Sixteen-year-old Hayley Iannotti of Wellington, FL, got her first big equitation win in the THIS National Children's Medal Finals aboard Quasa Granda, a seven-year-old KWPN gelding owned by her trainer, Jane Fennessy. Iannotti was cool under pressure, moving up from third place, to second place, to the win over 39 other competitors.
Iannotti scored an 87.40 in the first round and went for it in the second round, where the top 10 were called back, scoring 88.70. Iannotti was called back for a test with 12-year-old Maria Moore of Powell, OH, on Prosecco 24, who had an 88 in the first round and an 88.30 in the second round. The two riders were only .20 of a point apart, so they had to test.
The test called for a trot jump and a counter canter around a rollback, both of which were well executed by Iannotti and Moore. But it was Iannotti who led the victory gallop after the judges gave her an average score of 91.40 in the test for a total of 267.50. Moore received an 87.60 for a total of 263.90.
Iannotti recalled, “My first round, I went in and tried to do as little as possible and make it as smooth as possible. I was really happy with my first round. Going back into the second round, I was only behind by .2 points for second place and .5 points for first place, so I wanted to go in there and give it everything I had to try and move up to the top. I was really happy with my round, but when Maria went and I were only .2 points apart and they asked us to test, it was really stressful. But he listened to everything I asked him to do, and he was amazing. I can’t thank him enough.”
Third place went to Olivia Woodson of Wellington, FL, on Victor VD Sent. They scored an 86.70 and an 85.70 for a total of 172.40.
Iannotti is a working student at Carriage Hill Farm for Fennessy and Vinissa Blann. She has been riding “Q” for two years and has helped bring him along as an equitation horse. They competed in last year's THIS finals, but did not make the second round.
“I didn’t get to come back for the second round so we thought we’d come back and give it another shot. And it worked!” she said with a smile. “He’s improved a lot since last year. He’s my best friend.”
Of her victory, she remarked, “I can’t even believe this happened. All I’ve dreamed of is winning an equitation final and to get (judges) scores of 92, 93, and 95, is really surreal.”
Quasa Granda's groom, Mario Alvarez, also won a special groom's award.