Paulena Johnson and Kelley Levine Are Winners in the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship

Wellington, FL - Equitation winners were named today at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Thirty-eight riders vied for the blue ribbon in both A and B sections of the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship class, sponsored by Laura Hanson Virginia.

Paulena Johnson rode Paulexi LLC's Prosecco 24 to the win in Section A of the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship class this morning. The 17-year-old Virginia native thought that today's course in Ring 6 was very inviting, and noted, "The course was really nice. It was really flowing, with a lot of lines, and not a lot of turning. It was really nice for (Prosecco 24) because it was more like a hunter course, and he has a really nice stride. The lines were a little bit forward, and that's what he's best at."

Johnson described her mount, "Pete," as her "favorite horse that I have. I know him so well.  He tries to win every time he goes in, and he never tries to be bad. I love him and I'm never selling him," she smiled.

The jumping phase, designed by Bobby Murphy, was followed by a flat phase in which riders were asked to walk, trot, and canter both directions, while they were judged on their seat, hands, and guidance and control of the horse.  

Johnson, who trains with Ken and Emily Smith at Ashland Farm, recently graduated from Tennessee High School in December of 2009, so she has been able to remain in Wellington to focus solely on riding. "It's helped a lot. I can stay at the barn and ride as many horses as Ken and Emily need me to all day. It's just really good for your riding when you can ride different horses all day," Johnson explained. Johnson plans to attend Florida Atlantic University in the fall, so that she can be close to the barn and continue to ride.

Johnson also competes in the Hunter and Jumper ranks, and is looking forward to competing in the $25,000 G&C Farm Young Riders Grand Prix on Thursday, March 11, at 7 p.m. with her High Junior Jumper.  "I want to thank Ken and Emily (Smith) and my mom for all of their help," Johnson commented.

The blue ribbon in Section B of the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship class was awarded to Kelley Levine and Zafir, owned by Montoga Inc.  Levine was especially impressed with Zafir today because this was only the third equitation class that he has ever done. "He's still really green. My trainer, Geoff Teall, got him about a year ago and we didn't really know what we were going to do with him. He was maybe going to be a derby horse, and now he's doing the equitation," Levine explained.  

Levine described Zafir as a "sensitive horse, but he's soft, and sweet, and brave. He's willing to do anything, and he'll bail you out of pretty much any situation. He's great."

Levine spoke of her goals for the future, and said, "Since this is my last junior year I want to do well at indoors, for both me and my trainer." Levine commented on the team effort that is required to win a blue ribbon in the equitation at the FTI WEF, "Thanks to Geoff Teall for letting me ride Zafir and for all the hard work that everyone puts into this," she said.

The eighth week of the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has concluded, and the ninth week, sponsored by CN, will run from March 10-14, 2010.

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The 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 13 through April 4. WEF is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are "AA" rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $5.5 million in prize money will be awarded.

Photo Credits: Paulena Johnson and Prosecco 24 won the ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship class at the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.© 2010 Randi Muster/Mustphoto, Inc., Official Sport Photographer of the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.