Thermal, Calif. - The last of three USEF/NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Finals of 2022 took place on November 12 at National Sunshine Series II with 35 junior equestrians competing in a unique three-phase final. Ella Dyson emerged victorious with Cetello in the USEF/NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Final – West with consistent performances and impressive scores.
“It feels so surreal, and so exciting,” Dyson said of her champion title. “I am so honored to have won and it’s been an exciting journey to get to this point.”
Dyson (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) has partnered with Cetello, her 2007 Holsteiner gelding, for just over a year. She took over the ride on him shortly before the 2021 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – West, where they finished second before going on to win the 2022 edition. Though originally purchased to be Dyson’s jumper mount, Cetello showed prowess for the equitation ring.
“He is such a naturally quiet horse that we thought he would really shine in the equitation. He is a real professional and always gives 100% to everything he does,” said Dyson. “I think we have a mutual respect and trust for each other that has allowed us to do so many different things together. He is just the best horse in the world, and I feel so lucky to have been his rider this past year.”
All competitors in the USEF/NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Finals compete in an initial jumping round with fences set at 3’3”, then the top 10 or top 20%—whichever is greater—move on to the flat phase, which includes performing two of the three following basic dressage movements: shoulder-in, haunches-in, and leg yield. The final bracket phase brings back the top four competitors to switch horses and ride a course of at least eight fences with only four minutes of warm-up time, testing their horsemanship on unfamiliar horses in a format similar to NCEA intercollegiate competition. Finally, the top two competitors return to again ride an unfamiliar horse to determine champion and reserve champion positions.
Dyson aimed to have strong performances in the over fences and flat phases to make it to the bracket phase. She executed her plan well to start the competition off on a high note with scores of 90 and 82 in the first two phases, respectively, for a combined score of 172.
“Going into the class I was just staying focused on having a consistent round where I answered all of the tests. The first round was really nice, and we ended up scoring a 90, which was very exciting,” explained Dyson. “Going into the flat phase, I felt pretty confident since Cetello is very comfortable and knows every test they might ask.
“I was super excited to be in the top four since I ride best when I get to rely off my feel and do lots of different things,” continued Dyson. “The top four was a lot of fun, and it’s such a great experience riding different types of horses.”
Two highlights for Dyson in the Final were getting to ride fifth-place finisher Marina Boudreau’s Little Big Won in the bracket phase, where she earned a personal-best score of 95, and her jumping round with Cetello, having transitioned him from a jumper to a seasoned equitation horse over the past year. Dyson also enjoyed participating in the Final because of the different phases that are offered and able to highlight an athlete’s versatility.
“I love this Final since it has such a big emphasis on the flat tests and the horse swap,” said Dyson. “I think flat work is very important, so I like to see it being rewarded. I also think that the horse swap really shows who’s riding is effective and poised, as it can be so difficult.”
The reserve champion title went to Emme Tangen (Rolling Hills, Calif.) and Clearing, her 2009 Holsteiner gelding. Third place went to Madison Nadolenco (Calabasas, Calif.) and Calvin Samuels, Legacy Equestrian, LLC’s 2014 Oldenburg gelding, while fourth place went to Greenley Achuck (Tiburon, Calif.) and Mighty Quen, Lauren Morlock’s 2009 Oldenburg gelding.
US Equestrian members can watch the USEF/NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Final – West livestream on demand on USEF Network.