Riders Aim To Compete At SE Medal Finals


James Lala is a man full of good ideas, such as the one he had back in 2012.

“For many years, I was thinking that we needed something like the New England Equitation Finals,” he recalled. “It’s such a big deal for the riders and trainers up there. Everyone loves it.”

So James came up with the Southeast Medal Finals. “I wanted something accessible to all riders, including some who might never have participated in a show beyond the local level. It’s easy to qualify, affordable and a really fun show,” he said. “I wanted to make this open to riders of all ages. There’s even wildcard classes for riders with new horses who didn’t get a chance to qualify earlier, held the Thursday before the show.”

Last year, there were 325 overall entries. The biggest class was the Junior Medal with 92.

“This year’s jumper finals will use a World Cup format,” James said. “There’s also a Team Equitation competition for the Battle of the States. Each year we improve. This year’s show will also include live and silent auctions to benefit the Kids Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and emotional support for kids with cancer and their families. Sponsorships and in-kind donation opportunities are still available.”

The show, which will be Sept. 16-18 at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center, draws riders from Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and, of course, Florida. It features classes in hunters, jumpers and equitation for children, juniors and adults. Any horse shown by a member can qualify for the finals in multiple divisions with multiple riders.

A member can qualify by placing first through fourth in a Southeast Medal Qualifying Class or medal at a sanctioned event. Additionally, riders can qualify at non-sanctioned events by placing first or second in a comparable medal or equitation class.

Junior riders who win any Southeast Medal Finals event are no longer eligible to participate in that same final; those who win at WIHS, ASPCA/Maclay, USEF Talent Search and/or USEF Medal are no longer eligible to compete in Southeast Medal Finals. Adults who win the same Southeast Medal Finals three times are no longer eligible to compete in that final.

The qualifying period began Sept. 25, 2015 and runs through Sept. 21, 2016. Points are retroactive if the membership fee of $20 is received before Aug. 31. Points can be earned through any show. The easiest way to earn points is through sanctioned shows, which this year includes both the Palm Beach County Mounted Posse and the Palm Beach County Horseman’s Association.

Palm Beach County Mounted Posse President Alyce Michelbrink is pleased with the program.

“Our riders are enthusiastic to have this opportunity to go to a rated show of such great stature at an affordable cost,” she said. “We’ve already had two riders qualify: Brianna Bennett, an amateur adult, and Samantha Twohill, a youth. The litmus test of how successful we’ve been as a schooling show is seeing our riders move on to bigger and better shows, like SEMF. Any opportunity for them to fulfill their dreams in their riding journey is great.”

Palm Beach County Horseman’s Association President Tanja Koschnick agreed.

“Our schooling shows are the steppingstone to that next level of going to the rated shows,” she said. “This year, our affiliation with SEMF gives our riders a prestigious final to work toward without having to travel too far. Our schooling shows strive to be the next step in moving up to rated shows, and being sanctioned with SEMF provides another venue. We’re very excited for the opportunity and encourage our riders to try to qualify.”

Jackie George, of Four Gs Equitation Center, attended the first PBCHA show of the season at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center over the April 30 to May 1 weekend with her two daughters, Allison and Jenna.

“I’d love to go to finals,” said Allison, who was showing as an amateur adult. “It would be a great experience, and it’s held at a really nice facility. I will absolutely do this.”

Jenna, who was showing in children’s hunters, was equally excited. “This will be a great goal to shoot for this year,” she said. “I’m thrilled this is a sanctioned show. It makes it even easier to qualify, and I think I already did, because I placed second in my medal class.”

“Having these schooling shows as sanctioned events is fabulous,” Jackie said. “It’s a great way to make it easier for people to participate in a large, prestigious event. Showing gets expensive very quickly. Having the Southeast Medal Finals to shoot for is a great incentive for riders to keep showing and stay in the sport, especially amateur adults.”

Jackie expects a lot of local participation.

“I also think we’ve got some of the best riders around, and we’ll give them a run for their money in Jacksonville in September,” she said.

For more information, call Lala at (561) 906-6668, or visit www.southeastmedalfinals.com.