It's a Mix of the Old, the New, Previous Winners and First Time Competitors Ready to Compete for the 2016 MHC Junior Medal Title
As the MHC Days of Champions approaches 150 junior riders are packing their equipment and jumping one last course before they walk into the Junior Medal Finals on Saturday, October 1, 2016.
Whether you are watching in person or on the live stream it's important to know that many of the riders in the Junior Medal Finals have different levels of show and indoor finals experience under their belts. This year will be a mix of the old, the new, previous winners and first timers competing for the Junior Medal title.
For some junior riders, the MHC Days of Champions marks the end of an era. Anna Lerch, 17, is in her last junior year. Riding with Cookie DeSimone and Greg Prince of Woodridge farm, Anna is ready for the MHC Finals.
"I was given the opportunity to compete at the Capital Challenge this year but the show conflicted with the MHC Medal Finals. When I thought about what I wanted for my last junior season I chose MHC because the final means so much to me. I've been doing Mass for a few years now. This year I'm really hoping to put it all together," said Lerch.
For her final season Lerch is riding Lincom's Close Up, a veteran equitation horse owned by Nicolas Horgan who trains with Missy Clark of North Run. Before his partnership with Lerch, "JP" spent some time with Ransom Rombauer (2015 USET West Champion) out in California.
For 2015 MHC Mini-Medal Champion Meghan Keliher, 13, 2016 marks her first year consistently competing at 3'. With her winning mount from 2015, Vinticore's Legacy, the pair has won classes at the Fieldstone Show Park, Grazing Fields and was recently 10th at the Marshall & Sterling Finals in Saugerties, NY.
Keliher, who trains with Lia Chafee and Marybeth McGee of Herring Brook Farm has been preparing over tough courses at home to get ready for the finals.
"Lia has put together courses that are a combination of previous NEEC, USEF Medal and Maclay Finals courses that have really challenged me," said Keliher.
Her horse (also known as "Vinny") has consecutively placed at MHC finals for the past three years with his previous owners Abbigale Gerrish and Colette Cacciatore. This year, he will also be competing in the MHC 18-35 Adult Medal Final the day before the Junior Medal Final. Many junior riders opt to let an adult ride their horse the day before the junior medal competition. This allows the horse to get in the arena to become comfortable with the lighting, jumps and sounds.
When we think about veteran equitation kids in New England, Emma Fletcher, 14, is top of mind. The 2015 MHC Junior Medal runner-up is coming back in 2016 to give the title of Champion another shot.
The daughter of Mike and Kathy Fletcher of Grazing Fields Farm is already an accomplished rider. Often confused for being much older due to her poise as a rider and her exceptional talent, Emma has accomplished more than most junior riders do over their junior careers. In 2013 she was the MHC Mini-Medal Final Champion. Then, in 2015, she was the youngest rider in history to win the Rhode Island Junior Medal Final at just 13 years old. So far in 2016 she has claimed top honors in the Equitation Classic at Saratoga, the 3'6" equitation classes at HITS Ocala and many other A-AA shows here in Massachusetts.
Fletcher this fall will be aboard her horse, Conspicuous. A rather large horse standing at 18hh, Emma not only has to control her body but a horse that is significantly bigger than most.
Then there's Ella Moxey, 14. Unlike the previous three riders the young rider has never been to MHC Finals. She had never even jumped a 3' course until she walked into the MHC Junior Medal at the Fieldstone Show Park. That didn't scare Ella, however. Fearlessly, she not only tackled her first 3' course but walked out victorious, winning the class.
Moxey who trains with Frank Perla of Woodgate Farm has only been training with him for about 6 months now.
"To prepare for MHC Finals has been a fun experience just in itself," said Moxey. "For the first time I'm practicing skinny jumps, bending lines and a lot of lateral work. Not to mention some pretty spooky jumps! We know the course is going to be tricky so I'm trying to prepare the basics to be able to handle that."
On behalf of the MHC we wish all our junior riders the best of luck this weekend in the MHC Junior Medal Finals. It's exciting to see a group of diverse riders come together to compete for the biggest equitation title in Massachusetts.