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Zone 5 Riders Win $10,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Team Event

Gabriela Mershad, Kalvin Dobbs, Hayley Barnhill and Abigail McArdle - photo by Emily Riden

Wellington, FL – January 31, 2014 –
 Take two former Prix de States champions, a Prix de States and North American Junior and Young Rider champion and a rider who has won major titles including the ASPCA Maclay and Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals.

Now put all four of them together, and you will have concocted the winning combination for the 2014 $10,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Team Event – a winning combination that just four days ago had no idea that they would even be a combination at all. 

After a few last minute phone calls and Facebook messages earlier in the week, former 2013 Prix de States championship teammates Kalvin Dobbs and Gabriela Mershad came together with Hayley Barnhill and Abigail McArdle to form “Team F” and earn a big win in the Artisan Farms Young Rider Series under the lights tonight at the Stadium at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. 

The team event was run in a two round Nation’s Cup format, with nine teams competing twice over the 15 obstacle, Leopoldo Palacios J. (VEN) designed course. 

Right from the get-go the talented riders of Team F hit the ground running with a clear round from Dobbs and his mount Winde, and they never looked back, leading the class straight to the end.  

 Kalvin Dobbs and Winde - Photo Emily Riden

“I was a bit nervous because everything [at the Winter Equestrian Festival] was canceled yesterday,” Dobbs said. “I haven’t been here for a week and a half, and this morning was the first time Winde has jumped since the last Young Rider event [12 days ago]…But she’s fun, and it’s no big deal for her.”

The 1.45m course appeared to be no big deal for Barnhill’s mount Zephire and McArdle’s mount Cosma 20 as well. At the end of the first round, Barnhill and McArdle had joined Dobbs on the fault-free list, and with a drop score of just five faults from Mershad and Udonna, the team advanced to the second round with a perfect score of zero faults. 

While that score shot them straight to the top of the leaderboard after the first phase, it did not leave them with a large margin for error in the second round. Sitting just behind Team F, on only four faults, was Team B, another powerhouse team consisting of Lillie Keenan on Zaza, Mattias Tromp riding Casey, Charlotte Jacobs and Kachina and Victoria Colvin aboard Don Juan.  And still very much in the running for the win, with only five faults, were Team A, made up of Hayley Waters, Ali Wolff, Adrienne Sternlicht and Alex Zetterman, and Team H, comprised of Lorcan Gallagher, Lucas Porter, Chloe Reid and Wilton Porter. 

The top three riders from each team after round one, returned to jump the same course again in round two, with teams returning in reverse order of their rankings. 

Following the completion of the first two riders for each team, Team F remained the front runner, thanks to just four faults from Dobbs and the first double clear effort of the night turned in by Barnhill and Zephire. 

“This is a new horse for me,” Barnhill said of Zephire. “I got her at the end of the year last year, and she is owned by Cara Cheska. She’s never shown under the lights or done anything like this before, so we didn’t really know how she was going to be. She was fantastic though and couldn’t have jumped any better. I was really excited.”

Thanks to Barnhill and Zephire’s efforts, the team’s four fault total put them just ahead of Team H with six faults and Team B sitting on seven faults. 

With the podium well within the reach of all three teams, the pressure all came down to the final three riders. Chloe Reid and Athena were the first of the three to return, and together they laid down what would be one of only three double clear efforts of the night. That left Team H with a low grand total of six faults, and it further upped the ante for the final two remaining riders – Colvin and McArdle. 

Colvin returned next, and in an uncharacteristic turn of events hit the ground over the fourth fence in an unfortunate early dismount, rendering Team B out of contention for the top three. 

The ride for the top ranking then fell on the shoulders of 19-year-old McArdle and her veteran championship mount Cosma 20, and the pair did not disappoint. They turned in the third and final double clear round of the night to clinch the victory for Team F. 

“I knew I had to be clean, but we’ve done this before,” McArdle said. “I’ve done team events before, and I’ve been the anchor. It was such a great feeling to be able to go in and lay down a clean round for the win.”

Abigail McArdle and Cosma 20 - Photo Emily Riden

McArdle continued, “It’s funny. Even though I know her back and fourth, and she’s an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime kind of horse, I still get nervous and want to do well. It’s the same pressure for me every round; I want to jump clean and do well. We go in, and we ride to go clean.”

Team H’s six faults meant second place for Gallagher aboard O’Splendido, Lucas Porter riding Patriot, Wilton Porter on Radio City and Chloe Reid riding Athena. Finishing behind them on 15 faults was Team A, comprised of Waters and No Doubt, Wolff and Caya, Sternlicht and Hathaway and Zetterman and Zidane.

Presented by Artisan Farms, the Young Rider Grand Prix Series is open to all riders under the age of 25, regardless of nationality, which provides a valuable stepping-stone from the junior and amateur ranks to the grand prix level. With fences set at 1.45m, the Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series is an opportunity for developing grand prix riders to not only gain experience jumping in a team format, but also competing under the lights at night.

“It teaches you how Nation’s Cup works, which is a big part ofsenior riding,” Mershad said. “It teaches young riders what it’s all about and how to work with a team – the pressure to be on a team and the support that you need to give each other.” 

 Gabriela Mershad and Udonna - Photo Emily Riden

Tonight’s class also presented the unique opportunity for riders to compete in the Stadium at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, a venue that has previously been primarily utilized for dressage competition. 

“I loved showing here. I thought it was really cool with the stadium on the side and the tent on the other side. It gave it a very international feel,” McArdle said. “There were so many people actually watching tonight. It was a lot of fun, and you feel better going in the ring when you have more people supporting you.”

Young riders can look for continued support at the next event in the Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series, the $25,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Semi-Final held under the lights in the International Arena on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 7 p.m.