New Orleans, La. – The 2019 U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Stripes Team secured all four gold medals and gained valuable experience in international competition at the 2019 U.S. Saddle Seat Invitational Test Event in New Orleans, La. Hosted at Cascade Stables from July 1-5, the U.S. team faced off against two teams from South Africa. Under the guidance of Coach Christy Parker (Hortense, Ga.) and Assistant Coach Mary Mag Wilson (Cave Creek, Ariz.), the U.S. saddle seat equitation program has again proven itself to be a force in international saddle seat competition.
Alayna Applegate, Lauren Beck, Gabriella Costantini, Alayna LoCascio, and Hallie Ricci earned double gold in three-gaited sections against the South African Junior Team, who earned the silver medal for the junior three-gaited section, and the South African Senior Team, who took silver for the senior three-gaited section.
Makayla James, Max Michalek, Haily Miller, Stephanie Sanders, Clayton Stinnett, and Mackenzie Todd earned double gold in the five-gaited sections against the South African Junior Team, who earned the silver medal for the five-gaited junior section, and the South African Senior Team, who took silver for the five-gaited senior section.
“As proud I am of their rides, I am beyond proud of this team’s character. Their inclusiveness, positivity, and attitude is absolutely second to none,” said Parker. “Win, lose, or draw, all three teams competing have won much more than any medal. With this group leading the way, our future is bright.”
Wilson added, “I look forward to their example motivating the future of the Arabian [horse], Morgan, [American] Saddlebred, and saddle seat equitation industries.”
The riders competed on horses they were unfamiliar with as a true test of their equitation and horsemanship skills. Teams participated in the draw for horses on Monday, July 1, and had practice time over the next two days to familiarize themselves with their new equine partners.
The judged portion of the event began on Thursday, July 4, where the U.S. made a strong first impression on the judging panel of Dejané Poil (South Africa), Michael Craghead (Fresno, Calif.), and Lisa Hillmer (Kearney, Mo.). Competition concluded on Friday evening and the pressure was on as riders performed rail and pattern work one last time. The U.S. athletes produced strong individual workouts, solidifying victory for the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Stripes Team in the junior three-gaited, senior three-gaited, junior five-gaited, and senior five-gaited sections.
Adding to the importance of the Saddle Seat Invitational Test Event, the competition serves as an opportunity to develop and observe potential riders for future team competitions, including the Saddle Seat World Cup.
“I definitely want to try out for the 2020 [Saddle Seat] World Cup team, it would be amazing to represent my country in South Africa,” said first time team member Michalek. “Being part of the [young riders] program has boosted my confidence and made me a more defined and versatile rider, and it’s a very supportive environment.”
For three-gaited rider Beck, and many of her teammates, one of the best parts about the young riders program has been the social aspect, “The team gets along really well together and we’ve became really good friends through the process which is something that I am grateful for. It’s important for us to interact with people from other countries to broaden our mindsets.”
For more information about the U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Teams and 2019 Saddle Seat Invitational Test Event or for a complete list of our supporters, go to www.usasaddleseatworldcup.org.
The 2019 U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Teams’ efforts are supported by the USA Equestrian Trust. Special thanks to Cascade Stables for hosting and donating horses, the officials, the volunteers, and to the owners who donated their horses - Bluebonnet Farm, Cornerstone, Fleur De Lis Farm, Landon Farm, Maranatha Stables, Pine Haven Stables, Silver Horse Manor, Stephens College, Stepping Stone Farm , Twin Lakes Stables, WoodLea Farms, LLC, and the Stinnett Family.
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Photos by: Allie Poovey