WELLINGTON, Fla.-- Coco Fath of Fairfield, Conn., riding Action won the 11th Annual George H. Morris Excellence in Equitation Championship on March 23 at the Winter Equestrian Festival.
The class was held in the International Arena under the lights, and Alexandra Worthington placed second, with Ava Stearns third and Daisy Farish fourth.
Both Fath and Worthington are trained by Stacy Madden of Beacon Hill Show Stable in Colts Neck, N.J.
The 11th Annual George H. Morris Excellence in Equitation Championship was held in three rounds with a grand total of 35 competitors in round one.
The top 15 riders returned for round two in reverse order from the first round, and the leading four had a third round to determine the final placings.
RIDERS WERE required to turn in their cell phones before the start of the class and were prohibited from any contact with their trainers, meaning that competitors were responsible for the management, warm-up and schooling of their own horses with the assistance of one groom and conducted their course walk independently.
All of the under 18 junior riders received scores from two panels of judges and a schooling judge, who graded the competitors in the warm-up area with scores ranging from minus two to plus two.
The first panel of judges consisted of Chris Kappler and Ralph Caristo, Panel Two was made up of Keri Kampsen and Sissy Wickes and Karen Golding acted as schooling judge.
The course was designed by Steve Stephens and featured a trot cavaletti line, three combination lines and a demonstration of two flying lead changes in round one.
Round two featured another tricky combination, a trot fence,and a simple change of lead mid-line, while the final test included a counter-canter fence, hand gallop and halt and back.
Fath, 17, who was fourth in the class last year, was leading both rounds going into round three with an 88.5 and a 90.5, for a grand total of 179 points.
Scores om the final test were not announced.
“This is a really great experience,” said Fath. “There is no other place like WEF to have a class like this, where you are able to do it by yourself and really rely on your teammates and everyone around you for help.”
“I was a little skeptical going into the course today because it seemed a little bit like the USEF Talent Search Finals, but the first round was nice and gave us some standard elements, such as gymnastics and lines similar to what we see every day,” she said. “It definitely brought some good technical things to the table. I was a little bit worried about the cavalettis because the two people before me stopped at them, but thankfully we were able to practice in the schooling area, and my horse knows his job!”
Brand new this year, schooling took place in a separated section of the International Arena near the in-gate, and exhibitors rode straight into the show ring through a divider following their warm-up.
“At first, I didn’t love it,” said Fath of the new schooling set-up. “Everyone gets to see you warm-up and, making a mistake can be embarrassing. However, I actually really liked it by the end because it was a much bigger area to work in, and I was able to still see what was going on in the ring. The warm-up is a big part of it, and I would take any schooling area any day to get to compete in the International Arena.”
Although Worthington entered the test in fourth place on Outshine, with a 79.5 and 89 in the first two rounds, she executed an exellent test to finish second.
Stearns finished in third with a total of 172.75 points, and Farish tested second to last to finish in fourth with 169.5.
Fath was the last to face the challenges set in round three and secured her position at the top of the class.
“I don’t think it was my best test,” said Fath. “But, the first two rounds brought me high enough up that my total points were significantly above the other riders, and I just went in there trying to have a smooth round and tried not to make any major mistakes.”