The prestigious George Morris Excellence in Equitation class highlighted week 11, with the cream of the crop of the nation’s Junior riders competing for top honours. Open by invitation only to the top Junior riders at WEF this season, it was highly contested. An equally impressive group of jumper competitors showed in the $50,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider FEI Grand Prix Series Final held on Sunday on the grass in The Stadium.
The George Morris class on Friday was won by the amazingly talented 16 yr old Victoria Colvin from Loxahatchee, FL on Patrick, a 12 yr old Warmblood owned by Catherine Tyree and leased by Dr. Betsee Parker. Tori’s dedication, talent and love of riding was justly rewarded. The 4:30 pm class actually began with a flat session “under the lights” from 6 to 7 am that day – Tori was on at 5:30.
At 4:30 pm,at a rider’s meeting, all cell phones belonging to the Eq riders were turned in and no contact with trainers was allowed before or during the class. Riders were allowed one groom – course planning and schooling beforehand was to be managed by the rider. No more than four riders were to be in the schooling area at one time, making for a very quiet, almost peaceful atmosphere in this ring. The schooling was judged separately by judge Karen Golding, giving a score of 0 to 6 for timeliness, efficiency and any questionable practices. The score was announced at the beginning of each rider’s trip and added to the riding score.
The first round was quite straightforward with few surprises and several smooth, polished trips. The top 12 returned and found round 2 much more challenging – with some counter canters, a fairly high trot fence coming off a very forward high jump, a walk fence and two changes of lead after the last fence before leaving the ring. The walk fence proved to be the undoing of many. It seemed none of the riders or their horses had ever done one before.
Tori came out on top in the second round with a 92.5 and was one of four to return for the final round. Even though she only began riding Patrick at the beginning of the year, Tori and her mount performed together as one – a pleasure to watch them complete the three courses with accuracy and poise. The term ” it takes a village” has particular significance for Tori as she is coached by Missy Clarke and John Brennan in equitation, Ken Berkley in jumpers and Scott Stewart with hunters. Scott and Ken are also involved with Tori’s equitation activities.
George Morris was on hand at the ingate to provide his comments about the class. He acknowledged that round 2, pre-designed by the judges and for which he had provided input, was difficult but doable and that several well known judges in the past ( Victor Hugo Vidal and Ronnie Mutch included) had used the walk fence many times when testing.
Tori incredibly finished the week as the winning rider of the $50,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider FEI Grand Prix series. Although Sweden’s Alexander Zetterman on Flecu won the class, Tory finished the series with the highest overall score and was awarded free entry to the Chantilly CSI 2* horse show on the Global Champions Tour in France in July, with free transportation provided by the Dutta Corporation in association with Guido Klatte. Included among the prizes was a Bruno del Grange saddle. Second place finisher in the series was Toronto’s Jordan Macpherson, 24, who trains with the Millars, on Piccobello du Val de Geer.
Friday’s highlight at Nona Garson’s The Ridge Farm was her Hunter Derby Final, with 34 competitors. It could have been called ” the Kelley show”, as the successful derby specialist, Kelley Farmer had four horses in the final round of twelve! But the grey gelding, Smoking Gun, with Peter Wylde aboard ‘smoked’ the competition with a beautifully ridden final trip. The relaxed atmosphere and well manicured grass derby field was enjoyed by all, including the judges viewing the class from the back of two pickup trucks.
Saturday marked the day of The Ridge series’ ( now called the Wellington Turf Tour ) $25,000 Grand Prix Finale, held at the same venue as last year at the vast, beautiful grounds of the Jacobs’ Deeridge Farms, which encompasses three entrances on Pierson Road and a side entrance off Southfields Road. Spectators and competitors were invited to enter the grounds for this occasion and were not disappointed. The class took place from 8:30 until 4:30, using an open ingate system to allow people to compete in WEF classes as well as in this Finale on the same day. Using a very laid back approach, riders walked their course in between other people’s single trips, arriving at the show whenever it was convenient for them. Complimentary food and beverages were available throughout the day.
The grounds of Deeridge are similar to a preserve – great expanses of grassy areas, large ponds, with many palm trees and wooded areas. The Grand Prix course here and the hunter derby course at The Ridge are set on grass which was in good shape and appeared to be enjoyed by horses and riders alike.
In dressage land, the Grand Prix Finale of the AGDF will be the 12 CDI 5* next week. Based on their scores throughout the season 22 top riders have been chosen to compete. Eight are Canadians, joining an international group from the U.S. Denmark, Australia and Georgia. We are definitely making our presence known!