Carlee McCutcheon Bests the Rest in WEF Equitation Championship, Presented by NetJets
The future of U.S. show jumping took to the International Arena at Wellington International on Friday evening for the coveted WEF Equitation Championship, presented by NetJets. As the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) gears up for its final week kicking off on March 29, all eyes were on junior riders as 43 qualified rising stars took to the big ring.
The podium was dominated by riders based in the western U.S. with Carlee McCutcheon, 17, of Aubrey, TX, taking the victory by posting consistent scores in the 90s. Eleanor Rudnicki, 17, of The Woodlands, TX, was second and Jordan Gibbs, 16, of Colorado Springs, CO, rounded out the top three.
Andy Christiansen (USA) designed the equitation track, which featured a first round that included an S-line question and varying fence challenges such as a split rail option. The top 12 were called back in reverse order for a second round, which had additional challenges, including a simple change of lead. Four riders returned – without stirrups – for further testing: Gibbs, McCutcheon, Rudnicki and Tessa Downey. After the three rounds, McCutcheon was crowned winner from two judging panels made up of Archie Cox, Abby Blankenship, Tammy Provost and Lillie Keenan.
The unique format of the WEF Equestrian Championship removes trainers and all outside help from the equation. Riders must walk the course, make their plan and warm up without the assistance of a trainer. Riders hand in their cell phones at the start and can only be assisted by one groom in the schooling area.
Diane Landreville and Dan Reed observed the warm-up for the first two rounds and awarded riders a score ranging from minus two to plus two points based on their time management, horsemanship and effectiveness in the schooling area. Those point were either added or subtracted from their overall score.
“I went second in the test so I had to make a plan quickly and Jordan put in a beautiful test so I knew I’d have to do something hard, but Chacco is very talented and I think he wants to win so the harder the test, the better he is and the better he jumps,” said McCutcheon of her mount Chacco Star, a 15-year-old Chacco-Blue gelding owned by Kennedy McCaulley. “I chose to land the counter lead after the wall and hold it, and I know that’s one of my horse’s strong suits, so I was confident I was able to do that, and then just hand gallop the last jump and stay on that without my stirrups.”