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Schaub Wins WEF Equitation Championship For Second Year in a Row

Maggie McAlary Earns a Very Close Second

Wellington, FL – March 18, 2007 – The Mogavero Arena was filled with expectations and high hopes this morning as 40 of the best junior riders in the country competed in the Winter Equestrian Festival Equitation Championship for the RW “Ronnie” Mutch Trophy, and Maria Schaub took aboard Aaron for the second time. Maggie McAlary finished second with her own Mid Accord.

The one-of-a-kind format for the R.W. Mutch Trophy class offers a unique challenge to the riders, as they are isolated from their trainers and support staff and must put their strategy in order and prepare for the class on their own. Riders are responsible for the management and schooling of their mount and are required to walk the course on their own. Communication between riders and trainers is not allowed.

The class itself is judged by four judges, two nationally known hunter judges and two jumper judges. Three judges score the schooling area and riders can earn or lose as many as two points on the total, based on their warm-up. Judges today were George Morris, Rodrigo Pessoa, Peter Leone and Linda Andrisani, and schooling judges were Pierre Jolicouer, Burt Mutch and Joanne Kovacs.

The competition format features two extremely challenging rounds plus the possibility of a third round work-off. In today’s class, the top ten riders of the original 40 were invited back for the second round, and the final two riders, Schaub and McAlary, changed horses in a third round work-off.

The first course, designed by Mark Leone, comprised 13 numbered obstacles and 15 jumping efforts. The first difficult area riders encountered was from fences 2 to 3, a line that could be ridden in four or five strides. Another difficult area was the last combination, which was a one-stride line of two verticals set without ground lines off a galloping curve to the right.

The second round course was similar to the first but included trotting the second fence, an oxer, and counter-cantering from the one-stride vertical line along one end of the arena to an oxer on an angle. Of the ten riders completing the second round, several chose to land on the counter lead instead of asking for the change. Both McAlary and Schaub landed on the counter lead after the one stride.

Schaub, who rides with Frank and Stacia Madden at Beacon Hill Show Stables, is in her final year of junior competition and noted that winning the trophy again has been her goal since last year. She piloted Aaron, a bay gelding owned by Karen Polle, to the win, although she had only ridden the horse twice.

“Aaron, he’s fabulous. He’s a veteran of the equitation,” she explained. “He’s an amazing horse and one of the coolest horses I’ve ever ridden. I actually rode him once and in one class on Friday, and that’s it.” The pair had a slight hiccup in the 4- or 5-stride line, and Schaub commented, “Aaron has a huge stride and I thought I jumped in a little quiet and come forward a little too much there, but I was just trying to make sure I did test and was as conservative as possible.”

After the second round, McAlary had earned the highest total with 189.50 points, but the judges called the two riders back to change horses. Schaub had a total of 188.50 points. Schaub noted that she had ridden Mid Accord, McAlary’s horse in previous competitions, including the USEF Finals two years ago and at the Washington International Horse Show this past year.

In the work-off, McAlary performed a smooth, flowing test but lost the counter-canter in the approach, and she described her approach to riding a different horse. “I thought he went really well. I’ve seen him show with tons of different people and I knew that I could trust him. He has a huge stride – much bigger than my horse’s stride – and I saw when Maria did him she landed left and held the counter lead, which is what I did…He landed left, and then I rolled back really tight and kind of forgot I was on the counter lead and I let him swap right, but he finished up really well.”

Both girls agreed that the course was well designed and asked a variety of questions. Schaub explained: “I really liked the course. I thought it was challenging but attackable, even on a horse that you’re not familiar with. I just tried to diagnose the course with the horse that I had. I like those gymnastics and question courses because they’re more fun. I feel like they’re easier because they really make you ride.”

All 40 riders rode well and were winners coming into today’s event. To qualify for the trophy competition, each rider had to win one of the following classes throughout the circuit: USEF Talent Search, WIHS Equitation, Pessoa/USEF Hunter Seat Medal or ASPCA Maclay.

Earning third place in the Ronnie Mutch class was Julie Welles on Sander, owned by Missy Clark and North Run, and Kimberly McCormack took fourth place with Sundance. Fifth place went to Valvert and Carolyn Curio, and Matthew Metell rounded out the top six with his own Oliver.

Competition concluded this afternoon at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL. The festival will relocate to the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, FL, for two weeks beginning on March 28, 2007.

PHOTO CREDIT: Maria Schaub and Aaron. Photo ©2007 Jennifer Wood.


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