Wellington, Fla. – In a battle for top honors and striving to gain valuable team experience, the U.S. Young Rider, Junior, and Children’s Jumping Teams dominated their respective competitions in the Palm Beach Masters CSI on Saturday, February 15, sweeping the first place podiums for the second year in a row. The Children’s team started the day with a win in the $3,500 Children’s Team Competition, followed by the U.S. Junior Jumping Teams winning first and second place in the $8,000 Junior Team Competition. The U.S. Young Rider Teams took the top two spots in the $10,000 Young Rider Team Competition to end the day.
The U.S. Children’s Team and the U.S. Junior Teams were led by Chef d’Equipe DiAnn Langer, while the two U.S. Young Rider Teams were led by Anne Kursinski.
“We really look forward to this team event here at Deeridge and the Palm Beach Masters. The sponsorship that goes on at this event is just phenomenal,” said Langer.
“I’m very proud of both of these teams. Everyone rode great and the horses are fantastic. This competition is able to give them this team experience, which we unfortunately don’t have as much access to team competition like they do in Europe at this age, so the focus here is to give them this opportunity, which is really exciting,” said Kursinski.
U.S. Children’s Jumping Team
The U.S. Children’s Jumping Team came out on top as they faced three competitive teams in the Palm Beach Masters $3,500 Bainbridge Children’s Team competition. With a score
of eight faults after the first round, the team of Stephanie Garrett (Wellington, Fla.), Brooks Hull (North Fort Myers, Fla.), Sara Pezza (Newburgh, N.Y.), and Laurel Walker (Dallas, Texas) entered the second round tied for second with two other teams.
Known as the “American Eagles” team during the competition, Pezza aboard Dundalk, Elan Farm’s 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, and Walker aboard Biaggi, her 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, jumped clear in the second round. Garrett with Fani Puigroq, Postage Stamp Farm, LLC’s 13-year-old Warmblood mare, and Hull with Gorky, Audrey Robison’s 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, each had one rail.
“Our Children’s team [athletes] from the past few years all aged out this year so [this is] a brand new group coming on,” said Langer. “For them to step up and jump this height at this time in their career is amazing. I’m so proud of them, and their parents for getting them here, and their trainers for making it happen. I can’t tell you how proud we are of them and how excited for the future with them.”
Hear from the U.S. Children’s Jumping Team:
Stephanie Garrett: “I’ve looked up to so many people who have come here for this competition and it’s amazing to feel like we’re do the same thing and competing as team just like they are.”
Brooks Hull: “I was really glad to have the opportunity because it is a building block for my bigger dreams and goals. It’s really going to help me in the long run.”
Sara Pezza: “My [first] round was challenging, but it was good to be able to go back in for the second round and do better.”
Laurel Walker: “It’s such a new experience to be on a team and have to work together. To be around riders like Brian Moggre and Beezie Madden, who I’ve looked up to for years, is just amazing.”
U.S. Junior Jumping Team
Two U.S. Junior Jumping Teams took to the ring to compete in the $8,000 Junior Team Competition against four other teams and won the gold and silver medals. The top-placing “Star Spangled” team of Virginia Bonnie (Upperville, Va.), Mimi Gochman (New York, N.Y.), Hallie Grimes (Houston, Texas), and Siena Vasan (Upperville, Va.) accumulated eight faults and held the second place position heading into the final round.
The combinations of Grimes aboard Leasure Z, Can We Keep It? LLC’s 13-year-old Zangersheide stallion; Vasan aboard Tokyo d’Ellipse, Palm Ponies LLC’s 13-year-old Selle Francais gelding; and Gochman aboard Street Hassle BH, Gochman Sport Horse LLC’s 14-year-old Selle Francais gelding; put in double-clear performances in the second round. Bonnie and Efodea, Nina Bonnie’s 11-year-old KWPN mare, also put in a strong showing, jumping clear and adding one time fault for the drop score. The “Star Spangled” team finished on a score of eight faults.
Hear from the U.S. Junior Jumping Team:
Virginia Bonnie: “It’s such an honor to participate on a team here and get to know all the other kids. It’s a different animal than the normal, everyday showing. It’s a really great thing to experience when we’re so young.”
Mimi Gochman: “It was a huge privilege to be picked for this team. Stevie jumped amazing! He always tries his best and is game for anything. I’ve been with him for three years now and we’re a good couple.”
Hallie Grimes: “This week was tough for me because I lost my grandmother, but the team really rallied behind me and I know she was up there rooting for me. Competing on a team adds a whole new dynamic to this sport and I am so excited to have this experience and hopefully represent the U.S. in future competitions.”
Siena Vasan: “The horse I used this weekend was really just phenomenal. He just came off of a break and for him to come out and jump a four and clear for me is just amazing – he just tried his heart out. I really enjoyed all the comradery with the girls and getting to be a part of this week.”
U.S. Young Rider Jumping Team
Both U.S. Young Rider teams produced strong performances during the $10,000 Enviro Equine Young Riders Team competition to ultimately secure first and second place in the class, respectively. The winning “Stars and Stripes” team featured quality rounds from Natalie Dean (Palo Alto, Calif.), Isabella Russekoff (Greenwich, CT), Coco Fath (Fairfield, CT), and Sophie Gochman (New York, NY).
Dean and Maestro Vica van de Ark, an eight-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding owned by Marigold Sporthorses, LLC, led off the team effort, producing a clear round, and setting a strong tone for their teammates to follow. Russekoff guided Balou’s Fly High, a 13-year-old Oldenburg stallion owned by Suave Pony, LLC, to the team’s second clear round of the day, keeping them ahead of their fellow U.S. competitors and the Canadian team also vying for a solid finish. Fath piloted Exotic Sitte, a 10-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding owned by Coco Fath & Hillside Farm LLC, to the team’s third clear-round effort in the first round, ultimately allowing for her teammate, Sophie Gochman and Carola BH, a 2007 KWPN mare owned by Gochman Sport Horses LLC, to forgo contesting the first round track, as the team moved forward to the second round on a score of zero.
The U.S. Young Rider “Stars and Stripes” team ultimately captured the win after Dean produced a second double-clear effort in the final round, followed by Russekof and Fath, who both concluded the competition with a rail apiece to finish on a team total of eight faults. With their victory sealed on their final score of eight faults, Gochman also did not need to contest the second round.
“I think they all have a very big future for sure and this is only just the beginning,” said Chef d’Equipe Anne Kursinski. “I want to thank the sponsors, Deeridge Farms, and the Jacob’s family for hosting this competition here. It’s an incredible opportunity. I think all of these riders have very bright futures and have the talent and drive to go as far as they want to go.”
The U.S. Young Rider “Star Spangled” Team featured solid rounds from Emma Catherine Reichow (Menlo Park, Calif.), Alexandra Pielet (Highland Park, Ill.), Alessandra Volpi (Woodside, Calif.) and Daisy Farish (Versailles, Ky.).
Reichow and her own Forever Alve, a 10-year-old KWPN mare, were the first combination in the ring for the team and added only four faults to their score. Pielet rode Helene VE, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare owned by Co-Pielet, LLC, as the second pair on course, and produced the team’s first clear round effort. Volpi and Taiwan du Landey, a 13-year-old Selle Francais gelding she co-owns with Michelangelo Volpi, followed Pielet’s efforts and crossed through the timers with the team’s second clear round in hand. Farish and her longtime partner, Great White, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Farish, had a single rail down as the anchor combination, moving the team into the second round on four faults. Reichow, Pielet, and Volpi each added four faults to their second round scores, while Farish produced a double clear effort for the team to finish on a total of 12 faults for second place overall.
Hear from the U.S. Young Rider Jumping Team:
Natalie Dean: “It’s really fun to be able to ride on a team and cheer your teammates on. I knew Sophie because we competed in Belgium together this past fall, but I didn’t know Coco or Isabella that well at the beginning of this week. It was really fun to get to know them and then ultimately be there cheering each other on and to get the win.”
Isabella Russekoff: “I love rooting for everyone on the team and being a part of that atmosphere. It makes you want it more when you’re competing as part of a team.”
Coco Fath: “This course really felt like a team competition course. I thought there were a lot of elements that would typically be asked during a team competition, which is really exciting. I was also looking to make the time because it’s something that’s been a struggle of mine and my horse was incredible. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Sophie Gochman: “I love anchoring – it’s super fun. It is actually kind of stressful to watch my teammates go. In my last two team competitions, I haven’t ended up needing to ride, which is actually great because it means that I am part of a really great team. It’s just a huge honor to be asked to represent your country on a team like this.”
Competition at the Palm Beach Masters concludes tomorrow, Sunday, February 16, with the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ USA, beginning at 1:30 p.m.
The USEF International High Performance Programs are generously supported by the USET Foundation, USOPC, and USEF Sponsors and Members.