Devon, PA - Junior Weekend at Devon Horse Show continued Friday as eight winners from sections of the four equitation divisions were invited back to the Dixon Oval to contend for the 2016 R.W. "Ronnie" Mutch Equitation Championship. For the first time, the coveted award was presented to the winner of a stand-alone class, rather than on an overall high-point basis.
Each of the eight riders qualified for the Championship class by placing first in one of the equitation divisions - the ASPCA Maclay, the Pessoa/USEF Hunter Seat Medal, the WIHS Jumper Phase or the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search. This year, it was Lucy Deslauriers who rose up to earn the title, besting the field of talented young riders to claim the honor.
"It's an honor to qualify, let alone come out with a win," Deslauriers expressed. "This show and the championship have a lot of prestige and tradition. Qualifying was something I was definitely proud to do. I was excited to have another opportunity. It was definitely a little bit trickier having another class and finding a few more distances, but I was overall very excited to do the class."
Deslauriers, who trains with Stacia Madden of Beacon Hill Show Stables, chose to ride Class Action. The 17-year-old superstar carried her to wins in the WIHS and Talent Search on Thursday. "I felt really confident in my rides yesterday on this horse," Deslauriers said.
"He had been in this ring twice already, so I knew it would be a good decision to choose him. As long I didn't mess up, he was going to do his job. He feels really great, especially for being 17. We try not to do too much with him and respect his age. He knows his job. We try to do as much as we can, but trust that he'll respond."
Madden was very proud of Deslauriers' performance and praised the rising talent's attention to detail in her rounds. "Lucy loves the sport," Madden said.
"She's an unbelievable stylist, and I think the judges really appreciate her natural style and ability to ride with the motion with the horses. I think all of her jumper experience that she has gained through the years has given her an extreme amount of confidence when she goes into the equitation ring."
With blue ribbons already under their belts, Daisy Farish, TJ O'Mara, Madison Goetzmann, McKayla Langmeier, Maya Nayyar, Katherine Bundy and Ellie Ferrigno also tried their hand at the Alan Lohman-designed course.
Farish delivered a well-executed round atop Cassio and impressed the judges to secure the reserve champion honors. "I think [the class] was awesome and added another element of challenge," Farish said.
"It brought a whole other feeling to it. First we have all our classes, and now the added championship class. It gives it an important feeling. I think Lucy was leading whether it was the other format or not, so she deserved it."
Following in third place was Goetzmann, who earned her ticket by winning a section of the Pessoa/USEF Hunter Seat Medal on Thursday. Fourth place was awarded to Ellie Ferrigno, who won a section of the Maclay earlier on Friday morning.
Langmeier ended up taking home fifth, while Bundy, Nayyar and O'Mara all experienced some unfortunate difficulties on course to finish sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.
Madden, who holds a seat on the USHJA equitation committee, explained the committee's thought process surrounding the decision to update the format of the Ronnie Mutch Championship.
"The format of the class was really to have the kids be able to go head-to-head," Madden explained. "Before, there would be two or three winners, and they were trying to break away from the idea of having multiple winners in a class that is supposed to deem the 'championship rider.'
"I think it's important for everyone to understand that we weren't trying to add another class or see more jumping," Madden continued.
"We really wanted to give these kids an opportunity at a national horse show like this to compete head-to-head in the middle of the show year instead of making them wait until the end. I like the format, and I thought it ran well. It was a very different vibe behind the scenes, for me anyway. You had more focus on the class and less focus on all the point calculations."
The action will continue with the Junior Hunter divisions on Saturday. Highlight events during the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair will include the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby and the $225,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4*.
The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair is the longest running and largest outdoor multi-breed competition in the United States. With the grandeur of Philadelphia's prestigious Main Line setting the stage, the event features a world-class field that annually ranks among the most prominent internationally. The event also includes the Country Fair that offers world-class shopping, rides and games for kids, multiple dining options and special entertainment events.
For more inofrmation visit www.devonhorseshow.net