Elvenstar Takes on the East Coast at the 2016 Maclay National Medal Finals

img_1467Three of Elvenstar’s top riders, Kayla Lott, Sydney Hutchins, and Michelle Mallet, have been working hard all year to qualify for the Maclay Regional Finals held at The Oaks Blenheim Horse Park in San Juan Capistrano on September 17th. After proving themselves against this region’s best riders, they were invited to compete in the Maclay National Medal Finals held today, November 5th, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. This is where all the top qualifiers from every region have gathered to prove themselves, but they only have one chance to make an impression, one round to show the nation just how great each of them can ride.

Right when their plane landed, Elvenstar’s three National ASPCA Maclay Medal Final riders knew they had arrived in horse country. The Kentucky airport is filled with horse legends, pictures of famous racehorses fill it’s hallways. White fences and rolling green fields line all the roads to The Kentucky Horse Park. There is such a rich history of riding there that the park itself houses two museums: The International Museum of the Horse which covers 50 million years worth of horse history and the American Saddlebred Museum which tells the story of Kentucky’s first native horse breed.

The Kentucky Horse Park was privately owned and passed through many owners before it was eventually opened to the public. Here, the first Saddlebred breeder raised his horses. Eventually, he began to breed Thoroughbreds on the property as well. It’s next owner built the famous Keeneland Race Track and began to sell and train Standardbred horses. It’s next owner then built the Big Barn. With 52 stalls this is one of the largest barns ever built and still stands in Kentucky Horse Park. Now, it is best known for being the only park dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse as well as the host for many major equestrian events.

Elvenstar’s riders found themselves presented with a unique opportunity once they arrived. They were able to take a lesson at one of the local farms. How they found the time, I have no idea. Classes started at 6:30 in the morning which meant being on and warming up at 5:00. Sometimes the thick early morning fog made it a challenge to see across the parking lot!. And if you thought they were going to bed early, think again. Late night classes meant you couldn’t practice in the arena until sometime close to 10:30 at night. But competing against 176 of the nation’s best riders meant that you were practicing every chance you got. And thanks to their diligence and hard work, each of our riders put in great first rounds.

First of our riders to step in the arena was Kayla Lott aboard Vancouver. She stepped into the arena with an air of confidence and grace that was not missed by George Morris and Anne Kursinski, who added commentary to supplement each round. She found a beautiful and forward first fence, setting herself up with a good rhythm for the remainder of her course. She was able to squeeze Vancouver through the one stride where many riders faced refusals. She continued with magnificence until the end, making it clear that she deserved to be there.

After Kayla, it was Sydney Hutchins and Gaudi’s turn to tackle the 10 jump, 12 effort course. She walked in set and ready to awe the judges. She met the first fence on the perfect distance; unfortunately Gaudi chose this round to test Sydney’s confidence. Even though it wasn’t her best course, she recovered beautifully and completed the round with grace and determination. Just another reason why we admire Sydney so much, she embodies a real sportswoman. Her round also serves as a reminder that anyone can have a bad day, the important part is what you do afterwards: you keep riding and you try again.

Several rounds later, Michelle Mallet stepped into the ring riding Cantuccini and immediately had a captivating presence in the arena. She found her first fence right on stride and was able to keep her steady rhythm throughout the entire course. George Morris noted her “perfect ride” through the first line and her ability to correct a distance “that could have been close.” Michelle finished her stellar round memorably, “not afraid of the gallop” to the final oxer. Her abilities shined through and Michelle was put on the callback list to compete again tomorrow and prove herself in the intensity of a flat class.