Tessa Brown Rises Under Pressure in WIHS Equitation Finals

There was no stopping 15-year-old Tessa Brown of Jamaica, VT, who scored big in the prestigious WIHS Equitation Finals riding Davide, a 12-year-old gelding owned by Equipearl, LLC.

A field of 40 started the competitive equitation final, which spanned two days. Riders started with a hunter phase held on Friday, then completed a jumper phase held on Saturday afternoon, and then 10 riders qualified for a final work-off. Riders’ average scores from the first two rounds were combined, with the 10 top-ranked competitors then swapping horses in the work-off. The highest combined total score won the class.

Tessa Brown on Davide. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography. 

The added pressure of a coveted year-end final was no problem for Brown, who took seventh in the hunter phase with a score of 86 before posting an 89.75 in the jumper phase. She again impressed the judges, Erynn Ballard, Robin Rost-Brown, Nicole Shahinian-Simpson, and Jimmy Torano, with a score of 91.5 in the work-off. Finishing in second was Sophee Steckbeck of Clarksburg, NJ.

“Last year was my first year [at WIHS], and sadly, because of the unprecedented times, we are not in Washington D.C., but I have to say everybody involved has done an incredible job at keeping the prestige and excitement, and I think that helped the riders and horses feel the importance of this class,” said Brown, who is a junior at Watkinson School in Hartford, CT. “Going into yesterday, I rode for Davide, for the Rosemont team, and everything they have helped me accomplish. I love that I am here doing it on the horse of a lifetime.”

Brown has trained with Kyla Makhloghi of Rosemont Farm since age eight. “I’m feeling unbelievably proud,” said Makhloghi. “The reason today was able to go as it did is because Tess and I have prepared like every day, every practice, every class, every show matters. So, when it comes down to a pressure situation, it feels familiar because that’s how we train. It’s easy to get bogged down in scores, points, and qualifying, but at the end of the day sustained success is only possible through sustained practice, and today is a testament to that.”

For the work-off, Brown happily drew the mount of Dominic Gibbs, the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding Cent 15, owned by Mountain King Ranch, LLC.

“When Kyla and I were talking about how we could get into the work-off, I said, ‘I want to ride Cent 15, he seems like so much fun,’” recalled Brown. “I went in like it was another chance of a lifetime on an amazing horse.”

Tessa Brown, Davide, and trainer Kyla Makhloghi in their presentation ceremony with Anne Poulson, WIHS Chairman, WIHS president Victoria Lowell, and 2019 winner Sam Walker. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography.

After her win, Brown complimented the WIHS Equitation Finals runner-up saying, “Sophee [Steckbeck] is an amazing rider, she deserved that as much as I did and she rode amazing. When they called me to be first, it really felt like all of this hard work, all of these hours, all the sweat, all the tears, all the excitement of what comes along with being an equestrian came together. It was emotional because I am just so proud of us. It’s a big deal, and I’m really happy.”

Steckbeck piloted Zapfier, a 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Missy Clark, to consistent scores of 87.5 in the hunter phase and 88.75 in the jumper phase. For the work-off, she drew Charisma, the 13-year-old gelding owned by Heritage Farm, and scored an 89.5 to finish second.

“This is the first year that I’ve been up in the rankings, and I am very happy with the results,” said Steckbeck, 17, of her third and final year in WIHS Equitation Finals. “Going into the work-off, you get a different kind of nerves because anything could happen. I was happy to be on Zayna Rizvi’s horse. She’s a barn-mate of mine, and I’ve watched that horse go for a long time and I think he’s the coolest horse. Finally getting to ride him was amazing. He felt great in the work-off.”

Steckbeck, who trains with John Brennan, Missy Clark, and Brian Feigus, is a Senior at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, NJ, and is committed to attend Auburn University and ride for its equestrian team next year.

Finishing in third on a final combined tally of 267.25 was Ellie Ferrigno, 18, of Newtown, CT, riding FRH Remarkable, an 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by FRH Group. Ferrigno is trained by Valerie Renihan of Findlay’s Ridge based in Wellington, FL.

The Washington International Horse Show concludes at TIEC on Sunday, October 25, with the WIHS Pony Equitation Finals. For more information on WIHS 2020 and the $214,000 President’s Cup Grand Prix CSI4* presented by MARS Equestrian™, click here and follow WIHS on Facebook.

WIHS Equitation Finals
Rider | Horse | Hunter Phase/Jumper Phase/Work-off | Final Score
1. Tessa Brown | Davide | 86/89.75/91.5 | 267.25
2. Sophee Steckbeck | Zapfier | 87.5/88.75/89.5 | 265.75
3. Ellie Ferrigno | FRH Remarkable | 86.25/84/87 | 257.25
4. Dominic Gibbs | Cent 15 | 90/84.75/82 | 256.75
5. Eliza Kimball | Early Winter | 82.625/84/85 | 251.625
6. Hannah Hoch | Conthacco | 86.5/85.425/79.5 | 251.425
7. Natalie Jayne | Charisma | 84/85.37/81.5 | 250.875
8. Zayna Rizvi | Finnick | 90/88/70 | 248
9. Austin Krawitt | Vendredi Riverland | 80.75/88.5/70 | 239.25
10. Skylar Fields | Commentator | 84.875/85.5/66 | 236.27