Wellington, FL - March 18, 2011 - The 4th Annual George Morris Excellence in Equitation Championships, Presented by Artisan Farms, were held on Friday evening in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. A feature event for the junior riders at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, the class saw an exciting win for 16-year-old Elizabeth Benson of Whitehouse Station, NJ, trained by Stacia Madden of Beacon Hill Show Stables.
Tonight's class was held in three rounds with the top 12 coming back for round two and the top four returning for the third and final round. Thirty-three young riders qualified to compete over the first round course, which was set by Michel Vaillancourt of Aiken, SC. The riders were judged by two panels and also received a score in the schooling area after the first and second rounds. Judging Panel 1 included McLain Ward and George Morris, Panel 2 included Jimmy Torano and Anne Kursinski, and judging in the schooling area was provided by Joe Stone. The course walk and schooling were the sole responsibility of the riders. Competitors were allowed no contact with their trainers during the class and were responsible for time management, warm up, and schooling of their own horses with the assistance of one groom.
After two rounds of competition, the top four returned for the final round and switched horses. Chase Boggio, of Canton, GA, rode his horse Massimo to scores of 83.50 and 93 for a total of 186 returning for round three and then jumped the final course aboard Allison Fithian's Lucky D'Etenclin. Fithian, of Monterey, CA, scored an 86 and a 92.5 for a total of 178.5 aboard Lucky D'Etenclin and then returned for round three aboard Boggio's Massimo.
Molly Braswell, of Ocala, FL, and Lizzie Taylor's El Campeon's Danish scored a 95.5 and an 88.5 for a 184 going into round three. Braswell then jumped Elizabeth Benson's San Remo VDL over the final course. Benson rode her horse San Remo VDL to scores of 90.5 and 96 in the first two rounds of competition for a two round total of 186.5 and then returned for the third round aboard Braswell's mount El Campeon's Danish to complete the class.
After a final deliberation from the judges, Benson was deemed the class winner, her horse San Remo VDL also earning an award as Best Equitation Horse. Chase Boggio finished in second, Molly Braswell in third, and Allison Fithian in fourth. Fithian's horse Lucky D'Etenclin was awarded a prize as well as Best Turned Out Horse of the night.
Rounding out the top twelve were Michael Hughes in fifth, Schaefer Raposa in sixth, Samantha Schaefer in seventh, Liza Finsness in eighth, Catherine Tyree in ninth, Caitlin Ziegler in tenth, Christina Kelly in eleventh, and Victoria Colvin in twelfth.
Class winner Elizabeth Benson started riding with Stacia Madden a year and a half ago and got her horse San Remo at the same time. Benson showed in the class last year, but did not have the best results and was very pleased with her improvement just one year later. "It was okay last year; parts were really great but I had one fumble in the middle, so it was nice to put it together this year," she said with a smile. "I think that I have learned to have more patience with him and I have learned how to make him softer in the corners. He's easier to back down now and he is focusing, which helps me to focus."
Benson admitted to getting nervous before a big class like this and explained that she is very superstitious. "My shirt says lucky on it and I wear it to all of the finals," she laughed. "I have a lucky collar and lucky socks. I get nervous sometimes, but I just try to breathe before I go in and before I start my canter, I take one big, deep breath."
Talking about her ride on San Remo in rounds one and two, Benson stated, "Usually he gets really antsy and kind of strong, so he does not like to wait at the ring. I was nervous going into the second round thinking he was going to light up again, but he was so calm and quiet. Sometimes he rushes his trot jumps, so it was nice to have a good one in the second round."
"I thought our test was amazing," she continued. "Sometimes he rushes and with his halt, sometimes he backs. We practiced that all day today and yesterday. It worked out well that he did his halt perfectly."
San Remo VDL is an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. "He was imported a little bit before I got him and had done jumpers," Benson explained. "He had really done no equitation. Stacia and everyone helped amazingly. I love him; he's perfect."
Commenting on her ride in the third round aboard Braswell's mount El Campeon's Danish, Benson noted, "We were talking a little bit at the beginning and Molly said he was a little up and a little bit nervous. I get nervous myself and rush a bit too, so I think we did okay. It was close because I had two rails and Chase had the same, but it turned out well."
Benson plans to show at Devon in the spring and will then compete at the Garden State Horse Show and travel to Lake Placid later in the summer. "The finals are absolutely a goal," she added. "I am hoping to put it all together this year, but next year will be even better."
Benson had a special, personal connection to winning tonight because her father, Jack Benson, and George Morris were friends. "It is absolutely amazing to win and George is awesome," she said with a smile. "My dad passed away last year, and one of the things George said to me was 'I used to go to your dad's horse shows.' They were friends, so it was amazing to actually win."
Second place finisher Chase Boggio also commented on the class, speaking about his mount Massimo and his ride aboard Lucky D'Etenclin. Boggio stated, "I got Massimo last November in Europe. He was super green when we first got him and he barely knew how to jump in a straight line. He's been my project and has come along really nicely, so I am very happy with him. Lucky was amazing too. That was the first time I've ever ridden him and he is just so easy and so nice. He's got the best rhythm."
Speaking about riding in the big ring under the lights, Boggio noted, "It definitely helps that I show a lot in here in the jumpers, but this was the first time that I have taken my equitation horse in there. Going first is not always the best scenario, but I went into the second round with nothing to lose and just went for it. I just tried to use the same strategy going into the test. I knew he was a great horse and I am very pleased with how it went!" Paris North and Chiara Parlagreco Glide to the Championship in the Adult Amateur 3'3" Hunters
There was not a cloud in the sky on Friday as the 3'3" Adult Amateur Hunters took center stage in the Rost Arena. The 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, which runs through April 3, awarded Chiara Parlagreco and Paris North the championship Friday morning among a starting field of sixteen horse and rider combinations.
Paris North and Chiara Parlagreco Glide to the Championship in the Adult Amateur 3'3" Hunters
Paris North, a sixteen-year-old warmblood gelding, is an entry of Michael Smith from Winchester, Virginia. Parlagreco does some catch riding in the adult rings, and that is exactly how she got the ride on Paris North. "Mike bought him for himself a few years ago, but then he hurt his back and quit showing. He's been letting me show him in the 3'3" Adults." She went on to add, "Mike still takes him on trail rides and hacks him for me when we aren't showing."
While Parlagreco does have another horse that she rides in the younger section of Adult Amateurs, her time on Paris North may be winding down. "This might be his last show because he is getting older, (and) he may be retired after this," Parlagreco explained. "But what a great way to end," she added with a smile.
The winning pair secured the championship by winning one class over fences, placing second in the under saddle, and getting one more second and two thirds in the remaining over fences classes.
Only four points behind Paris North and Parlagreco was Samurai and Alexa Weisman. Samurai, an eight-year-old Sachsen-Anhalt gelding by Samba Hit, is an entry owned by Carolyn Newton of Haverford, Pennsylvania. Samurai and Weisman secured the reserve championship this week by winning the under saddle and also one over fences class. The duo went on to win one other over fences class to take home the reserve tricolor honor.
The weekend begins tomorrow with more action in numerous hunter and equitation rings. Among the blue ribbons and tricolor awards given out tomorrow, the younger section of child riders in the THIS Children's Medal will compete in two phases of competition for the top prize. Week ten of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival will continue tomorrow with the Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic at 1 p.m. followed by the $50,000 Vita Flex Match Races at 7 p.m.
Sunday will conclude week ten at The Stadium with the $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix at 10 a.m. and the $78,000 Pennfield Feeds FEI CSI 2* Grand Prix at 2 p.m.. The 2011 WEF will continue through April 3 and award more than $6 million in prize money.
Final Results: 4th Annual George Morris Excellence in Equitation Championships Presented by Artisan Farms
Pl Nbr Horse Rider Round/Judge Score Schooling Score Final
1 913 SAN REMO VDL ELIZABETH BENSON R1/J1 88 4 R1/J2 89 90.50 R2/J1 94 5 R2/J2 93 96.00 186.50
2 5511MASSIMO CHASE BOGGIO R1/J1 84 4 R1/J2 79 83.50 R2/J1 91 5 R2/J2 90 93.00 176.50
3 4865EL CAMPEONS DANISH MOLLY BRASWELL R1/J1 93 5 R1/J2 93 95.50 R2/J1 88 5 R2/J2 84 88.50 184.00
4 906 LUCKY D' ETENCLIN ALLISON FITHIAN R1/J1 83 5 R1/J2 84 86.00 R2/J1 92 5 R2/J2 88 92.50 178.50
5 2258CO CO POP MICHAEL HUGHES R1/J1 88 6 R1/J2 87 90.50 R2/J1 86 5 R2/J2 78 84.50 175.00
6 1235ASTEN SCHAEFER RAPOSA R1/J1 90 3 R1/J2 91 92.00 R2/J1 82 5 R2/J2 67 77.00 169.00
7 4396ZENDOR Z SAMANTHA SCHAEFER R1/J1 86 6 R1/J2 86 89.00 R2/J1 77 6 R2/J2 75 79.00 168.00
8 1710FEDELIO LIZA FINSNESS R1/J1 82 5 R1/J2 82.5 84.75 R2/J1 78 5 R2/J2 80 81.50 166.25
9 3063PATRICK CATHERINE TYREE R1/J1 89 5 R1/J2 88 91.00 R2/J1 69 6 R2/J2 66 70.50 161.50
10 106 CHARLESTON Z CAITLIN ZIEGLER R1/J1 82 4 R1/J2 83 84.50 R2/J1 65 5 R2/J2 65 67.50 152.00
11 1407KENNZO DE CONTE CHRISTINA KELLY R1/J1 86 5 R1/J2 76.5 83.75 R2/J1 70 6 R2/J2 60 68.00 151.75
12 2363VIP Z VICTORIA COLVIN R1/J1 81 3 R1/J2 85 84.50 R2/J1 50 4 R2/J2 56 55.00 139.50
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Benson rode her horse San Remo VDL to win the 4th Annual George Morris Excellence in Equitation Championships Presented by Artisan Farms during week ten at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Elizabeth Benson and San Remo VDL with ringmaster Cliff Haines, Carlene Ziegler of Artisan Farms, and George Morris. Chiara Parlagreco and Paris North are the Amateur Adult 3'3" Hunter champions during the tenth week of the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Photos © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.