Junior & Adult Riders Rise to the Occasion During Equitation Weekend at Capital Challenge

Dominic Gibbs Gets the Win in Palm Beach International Academy North American Junior Equitation Championshpis

The final national championships of the BIGEQ.com Equitation Weekend at the Capital Challenge Horse Show were awarded to Dominic Gibbs and Eleanor Rudnicki on Sunday, September 29, at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD. Gibbs bested a field of 116 of those riders to win the Palm Beach International Academy (PBIA) North American Junior Equitation Championships.

“It’s really just an unbelievable feeling,” said Gibbs, 15, of Colorado Springs, CO, following his win. “I can’t thank my trainers and horse enough. It’s just incredible to be here.”

Dominic Gibbs and Cent 15. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

Following an opening jumping round, the top 20 riders in the PBIA North American Junior Equitation Championship were invited back to jump a second round in reverse order of their standings.

With a score of 89.33 earned over the first-round course designed by Ken Krome, Gibbs sat atop the leaderboard coming into the second round.

“The first round was amazing,” said judge Rob Bielefeld, who presided over the course alongside Linda Andrisani, Brian Lenehan, Jimmy Torano, Steve Wall, and Sissy Wickes.

“If you weren’t in the mid 80s you weren’t coming back,” continued Bielefeld, referencing the cut-off score of 84.78 needed to qualify and return for the top 20.

For Gibbs, returning last as the top-ranked rider was nerve-wracking, but he never let it show as he executed a seamless round to earn a score of 91.33 for a 180.66.

“I was saying to my mom earlier, before my second round, that I hate coming back in first!” said Gibbs, who trains with Stacia Madden and the team at Beacon Hill Show Stables in Colts Neck, NJ. “It’s so much pressure on the rider. I have been having to deal with nerves a lot lately, and I just had to really cool it all down and take the pressure off and ride the best that I can. I think just focusing on other things and not putting the pressure on really helps a lot.”

That approach worked on Sunday, with Gibbs’s final total of 180.66 putting him nearly four points ahead of the rest of the field, which eliminated the need for any additional testing. Finishing in second place with scores of 86.78 and 90.00 for a 176.78 total was Paige Matthies of Lake Leelanau, MI, riding Blurred Lines, owned by Barbara Smith. Third place was awarded to Breanna Bunevacz of Calabasas, CA, who earned an overall score of 174.96 aboard Vondel DH Z, owned by Epic Performance LLC.

“It was stiff competition,” said Bielefeld. “The quality of the riding was excellent. The quality of the training was excellent, and the quality of the horses was excellent. Each year it gets more and more competitive.

Dominic Gibbs, 15, of Colorado Springs, CO, won the Palm Beach International Academy (PBIA) North American Junior Equitation Championships. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

“The horse [Gibbs] rides is a match made in heaven,” continued Bielefeld in speaking of Gibbs’s winning mount, Cent 15, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Mountain King Ranch LLC, that Gibbs began competing in February of this year.

“[Cent 15] is unbelievable. He’s one of the nicest horses that I’ve ever ridden,” said Gibbs, who has been living in New Jersey in order to train with Beacon Hill and who also trains with Harriet Bunker when he is at home in Colorado.  “I’m just so thankful for the amazing horses that I have and the amazing coaches. It feels really great, and I never thought I would be doing something this amazing. I don’t even know how to put the feelings into words.”

Eleanor Rudnicki Rides to THIS National Children’s Medal Finals Win

The win in Sunday’s Taylor Harris Insurance Services (THIS) National Children’s Medal Finals went to Eleanor Rudnicki, 13, of The Woodlands, TX.

The top 40 THIS National Children’s Medal competitors, qualifying from across the country, were invited to compete in the final at Capital Challenge, and the top 10 from Sunday’s first round then qualified to come back for the second round.

Eleanor Rudnicki and CF Cosmic. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

Rudnicki sat in first place with a score of 89.83 following the first round, and she only further cemented her lead with a score of 88.16 in the second round for a winning 177.99 total.

Finishing in second place with scores of 86 and 88 for a 174 total was Amira Kettaneh of Hollis, NH, aboard Automatic, owned by Leigh Kettaneh. Third place was awarded to Isabel Rudaz of Westport, CT, who earned scores of 87.16 and 83.46 for a 170.62 total with Ullrich, owned by Donald Stewart.

“To win the Taylor Harris Medal means a lot because my trainer and I have been working all year just to get here,” said Rudnicki, who trains with Berry Porter at Brookside Pine Farms in Conroe, TX. “This is my first year being at Capital Challenge, so it means a lot. This is my favorite horse show that I’ve been to so far. It’s just such a cool environment. It’s really fun.”

As the third-ranked rider in the THIS National Children’s Medal national standings, Rudnicki knew she wanted to contest the final, but she was uncertain what horse she would compete on at Capital Challenge – until her best friend, Sophia Cady, made a kind offer.

The win in the 2019 Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Children’s Medal Finals went to Eleanor Rudnicki of The Woodlands, TX. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

“I was unfortunately hospitalized and unable to make it to ride this week,” said Cady, who intended to compete during BIGEQ.com Equitation Weekend as well. “So, we thought that we would like Eleanor to ride Cosmic for us, and we’re eternally grateful that she did!”

While Cady did not get to show herself, she was released from the hospital and able to be there on Sunday to watch her best friend win aboard her eight-year-old Oldenburg gelding CF Cosmic. For Cady, Rudnicki and CF Cosmic’s victory was an exciting silver-lining in an otherwise negative situation, and for Rudnicki, it made the win a little extra special.

Jacqueline Attwood-DuPont Wins North American Adult Amateur Equitation Championships

Jacqueline Attwood-Dupont kicked off Equitation Weekend with a win in the North American Adult Amateur Equitation Championships. Hailing from Los Angeles, CA, Attwood-Dupont, 32, made the cross-country trip to contest the North American Adult Amateur Equitation Championships for the third year in a row, this time besting 22 entries to clinch the victory aboard Black Label, owned by Dorothy Attwood.

Jacqueline Attwood-Dupont and Black Label. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

“I loved every minute of it,” said Attwood-Dupont, who finished second in the class in 2018 and this year led the class from beginning to end after an initial score of 88.33 shot her to the top of the leaderboard. She then replicated her performance when the top 10 returned in reverse order of their standings for a second round, this time scoring an 88.00 to secure the win with 176.33 total score.

“My rounds went about as well as I could have hoped!” said Attwood-Dupont, who grew up in nearby Annapolis, MD, and frequently competed at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center as a junior. “I’ve grown up riding in the equitation. I don’t do it often anymore, but every year I show in the North American Adult Equitation Championship because I love equitation, and it’s a special class. Showing in the equitation at Capital Challenge is special to me because I did it for so many years as a junior. It’s wonderful to be able to continue showing in that division.”

For Attwood-Dupont – who trains with Erin Duffy, also of Los Angeles – returning to Capital Challenge also means the opportunity to reconnect with East Coast friends while showing against new competition and familiar faces – like that of second place finisher in the North American Adult Equitation Championship, Shannon Davidson.

A fellow West Coast rider, Davidson of Rancho Mission Viejo, CA, earned scores of 86 and 83.66 for a 169.66 total aboard her own Bespoke to take the reserve champion title, while third place with scores of 84.16, 81.50, and a 165.66 total went to Anna Koenig of Hollywood, FL, riding Ballendro, owned by Ashland Farms.

Jacqueline Attwood-Dupont earned the win in the North American Adult Amateur Equitation Championships on Friday, September 27. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

Also earning winning accolades on Friday was the 2018 winner of the North American Adult Amateur Equitation Championships, Martha Ingram.

This year, Ingram, 22, of Nashville, TN, topped both the Adult Amateur Equitation division over fences classes and finished second on the flat before being champion in the Adult Amateur Equitation division, sponsored by Caraneen Smith. Ingram earned the title aboard Airport 48, a 16-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by John & Stephanie Ingram, LLC.