Thermal, Calif. – Grace Belmont (Watsonville, Calif.), closing out the final two weeks of her junior career, entered the 2021 USEF/NCEA Junior Hunt Seat Medal Final on a whim with her mount Quirin, and surprised herself with an impressive two round score of 174. The duo took the win over 27 other entries and finish out their junior equitation career with one final win.
Belmont and her own Quirin, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding, have been partnered for several years and originally purchased as a sales horse, Quirin has proved to be a versatile teacher and all-around star in the jumper, equitation, and hunter rings. The pair have regularly competed in the equitation and recently started honing their focus on national and international derbies.
“He’s perfect. I’m know I’m biased, but we found him three years ago just as I was graduating off of the ponies. My mom is a trainer, so I normally I just ride whatever I can, but one of our clients wanted to go to Europe and we thought it would be good if I went too, just to broaden my horizons a bit and have the experience,” said Belmont. “We tried a lot of horses, and he had this lovely canter. There was just something about him. I really had my mind set on him being a sales horse, but it’s taken me years to admit, but my mom always knows best, and told me that we were going to keep him because he was going to teach me a lot and potentially be a career horse for me.”
Originally, the pair were aiming for the international derby regionals, but with Quirin being a bit fresh to start the week, Belmont’s mom and trainer Cassie Belmont, suggested the pair enter into the USEF/NCEA Medal to get some miles under them before the derby, as well as to mark the end of their junior career together.
“I was in the class with all of my best barn friends, so it was a fun thing for us to do and when I walked the course it felt like it was going to ride really well, so I got on and said let’s give it a go,” laughed Belmont. “I scored an 87 in the first round and decided to just run with it and it ended up being an awesome experience. I haven’t flatted him for an equitation class in a while, but I always practice lateral work at home to keep them supple, so it was good to see that pay off on the flat. It’s such a community here that it really felt like a team win.”
Belmont is already committed to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, next year for NCEA and she’s taking all the experience and learnings in. She knows she wants to be in the business full time as a professional, having grown up with both parents being trainers in the Santa Cruz, Calif., area.
“This class is totally meant for exposure. It’s clear that the purpose is to be a dedicated class for NCEA coaches, and for athletes with interest in competing at the collegiate level. There are so many medal classes and to say what the class actually is, and for it to be an NCEA specific, helps connect the dots a bit more,” commented Belmont. “I do IEA too, and this see as a steppingstone program for you to pursue further education, where not only do you keep getting to follow your passion and education at the same time, but you get exposure for yourself to different teams, riders, their programs, and their styles and different horses. It’s so valuable to be able to switch horses and to be able to ride as many horses as possible. These classes are so valuable for learning and growth as a rider, where you can set yourself up to be able to focus on academic endeavors and athletic endeavors at the same time.”
How to Watch
Tune in to the USEF Network to watch the USEF/NCEA Junior Hunter Seat Medal Final – West on demand.
About the National Collegiate Equestrian Association
The National Collegiate Equestrian Association, in concert with the mission and vision of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), is committed to providing collegiate opportunities for female equestrian student-athletes to compete at the highest level, while embracing equity, diversity, and promoting academic and competitive excellence. NCAA Equestrian student-athletes, coaches, and programs adhere to their respective NCAA Division rules and regulations. Currently 24 colleges and universities sponsor equestrian as an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women, with more being added each year. More than 1,400 women are listed on NCAA team rosters across the United States. Follow the NCEA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The NCEA is an education partner of US Equestrian.
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