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Newcomer Faces Former Winner and International Experience at Hunter Jumper Association

Wayne, Illinois - A year and half ago Ashley Romano had never competed in an A show. Now the 17 year old from Gurnee, Illinois is preparing to take on a field of 30 other riders, many with national and international experience, in the finals for the Illinois Hunter and Jumper Association Junior Medal at the Showplace Fall Classic Championship Horse Show. Sunday's class will be held in the grand prix ring at Lamplight Equestrian Center and is one of the last outdoor events before mid-west riders head east to compete in indoors. This year Ashley is going to indoors for the first time, she is qualified for the USEF Pessoa Hunt Seat Medal finals at Harrisburg, and hoping to qualify for the ASPCA Maclay finals by finishing well in the regional finals in Lexington next weekend. While she is a relative newcomer to the 3'6 equitation ring Ashley had several big wins during the summer including winning the USEF Medal at the Showplace Spring Spectacular Horse Show and the Maclay at Equifest I.

"She's got a real good feel for the jumps" explained trainer Margaret Clayton "and she's well mounted. She's been riding a couple different horses this summer, she's borrowed some to get experience and it's been a real confidence builder for her to learn that she could be competitive at 3'6 on a new horse. On Sunday she's going to be riding Tex, a 9 year old gelding that she leased for indoors".

Ashley will compete against former class winner Lisa Goldman of Hawthorn Woods, Illinois. Lisa won the finals in 2005 and finished second last year. The 17 year old has been riding since she was 4 years old and doing the 3'6 equitation since 7th grade.

"Things really clicked for her this summer" said mother and trainer Mary Goldman, "and she just won the Maclay and the USEF Medal at Traverse City."

Goldman is one of several competitors in the finals who also compete successfully on jumpers at the high junior and grand prix level. Another is Catie Hope who also presents a strong case for the win on Sunday. The 15-year-old from Barrington, Illinois has been riding with trainer Diane Carney for 10 years and doing the 3'6 equitation for two.

"The turning point for Catie was last summer in Calgary" said Carney, referring to Spruce Meadows. "We couldn't take grooms with us and she had to get the horses ready herself. Understanding that she could get horses to the international ring, compete in the 1.20m and 1.30m, finish in the top 10, and then take them back to the stall and put them away safely, was a big confidence booster. She became physically stronger and more interested in the preparation involved. She didn't have any big wins there but she came close, it's the struggle in conquering, the near misses, that have motivated her to get closer and closer to the target."

Fellow Barrington rider Amelia McArdle also has international experience at Spruce Meadows. Trainer Katie Kappler feels however that the turning point for her came not in Calgary but at the regional Maclay finals last year in Lexington.

"The win there gave her a lot of momentum" Kappler recounted "and the confidence it gave her helped continue her success. She was champion with MVP at Harrisburg last year and also champion at Devon this past spring. She trains with both me and my brother Chris so she's exposed to different training styles and viewpoints, and she gets the opportunity to compete against high caliber riders at different venues like Spruce Meadows and Southhampton."

While Ashley's inexperience means she may be underdog for the win tomorrow, Margaret Clayton gives her credit for her efforts. "She's a good kid to work with and she tries hard. She rides a lot of different horses at home to try and get experience. She got a late start and didn't have all the options the others had and it's nice to see someone get in the ring and win some who hadn't been to an A show a year and half a go."

About the Showplace Fall Classic Championship Horse Show

Lamplight Equestrian Center is the host this week for the finale of Showplace Productions' outdoor competition season. Over 550 horses will participate in the USEF "A" Four Star rated horse show that runs Wednesday, August 19 to Sunday, August 23. The event offers hunter and jumper divisions for competitors of all levels and the finals for the $86,000 Showplace Leading Rider Series for Jumpers, the IHJA "A" Medal Finals for Equitation, the Marshall & Sterling Finals, and the USEF Zone V Championships.

The finals for the IHJA Junior Medal will be held Sunday Afternoon. Coverage of the event, including photos and video will be posted at ShowplaceProductions.com

Attached: Photo - Ashley Romano Credit: Nicole Clancy


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