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.
Eleanor Rudnicki won the 2019 Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3’3″ Equitation Championship. Photo by Phelps Sports.
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.
Ainsley Wade and Cumano Boy Z. Photo by Phelps Sports
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.
“I was super excited to progress to each phase, but it was super nerve-wracking, especially being on top,” shared the 2019 Champion. “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.”
Rudnicki wasn’t the only one a bit nervous for the test option, runner-up Wade also had some initial concerns.
“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.”
Eleanor Rudnicki and Cumano Boy Z. Photo by Phelps Sports
Impressively, Sunday’s successes came during both Rudnicki’s and Wade’s first year competing in the equitation. Wade shared her thoughts on her experience in the Big Eq ring so far: “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.”
Adding another level of prestige to Rudnicki’s 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.
Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3’3″ Equitation Championship
1. Eleanor Rudnicki / Quinten F / Jessie Rechs
2. Ainsley Wade / Cumano Boy Z / Ainsley Wade
3. Lola Head / Apollo / Lola Head
4. Vanessa Mccaughley / Center Line / River Hill Farm
5. Annalise Manoog / Carollo / Nicole Manoog
6. Zoe Whitehead Rockas / Colibri / Maarten Huygens