Alexandra Carlton of Madison, CT, ended her summer season with her first grand prix victory in the $30,000 Mount Equinox Grand Prix, presented by Hampton Inn & Suites Manchester, on Saturday, July 28, during the 25th annual Vermont Summer Festival, which runs through August 12 at Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, VT.
The jump-off over Canadian Olympic individual silver medalist Michel Vaillancourt’s courses was a duel between 24-year-old Carlton and grand prix veteran Marylisa Leffler. Returning first, Leffler of Brookville, MD, led off fault free in 42.18 seconds riding Luminous, owned by Rolling Acres Show Stables, before Carlton shaved nearly three seconds off her leading time. She and Cardiograaf stopped the clock clear in 39.90 seconds.
Carlton purchased a new pair of breeches Saturday morning before the second grand prix start of her career and the fresh attire came with the luck she needed to earn a blue ribbon.
“My mother nicknamed them my farewell breeches,” said Carlton, who will begin some time off from competition next week to focus on her first year of law school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. “It is kind of sad, but really exciting. [Cardiograaf] and I have grown up together. I got him when he was six from Mark Jungherr and we started in the 1.10m before stepping up into the 1.30m and 1.35m over the past year.
“A lot of people have had a hand in his upbringing and now he’s perfect,” continued Carlton of her 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Quasimodo Z, a mount she rides under the direction of Cedar Brook Farm trainer Kristi Smith. “He’s quirky, but amazing. For me to hold it together out there is the big deal. He is a huge confidence builder because he always takes care of me.”
Carlton has been focusing on her riding in the amateur ranks for the past two years after graduating from the University of Vermont with an English degree. She has been competing at the Vermont Summer Festival her whole life saying, “I started riding in the leadline here when I was four and have moved through all the divisions. It’s beautiful; like a vacation and horse show at the same time!”
In recognition of her first grand prix victory, Carlton was awarded a scrim by Mona’s Monograms as well as a crystal trophy. In addition, the Vermont Summer Festival also recognized her groom, Juan Migueles, with the weekly Grand Prix Groom Award in honor of his efforts to prepare Cardiograaf for grand prix competition. He was presented with a monogrammed jacket and coolerette from sponsor Glenn Geary of Horsewatch.
Ireland’s Christian Coyle, now based out of Old Salem Farm in North Salem, NY, posted the fastest four-fault performance in the opening round to finish third riding Dolce Vita KDW Z for owner Andrew Kocher. Also scoring four faults, David Tromp of Morriston, FL, was fourth aboard Gogo Nabab, and Elizabeth Stroh of Grosse Pointe Farm, FL, rounded out the top five riding Coralina, owned by Cloverly Farm, LLC.