zubrod Stables
Reserve Champion - Joel Dorignac of New Orleans, LA; trained by Barbe Smith
Bronze Medal - Casey Morgan Tibolet of Charleston, WV; trained by Lisa Paxton
Fourth Place - Rachel Rafolski of Brunswick, GA; trained by Christy Parker-Cordell
Fifth Place - Jennifer McGowan of Cross Lanes, WV; trained by Melissa Moore
Sixth Place - Sherrill Ducharme of Lawrenceville, NJ; trained by Nealia McCracken
Seventh Place - Katie Bartlett-Pagan of Owensboro, KY; trained by Chuck Herbert
Eighth Place - Dr. Constance MacQueen of Elmhurst, IL; trained by Scott & Carol Matton
Ninth Place - Dr. Morgan Wolin of Chicago, IL; trained by Stan Bodnar
Tenth Place - Karen Frances Vick of Nashville, NC; self-trained
Contributors to the 2011 USEF Saddle Seat Adult Amateur Medal Final included Candied Partners LLC, Ed and Candi Aversenti.
For more information about the Medal Final, contact Jennifer Mellenkamp, USEF Coordinator, at email@example.com or (859) 225-6955.
Photo: Dr. John Stutts on CF Cool Night Out. Courtesy of Howard Schatzberg Photography.