Harrisburg, PA - The team from Zone 2 took home the team gold for the second consecutive year with the best possible score to win the Neue Schule/ USEF Prix des States Team Championship and Individual Championship Phase II at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, presented by The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund. Zone 4 won the silver and the bronze went to Zone 5.
The Zone 2 team consisted of Madison Goetzmann riding Wrigley, Katherine Strauss aboard All In, Lauren Fischer on Tosca du Feugre and Eliza Month with Calumpi. The formidable foursome captured the title with three out of the four going double clear on the Steve Stephens-designed course to finish with a zero fault score.
Ralph Caristo served as the Zone 2 Chef d'Equipe and was especially pleased with the victory. Caristo has held the position for many years, but he was unable to make the trip in 2015. "I had to judge last year so Krista Freundlich substituted for me and she did a fantastic job," said Caristo. "This is what we strive for. The girls really rose to the occasion. I told them to just go in there and have fun. They had enough experience so they knew what to do, and they did it."
Following a modified Nations Cup format, the seven teams and individual riders jumped the same course twice with one drop score permitted from each round. Although the top six teams moved on to the second round, the battle for gold was really between Zone 2 and Zone 4. At the conclusion of the first round, Zone 2 held a slight lead with a zero score and Zone 4 was second with only four faults.
Brett Burlington led the way for Zone 4 going double clear on Bluf. Cooper Dean on WEC Quidam-Quidam had a total score of four faults, Sophie Simpson ended up with eight faults on Why Not and Helen Graves was the drop score on Armani to give the team a final score of 16 faults.
Strauss and Fischer had already piloted double clear rounds for Zone 2, but Month was eliminated in round 2, so the team needed anchor rider Goetzmann to do well in order to use Month as the drop score. Goetzmann also rode to a double clear, clinching the gold for the team.
"I had so much confidence in my horse and Ralph Caristo gives all of us so much confidence, so I didn't feel too much pressure," said Goetzmann on riding last. "I felt like I had a great team behind me and my horse was absolutely amazing.
I thought it was an excellent course. There was a tight time allowed and a few wide oxers coming out of short turns. You really had to understand how to ride the track and be able to ride efficiently and smooth in the indoor ring because we are used to riding in a big outdoor ring throughout the season."
Goetzmann and Strauss were also members of the 2015 gold medal winning team, which Strauss believes may have helped them win the title.
"It's a huge adjustment riding indoors," said Strauss. "Things come up quicker; you have to adjust to the way the lines ride. Maddie and I have been in this class many times before on the same horses so we were expecting those turns and the way this ring rides. It felt great coming here with such a great team."
It was the first time Fischer and her mare had competed in the Championship and she was thrilled with their inaugural run. "I am really proud of my mare. It was her first time doing anything like this. She really came out on top and gave me two nice clear rounds. I thought the course was challenging, the time allowed was definitely a factor. You really had to know your horse for this course."
Month, who had a less successful night than her teammates, also thought the course was challenging. "The oxers were pretty wide," said Month. "It was crucial for you to keep pace but keep a connection to your horse. I think it tested a lot of us. I feel so lucky to be part of such an awesome team."
The team of Zone 5, with Caelinn Leahy, Alexandra Pielet, Giavanna Rinaldi and Dana Wille, snagged the bronze with a score of 37 faults; just slightly ahead of Zone 7, consisting of Hunter Holloway, Briley Koerner, Brian Moggre and Cassidy Wilbourn, who finished with a score of 39.
The Championship culminates on Saturday with the top 60% from Phases I and II for the Individual Overall phase.
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