East Dorset, Vermont — Nora Gray and Alyssa MacEachern were crowned champions when the Canadian Circuit Awards were dispersed at the conclusion of the Vermont Summer Festival. The six-week equestrian competition was held at Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, Vermont, from July 6 through August 14, 2011.
With $10,000 in bonus money awarded to the top Canadian jumper and hunter competitors, Gray and MacEachern each earned bonuses of $3,000. Gray was the top Canadian in the jumper standings with a total of 30 points for a $3,000 bonus while Nikki Meyer of Windsor, NS, earned 23 points to claim $2,000. In the hunter standings, MacEachern earned 30 points to win a $3,000 bonus while Laurence Noel, 15, of Rigaud, QC, earned a total of 24.5 points for a $2,000 bonus.
Gray of Owen Sound, ON, competed in the Low Children’s Jumper division during weeks one and two of the Vermont Summer Festival. After earning a fifth place ribbon during week one, Gray and Cashmere dominated week two, winning two classes to claim the overall Low Children’s Jumper Championship title. “She’s pretty hot, and has a lot of go,” said Gray of her mount, Cashmere. “She has a lot of energy, and is fast and keen to go to the jump. She also plays double duty. Her owner, Barbara Miller, can take her on a hack, but when she goes in the ring, she is ready to go. I don’t get to show her very often, but she’s a lot of fun.”
Gray’s parents, Jim and Jennifer Gray, are both professionals and operate Jack Pine Equestrian Center in Owen Sound, ON. They bred Cashmere, a 10-year-old Canadian Sport Horse mare by Jamestown.
It had been a few years since Gray, who is entering grade 11 at Westhill Secondary School, competed at the Vermont Summer Festival. “We had been to Vermont a few years ago when I was younger, and I showed with one of my ponies,” said Gray, who celebrated her 16th birthday while at this year’s Vermont Summer Festival. “We had a few customers that wanted to go back. It’s a nice venue, and it’s a nice area to spend your time in.” As for her chances in the Canadian Circuit Awards, Gray laughed, “I did know about it, but I didn’t expect to win. I thought maybe my mom would win!”
Another young competitor took top honors in the Hunter division standings. 11-year-old Alyssa MacEachern of Lower Sackville, NS, competed in the Green Pony Hunter division during weeks two and three of the Vermont Summer Festival with Cassidon. The pair earned ribbons during their first week of competition, and returned to enjoy top three finishes in all of their classes during week three. “He is very playful, and he will snuggle with you all day,” said MacEachern, who has been leasing the five-year-old Welsh pony from her trainer, Lindsay Bradshaw, since the spring. “He was just gelded, so he has different emotions. One day he can come out and be the laziest thing, and the next day he can come out and be wild. You just never know with him!”
MacEachern, who began riding when she was eight years old, had shown at the Vermont Summer Festival in 2009 and was happy to return this year. “It was really nice, and it was more competitive than what I am used to,” said MacEachern, who is preparing to enter grade seven at Newbridge Academy in her hometown of Lower Sackville. “It is a beautiful horse show, and it was really fun.” Referring to how she found out she had won this year’s $3,000 bonus, MacEachern said, “A girl at the barn kept checking the Vermont Summer Festival website, and she told me I was in first. The money will help pay the horse show bill, and we will also put it towards more horse shows. It makes us want to go back and win again next year!”
Trainer Lindsay Bradshaw who operates Long Lane Farm in Mount Uniacke, NS, brought seven horses to this year’s Vermont Summer Festival. Two of the seven were ridden by MacEachern, who also competed in the .9m and 1m Jumper divisions with Emillia. In addition to training MacEachern, Bradshaw also trains Nikki Meyer, who won the $2,000 jumper bonus for placing second overall for points earned in the Low Adult Jumper division. “What a good incentive!” said Bradshaw of the Canadian Circuit Awards. “The money pays for their trip, and it pays for the horse show.”
Offering more than $750,000 in prize money, the Vermont Summer Festival is the richest sporting event based on purse in the state of Vermont. For over 20 years, the Vermont Summer Festival has attracted exhibitors and their families to the Manchester region each summer. For more information about the Vermont Summer Festival, including full results, please visit www.vt-summerfestival.com.
Photos: Nora Gray, 16, of Owen Sound, ON, won a $3,000 bonus for being the top jumper rider in the Canadian Circuit Awards at the 2011 Vermont Summer Festival.
Alyssa MacEachern, 11, of Lower Sackville, NS, won a $3,000 bonus for being the top hunter rider in the Canadian Circuit Awards at the 2011 Vermont Summer Festival. Photo credits - David Mullinix Photography