Santa Barbara, CA - Cool weather, a facility with more than 50 years of experience hosting championship horse shows, and the top vaulters in the United States came together at the site of the famed Santa Barbara National Horse Show to wow spectators with the classic and historical beauty of equestrian vaulting. Long the basic training for those entering the military cavalries...from early Macedonians to the Romans in the fourth century, to American Indians and the very cavalry that was at times their arch enemy...vaulting has been used as a tool to increase riding ability on a horse. These skills have evolved over the years to a competitive sport unequaled in its visual excitement and the development of unique and sensitive connection with the movement of the horse.
The 2010 USEF/AVA National Vaulting Championship was also a showcase for the USEF Selection Trial for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Winning four specific team competitions for a spot on the US squad, the F.A.C.E. (Free Artists Creative Equestrians) Team continued its dominance of the division. As the 2010 National Champions, Devon Maitozo, Rosalind Ross, Annalise VanVranken, Mary Garrett, Mari Inouye, Emily Addison Hogye and Karly Frankel-Newman reached deep and gained the top spot on the podium. Spectators were treated to the beautiful combination story of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and a young girl's dream of love. Done in a fluid and moving rendition of the story's reality and a dreamworld, the team's Westfalen gelding, Palatine, was so much a part of the flow that he became the dream with his steady balanced and rhythmic canter. The team trusts him to provide the energy and lift necessary to securely go right up through the vaulters to smooth support for the flyer.
Remarkably, even in the compulsory round, minus the story, this team manages to reaffirm the fact that vaulters truly move with the horse no matter where they are on...or above him. The electric relationship between Palatine and lunger Carolyn Bland was so subtle as to be invisible. Careful and consistent dressage work has truly fitted this remarkable horse to be the best he can be. The F.A.C.E. team took top honors in both the Compulsory phase and the Freestyle on Palatine.
Maitozo continued the theme of a dream in his individual gold freestyle performances with an audio of Martin Luther King's famous speech, I Have a Dream, set to a strong musical background. It was more than enough. With the 2010 USEF/AVA Men's Individual Gold Championship as well as the A Team medal in hand, his dramatic performances and deliberate conscious choreography, combined with high compulsory scores secured for him another star in his crown. That crown includes a medal that no one else can claim - the first ever United States gold medal (in any discipline) won at a World Equestrian Games in Rome, Italy (1998 on Whiskey).
This achievement was not by itself as his journey continued with a bronze medal at the World Championships in 2000 (on Sir Anthony Van Dyke) in Mannheim, Germany; another bronze at the Jerez, Spain WEG in 2002 (vaulting on Abu Dhabi 2); a team silver medal at the 2006 World Championships (Grand Gaudino) in Aachen, Germany, and yes, another team bronze in Brno, Czech Republic (2008 on Leonardo). Maitozo has accomplished much and with the work and creativity he has put into his current team, dreams of yet another medal might be again realized in Kentucky.
Still speaking of dreams, since 2006, Mary McCormick has been occupying the podium for Gold Individual Women in one position or another. She has continued this trend throughout all of the 2010 USEF Recognized Selection Competitions to maintain her top position on this year's Gold Ranking List for consideration for the USA WEG roster. Certainly her win at this year's National Championship is no exemption to her exemplary career. With her elegance and attitude on Sir Anthony Van Dyke, she projects 'champion' and the judges at this year's Nationals competition rewarded her diligence and hard work with the blue. She credits her lunger, Poppy Coulter, citing this committed equestrian with the excellent conditioning and training of Van Dyke. A partnership of three deserving of the gold.
Photos: F.A.C.E. Vaulting Team, Devon Maitozo, Mary McCormick. Photos by Carole Dwinell.