Lexington, Kentucky – November 07, 2021 – The 138th edition of America’s oldest indoor horse show, the National Horse Show, rounded out 11 days of prestigious competition Sunday, November 7. The final day brought some of the country’s top junior equitation athletes back to the Alltech Arena of the Kentucky Horse Park for the 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship, presented by Chansonette Farm. Since 1993, the Maclay National Championship has been one of the most sought-after distinctions in junior equitation sport. A total of 175 horse-and-rider partnerships would contest for the winning title, but it was ultimately Zayna Rizvi (USA) and Jordyn Rose Freedman’s Finnick who would add another accolade to her resume and lead the pack for the victory gallop after becoming champion of the 88th ASPCA Maclay National Championship.
Course designer Bobby Murphy (USA) crafted the first round course. Known for his challenging tracks that require forward, accurate riding, the 2021 event marked Murphy’s eighth time building the ASPCA Maclay National Championship course. Twelve beautifully decorated fences made up the first round track that only the most tactful riders could complete without error. Long-set bending lines and two well-built one-strides, one of which would be jumped in both directions, demanded a purposeful pace while maintaining body control throughout the course. The solid hedges, airy oxers and wellbuilt gates set the perfect scene as judges Archibald Cox and Keri Kampsen, who won the ASPCA Maclay National Championship in 1997, watched each horse-and-athlete pair try their best to demonstrate style and skill.
At the conclusion of the 175 trips, Cox and Kampsen settled on a list of the top 24 riders based on their precision and position throughout the first round course. As the 32nd partnership in the initial start list, Rizvi (USA) was recognized for her seamless first round track aboard Finnick (USA) that impressed the judges enough to leave her at the top of the leaderboard throughout the remainder of the first round, lending her the lead heading into phase two. Behind Rizvi in the callback lineup for phase two, the flat round, was Grace Debney (USA), Catalina Peralta (USA), Tessa P. Brown (USA) and Audrey Schulze (USA).
The top 12 high-scoring athletes were invited back to compete under saddle in the second grouping of riders, while the lower scoring of the top 24 were first to ride against one another. A marquee portion of the championship, the flat phase invited athletes back to the Alltech Arena to showcase brilliance under saddle. Judges asked riders to display a strong foundation of riding through the working walk, trot, sitting trot, extended trot and canter. Asked to demonstrate a flying change of lead in front of the judges going each direction, the judges’ question posed a challenge to a number of pairs, but also allowed a few to shine in their ability to shift their horses weight with nearly no change in pace, stride or position. Of those that shone bright, Rizvi rode an impressive effort throughout the flat portion, seamlessly transitioning through each gait to remain at the top of the order. Peralta was able to move up in the placings for her efforts on the flat, bumping up to second place while Schulze moved into third. At the conclusion of the under saddle, Brown would sit in fourth place and Debney would move down to fifth for the second round course.
The panel of judges invited the 24 riders to return in reverse order of preference for the third phase of competition, a second over fences trip. The track, once again laid by Murphy, would feature a number of obstacles from round one, but a new pattern would pose new challenges for horse-and-rider pairs. A series of bending lines and a long three-stride line away from the gate made pace a focus yet again over the second round course. Additional shuffling in the order would ensue following the completion of the second round, forcing judges to require further testing over fences.
Returning for the test without irons, Brown was the first to show. The young athlete aboard Davide was unfortunately jumped loose at the third fence, an oxer that was counter-cantered after halting. Peralta was next to contest, laying down a lovely track that spoke to the quality of her canter aboard Clover. Second-to-last in the order was Rizvi and Finnick. A steady position and a well-thought out track would showcase her strong partnership with her mount, landing from the last fence in perfect stride. Finally, Schulze rode Mac One III over the shortened course. Schulze produced a respectable round, leaving the final decisions up to the judges for one final pinning.
In the end, it was Rizvi (USA) who reclaimed her leading position, securing the win in the 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship with veteran mount Finnick (USA), a 15-year-old Westphalian gelding. Under the tutelage of Missy Clark and John Brennan of North Run, the pair have been knocking on the door of a championship win over the past few years, claiming top-three finishes in a number of national equitation finals including a recent reserve championship finish in the 2021 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal National Championship and a third place finish in the 2020 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East. Her win capped off an incredible year for the 16-year-old athlete, who continues to dominate in both the equitation and jumper ranks.
Receiving the second place honors was Peralta and Sail Horse Investments’ Clover. The 17-year-old Holsteiner gelding and Peralta have claimed a number of accolades to their name under the training of Stacia Klein-Madden and the team at Beacon Hill Show Stables, including a sixth place finish in the 2021 Washington International Horse Show Final. Originally from Geneva, Florida, Peralta’s reserve champion finish marked an excellent ending to her junior riding career.
Rounding out the top three was Schulze. Trained by Frank Madden, the talented young athlete rode Taylor Griffiths-Madden’s Mac One III, who won the 2020 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal National Championship with Griffiths-Madden. The 12-year-old Anglo European gelding and Schulze (USA) placed third in the 2021 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East, and Schulze was thrilled with her result in her final junior year.
Sunday’s competition marked the conclusion of the 138th National Horse Show, which featured 11 days of equestrian action in the equitation, hunter and jumper disciplines in 2021.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Zayna Rizvi – 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship winner
On claiming the 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship title:
“I’ve had a great week here competing with my jumper horses and moving into the bigger FEI classes, and I’ve learned so much. I’ve been working toward this all year so this is a really great way to end our season. Now my horse [Finnick] gets a break until [the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF)]. This win means so much to me. I want to thank everyone who had a part in this and helped me get here today. I am very thankful.”
“This is my fourth equitation final season on Finn. My first show on him was Maclay Regionals four years ago and I remember coming out of the ring and looking at Missy [Clark] and telling her he was like my soulmate! Everytime we step in the ring, we just click – something works. He is the best partner ever and he always tries his hardest for me. He is honestly the most amazing horse, so I am very grateful to get to ride him.”
Catalina Peralta – 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship second place
On persevering through a tough year:
“This year has been a bit tough. I lost two horses this year, family members as well, so it means a lot. Although I didn’t end up with a win I am extremely grateful to be able to be reserve champion and just compete in this class with a fantastic horse like Clover. Stacia [Klein Madden] is incredible, she has helped me so much in overcoming such difficulties. I’m so grateful for the team at Beacon Hill [Show Stables], they are my family.”
Audrey Schulze – 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship third place
On being the first rider in the order of go:
“I wasn’t overly stressed having to go first because I know that I was prepared coming into this week. It was interesting that the [order-of-go] came out earlier in the week so I had all week to think about it. I knew that I was ready, I was going to walk the course and have my plan, execute it exactly how I walked, and that’s what I did. It worked out nicely.”
Missy Clark – Trainer of Zayna Rizvi
On preparing Zayna for the win:
“I don’t think it’s anything special that we [North Run] do, it’s kind of what we do all year. Zayna is so well versed in the jumper ring, and my theory is always it’s not a different sport, the equitation ring. We do a lot of flatwork in lessons and we do our coursework, but I don’t think we do anything unusual other than what we do all year. Zayna is a remarkable talent and such a great student, so she makes it easy.”
Stacia Klein-Madden – Trainer of Catalina Peralta
On coaching Catalina through a difficult year:
“You have to go to what you know works, and you have to go to your fallback. When you put together a team that you trust and you have your faith in, and you have horses that you know like the back of your hand and you’ve got great owners that allow you the opportunity to have access to those horses when you need them, it really just falls into place. It becomes all about the journey and you realize that it’s just feeling confident, being practiced and just knowing that you are coming to the event really prepared. I really think it’s the team that we put together and the faith in the customers.”
Frank Madden – Trainer of Audrey Schulze
On Audrey’s performance:
“It’s such a treat to come here and be exposed to such great courses and such interesting material that Bobby Murphy I know is responsible for. We just came here trying to stick to our game plan. We walked the course, and I said to Audrey in the schooling area, ‘It doesn’t matter whether you go first or one hundredth today, we’ve got your plan and you’re just going to have to go out there and execute it.’ I feel so old sitting up here with two former students – I was involved with Keri [Kampsen] and her win and Stacia [Klein Madden] and her win, so I am an old man up here with a talented young rider.”
Archie Cox – 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship judge
On the class overall:
“I thought it was a spectacular class. It was a true championship. It was a tough, demanding course. Working with Bobby Murphy, he made an incredible course, so I give all the credit to him. It was well-balanced – if you went to the right you went to the left, you had to go forward and you had to come back. Those are all the elements that we were towards, that we school our horses so they are just electric to the aids. That course today was outstanding. The riders moved around on the flat. Some of them really stood out. It’s important that they realize they can move around on the flat. The second round I would say ninety percent of those rounds were outstanding. That’s what you really want to see in a championship, where some of the early riders had an opportunity to move up and they did. Then the top four I was really adamant that they ride without stirrups. That’s a fundamental basic, and it was a great day all around. Any one of the top 10, top four riders, on any day it can be their day. This is a stepping stone to so many great careers. That is something that we all as riders, trainers, the braiders, the grooms, we are all involved with it, and it just rockets people to stardom. I showed in [the ASPCA Maclay] as a junior, I’ve won it as a trainer, Keri [Kampsen] has won the finals as a rider, and it’s just one stop in a great career that is ahead of everyone.”
On Audrey’s first round:
“When Audrey went first, I looked at Keri [Kampsen] and I said, ‘She just gave them a riding lesson.’ She used her cluck in the in-and-out and it was so appreciated. She went in there first, and that was a lot to go first with and she gave a riding lesson. That will stand out, Audrey clucking inside that double. It is horsemanship. That’s riding. It was so refreshing with the first horse out of the box. To all the other riders out there, it’s about horsemanship, and she gave a riding lesson. It was very nice to watch.”
On what made Zayna stand out:
“I would say certainly forward riding and execution. She came in the ring, came around the turn, went from the outgate and started going forward to that first jump. You have to go forward to the first if you want to go forward to them all, and she does.”
Keri Kampsen – 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship judge
On the class overall:
“I would like to add that it was an amazing time working with Bobby [Murphy] and the whole team here. It’s so well organized. Bobby is one of the few course designers that really listened to what we had to say. I’m totally responsible because I wanted that snake line. I took half the class out! That is something I practice at home, making my young horses follow and learn how to follow the aides and that’s what I wanted to start with. Bobby actually listened and gave us exactly what we asked for, and more. It was a really great day, and to be on the other side of that table in that special class from when I won it as a kid, it meant a lot to me.”
Final Results – 2021 ASPCA Maclay National Championship, presented by Chansonette Farm
1) Zayna Rizvi (USA) & Finnick
2) Catalina Peralta (USA) & Clover
3) Audrey Schulze (USA) & Mac One III
4) Tessa P. Brown (USA) & Davide
5) Hannah Hoch (USA) & Simply Stated
6) Mimi Gochman (USA) & Andretti BH
7) Natalie Jayne (USA) & Charisma
8) Christina Dominguez (USA) & Iwan
9) Cody Rego (USA) & Tanzanite de Semilly
10) Avery Glynn (USA) & Cocon 4
11) Amira Kettaneh (USA) & Gossip SA
12) Tessa Downey (USA) & HH Moonshine
Source: Press Release from National Horse Show
Photo: © Libby Greene