Kansas City, Mo. – The top saddle seat equitation riders in the U.S. faced a rigorous challenge on Saturday, November 10, 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 18 horse-and-rider combinations in the preliminary ride-offs were called back for the final round of competition by judges Sandy Sessink (Elyria, Ohio), Nancy Troutman (Salem, Va.), and Ricard Wright (Fox Lake, Ill.). The stakes were high as these elite riders performed rail work and a complex individual pattern for a chance at the title and the prestigious Adrian Van Sinderen Trophy.
Haley Berget (Oconomowoc, Wisc.) was crowned champion in the 2018 USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final aboard Brookhill’s Passion Punch, Blue Ventures LLC’s 14-year-old Saddlebred mare. Trained by Scott and Carol Matton, the judges saw Berget’s skill as she performed every test with grace and precision. Berget was presented with the Helen K. Crabtree and Adrian Van Sinderen trophies by 2017 USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final champion Molly Codeanne.
Seventeen-year-old Berget had an outstanding competition year culminating with winning the Final, and this also positioned Berget as the Saddle Seat Triple Crown champion following this win and wins in the Good Hands Final and the UPHA Challenge Cup Final earlier this year. In July, Berget helped the U.S. Saddle Seat Team win the gold medal in the five-gaited division against international powerhouses South Africa and Namibia.
"This year has been a dream come true," said Berget. "Every ride, from World Cup to learning the intricacies of riding 'Leila' and the many catch rides I have had the honor to ride, has made for an absolute dream season."
This was Berget’s first call back to the final round of the USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final.
Alayna Applegate (Ewing, Ky.) claimed the reserve champion title and the silver medal with CHReedann’s Heir to Glory, Alan Raun’s 14-year-old Saddlebred gelding. In 2017, Applegate earned the third place.
Full class results:
Champion: Haley Berget (Oconomowoc, Wisc.) with Brookhill’s Passion Punch
Reserve Champion: Alayna Applegate (Ewing, Ky.) with CHReedann’s Heir to Glory
Third: Hallie Ricci (Allentown, N.J.) with CHMadeira’s Fame
Fourth: Dawson Archibald (Andover, Kan.) with Buzz Lighting
Fifth: Gabriella Costantini (Hinckley, Ohio) with CHNuttin’ Doing
Sixth: Joan Benjamin (New Orleans, La.) with Harley Rally
Seventh: Ellie Grosspietsch (Cross Plains, Wisc.) with My Sudden Surprise
Eighth: Finn Cooper (Denver, Colo.) with Royal Tryst
Ninth: Lauren Beck (Omaha, Neb.) with I’m a Holiday
Tenth: Lillian Johnson (O’Fallon, Mo.) with In a Nutshell
Learn more about saddle seat equitation and all of US Equestrian’s 29 recognized breeds and disciplines in this Learning Center video. Stay up to date on U.S. saddle seat by following USA Saddle Seat on Facebook and US Equestrian on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use #USASaddleSeat and #JointheJoy.
Photo by: Howard Schatzberg