Harrisburg, Pa. – The Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final was the premier class on Sunday at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. A total of 208 junior competitors competed in the first round over Alan Lohman’s course in front of judges Jack Towell and Timmy Kees. The top 25 athletes returned for the second round over a new course, with the top six returning for final testing. Carlee McCutcheon clinched the win and the Adrian Van Sinderen Trophy with a fabulous round on Chacco Star.
The final testing asked riders to demonstrate holding a counter canter through turns, a trot fence, and a hand gallop to the final fence followed by a halt. McCutcheon (Aubrey, Texas) answered all of the questions while riding Chacco Star, Kennedy McCaulley’s 2008 Oldenburg gelding, to finish atop the standings. The pair’s day started early this morning with a respectable first round and it continued to improve from there.
“I was just looking to come back in a good spot for the second round, and I was very pleased with my second round,” said McCutcheon. “We took a chance with an inside turn, and I know I can trust in him. The harder the courses, the better he is. It was nerve wracking because I wasn't sure if I was going to make the test, but I did and I thought, ‘Just go for it.’”
McCutcheon and Chacco Star have been partners for two years and have secured numerous top results in equitation classes all season long. McCutcheon gives much of the credit to her capable mount.
“When we practice at home, we're practicing for me. He's very seasoned in the equitation ring, and I think that definitely gives me an advantage,” said McCutcheon. “I'm able to go in the ring very confident knowing that my horse is very good at his job.”
McCutcheon trains with Max Amaya and TJ O’Mara, and her win was meaningful to O’Mara, a past Medal Final champion in 2016. McCutcheon was one of O’Mara’s first equitation students after becoming a professional, and her success showed the results of everyone’s time and effort.
“I helped her here at the Medal Final in 2021, and each year she's gotten better and better with it,” said O’Mara. “I think to really see the hard work that me and Max have put in with her pay off today and to see her partnership with Chacco really develop and flourish after each round really brought tears to my eyes when they announced her as the winner.”
Noah Nelson moved up from sixth place to second on the strength of a smooth round with Quite Cassini, Ashland Farms’ 2004 Holsteiner gelding. Nelson (Santa Barbara, Calif.) only began competing in equitation classes since March and has risen to the top rankings in the highly competitive classes. As the first competitor to perform the final testing, Nelson made an impression on the judges to move up the rankings.
“I was a little nervous walking into the ring going first. It's my first time competing in the Medal Final, but I was very confident on Cassini,” said Nelson. “He competed here and was second in 2019 with Jordan Allen, and I owe everything to him. I really liked the test. It was very well put together and I'm very grateful for everything.”
Kate Hagerty rose from fifth place to third with a solid final testing on Magic Moment. Despite only riding Magic Moment since August, Hagerty (Terrebonne, Ore.) and The Hagerty Family’s 2011 KWPN gelding looked like a seasoned combination. They delivered an impressive second round to reach the final testing and, ultimately, third place.
“He is new to the equitation, and my first round was good, but I didn't come back with a lot of expectations,” said Hagerty. “I think that let me go in and kind of go for it and be as risky as I could. He was so good and did everything I asked, so I'm really happy with how he was today.”
Judge Towell had high praise for Medal Final competitors as well as their mounts.
“These riders are unbelievable,” said Towell. “But also, the quality of these horses. These horses are amazing animals—amazing. They have got the stride, the scope, and to do what they do. It just blows me away sitting there watching them. Not that these riders don't ride great, but you're only as good as your horse.”
Kees had similar thoughts as his fellow judge, pointing to the instruction, horses, and skills of the junior athletes to make for a day of impressive performances. He also noted that the format of the Medal Final punctuated the competition to determine the final results.
“Everybody can have a wonderful first round, but the test in the end is what separates them,” said Kees. “And that's exactly how it was done, and it worked out great.”
Learn more about the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final.