Elli Yeager, 16, of Wellington, FL, bested a field of 40 of the nation’s top junior riders to win the 2018 Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund WIHS Equitation Finals on Saturday.
In order to win the competitive, year-end equitation final, Yeager had to earn the highest cumulative score over three phases of competition: a hunter phase held on Friday, a jumper phase held on Saturday afternoon, and a final work-off held during Saturday night’s featured session. Riders’ average scores from the first two rounds were combined, with the 10 top-ranked competitors then swapping horses in the work-off.
Elli Yeager and Copperfield 39. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Yeager and her longtime partner, Copperfield 39, topped the hunter phase with a score of 92.50 and finished fourth in the jumper phase with a score of 91.25 for a 183.75 total going into the final round.
The win in the jumper phase went to Coco Fath of Fairfield, CT, on a score of 94.50. With a fourth-place finish and a score of 89.25 in the hunter phase, Fath’s cumulative total also sat on 183.75, putting she and her Beacon Hill Show Stables barn mate, Yeager, in a tie going into the final round.
For the work-off, the two front-runners swapped mounts, with Fath taking over the ride aboard Copperfield 39, and Yeager taking the reins on Fath’s mount, equitation championship veteran Class Action, who won the Finals in 2008 with Katherine Newman.
Elli Yeager, pictured aboard Class Action, won the 2018 Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund WIHS Equitation Finals Victory. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
While both delivered seamless rounds, a well-executed inside turn by Yeager, which Fath elected to forego, would give Yeager the slight, tie-breaking advantage and ultimately the 2018 WIHS Equitation Finals victory. For the win, Yeager was presented with the WIHS Equitation Classic Trophy, donated by Mr. & Mrs. G. Ralph Ours, III, and, as the winning horse, Copperfield 39 was awarded the Lugano Memorial Trophy, donated by Stoney Hill.
“This is my favorite horse show, and it went better than I ever could have imagined!” said Yeager, who trains with Stacia Madden at Beacon Hill Show Stables. “I didn’t think this was ever going to happen to be honest – especially just being 16. But it happened, and I’m just elated that it happened here at my favorite horse show with my favorite horse who is the best partner that I could ask for.”
Yeager has been riding her winning mount, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, for nearly six years.
“Over the years, I’ve grown about 10 inches, but he’s always been the same,” said Yeager. “He always has his game face on. He’s never let me down. He’s been the best horse I could have ever asked for.”
Elli Yeager won the 2018 Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund WIHS Equitation Finals Victory. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Fath, 18, voiced similar sentiments toward both Class Action, a 19-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Hillside Farm LLC, and her second place finish in the class.
“I couldn’t be happier to be here – a top two finish,” said Fath, who trains with Madden, as well as Molly Ashe Cawley and Chris Cawley at Norfield Stables. “I was so happy with my horse all week. He’s always great so I can always count on him. This is a great horse show. I love the fact that they have the hunter round and the jumper round; I think it really displays what you’re aiming for post-junior years. I think it’s a great competition. I was so happy to have some great rounds today and yesterday.”
“I think both of them just have an unbelievable appreciation for their horse; I think the partnership really shows,” said Madden. “That’s where these kids really shine: when they have good partnerships with their horse. With the tight time allowed in the jumper phase, you could really see the trust and the showmanship that these girls had and the partnership that they had with their horses.”
Finishing in third behind Yeager and Fath was Brian Moggre of Flower Mound, TX, who trains with Mike McCormick and Tracey Fenney of MTM Farm, Ken and Emily Smith of Ashland Farms, and Don Stewart.
Presiding over the competition were judges Anne Kursinski, Brian Lenehan, Mike Rosser, and Steve Wall.
“I think it’s the most interesting of the equitation finals because of all the different phases that there are,” said Kursinski. “It’s fun to judge it because of the quality of the American young riders coming up, which is outstanding. I think our young riders coming up are really exciting. It was really splitting hairs tonight judging them because they all rode so well.
“Good for Washington for putting on a wonderful event,” concluded Kursinski. “I thought the course was super. It was fun to watch and fun to judge. I’m excited about the future of U.S. show jumping.”