Lexington, Ky. – Oct. 27, 2019 – The final day of the 2019 National Horse Show’s Opening Weekend, which showcased equitation classes for all ages, offered two final championship opportunities for exhibitors Sunday. Up against a lofty field of 161 athletes in the start list, Eleanor Rudnicki proved her prowess in the equitation ring riding Quinten F throughout multiple rounds of competition to emerge victorious as the 2019 winner of the Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3'3" Equitation Championship, the class which featured the most entries all weekend. In the Boggs Hill National Horse Show KHJA Equitation Championship, Emily White topped the scorecard aboard Scandeek thanks to two strong showing over fences and on the flat.
Designed by Bobby Murphy, the 12-effort track presented exhibitors with a number of opportunities to highlight their abilities in front of the judges panel, which was comprised of Emil Spadone and Mary Lisa Leffler. Following the first round of riding, 161 hopeful entries were whittled down to only 24 of the top performers, each of whom were invited back to the Alltech Arena to battle it out with their peers at least twice more, once under saddle and another time over fences, plus additional testing if required. Turning in the strongest showings during the first two rounds, Rudnicki, Ainsley Wade, Lilly Goldstein, Jordan Gibbs and Vanessa McCaughley led the standings headed into the final jumping phase.
Once again, Murphy’s track provided a handful of route options in order for exhibitors to distinguish themselves from their peers, and many competitors took advantage of the opportunities with a series of inside turns. Sitting as the frontrunner after the first over fences and under saddle portions of the contest, Rudnicki had the advantage of jumping Murphy’s second pattern last since the qualified individuals returned in reverse order of the standings.
At the conclusion of the second jumping portion, only two riders, 14-year-old Rudnicki and 16-year-old Wade, were asked back for a final work-off in order for the judges to determine who would receive the 2019 class honors. Coincidentally, Rudnicki and Wade rode back-to-back in the initial order of go, with Rudnicki riding 45th in the start list aboard Jessie Rechs’ Quinten F and Wade as the 46th of the day with the reins on her own Cumano Boy Z. Returning for one final test, the two ladies switched horses for a competitive flat work-off. After a nail biting ride-off, the results were in: Rudnicki had captured the championship after leading from start to finish in the 2019 Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3'3" Equitation Championship. Wade was awarded the reserve honors, and Lola Head moved up from eighth place to capture the final podium spot.
Impressively, Sunday’s victory came during Rudnicki’s first year competing in the equitation ranks as well as her first indoors season. Adding another level of prestige to her win is the fact that she only rode Quinten F for the first time one week ago, but the young rider quickly learned to adapt to the horse and rode as if on a familiar mount. Rudnicki is coming off an already successful week at the National Horse Show, having earned the championship tricolor in the Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett Under 14 Equitation, presented by Palm Beach International Academy, on Saturday. Moving forward, Rudnicki will continue to ride in the junior hunters and equitation, with her sights set on the major medal classes next year.
Commencing the day’s activities earlier in the morning, the Boggs Hill National Horse Show KHJA Equitation Championship brought a contingent of talented horses and riders to the forefront to compete for the tricolors over two rounds of riding. Athletes had the opportunity to jump at either the 2’6” height or the 3’ height, with the pack splitting in half to tackle their preferred fences. Up first, the 2’6” exhibitors took their turns around the Bobby Murphy-designed track, followed by the 3’ challengers, who ultimately proved to shine the brightest as the top three finishers each opted for the higher obstacles.
Headed into the flat phase, White, Melodie Robitaille and Lilli Power each had garnered top scores to keep them in contention for the title with their respective mounts, but White’s faultless performance under saddle pushed her to the top of the scorecard, clinching the top spot on the podium as the 2019 Boggs Hill National Horse Show KHJA Equitation champion. Power and her own Wingman ultimately earned second position overall, followed by Robitaille and Coveted, owned by S&R Investment Group LLC.
A veteran equitation competitor and previously a coach, White took advantage of the opportunity provided by the National Horse Show to continue competing as an adult, which helped to allow her to remain partners with her own Scandeek, who she began riding in the equitation as a junior. Thanks to their longtime relationship, White and Scandeek have continued to accrue accolades in the adult classes, and earlier this year won the Ariat National Adult Medal during the Kentucky Spring Horse Show.
Sunday’s competition concludes the Opening Weekend of the 2019 National Horse Show, but equestrian action will resume Tuesday, Oct. 29, with the first classes in a series of hunter divisions.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Eleanor Rudnicki - Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3'3" Equitation Championship winner
On her plan for the day:
“I was super excited to progress to each phase, but it was super nerve-wracking, especially being on top. In the first round I just wanted to put in a smooth round that would move me onto the second round. In the second round I wanted to be a little bolder and do more inside turns, but just really put in a smooth round. When I heard there was going to be a test, I was a little nervous but I was pretty excited that I moved on to the last phase and it all turned out well.”
On competing at the National Horse Show:
“This is my first year doing any of the indoors at all or any of the equitation, so it’s pretty exciting to be here. It feels amazing to win. I’m so glad and happy that we won!”
On her plans for the future:
“I think that I want to keep continuing to do the 3’6” equitation and hopefully move up to do the Maclay and Medal Finals next year, as well as continue to compete in the junior hunters and be consistent.”
Ainsley Wade - Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3'3" Equitation Championship, second place
On switching horses in the test:
“My first thought was ‘OK! Time to do this!’ When I saw her horse go I knew it would be a perfect match. It seemed like her horse was going really well for her and mine had been great for me so I felt good going into the ring. I felt confident.”
On her plan after being called back for phase two:
“When my trainer and I were walking the course, we made a plan to be as aggressive as we could without making any big mistakes. I watched what other riders did and focused on the track that we walked. For the test, Eleanor and I spoke for a few minutes before and shared some tips. She told me to be prepared for the counter-canter so I felt very prepared. I couldn’t have asked it to be any better.”
On competing in the class:
“This is my first year and a half of doing the big equitation and when I did Maclay regionals, I unfortunately did not qualify but we had this in our back pocket so this is the perfect in-between! Being able to do the age group equitation was such a great transition into this and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
Lola Head - Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3'3" Equitation Championship, third place
On her experience:
“I have been riding Apollo since June. He is a little green but very sweet and I just love him and trust him. I have only been doing equitation for a few months and this is only my second equitation final ever so I am happy that I made it here and was able to get around.”
Kristen Hamel - Sponsors of the Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3'3" Equitation Championship
On sponsoring the 3’3” equitation championship and watching it grow:
“It has been tremendous to watch this class grow and honestly we can not believe how big it has gotten! Everybody here is so happy to be here and it is a blessing. We are very happy that we are able to provide this opportunity to so many people.”
Emily White - Boggs Hill National Horse Show KHJA Equitation Championship winner
On winning the Boggs Hill NHS KHJA Equitation Championship:
“I was really excited because I have had my horse for six years and when I was 16 years old and competing at the National Horse Show in the ASPCA Maclay, I never thought that I would be 22 years old and be able to be back winning in the adult equitation. I am so grateful that the show has added adult classes so that we can keep going and I did not have to sell my horse.”
On her horse:
“ ‘Saturn’ is very quirky and super fun to ride. Every day I feel like I learn something new. When we first got him he was green, and now it is fun to have a long history with him and reap the benefits of our hard work together after six years.”
On the course:
“I thought the course was nice. I like starting with a line because if I start with a single I am more likely to second guess it. It was exciting to get to be in the Alltech Arena. I did not have the best round last night so I just went into the ring with the intent to stay focused and have a positive and forward ride.”
Kelly Goguen - Sponsor of the Boggs Hill National Horse Show KHJA Equitation Championship
On sponsoring the National Horse Show KHJA Championship:
“I think for us, this horse show is the nicest horse show in the country. It is very special to us to have it in our backyard so that if there is any way that we can support it, we are happy to do so. I think offering this class gives a lot of people the opportunity to show here that couldn't have, or a good starting point for some people or in Emily’s case, as an adult to come back and keep showing. We are honored that we are asked to be a part of this event. This is a fantastic horse show and the management does a phenomenal job and we are thrilled to be a part of it.”