Traverse City, Mich. – July 25, 2020 – Equitation riders took to the spotlight Saturday afternoon at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, which featured the second-ever Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship. Upping the stakes of the unique championship was the fact that a share of $10,000 was offered to the trainers of the four highest-placed competitors, adding another level of exciting competition to the class. Taking place over two rounds of riding, the class highlighted some of the country’s top equitation stars, with Elli Yeager separating herself from the group due to back-to-back high-scoring rounds on her own Copperfield 39 to claim the victory.
Open to junior riders who had won a first, second or third place ribbon in equitation classes held at the 3’6″ height throughout the first four weeks of the festival, plus two prior weeks during the Traverse City Spring Horse Show in June, the Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship consisted of two rounds of competition held over derby-style fences. Following the first round of riding over the 3’6” course, the 12 best-performing pairs out of the original field were invited back to the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring for one final chance to showcase their abilities. The class was created in memory of Dudley B. Smith, a noteworthy member of the community and friend to the show who passed away unexpectedly in August 2018.
For the first round of competition, the 23 young riders showcased their form and precise riding over course designer Joe Carnicom’s 13-effort jumper-style course composed of unique, natural-themed obstacles, which also included a series of bending lines, lead changes and rollbacks. Throughout the class, the exhibitors who displayed a forward style of riding, while also demonstrating both correct equitation as well as speed and precision, were rewarded by the judges with high scores in the 80s, with a few select riders even hitting the 90-point threshold. At the conclusion of the initial phase, the cut-off score for the eligible 12 duos that would return to the second round sat at a respectable 78 points. Saving the best effort for last, Sophee Steckbeck jumped to the early frontrunner position aboard Zapfier thanks to an impeccable round that earned a score of 92, and Yeager was hot on her heels with 90 points after her trip on Copperfield 39.
Back for the second round, the top 12 contenders returned to the ring to contest Carnicom’s new pattern that consisted of 11 fences and asked similar questions to the first round. Though riders took their turns in reverse order of the standings, second-round scores were not announced immediately following each trip, but were instead withheld until the final presentation, keeping the participants on their toes. The final two to showcase their skills, Yeager and Steckbeck both laid down exemplary performances, leaving the final standings in question given the girls’ similar round-one scores. Though the judges had the option to test, they chose not to, clearly having a distinct winner in mind.
The final name announced during the awards ceremony, Yeager was ultimately crowned as the victor after leapfrogging up one place to the top of the scorecard. Yeager piloted Copperfield 39 to second-phase marks of 94, the highest score of the day, to push her total tally to 184 points. For her win, Yeager was awarded the tricolors as well as custom boots and half chaps, courtesy of Impeccable Equerry. Just a few points behind, Steckbeck captured the reserve honors on Missy Clark’s Zapfier thanks to a total score of 179, composed of individual scores of 92 and 87. With a score of 174, Zayna Rizvi earned third place riding Jordyn Rose Freedman’s Finnick, and Tessa Downey rounded out the top four with 169 points on Double H Farm’s HH Moonshine.
Saturday was a standout day for Missy Clark, John Brennan and the team at North Run, who trained three of the top four finishers: Yeager, Steckbeck and Rizvi. For their accomplishments, the North Run team was awarded trainer bonuses in the amounts of $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000 for a composite of $9,000 of the $10,000 purse. As the trainer of fourth-place finisher Downey, Peter Pletcher was awarded $1,000.
Following the highlight equitation event, Hailey Hak was honored with the distinction of the inaugural recipient of the JustWorld International ChangeMaker Award, presented by
CaptiveOne Advisors. Throughout the week, Great Lakes Equestrian Festival charity partner JustWorld invited all Juniors and Young Riders to take part in the campaign, with participants evaluated by a panel of judges in regards to criteria including leadership, horsemanship, and respect to show protocol throughout competition and good deeds. A donation will be made on behalf of Hak, giving her the opportunity to decide how the sponsorship donation will be used within the JustWorld projects. JustWorld provides unique opportunities for equestrians to join together and contribute to global campaigns against poverty by supporting education and nutrition programs for children in need from all around the world.
Weekly equitation competition will continue at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, throughout the series’ final two weeks, with one more Equitation Tuesday taking place during Week Five.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Elli Yeager – Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship winner
On her win:
“It was really a great class for me and my horse to get back in the groove after a little break after quarantine. [Copperfield 39] felt amazing, as always, and I couldn’t have wanted it to go better. We really have a great team at North Run Farm. All of the kids are really strong and we love to compete. When we’re all in there we are going for it!”
On her plan for the second round:
“Round two went really well. In the first round I changed my decision to the last jump which gave Sophee [Steckbeck] the higher score, but in round two I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of taking victory.”
On what the Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship means for her equitation goals:
“It shows you what you need to set your goals as for the end of the year, and what you need to improve on and what you could have done better. That’s why [the Devon Horse Show] was such a good stepping stone for everybody because they knew what they had to work on before the end of the year, but we didn’t have that this year. This kind of became Devon a little bit.”
On showing at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival:
“I really enjoy this horse show! It’s my first time here and I have had a great experience so far and my horses love it. I love it, it’s a lot of fun.”
Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship:
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / R1 Score / R2 Score | Total
1. Copperfield 39 / Elli Yeager / Elli Yeager / 90 / 94 / 184
2. Zapfier / Sophee Steckbeck / Missy Clark / 92 / 87 / 179
3. Finnick / Zayna Rizvi / Jordyn Rose Freedman / 82 / 92 / 174
4. Hh Moonshine / Tessa Downey / Double H Farm / 81 / 88 / 169
5. Iwan / Madison Rauschenbach / Madison Rauschenbach / 82.5 / 86 / 168.5
6. Mac One Iii / Taylor Griffiths-Madden / Taylor Griffiths-Madden / 84 / 84 / 168
7. Bigtalu G Z / Eva Fisherman / North Run/Missy Clark / 85 / 82 / 167
8. Castellan W / Audrey Schulze / Audrey Schulze / 80 / 82 / 162
9. For Asgard / Alexander Alston / North Run/Missy Clark / 87 / 74 / 161
10. Juice Wrld / Hallie Grimes / Royal Sport Horses / 79 / 80 / 159
11. My Pride Z / Madison Mitchell / Melissa Hirt / 83 / 74 / 157
12. Levisto / Aristea Santoro / Hays Investment Corp. / 78 / 78 / 156