Member News
Join us January 13-15 for our 2022 Annual Meeting in sunny Naples, Fla. Discounted resort rate closes 12/17.
Latest COVID-19 Updates from US Equestrian can be found on the Coronavirus Disease Resources and Updates page.
  • Share:

Applegate Wins USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final and Secures Saddle Seat Triple Crown

by US Equestrian Communications Department | Nov 13, 2021, 7:45 PM EST

Kansas City, Mo. – Alayna Applegate had a standout weekend, winning the USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final against some of the top saddle seat equitation riders in the U.S. and joining the ranks of a handful of elite equitation riders in history to win the Saddle Seat Triple Crown.

Alayna Applegate, 2021 USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final champion

Riders faced a rigorous challenge on Saturday, November 13, as they competed for top honors in the USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final at the United Professional Horseman’s Association (UPHA)/American Royal National Championship Horse Show. Twelve of the 17 horse-and-rider combinations in the preliminary ride-offs were called back for the final round of competition by judges Tom Bombolis (Stillwater, Minn.), Tammie Conatser (Nicholasville, Ky.), and Nancy Troutman (Salem, Va.). The stakes were high as the riders performed rail work and two complex individual patterns for a chance at the championship title.

Applegate (Ewing, Ky.) riding Altar of the Sun, TLB Investments LLC’s 2012 American Saddlebred stallion, was crowned champion in the 2021 USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final, also considered the last leg of the Saddle Seat Triple Crown. Applegate won the first two legs, The Good Hands National Championship and the UPHA Senior Challenge Cup, earlier this year under the guidance of trainer Mark Turner and Lilian Shively of Desmar Farms.

"'Sunny' was pretty jacked up today, but we had two perfect rides and two perfect patterns," said Applegate. "For me, the most accomplishing moment was cantering straight up to the wall in the second phase pattern. We struggled with that in all of our practice rides this week, but today we nailed it."

This is 17-year-old Applegate’s fourth consecutive appearance in the USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final, but her first win. Applegate has consistently placed in the top three since 2018. 

"This is the best feeling ever. I didn't think it would ever happen and I can't believe that it did," said Applegate. "I decided at the beginning of the year that this would be my final year of equitation and my biggest goal my whole career has been to win the [Saddle Seat] Triple Crown. I worked toward that all year and I wanted it to happen but I didn't think it actually would!"

As Applegate closes out her equitation career on the highest possible high, she is looking towards the future and reflecting on the great things she and Sunny achieved over the years.

Samantha Swiger, 2021 USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final reserve champion

"I recently bought a three-year-old filly and we're working towards finishing her out. Not sure which division will be right for her yet but we're working on getting her ready for the next show season," said Applegate. "My time in the show ring with Sunny is finished but he's staying in the barn and I'll still get to see him everyday. He is so special. He has a great work ethic, is super sweet in the stall, loves equitation and patterns. He is perfect."

Samantha Swiger (Charleston, W.V.) claimed the reserve champion title and the silver medal aboard Sugar Fund, Samantha Swiger LLC’s 2015 American Saddlebred gelding. Swiger is trained by Neil and Jacqueline Visser of Visser Stables and she displayed her skill and finesse throughout the two phases of competition.

Visit the USEF Network to watch the USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final on demand.

2021 USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final Results

Champion: Alayna Applegate (Ewing, Ky.)
Reserve: Samantha Swiger (Charleston, W.V.)
Third: Finn Cooper (Cherry Hills Village, Colo.)
Fourth: Heather Tampa (Elm Grove, Wis.)
Fifth: Sophie Yih (Alamo, Calif.)
Sixth: Ella Hampton (Sheridan, Ind.)
Seventh: Maggie Keith (Lousiville, Ky.)
Eight: Ella White (Medina, Ohio)
Ninth: Allie Daury (Hartland, Wis.)
Tenth: Laney Lonchar (Round Lake, Ill.)

Complete Results

Follow US Equestrian

Stay up to date with U.S. saddle seat by following USA Saddle Seat on Facebook and US Equestrian on Twitter and Instagram. Use #USASaddleSeat.

Learn more about saddle seat equitation and all of US Equestrian’s 29 recognized breeds and disciplines in this Learning Center video.

Photos by Howard Schatzberg