Lexington, KY– Nov. 6, 2016 – The 2016 CP National Horse Show concluded on Sunday with Hunter Holloway of Topeka, Kansas, claiming her second consecutive equitation championship of the year in the prestigious ASPCA Maclay National Championship, presented by Chansonette Farm. Under the guidance of Don Stewart, Holloway piloted C’est La Vie through two rounds of over-fences competition and one flat phase to claim the year’s most highly sought-after prize in equitation for junior riders.
“I’m very happy and excited,” said Holloway. “It’s such an honor to win such a prestigious class and I couldn’t be happier with how the day went. My horse was wonderful and it was super. I was trying to focus, and ride to the best of my ability and put my best foot forward.”
Holloway just won her first major equitation championship one week ago at the Washington International Horse Show with her veteran equitation mount Any Given Sunday. However, when the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding showed symptoms of a fever this week before the Maclay, Holloway and Stewart made the last minute decision to have Holloway compete with C’est La Vie instead — her Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals East mount.
“It was a little last minute switcheroo,” said Holloway. “Any Given Sunday wasn’t feeling his best; he had a temperature, but he’ll be back in no time. We got [C’est La Vie] the week before USET finals. He’s a super horse and he wants to do the best he can. He lives to please.”
The ASPCA Maclay National Championship kicked off at 6 a.m. on Saturday with 175 riders in the first round of over-fences competition. Judges Diane Carney and Rachel Kennedy narrowed the list down to the top 30 exhibitors, with Brian Moggre of Flower Mound, Texas, aboard Viceroy leading the way at the end of the first day.
Day two of the ASPCA Maclay National Championship consisted of the flat phase and the second over-fences round. Three groups of 10 entered the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park and demonstrated their equitation on the flat. During the flat portion, the judges requested riders to show a lengthening and shortening of stride at the trot and canter as well as a rising and sitting trot.
Next came the second over-fences round. The first half of the course challenged riders with a triple bar as the first fence, a forward outside line to a skinny vertical, rollback to an oxer to a bending line into a triple combination (vertical-oxer-oxer). The second portion of the course tested riders over a three-stride vertical-to-vertical line with no ground poles around the end of the arena and then asked riders to demonstrate a counter canter to fence 10, trot fence 11 and counter canter once again to the final fence 12.
“Smooth counted first,” said Carney. “Smooth always counts first. Today’s course had much more in it about style and what I frequently call ‘good horse IQ.’ They had to think like a horse and they had to have a feel of what was going on; they had to have a plan. The course was set so that after fence seven they had that long gallop back around to the three-stride to start the testing portion. The course was designed with those three tests — the counter canter, the trot jump and then the counter canter again. They really had to have a plan out of the three. Just holding the counter lead roughly would not have been better than a smooth simple change, but if you could do the counter canter, hold the lead, keep it and keep the impulsion to that oxer, that was a very big test and very sophisticated to do that well.
“The first course certainly has the job of sorting out the lucky riders who have qualified through all of the regionals,” continued Carney. “The course itself was designed to test the rider’s ability to keep a connection with their horse. The jumps were in the way of the corners, not the corners in the way of the jumps. The test tested the ability to stay in contact with the horse in the air with an automatic or following hand or release jumping out of hand. The idea was that the riders were connected. The riders that weren’t connected, you saw a varying track. You saw them fall back in the air, you saw extra strides, you saw a lot of different things. If you watched all 175, as we did, you saw quite a bit, but you also saw excellence, which was the 30 that came back today. It was about the straight connection and the balance in the air.”
Eighteen-year-old Holloway, who is concluding her last junior year, returned to the second over-fences round in third according to the judges’ order of preference after the first round of over-fences on Saturday and Sunday’s flat phase. Displaying textbook position throughout the entirety of the course, Holloway landed the first counter canter out of the vertical-vertical line around the corner and then executed a clean flying change to the counter lead on the way to the final oxer. ASPCA Maclay National Championship commentator and “founding father” of hunt seat equitation, George Morris, described Holloway’s round as “so classic — execution flawless.”
“The real test came off the oxer to the three-stride because I wanted to make sure that I landed left,” Holloway explained. “That allowed us to focus on holding the lead through the corner and having the impulsion to get over the oxer. I was planning on landing the trot fence and getting a nice flying change and he was super!”
“This is our seventh year together,” Stewart, Holloway’s trainer, explained. “She had been knocking at the door and she was second in the Maclay two years ago. Hunter is a very driven person and loves a challenge. She always wants to know what else she can do no matter how good the round was. Hunter always has a lot of confidence and we try to keep definite decisions and definite plans.”
Reserve finisher Taylor St. Jacques, 17 years old, of Glen Allen, Virginia, followed a similar path to Holloway, landing the first counter canter and finishing strong to the last jump with her mount Charisma.
“I thought it was absolutely amazing,” St. Jacques said. “He’s a really special horse and I am definitely thankful for the opportunity to ride him. He landed every lead I needed and he performed his absolute best.”
“I was very fortunate to be able to pair Charisma with Taylor in September,” said St. Jacques’ trainer Andre Dignelli of Heritage Farm. “I always knew that he was a special horse and he needed to have a special rider.”
When asked what the difference was between Holloway and St. Jacques, Carney said, “I would like to compliment both riders on doing an exceptional job on course. The difference between [the top two riders] really was in that Taylor continued to move up in her rankings between the three phases, while Hunter continued to outperform and had been sitting around the top position throughout the weekend. Her round today was even better than yesterday’s round. Her round looked fabulous to us today.”
TJ O’Mara, 18 years old and winner of the 2016 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals East and Pessoa/US Hunter Seat Medal Final, ended his last junior year with a third place finish in the ASPCA Maclay National Championship. O’Mara from Rumson, New Jersey, and Kaskade showed off their strong partnership with a relaxed and bold trip as well as executing their signature flawless flying changes to achieve the first counter canter to fence 10.
“I have an incredible relationship with my mare and I think of all the finals I was probably happiest with my round today,” O’Mara explained. “After my round yesterday my goal was just to keep on putting in rounds and try to have my best round in my last show. I just couldn’t be happier with my rounds today.”
During the awards ceremony following the 2016 ASPCA Maclay National Championship, Holloway was presented the ASPCA Horsemanship Trophy, donated by the late Alfred B. Maclay, Esq. The Maclay National Championship Trainer Award, donated by the Walker Family, was presented to Holloway’s trainer, Don Stewart. In addition, the Gordon Wright Perpetual Trophy was awarded to the Holloway family.
TJ O’Mara received the Iris McNeal Perpetual Trophy, donated by Susie Schoellkopf, David Distler and Walter J. Lee. The trophy was awarded to a junior rider who best exemplifies the qualities that Iris McNeil held close to her heart throughout her life. O’Mara was recognized for his strong work ethic, horsemanship and outstanding sense of sportsmanship.
The ASPCA Maclay National Championship has been held since 1933, and it is one of the most prestigious competitions for junior riders in the United States. Its winners are some of the biggest names in equestrian sport. Previous winners include: William Steinkraus in 1941, Frank Chapot (1948), George Morris (1952), Leslie Burr Howard (1972), Stacia Klein Madden (1987) and Nicole Shahinian Simpson (1992). The 2014 ASPCA Maclay National Championship winner was Tori Colvin of Loxahatchee, Florida, and in 2015 McKayla Langmeier of East Granby, Connecticut, won the title.