Charlotte, N.C. – Oct. 14, 2016 – Professional hunter rider, trainer, judge and owner of Sock Inc., based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Steve Heinecke, will return to the New England Equitation Championships (NEEC) to judge this year’s competition alongside Diane Carney, Betty Oare, Otis Brown, Mary Babick and course designer Ken Krome at the Eastern States Coliseum in West Springfield, Massachusetts, Oct. 19–23.
Celebrating its 41st anniversary this year, the NEEC began in 1978 as the brainchild of Mason Phelps, Jr. as a way to strengthen the New England equitation divisions. Heinecke, who grew up Connecticut, competed in the NEEC as a junior and is thrilled to be going back to his roots to judge a competition of which he has such fond memories of.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Heinecke. “It feels good to be going back. I’m looking forward to being a part of it on the other end. I think it’s a great stepping stone for the kids who want to do the equitation. The NEEC is different because as well as testing their riding skills, the exhibitors are also challenged with a written exam and a practicum to test their horsemanship skills, which I feel strongly about. I think it’s great. I have high expectations of the riders. Being from the New England area, I know just how hardworking the riders are up there. It’s a fantastic show and I look forward to judging it!”
The historic NEEC has been referred to as the finest regional medal finals in the country and a significant stepping stone in launching the careers of many top riders across the country such as Peter Wylde, who won the NEEC in 1981, Schuyler Riley in 1987 and McLain Ward in 1992. The most prestigious equitation event in the Northeast now stands as a tribute to what can be accomplished when horsemen and horsewomen work together for the good of the sport.
“I have watched Steve grow up in the sport,” said NEEC founder and committee member Joe Dotoli. “He’s gone on to a terrific career as a rider, trainer and judge and he’s always enthusiastic. We like to have a good mix of backgrounds between the judges at NEEC. Steve really comes from a very, very strong equitation background as well as a hunter background. We also try to get backgrounds more towards jumpers and more towards the hunters but we like to have a really good mix of people watching the class that have backgrounds that they can draw from. With that being said, I think Steve fits in great. He used to show at our event when he was a junior so it’s great to have him back as an alumni of the event. We’re very big on history at the NEEC and we very much like to include the history of the event and the people who made it what it is and Steve fits right in with that.”
The 2016 NEEC will feature two days of adult competition on Wednesday and Thursday, while the rest of the week will be dedicated to junior exhibitors, all leading up to the New England Medal Finals and the final phase of the Katie Battison Horsemanship competition on Sunday.
Go behind-the-scenes with Heinecke in his PhelpsSports.com column, “Keeping Score with Steve Heinecke,” for his personal recount of his experience judging the 2016 NEEC following this year’s exciting competition.