Medal Finals 2004
A Tradition of Success Defeats Weather Woes
By Karen Amedeo
Photo Credit to Peter Weyland and Reflections Photography, Kingston, NY and Barry Ralston, Hebron, CT
A record two hundred and forty two exhibitors from six states competed in the 2004 Connecticut Hunter & Jumper Association Medal Finals Weekend on August 21st and 22nd at the beautiful Fairfield Hunt Club in Westport, CT. Under the capable direction of new Equitation Committee Chairperson, Holly Rebello, this year's finals managed to proceed without a hitch in spite of tornado warnings, heavy rains, and high winds. Forced on Saturday to stop the show in the middle of the Children's Hunter Classic, the Equitation Committee did a quick two step and adjusted to the fact that this class as well as the Adult Medal Final would have to be added to an already full Sunday schedule. Aided by Course Designer William Glass of Florida who made a few innovative course changes, the Equitation Committee had everything dried off, a new schedule prepared and were ready at 7 AM to rerun the Children's Hunter Classic. Paddock Master extraordinaire, Matt Brayman of Charlestown, RI good-naturedly pushed the large number of entries around the courses in record time.
The 2004 Finals featured new prizes, the introduction of the Master's Medal Final and many new sponsors. Under Committee member Lynn Taylor's direction, even the program had a new look! Exhibitors flocked to the awards table managed by committee members Debbie Schneider and Donna Poeta to get a glimpse of the "CHJA Medal Finals Champion" jacket introduced this year. New historian Tara Lynch provided a peak into past by setting up an exhibit with leather bound albums tracing the history of the CHJA Medal finals through photos and past programs. Another new committee member, Sherry Lynch, worked her magic by decorating the viewing tent and acting as hostess to the many sponsors. Secretary Maria Howe demonstrated her organizational skills in the secretary's booth and also presented the qualifiers with beautiful monogrammed canvas bags. The trainers were surprised when they received Medal Finals hats and a thank you for their support of the CHJA!
Committee members Geoff Allison assisted with the award presentations and Kelsey Amedeo managed a wonderful group of juniors who set up on Friday and took on the arduous task of clean up at the show's end. Jane Miller, President of the CHJA Scholarship Fund ran a successful fund drive netting over $1,600.
Again this year, Course Designer William Glass of Florida, rose to the occasion with innovative courses that challenged each finalist to ride to his or her potential. The expansive grass ring, decorated with two signature fences, brick and stonewall jumps, brightly striped rails and a skinny vertical placed in the corner opposite the in gate, was covered in clusters of jumps, colorful mums and sprawling shrubs. Bending lines, weaving through the maze of verticals and oxers, and a serpentine that snaked across the expansive ring offered riders the option of riding the more difficult path to the top numerical score.
Saturday morning's Special Hunter Class, traditionally a warm-up for the Finals, showed two sections of two foot three inch riders and three sections of three-foot riders. The afternoon session began with the CHJA Adult Hunter Classic won by Bravour and his partner Kelly Cavanaugh of Glastonbury, CT. Southport, CT. resident Libby Tritschler aboard Clean Slate secured the reserve championship.
As the skies darkened, the CHJA Children's Hunter Classic began as guests of the CHJA enjoyed a complimentary buffet under the association's tent. After only 12 of the twenty-five qualified exhibitors (the maximum allowed by the CHJA Classic rules) competed, an announcement was made advising all exhibitors to quickly get their horses back to the barn. Tornado warnings had just been issued for the area. After an hour of steady rain and high winds the show was officially canceled. A fresh start on Sunday morning saw Lisa Noschese of Fairfield, CT and her mount Best of Friends take the championship. Their winning score prevailed over reserve champion Scary Story with Ursula Green of Easton, CT aboard.
The CHJA Adult Medal Final, moved from Saturday afternoon, followed with forty riders. Kara DeLaurentis of Stamford, CT rode to the win with Meg Wilkison of Glastonbury, CT capturing the silver medal and Genna Ruschmeyer of South Glastonbury winning the bronze.
Judges Rita Timpanaro of Smithtown, NY and Mark Jungherr of Amesbury, MA saw thirty-nine small, medium and large ponies attack the colorful course for the CHJA Pony Medal. Miranda Lekacos of Norwich, CT piloted her pony to the winning score, against reserve champion Anna Kluger of Redding, CT. Third place winner Olivia Jack of Fairfield, CT took her place on the podium with the bronze medal.
Early afternoon invited the CHJA Children's Medal finalists to the ring. Seventy-seven riders qualified for the Final at two foot six that allows riders to compete on either horses or ponies. Armonk, NY resident Carly Mand bested reserve champion Jocelyn Alfieri of Darien, CT with Katherine Schmidt of Ridgefield, CT riding to the bronze.
CHJA Junior Medal Finalists entered the ring as the CHJA buffet opened to exhibitors and their families, trainers, and sponsors. With fences changed to a 3' height this year, Amanda Groher of South Glastonbury, CT negotiated the curvy course and flat phase (50% of the overall score) to the win. Gretchen Stempf of Farmington, CT claimed the silver medal with Meredith Stafford of New Canaan, CT winning the bronze.
With the sun beginning to set, the highly anticipated CHJA Master's Medal was ready to start. Introduced this year by the CHJA, the Master's Medal is performed with a fence height of 3'3" to 3'6" The class is an option to riders who have qualified for the CHJA Adult Medal Final or the CHJA Junior Medal Final. To add to the mix of talent, past Medal Finals champions and reserve champions may also enter the class. If a qualifier has ever qualified for or competed in any 3'6" or higher final, then they must compete in the Master's Medal class. Although it had been a long day, the crowd actually increased to watch twenty-seven of the most talented junior riders compete. Kelsey Buchanan of Darien, CT claimed the first Master's Medal gold medal with Lizzie Dickie of Old Greenwich, CT wearing the silver. Orlaith Carr of Weston, CT was awarded the bronze.
A few weeks after the show, Judge Timpanara called the CHJA office with kudos for the entire event. She stated that, "the CHJA Medal Finals was a class act. I was so impressed with the riders and applaud the trainers for having their qualifiers so well prepared and perfectly turned out."