English Events Horse Happenings

Hugely Successful First Southeast Medal Finals Wrap-Up:Meg O’Mara Confidently Nabs the ASPCA Maclay Regionals

Jacksonville, FL – September 26, 2012 – The highly anticipated, first-ever Southeast Medal Finals delivered a home run. Exhibitors, trainers, sponsors, vendors, family and friends all agreed- the show is a winner. All had glowing accolades for managers, Bob Bell and James Lala, and the fabulous venue, the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. Plans are already underway for next year’s show, sure to be an expanded and even grander affair.


A group of 37 skilled riders determined to master Alan Rheinheimer’s course competed for the top prize- the ASPCA Maclay Regional title. The course tested the ability of the rider to lengthen and shorten, to be subtle with the adjustments, to land and turn and to put it all together with confidence and poise.


After the first round, the class was split in two for the under saddle portion of the competition,

Meg O’Mara and Vancouver won the ASPCA Maclay Regional

followed by the announcement of a test for six riders. The riders included Meg O’Mara, Hasbrouck Donovan, Liza Finsness, Hannah Marco, Geoffrey Hesslink and Sylvia De Toledo.


The competitors were asked to perform the following test: canter fence #13, canter fence #4, canter fence #9, hand gallop fence #12 and counter canter fence #6 and finally, canter fence #2. The announcer gave the instructions for the workout course only twice.


After the last test was performed, the winners were announced in descending order, adding to the drama and suspense. In the end, it was the elegant and confident performance of Meg O’Mara who rode Elevstar Farm’s Vancouver flawlessly to earn her the coveted prize. O’Mara recently won the National PHA Junior Medal Final and the Platinum Performance/USEF Talent Search Medal at HITS Saugerties. In addition, O’Mara piloted Sintara IV to the win of the $25,000 David Yurman Show Jumping Derby at the 2012 Hampton Classic. O’Mara trains with Don Stewart and Megan Hedrick.

Meg O’Mara and Vancouver
Photo by ESI The Digital Place 

“I’ve done regionals for three or four years now,” said O’Mara, 18, and in her last junior year. About her mount, Vancouver she shared, “He’s only 7. He’s the smartest horse ever. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s really educated. I want to thank Jim (Hagman) for letting me ride him.


“They prepared us very well with the bending one-stride,” she continued. “We knew they were going to set something like that up with an option. Today it was a little simpler, because it wasn’t a one or a two. So we decided to go with the simpler option−the outside to the outside in seven/six. Because it is regionals we wanted to be in the ranking, so I was happy with the course today.”


“There’s safety in numbers,” said O’Mara’s trainer Don Stewart from Don Stewart Stables in Ocala, FL. “We had six in the class and five out of six in the workout. We almost got beat. It was down to the last straw. She delivered,” he said of O’Mara. “She won the first two phases then showed them all that she deserved it. The cream always rises to the top and we got it done. She’s paid her dues. She’s been with us for five years. Mary Babick from New Jersey gave Meg her background and taught her how to ride fresh horses. That’s where she got that beautiful position.”

Liza Finsness and Fedelio

Liza Finsness secured second place in the ASPCA Mcalay Regionals with gorgeous rounds aboard her own, Fedelio, Hasbrouck Donovan riding Drake owned by Stewart and Derbypie LLC and Donald got the yellow ribbon and the bronze medal. Geoffrey Hesslink earned the fourth place award with Cheryl Scott’s Carlos 365. Fifth place went to Sylvia De Toledo with Urco, owned by Don Steward and sixth to Hannah Marco riding Thinks Like a Horse’s Friend Request.


“The top kids were exceptional,” said Southeast Medal Finals Judge Kip Rosenthal. “The high score was a 95, then a 93 and 92−it was really, really good. This show will only grow over the years. The venue is phenomenal. It was a really great weekend.”


“We set them up really well over the week for today’s course,” said the course designer, Alan Rheinheimer. “I was pleased with the outcome. Meg did a really good job. For the first time in a new venue- we’ll do better and better each year.”

Hasbrouck Donovan and Drake

Susie Humes, renowned equestrian, was on hand to represent the Alltech National Horse Show, the site of the ASPCA Maclay finals, held at Alltech Arena in the Kentucky Horse Park.


“I think this is one of the best medal finals I’ve been to,” Humes said. “They did an outstanding job, it’s a beautiful arena, beautifully decorated, great course from Alan, beautifully judged by Kip and Brian (Lenahan) and great workout−I am just totally impressed. The group of riders at the top here could easily be the winners at the finals. The top group was fantastic. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at the National.”


“It was more than I thought it would be,” confided show producer Bob Bell. “It was what we planned but when you get Alan (Rhenheimer) and James (Lala) involved, you even get grander than you expected. We’re going to be working over the next six or seven months to put together our plan for next year. It will be bigger. It will be grander, it will have more classes. We want more show managers to host Southeast Medal Final qualifiers at their horse shows. We hope that the Maclay will award us the Regionals again because that was an integral part of what we did. We have a contract with the facility in place for next year.”



Southeast Medal Finals Highlights Friday, September 21 and Saturday September 22


Friday- A field of 27 talented young riders competed to kick off the show bright and early in The USEF Pessoa Hunt Seat Medal class. The first course of the show was a challenging mix of lines and turns testing adjustability and landing and turning.


Four talented riders were called back for a second round workout to determine the final placing: Maggie Savoie aboard her own Ksenyio, Ashley Foster and Raindance, owned by Meridian Farm, Geoffrey Hesslink and Don Steward’s Afrojack, and Haley Waters and El Campeon’s Danish, owned by by Terrapin Hill Farm.


The workout included cantering three of the original fences of the course, then trotting a fence, picking up a counter canter and taking the out fence of the original outside line. Three of the competitors, Savoie, Foster, and Waters, chose to pick up the counter canter and follow a track that turned the opposite way to the fence. All had trouble sustaining the counter canter while turning.


Last to go, Hesslink completed his trot fence, cantered away and made a downward transition to a trot and then weaved through the middle of the arena to find a straight line to the final jump. He established his counter canter, and held it. That choice won him the class.


Hesslink received the judges’ nod for first place, Foster was second, Waters, third and Savoie was fourth.

Geoffrey Hesslink and Afrojack

In the ASPCA Maclay class, riders were challenged with another course that wound and turned with “s” turns. Twelve riders were called back for the flat portion of the class. Once again, it was Geoffrey Hesslink who won the judges’ approval.


In the Southeast 3′ Equitation Classic, the course tripped up some riders but those with pace seemed to end up on top. It was Liza Finsness from Wellington who piloted her own Fedelio to the top spot with a score of 89. Hasbrouck Donovan earned the red ribbon ridding Drake, owned by Stewart and Derbypie LLC and Donald.


Cynthia Screnci earned the win aboard Kasmir in the first leg of the Zone 4 $10,000 Children/Adult Jumper Championship. The competition for the Championship followed World Cup format, faults were added up from all the legs of the division and the horse and rider team with the lowest score took the prize.

Margaret Collins and Samy

Saturday- Saturday’s highlight was the evening class of 31 juniors competing over a technical and challenging course in the Southeast Medal Finals Class. Six riders with scores in the 80’s were asked back for a work out. The riders included were Michelle Kunz, Taylor Tanaka, Jordan Katz, Hannah Huntington, Grace Ellen Hannah and Margaret Collins.


The workout required that the riders canter fence #2, canter fence #11, hand gallop to fence #9, then on the quarter line going toward the in gate, the riders were to execute two changes of lead. As it would shake out, it was the change of lead that would clinch the win. Four of the six riders performed simple changes of lead. Margaret Collins executed the course beautifully and performed flying changes. The judges gave the nod for effort and execution, awarding the Southeast Medal Finals to Margaret Collins, who flawlessly piloted Samy owned by Quiet Hill Farm.


Another Saturday night feature was the hotly contested Southeast Adult Medal Finals Class. Allyson Blais aboard her own Camden Yards handily won the honors with perfectly executed rounds. In second place was Debi Pelosi with Dabney Abbott’s Cezanne. Rachel Williams and her Bruno were third.


Earlier in the day, the Zone 4 USEF Pessoa Medal Championship tested 28 young riders over another of Allen Rheimheimer’s challenging courses. Four riders were asked back for the workout, including Liza Finsness, Hasbrouck Donovan, Ashton Alexander and Mackenzie Michaels. Riders were asked to jump a new course that included performing a change of lead and a trot fence.


Liza Finsness earned her second trip to the Southeast Medal Finals podium to receive a medal and a ribbon. Donovan with Drake earned the second place prize, Ashton with Don Stewart’s Casino was third and Michaels earned fourth aboard her own, Country Boy.


The Zone 4 USEF Adult Medal Championship went to Allyson Blais and her Camden Yards. Blais, who consistently put in high quality performances at the Southeast Medal Finals show, trains with Alan Kropotkin. Melody Morgan was third with Vickie Bryan’s Smitten and Millie Russell was fourth with her own Gallant.

Melody Morgan, Allyson Blais and Millie Russell
Blais won both the Southeast Medal Finals Adult Class and the
Zone 4 USEF Adult Medal Championship

In jumper action, the Zone 4 $10,000 Children’s/Adult Jumper Championship’s two final legs were held at the Southeast Medal Finals. In the end there was only one faultless horse and rider team, Juan Gamboa and Partizan, a 22-year-old Belgian Warmblood.



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