After a year of qualifying, 239 riders entered the New Holland Arena at the 2019 Pennsylvania National Horse Show (PNHS) vying for top honors in the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final. It was 17-year-old Emma Fletcher aboard Bournedale who accomplished that goal.
“This (win) just means everything to me,” Fletcher said. “Growing up with a trainer as a parent (mother Kathryn Fletcher), you watch it and you want to do it, and today I got to do that and know I could do it. It means everything, really.”
Emma Fletcher and Bournedale (c) Al Cook Photography
Ending her junior career with style, Fletcher (Buzzards Bay, MA) rode away with the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Final Championship and the Adrian van Sinderen Memorial Perpetual Trophy with Bournedale, the 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Kathryn Fletcher. Bournedale, one of the youngest horses in the competition, showed poise and composure with only having one Final under his belt, the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East.
“When I tried him (Bournedale), he had a great canter and an amazing brain,” Fletcher said. “He’s come along so well and is just one of the best minded horses I’ve ever sat on. He’s fantastic.”
After the preliminary round, 25 hopefuls were invited back to test over an abbreviated second course requiring a hand gallop, counter canter, and a demonstration of a sitting trot. The top six then returned for one final test where they had to transition to walk between lines, canter fences in the opposite direction, and demonstrate a turn on the haunches.
“I’m very excited because I had the privilege of choosing between two horses that I love,” Fletcher said. “Every jump presented itself nicely and he (Bournedale) ate up the lines, his stride is large, and it just worked out well. I’m just excited to make my parents super proud.”
According to judges Cynthia Hankins and Kip Rosenthal, the top 14 horse-and-rider combinations all scored in the 90’s, and final placings came down to just fractions of a point.
“It was a long day and the scores were so close,” Rosenthal said. “They were all wonderful. What really nailed it (for the champion) was the turn on the haunches, she (Fletcher) did that beautifully. Her jumps were nice, and her turn on the haunches, in our opinion, was a true turn on the haunches. She was great.”
Reserve Champion Jordan Allen and Quite Cassini (c) Al Cook Photography
Jordan Allen (West Bloomfield, MI) was Reserve Champion with Ashland Farms’ Quite Cassini, a 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding who was presented the PNHS Best Equitation Horse Award. Allen was third to ride in the work-off, but her beautiful final test gave her the edge over fellow competitors.
“It (the class) started out great,” Allen said. “I have the mecca of equitation horses, and I just feel very lucky to ride him (Quite Cassini). No one deserves a horse like him, so it was very exciting. The first round was one of the best rounds; I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. He didn’t put a foot wrong all day.”
Sam Walker (Nobleton, Ontario) took third aboard Waldo, the 12-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by North Run Farm. Walker’s preparation for the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final was slightly different than his fellow competitors’, but it still paid off in the end.
“I haven’t ridden Waldo for a few months because I’m based in Canada and Missy (Clark) is here in the States,” Walker said. “We just never ended up connecting after Lake Placid, but I can say when I was home, I stayed dedicated to make sure I was preparing myself the best that I could. It was nice to get here and get back on him (Waldo). We didn’t skip a beat, and I’m really proud of him today.”
Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final Champion Emma Fletcher and Bournedale (c) Al Cook Photography