In a nail-biting jump-off, Team KPF earned their first team win of the 2023 Major League Show Jumping season on Saturday evening at Traverse City Horse Shows. The all-American trio of Natalie Dean, Kent Farrington and Alison Robitaille made up the winning team in the Premiere Equestrian CSI5* Team Competition. It was Robitaille and Ester de Maugre who sealed the deal for the formerly unlucky team in the gold-medal jump-off by topping the Trailblazers’ Darragh Kenny (IRL) aboard Eddy Blue by six one-hundredths of a second.
Team KPF was the first to take to the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring and sat at the bottom of the returning order heading into round two having produced a total of eight faults between Dean and Farrington. Speed and strategy was on the team’s side heading into the second round and the efficient efforts of Farrington on Creedance and Dean riding Dotcom D’Authuit bumped them into the running for the pinnacle position. The Trelawny Trailblazers team of Daniel Bluman (ISR), Conor Swail (IRL) and Kenny were a mere seconds behind Team KPF after two double-clears from Bluman with Gemma W and Swail on Casturano sent Kenny to the medal round.
“My initial plan was to do seven strides [down the final line], but Kent told me just to sit chilly if the oxer into the line didn’t come up the way I wanted,” Robitaille detailed of her final-round strategy. “After Darragh did eight strides, I knew I had a little bit of wiggle room, but I honestly can’t tell you exactly where I made up those fractions of a second.”
For team captain Kent Farrington, the win was a long time coming and a hopeful sign of a new trajectory for the team.
“Hopefully it means a change in momentum for us,” Farrington expressed. “There are some very good riders on the team and we’ve just had some bad luck; I hate to say that things are lucky or unlucky, but in show jumping you always need a little luck to win.
“Everyone on our team is using a horse that’s capable of winning and I think in the end that’s what it’s going to take at these events now,” he continued. “These classes have gotten very competitive as the league has grown. You can see the teams are stacked strongly with hyper-competitive riders and some of the best horses in the world, so it’s a difficult competition no matter what.”
As the youngest athlete on Team KPF, the win was icing on the cake for Dean, who is taking full advantage of The League’s team-class format to advance her strategy.
“I’m still quite new to this, and I’m really grateful to Major League for giving us these opportunities as young riders,” she expressed. “ I think it’s been a fun day and this is just the beginning for our team. This hasn’t been our best this year, but I think when we make it to the second round we are all very fast riders and have fast horses, and the results today show we can be up there.”
Hear from Alison Robitaille here!
Ending the night as Bronze team medalists, the Roadrunners originally took the early top position as the first round came to a close. Only a single fault was accumulated over the course of three rounds produced by U.S. Olympian McLain Ward, Ireland’s Daniel Coyle and Adrienne Sternlicht (USA). Ward and Coyle went two-for-two in faultless finishes on First Lady and Ivory TCS, respectively, while Sternlicht picked up a time fault in the first round and three seconds added in the second round to settle for the bronze against team Eye Candy.
For Major League co-founder Keeann White, the night held special sentimental value and a bright outlook for the future of League competition.
“This venue is where we kicked off Major League Show Jumping in 2021; The American Gold Cup is a very special event and we are very lucky to be a part of it. It’s something special for the League to be able to come and help make some of these historic shows bigger and better – it’s super rewarding. I’m looking forward to great sport tomorrow, and the second half of our season looks wicked.”
Earlier in the day in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring, Daniel Bluman (ISR) and the Over The Top Stables LLC entry Cachemire de Braize could not be caught in the $76,000 CSI2* Grand Prix. His winning time of 35.16 seconds was set early in the 11-horse jump-off as only the second pair to jump off. Cathleen Driscoll (USA) and Magnolia, claimed second place in a time of 35.54 seconds, while Samantha Schaefer (USA) and Frasier, owned by Bonne Vie LLC, were third in 35.65 seconds.
Mae Mannis Makes it Big in ASPCA Maclay Regional Final
Young equitation riders have their hearts and goals set on major equitation finals, which are set to kick off in a few weeks’ time. The Region 4 riders had a major qualifying event Saturday during the final weekend at Traverse City Horse Shows. They competed for top honors in the ASPCA Maclay Regional Final, hoping to snag a coveted qualification for the year-end championship at the National Horse Show.
Out of a field of top young riders, it was Mae Mannis who put all the pieces together and took the top call. She piloted Landmann, a horse she’s navigated the big equitation with for nearly two years.
“I wanted to set an exact track for my horse,” Mannis said of her plan going in to jump the highly technical course. “He has a tendency to jump higher sometimes so this course I just wanted to have a nice, forward pace through the whole thing. Jump one was the hardest spot for me on the right lead, so I needed to meet that with a good pace.”
She successfully strung together all elements of the long and winding course, ultimately landing in the top spot.
“He’s my baby,” Mannis said of Landmann, a 10-year-old Warmblood gelding. “I’ve had him for almost two years now. I always call him a moose, and he’s the sweetest. He’ll try his best for me, and I feel like we’re finally starting to get the results we want. He’s the best horse I’ve ever had.”
Mannis gains confidence every time she puts in a solid round, but the win in the Regional Championship this close to the Final puts her in an even better headspace. “It really gets me in a good spot mentally,” she reflected on the win. “The sport is so much about mental game. Sometimes if it doesn’t work out it puts you in a bad spot. It’s so important to stay positive and I think this round really helped me realize that I can finally be where I want to be. It’s all about hard work and what you put into it.”
In her second appearance at the indoor fall horse shows, she has goals to perform well, but doesn’t tie them to specific results. “I’d love to make it in the top 25,” she said. “Last year was my first indoors and we were both a bit green but he was perfect. This year I just want to have solid rounds throughout. I try not to get results too stuck in my head so I go in to have a good positive ride for my horse. I think that’s what’s most important.”
See Mae Mannis detail her winning ride here!
Colvin Hall Captures Hamel Foundation NHS 3’3” Area Championship
Earlier in the day in the Main Hunter-turned-equitation ring, Colvin Hall took the win in the Hamel Foundation NHS 3’3” Area Championship.
“I’m actually doing [Maclay] Regionals right after this and this is my third year trying to qualify,” Hall said of her reasoning for wanting to come out strong in the Hamel Foundation Medal. “I’ve qualified for Hamel in 2021 and 2023. My horse was the best he’s ever been this weekend. He loves Michigan. I just went in there and had no pressure on me. I kind of blew myself away in this class.”
The Hamel Foundation Medal serves as an introduction to the higher levels of equitation, which Hall has on her radar for the future, trying to qualify for major championships like the ASPCA Maclay Finals.
“I lease my horse from Don Stewart,” she said of her winning partner, Fry Day. “I got him at the end of WEF. I had just started doing the equitation and I’ve been doing Fry Day in the big eq. He’s taken me to the next level. I started doing the 3’ to the 3’3” and then got him and really like him. I bonded really well with him. He’s taken me to the big eq.”
Another young rider who recognizes the power that pressure can have over her experience, Hall was reminded by her trainer that she’s already accomplished quite a bit.
“She said that I’ve ridden and I’ve done so much this year that just being here is a big enough accomplishment,” Hall shared. “She said I should just go in there and have fun. Knowing I got to this level is an accomplishment in itself.”