Harrisburg, PA - Kelli Cruciotti of Elizabeth, CO, won the Pessoa/US Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Final at the 70th Annual Pennsylvania National Horse Show on Sunday. The 17-year-old bested a field of 280 competitors, the third largest in the history of the Medal Finals. Hunter Holloway, 16 of Topeka, KS, was named the Reserve Champion and Mckayla Langmeier, 15 of East Granby, CT, was third. For Cruciotti, winning the title was a dream come true.
"I am overwhelmed. It has been a dream of mine since I was little and for it to actually come true. I am shocked and very thankful to everyone who's helped me to get here. It's amazing," beamed Cruciotti. "My horse was amazing and I couldn't ask for him to be any better. He is a once in a life time partner." Cruciotti's mount, Monterey, also won top honors receiving the Doris H. Clark Memorial Perpetual Trophy as Best Equitation Horse.
The field was narrowed to 25 riders for the second round and six of those 25 were called back to ride an additional test. Returning in reverse order of merit, Elizabeth Van Der Walde of Ann Arbor, MI had the difficult task of going first. Langmeier followed, then Lucy Deslauriers of New York, NY; Victoria Colvin of Loxahatchee, FL, Holloway, and Cruciotti.
The final test was as follows: walk into the arena, canter directly to fence 1, counter canter to fence 9A, canter fence 7, canter fence 2 in the opposite direction, canter fence 3, demonstrate two changes of lead either simple or flying, canter fence 10, hand gallop fence 4, exit through the outgate at a walk.
Although they all thought the test was challenging, Cruciotti was pleased with the elements. "I thought it was a great test to show off," said Cruciotti. "My horse is very good at the counter canter so I was very happy about that. It didn't have a trot jump in it, so I was very happy, trot jumps are not my favorite so it made me very happy to hear that it wasn't in there."
As the top rider, Cruciotti was called back last, a position that she was unfamiliar with and not her favorite. "It is sort of the underdog feeling. It's easier because you have something to prove. You're lower so you can take chances. When you're on top you know that obviously the judges have a very high opinion of you and you have to uphold that opinion and you don't want to let them down after they put you on top."
She need not have worried, as Judges Scott Hofstetter and Julie Winkel were impressed with her performance. "She was so forward everywhere on the course," said Hofstetter. "She had a great partnership with her horse the whole time."
Added Winkel, "The confidence and the camaraderie with her horse and her style, she has a beautiful style on top of all that. She went early in the class and we couldn't stop thinking about it the whole class. And we kept going back to her to compare the other riders."
Langmeier benefitted from the test, moving up from fifth to third, which was impressive since she has only been riding her horse for two weeks prior to the event. "I thought the test was really great. I've never tested my horse before, said Langmeier "He's really fun to ride, really scopey and brave. He walked right in there and performed the best he could."
This is the third time that Holloway has been the runner-up in a medal final, but she was still satisfied with her result. "I'm thrilled," said Holloway. "Kelli rode great and I was happy with my horse and how I performed. I have one more year, so we'll see. I will come back next year and see how it goes." Holloway won't have to worry about Cruciotti as she plans on turning professional next year to assist her mom, Cindy, who has been training hunters and jumpers for 35 years.
Top Ten Results
Kelli Cruciotti, Elizabeth, CO
Hunter Holloway, Topeka, KS
Mckayla Langmeier, East Granby, CT
Victoria Colvin,Loxahatchee, FL
Lucy Deslauriers, New York, NY
Elizabeth Van Der Walde, Ann Arbor, MI
Meredith Darst Lebanon, OH
Summer Hill, San Diego, CA
Victoria Press, New York, NY
Ailish Cunniffe, South Salem, NY
Recognized as a premier equestrian event, The Pennsylvania National Horse Show runs October 8-17 and has been held indoors at the State Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg, PA since its inception in 1945.
For more information visit www.panational.org