The 2012 WIHS Equitation Finals concluded this evening with an exciting win for 18-year-old Elizabeth Benson of Whitehouse Station, NJ. Benson rode San Remo VDL, a twelve-year-old Latvian Warmblood gelding by Sudanas, through the first two phases of competition, finishing with a score of 89.33 in the hunter phase and a 91.17 point total in the jumper phase.
Returning for the final work-off sitting in first place overall, Benson’s ride aboard Catherine Tyree’s mount Patrick scored a 90.33, giving her a three round total of 270.832 for the win. The judges for the class were Todd Karn, of Fayetteville, NY, Jimmy Clapperton, of Savannah, GA, Alison Robitaille, of Upperville, VA, Ralph Caristo, of Saugerties, NY, Lauren Hough of Wellington, FL, and Scott Williamson of Wellington, FL.
Benson earned the victory over Hasbrouck Donovan, of Gainesville, FL, who totaled 267.833 with scores of 87.33, 89.50, and 91.00. Donovan rode Don Stewart and Derbypie LLC’s Drake in the hunter/jumper rounds and then piloted Benson’s mount San Remo VDL in the final work-off.
Third place went to Jacob Pope, of Owings Mills, MD, with a three round total of 263.082. Pope rode Madeline Turner’s Uno to scores of 88 and 84.42 in the first two rounds. His ride in the final work-off aboard Sarah Milliren’s mount Alando, owned by Devney Hoft, scored a 90.67.
This was Elizabeth Benson’s second time competing in the WIHS Equitation Finals after placing third in the competition last year. This year she stepped up to the plate to secure the title.
Benson was presented The WIHS Equitation Classic Trophy donated by Mr. and Mrs. G. Ralph Ours, III and a pair of custom chaps provided by Journeymen Saddlers, Ltd. San Remo VDL was awarded The Lugano Memorial Trophy donated by Stoney Hill as the winning horse of the night. Championship coolers were sponsored by Mrs. Margaret Hamilton Duprey.
© Shawn McMillen Photography
Following the victory, Benson spoke about her two mounts, San Remo VDL and Patrick, and the honor of winning. She has owned San Remo VDL for three years.
“Last year I wasn’t able to show him; he was out with an injury off and on for a year,” Benson stated. “He had a little bit of a break before coming here this year and we wanted to make sure he was set for the end of these finals. For me he is perfect; he can’t do much wrong.”
Speaking about her work-off mount Patrick, she detailed, “He was definitely comfortable from the start. I wasn’t as nervous as I was last year. I came back in the same spot (this year), second in the hunter phase and first in the jumper phase. Going in on him I think he was more my ride. He was easy to open up and get down the first line and get down the tricky parts of the course, so I liked him a lot.”
Elizabeth Benson on Patrick. © Shawn McMillen Photography
Benson’s trainer, Stacia Madden, felt confident that her student would come out on top after her top scores in the hunter and jumper phases.
“I do believe that the judges don’t like to lose the winner when they perform well and consistent and haven’t left the door open to make any mistakes,” Madden noted. “I didn’t get to see many others go, but I did not think Elizabeth left the door open; she had a lead going into it. I was just very hopeful that the class was going to pan out her way.”
Benson and second place finisher Hasbrouck Donovan will both be attending Auburn University this year and received scholarships to ride on the school’s NCAA Equestrian Team. Benson will travel to Kentucky to contest the ASPCA National Maclay Finals next week as well, but for now she will take in the magnitude of this great accomplishment.
She was almost speechless trying to describe the winning feeling. “I can’t even put it into words I think,” Benson said with an emotion-filled laugh. “I was thrilled and excited. I didn’t imagine I would be in this spot.”
Hasbrouck Donovan had a fantastic ride on Benson’s San Remo VDL in her work-off round to secure the reserve honors. Donovan described that ride, “Elizabeth told me he was really fun and that you just have to really steer him around. He was awesome.”
Hasbrouck Donovan on San Remo VDL. © Shawn McMillen Photography
Donovan’s trainer, Don Stewart, commented on the level of quality in the top young riders this year. “I think both these two girls at this point in time are consistent and they ride so well, that I don’t think the pressure is an issue,” Stewart stated. “They are so competitive. They obviously have ice water in their veins. It doesn’t matter what show, what venue.”
Madden agreed and added how impressive it is that both of these top riders are continuing their educations. “There are so many top riders now; it really comes down to the day and whose day it is,” Madden said. “When you look at it on paper there are at least 15 kids that could win these finals on any given day. There are a lot of variables: the course, the weather, the venue. With the girls maintaining school and such a high standard of riding, it is just amazing. You want to think that this sport gets you the whole way, but education is very important. I think it sets a good precedent.”
Final Results: WIHS Equitation Classic Finals
1 793 Elizabeth Benson WHITEHOUSE STATION NJ 270.832
Scores : 89.33, 91.17, 90.33
2 814 Hasbrouck Donovan GAINESVILLE FL 267.833
Scores : 87.33, 89.50, 91.00
3 818 Jacob Pope OWINGS MILLS MD 263.082
Scores : 88.00, 84.42, 90.67
4 800 Michael Hughes MORRISTON FL 259.332
Scores : 89.83, 84.83, 84.67
5 809 Meg O’Mara RUMSON NJ 257.832
Scores : 87.83, 90.33, 79.67
6 819 Victoria Colvin LOXAHATCHEE FL 257.499
Scores : 86.00, 83.17, 88.33
7 827 Kristen Lutz PURCHASE NY 252.332
Scores : 86.17, 79.83, 86.33
8 859 Sarah Milliren SAPULA OK 250.165
Scores : 84.33, 82.17, 83.67
9 790 Gabrielle Bausano NEW YORK NY 237.499
Scores : 85.00, 82.83, 69.67
10 799 Catherine Tyree CHICAGO IL 212.999
Scores : 84.67, 88.33, 40.00