Wayne, Illinois - Over 100 horse and rider combinations gathered at the Lamplight Equestrian Center for the pinnacle moment of the Midwest's equitation calendar, the Illinois Hunter Jumper Association (IHJA) Medal Finals, sponsored by Littlewood Farms and Friends. In its usual fashion, Showplace Productions designed a day that would become a lasting memory for the children, adults and junior riders with hospitality, unique awards and challenging courses that denoted championship status. The event signifies the end of the outdoor show season for many of the riders, yet for some it is only the beginning of the indoor finals.
So is the case with Giavanna Rinaldi, the 15-year-old hometown sensation. The young rider has traversed tracks in the pony divisions, junior hunters and even at the grand prix level. On Sunday, Rinaldi added 2015 IHJA Junior Medal Champion to her repertoire, just in time to prepare for the 2015 ASPCA Maclay Regionals.
"I am really excited about the Regionals, and I am really excited that today ended so well. I feel like I can go into the Regionals with more confidence on a nice win," Rinaldi explained. She has only been competing in the equitation division for one year, yet she has her sights set on pursuing everything the 'big eq' has to offer. "The course was great preparation; Pat didn't go easy on us, and I am glad. I know that there are going to be some scary fences and some really tough questions asked of us at the Regionals."
Boyle challenged the junior riders with a technical track that focused on transitions, collection and finesse. The serpentine of obstacles included a hedge, chute, wooden snake obstacle, oxers, a vertical-vertical combination and a series of bending lines.
"It was a pretty long course; I was not expecting that, but it rode really nicely," Rinaldi said of Boyle's course design. "It had some really hard parts. It was set up nicely and was beautiful out there. They did a really nice job. It asked a lot of questions, it definitely tested your brakes."
Rinaldi rode to the highest score of the day, earning an 87 over the challenging course. She narrowly beat out Paige Matthies, who only moments before captured an 86 for her efforts. Only four were chosen to test, with fellow junior riders Hannah Whiting and Celia Bresch in the ranks for the return order.
The riders were instructed to line up at the far end of the Grand Prix Ring, with their backs facing the course, and when asked, begin the test phase by backing their horse away from the line-up and navigating fence 3, 6 and 10ab. Upon landing from the double combination, they then were asked to collect and transition into the trot for fence 11 and immediately halt. Picking up the counter canter, they then would take fence 13 and hand gallop fence 17, returning to the line at the sitting trot.
Rinaldi was the last to return in the reverse order, holding the highest score, and she proceeded to lay down a beautiful test track. As she landed from the final oxer, the crowd went crazy, knowing that Rinaldi would be named champion in mere moments.
"When I took the line from the trucks to the bending line, I knew that was when I really shined," Rinaldi said. "I really like equitation. It is a lot of fun, and it is really good for my riding. I was really nervous because I have not done too many tests before. I thought I could have hand galloped a bit more, but I am still working on that."
Matthies was awarded the 2015 IHJA Junior Medal Reserve Championship, while Hannah Whiting earned the third place. Celia Bresch rounded out the top four, finishing on a score of 77.50 points.
Rinaldi concluded, "I thought it was really nice. I had some really nice rounds, and I really liked the show here this year. They always do a great job, and it is home for us. It's always a special show."
For more results, please visit www.showplaceproductions.com.