Traverse City, MI - July 16, 2011 - As characteristically warm and sunny weather met riders at Horse Shows by the Bay today, junior and amateur-owner jumpers relished the chance to stretch their skills in the Grand Prix ring. The $5,000 North American League (NAL) Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic was held this afternoon, followed by the $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame (SJHOF) Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic. Erin Haas and As Di Cinzano triumphed in today's prix, while the lightning-fast Kenzie Donovan and Volarnah won the classic. Both classes were held at the sprawling Flintfields Horse Park in Traverse City, MI, a prime viewing location for similar exciting events this summer.
The morning's schedule for the Grand Prix ring alternated between Children's and Adult Jumpers, while the skies overhead alternated between clouds and sunshine. As the afternoon rolled around, however, the sun stayed put and so did the spectators, eager to catch both of today's high-stakes competitions. First up was an informative reining demonstration, enthusiastically given by Tom Pierson and Rachel Ory. The duo, from Windy Ridge Farm near Traverse City, used starts, stops, and spins to show that good horsemanship transcends distinctions between English and Western riding styles. The pair will be back tomorrow to give another demonstration prior to the $30,000 Grand Traverse Bay Grand Prix.
Good horsemanship was also on display in the $5,000 NAL Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, wherein Kenzie Donovan and Volarnah again proved that a need for speed is winning indeed. Donovan and her gray mare had a solid ride in their first round, one of 10 horse and rider combinations (out of nearly 30) to clear today's expansive course. In the jump-off, though, the duo really kicked their pace into high gear, awing spectators with a second round time of just 30.3748 seconds. Anna Levy and Papageno, who is owned by Maggie Levy, were also quick to clear the jump-off, clocking in at a brisk 31.851 seconds. Ericka Baran jumped in third aboard her own Landessa 4. These three were the only competitors to clear the jump-off, as the challenging course had multiple riders knocking a rail on the final fence.
"I definitely want to go fast," said Donovan of her winning strategy, "but I want to make sure that I'm tight...but I don't want to beat myself by going too tight. I definitely try to be fast and make sure she knows where she's going.In the first round, I try to just be on a smooth rhythm. I really focus on the rhythm, trying not to have any jumps out of context, then when I get to the jump-off I just try to take that rhythm up a few notches. Volarnah will actually go fast on her own. She's definitely feisty and she loves her job, and she sees the track that we're going no matter where we are - she's always going to take flight and go." Donovan added, "I was really long over there today, on the far side of the ring, but she got right up for me. This has been a great horse show for all of us."
In the $10,000 SJHOF Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Prix, a class of thirteen riders left little room for error. An early fall sent one horse calmly walking away from the ring, adding a bit of humor to today's events. Thankfully, no more human tumbles occurred, but falling rails ensured a relatively small jump-off. Alex Parrish on Frisco and Ayla Barton on Numero Duo both toppled just a single rail, leaving a window of winning opportunity open for Erin Haas and As Di Cinzano. The pair steadily traversed the tight turns and vivid fences, landing in first place by the end of their second round. Parrish and Frisco were second and Barton and Numero Duo came in third. As Di Cinzano is owned by North Face Farm, Frisco is owned by Parrish, and Numero Duo belongs to Barton. Fourth place went to Ashley Charpentier on Buttercup, Fifth place went to Parrish on Valentina 156, Sixth place went to Miranda Travers-Cavill on Col de Rousset, Seventh went to Lacey Gilbertson and Namos, and eighth went to Ericka Baran and Ad Fundum. Coming in ninth was Greer Hindle aboard Wymore, and tenth place went to Melissa Orlick-Zbierski on Viekie.
Winner Haas commented on today's ride, saying "I just try to be smooth and jump clean. This is a new horse for me, so along with worrying about the track, I was just getting a feel for how he rides over this size of a course, because this is the biggest course I've done on him, with me. I've been with him only a month; he came over from Germany. He is feisty, he is a competitor, and he really wants to go. It takes a real partnership with a horse like him because you can't fight him, you have to meet him halfway. I have to guide him a little bit, and make him 'whoa' enough, but not ask too much of him. I just let him do his job."
As Di Cinzano, noted Haas, "gets so fired-up and he knows when it's time to get in the ring and compete. He is more experienced. He's newer to me, but he has more overall experience. The other horse I rode today, Contino 46, is seven, and I've had him for a year, but this is the biggest class that he has done at all so far. So it was a tough class for me because it was the biggest class on one new horse, and for the other horse, it was the biggest class he's ever done. With Contino 46, his greenness showed up a bit today. He spooked in the triple a little bit, but he recovered and did really well." Haas and Contino 46 were the second pair to achieve a clean round in today's prix, incurring just one time fault as a result of their careful precision.
"I've been here every year since the beginning of Horse Shows by the Bay," Haas added. "I'm from Michigan, so it's great to have this nice of a horse show so close to home. We feel that, with me doing bigger jumpers, we want to support this quality of a show close to home in Michigan." Haas, who is from Ann Arbor, is also a veterinarian.
Today's jumper classic was sponsored by Team Elmer's, and this week's jumper course designers include Guilherme Jorge of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Evie Frisque of Ontario, Canada. The North American League offers year-long Series in six divisions - Children's Hunter, Adult Hunter, Children's Jumper, Adult Jumper, Pony Jumper, and Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper. The 2010-2011 season marks the first time that the NAL features two year-end finals. Joining the NAL's traditional National Finals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show are new West Coast Finals at the Las Vegas National Horse Show.
The NAL includes classes held at hundreds of horse shows across the United States and Canada. Riders need not be members of the NAL to compete in the qualifying classes, but only members earn points toward the year-end finals. With the annual membership fee only $35, many riders join in hopes of earning points that may qualify them for a trip to Harrisburg or Las Vegas. For more information regarding the NAL series, including series specifications, current standings and a list of upcoming events, please call (717) 867-5643, email to NAL@Ryegate.com or visit www.ryegate.com.
Horse Shows by the Bay will continue to offer riders and fans the ideal horse sports venue throughout the next three weeks. This week's highlights include a new $10,000 Horse Shows by the Bay Open Hunter Classic, a new $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Classic, and the $30,000 Grand Traverse Bay Grand Prix and VIP Sponsor Luncheon. Series III, which occurs July 20-24, includes a $20,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, a $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior Amateur-Owner Jumper Prix, and the $30,000 Grand Prix of the Great Lakes and VIP Sponsor Luncheon.
During the fourth and final week of competition, notable events include the $30,000 D-BRAIDER Cherry Capital Classic Grand Prix, as well as a $10,000 Children's/Adult Jumper Prix and VIP Sponsor Luncheon. Over half a million dollars in prize money will be awarded by the conclusion of this month-long celebration of equestrian athletes.
For more information or to view schedules, please visit www.horseshowsbythebay.com or call 231-267-3700.
Photo: Erin Haas and As Di Cinzano Credit: Katie Anich/PMG