The top saddle seat equitation riders in the U.S. faced a rigorous challenge on Saturday, November 16, as they competed for top honors in the USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final at the United Professional Horseman’s Association (UPHA)/American Royal National Championship Horse Show. Twelve of the 19 horse-and-rider combinations in the preliminary ride-offs were called back for the final round of competition by judges Kim Cowart of Statesville, N.C.; Michael Craghead of Fresno, Calif.; and Elizabeth McBride Jones of Raeford, N.C. The stakes were high as these elite riders performed rail work and a complex individual pattern for a chance at the championship title and the prestigious Adrian Van Sinderen Trophy.
Seventeen-year-old Arquilla had an outstanding competition year culminating with the Medal Final win, as well as a win in the UPHA Challenge Cup Final on Thursday.
“All of this is about hard work, and I’m glad that it paid off,” said Arquilla. “I know I put in the work and sometimes [the results] weren’t what I wanted, but in the end, things have worked out great.”
Arquilla rode CH(EQ)Mooi Mooi, Sharon Arquilla’s 14-year-old American Saddlebred gelding, in the preliminary round but elected to ride another horse for the final round when he felt the gelding was slightly lame. “[CH(EQ)Mooi Mooi] has the heart of a champion,” said Arquilla. “Even when he’s tired, he still tries his hardest just like any great athlete.
Arquilla began working with “Nelson” when he was just 10-years-old. Arquilla, his mother, Sharon, and his trainers saw the horse had incredible potential, but the gelding had a long way to go before he was ready for the equitation ring. “I’ve had Nelson for seven years,” he said. “He came to us as a driving horse, and he didn’t even know how to canter! I’m proud of how far he’s come.
Alayna Applegate, of Ewing, Ky., claimed the reserve champion title and the silver medal for the second consecutive year. The youngest competitor in the field of 19 rode Kalarama’s New Moon, her nine-year-old American Saddlebred gelding. “I am always working on rising to the top, but if I can stay right here, I’ll stay right here as long as I can,” said Applegate. “It is so much fun.”
“Moonpie” and Applegate are a relatively new partnership of six months. “This was only [Kalarama’s New Moon] third equitation final ever, with the other two being this year! I’m so proud of him,” said Applegate. “He went in there and totally knocked those patterns out today. He is amazing.”
Visit the USEF Network to watch the USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final on demand.
2019 USEF Saddle Seat Medal Final Top 10
Champion: Michael Arquilla (Woodridge, Ill.)
Reserve Champion: Alayna Applegate (Ewing, Ky.)
Third: Isabella Privitera (Mission Hills, Kan.)
Fourth: Finn Cooper (Denver Colo.)
Fifth: Sophie Yi (Alamo, Calif.)
Sixth: Gabriella Snyder (St. Louis, Mo.)
Seventh: Dawson Archibald (Andover, Kan.)
Eighth: Ashley Perry (Londonderry, N.H.)
Ninth: Kaylee Atkinson (Oro Valley, Ariz.)
Tenth: Ella Hampton (Sheridan, Ind.)