Maggie McAlary Wins Her Second Equitation Final of the Year
Syracuse, NY – November 5, 2006 – The ASPCA Maclay National Championship hosted the top junior riders in the nation at the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament on November 4-5, 2006. The top four riders battled it out in a work-off and once the dust had settled, 16 year old Maggie McAlary of Amherst, NH, was victorious. Julie Welles of West Simsbury, CT, placed second, while first time Maclay competitors Jennifer Waxman of Chagrin Falls, OH, and Nick Haness of Coto de Caza, CA, were third and fourth.
The “Maclay Finals” was divided into three phases over two days of competition. Yesterday, 147 riders performed over a course for judges Ralph Caristo and Scott Williamson. Thirty-six of them were brought back in groups of three to ride on the flat. From there, the judges picked the top 25 to return for another over fences round today.
Today’s course gave riders options in turning and striding and asked for a show of handiness with one short turn out of a corner. The riders handled the course well and many were able to show off their turns or a lengthening of stride to the last jump. Before the top ten, there were great rounds from Jacqueline Lubrano, Zazou Hoffman, and Sloane Coles. The biggest move came from Addison Phillips, who rode a forward course and great turns on Talisman to move from 20th to sixth place.
Jennifer Waxman made the jump from seventh to fourth place with her fantastic smooth trip. Mallory Olson, Nikko Ritter, and Tina Dilandri all had small mistakes in their rounds that led to them falling out of the top six.
McAlary and Chagall, owned by Natalie Johnson, had great turns throughout their course, and Chagall jumped beautifully. Welles and Sander had some hard rubs but rode well through every inside turn. Haness and Landano kept a steady pace throughout the course.
After the first round, the judges made the decision to call back four riders for additional testing. The riders were called into the ring, where they heard the test. The judges asked the riders to leave the line, hand gallop fence ten, halt, counter canter around the corner to fence eight, rollback and canter fence seven, rollback again to a long approach to fence two, and return to the line at a sitting trot.
Waxman was the first to go. She had an average hand gallop and halt, but really shone in the counter canter. She found the perfect distance out of the corner, and finished the rest of the test without fault. Haness attempted next. He and Landano picked up a very brisk gallop to the jump and halted well. Haness could not get Landano to pick up the counter canter until he had turned the corner towards the jump. He got the lead, cantered three short strides, and then finished his course.
McAlary did not go fast in her hand gallop, but her counter canter was excellent as well. She made great turns to each jump, and the crowd broke out in cheers when she made the transition down to the trot. Welles and Sander had no trouble getting the counter canter, but Welles seemed to be working to keep him on the lead around the tight turn to the jump. His stride was short, so Welles added a stride before the jump. She finished, and the spectators awaited the results of the class.
The riders were brought back in reverse order for the awards presentation. It came down to Welles and McAlary, but McAlary came away with the win.
Judge Ralph Alfano was pleased with the results of the class. “It was fantastic riding. This group was really above and beyond the call of duty when it came to riding these courses. The top four- it could have went any way. It was hard to separate them. [In] today’s test, we liked them all. The deciding factor might have been the counter canter to the Animal Planet jump,” he pointed out. “That might have been why Scott and I really made the decision that maybe Maggie was a little smoother as opposed to Julie. Rideability wise, there’s no separation between the two. That’s just the way it worked out in today’s round. We liked Julie a lot. This final test was the deciding factor on who was going to be first or second.”
This was McAlary’s second equitation final win this year. She trains with Andre Dignelli, Patricia Griffith, and Kirsten Coe at Heritage Farm. She triumphed in the USEF/Pessoa Medal Finals at Harrisburg and was fourth in the WIHS Equitation Classic on her own horse, Mid-Accord. When they realized that Mid-Accord was not sound on Tuesday of this week, they had to act quickly to find a horse that would be suitable for Maggie and the class, as well as a horse for fellow Heritage Farm student Addison Phillips.
The team made the decision to choose Chagall, Natalie Johnson’s equitation horse from last year, for McAlary rather than her green, six year old equitation horse that had never shown indoors. “We knew that Chagall is a great horse. After a lot of tears and everybody begging and pleading, we got him. I knew that if everything went our way, we had a shot to win. If it didn’t, we gave it a good shot,” Dignelli expressed.
Chagall has been leased for the past year to show in the Children’s Hunters. He had not shown in the equitation since last year’s Maclay Finals with Johnson, and McAlary had not ridden Chagall since the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals two years ago. McAlary took a few lessons early this week on Chagall and came to the show. About her ride on him, she said, “In the first round yesterday I thought I was a little conservative because I was trying to get a feel for him in the ring. My horse has a very big stride, so I had to go a little slow. I could have showed off a little more to the first two singles. I was a little slow and conservative because the rest of the course you had to have contact. That’s what I thought I could have improved upon. Today I thought I was a little more loose, and I trusted him.”
Both McAlary and Dignelli were fairly confident in the pair working well together. “I’m really good friends with Natalie and last year we showed against each other, so I watched him a lot. I know that I can trust him and that he’s going to try his best to win the class. I just had to give him the chance to. I thought everything flowed and clicked. I was so thankful that Natalie let me show him.”
Dignelli mentioned, “This is one of the nicest equitation horses that I’ve trained. She’s one of the most stylish riders that I’ve ever brought to the ring. I have to say, I think the combination was magic. I think probably it made the difference, in the end, of winning this class.”
Welles rode Sander, a seven year old gelding with very little experience in the equitation ring. They started together in Lake Placid in July, and he was her mount in the USEF Medal Finals this year.
“I was so happy with my horse,” Welles said. “I loved the course yesterday. I thought it was perfect for him. Today, he couldn’t have been any better. It’s really his first test that he’s ever done before. I was happy with the way he went and the way I rode him. I couldn’t have asked for anything else.”
Waxman and Haness seemed very happy to finish in the top four. It was their first time riding in the Maclay Finals, and both of the talented young riders held up very well under the pressure.
Waxman jumped up the standings in each round and showed great poise for a 14 year old. Her horse Falcon jumped incredibly well for her, which presented a beautiful picture to the judges. “Yesterday, I just wanted to have a nice round because it was my first time here. Today, I came in seventh, so I just wanted to try and do the same as yesterday and hopefully move up and place,” she explained. “I accomplished that, so I was happy. I was trying to put in a solid round. Since I went first in the test, I just didn’t want to go off course or anything!”
Haness was second after the first round and was leading going into today’s round. “It was an amazing experience. It’s my first time at the Maclay Finals so I was pretty nervous, but I just tried to ride the best I could. After yesterday’s round I knew I was on top so it was a little nerve-wracking coming back for the second day,” he said with a big smile. “I tried to keep my thoughts calm. Last night, I just kept thinking that I need to ride like I always do.
“Having a little bit of a green horse, I was a little bit nervous about how he would react with a crowd and under more pressure,” he added. “All in all, I’m really, really happy, and I’m glad that I got to be a part of it. It was my first shot and my last shot, but it’s been a dream to be able to make it. That’s the dream accomplished.”
Haness’ trainer John Bragg was thrilled for the 17 year old who will turn professional and ride for him next year. “He’s a great rider. He’s worked really hard for this. He’s had some green horses, and he got to ride a lot of sale horses. He worked really hard to get here, and he’s made it all happen for himself really.”
ASPCA President Edwin Sayers was present to watch the competition and to congratulate the riders. He reminded that the ASPCA was the first animal protectin agency in the Western Hemisphere, and that the horse was the first animal to be officially protected legally in the United States. “Congratulations to all of you. It’s a very important award that we sponsor. The Maclay means a lot to us. You are the finest young riders in America, and we look to you as ambassadors for the protection of all equines and the humane treatment of horses in this country. It’s an honor to see you all, and it was great to watch you out there.”
For more information on the ASPCA, please visit http://www.aspca.org.