Grace Debney and Byolga Win North American League Children’s Jumper Final at Pennsylvania National Horse Show

©Al Cook

Grace Debney, 14, Hampden, MA and Byolga, owned by Emily Reder, capped an already successful year with a win in the $10,000 North American League (NAL) Children’s Jumper Final, presented by EquiFit, at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show on Saturday afternoon. The pair has dominated the division in 2018. They finished on top of the year-long regular season standings and then won at Capital Challenge, an impressive accomplishment since this is Debney’s first year riding jumpers and first time participating in the NAL program.

“It feels great,” said Debney. “I tried not to have any expectations. We had a really good Capital Challenge, so I just wanted to come in with no pressure, but this was really the goal for the year.”

The top 30 in the nation who qualified for the Final rode in reverse order of ranking; with 14 moving forward to the tie-breaking round. Six horse-and-rider combinations negotiated double clear rounds over the Michel Vaillancourt-designed course. Eliza Kimball of New York, NY on Available Ohio, owned by Carly Hoft, held the target time of 33.344 seconds until Debney, who went fault-free and faster, in 32.536. Since Debney was the top qualifier, she was the last to go, which she felt was an advantage.  “I actually like being last in the jumpers because I can see what everyone else did and make changes to my plan if someone else was successful on the course,” said Debney. “My plan was just to go smooth. My horse is naturally pretty fast so if you get her riled up she gets crazy because she wants to win, so we just wanted to go as smooth as possible.” “She is so sassy, but that’s what makes her so amazing. She just wants to win all the time. I think that’s what makes the difference, because she just has a good attitude about it as well.”

Leslie Schillat of Malvern, PA, rode SLF Destiny to the win over 29 finalists in the $10,000 North American League Adult Jumper Final, Presented by SmartPak. The pair turned in two fault-free rides and a jump-off time of 35.991 to claim the win. Schillat was one of eight entries to reach the jump-off by riding fault-free over the first-round course designed by Michel Vaillancourt. Izabelle Quadracci of Hartland, WI, took an early lead in the jump-off with a clean ride in 36.547 seconds on Tipperary Hill. Her lead held up until Schillat, the second-to-last entry, mastered the course on her 12-year-old Hanoverian mare.

 The final entry, Stephanie King of Saint Augustine, FL, on Co-Starr, actually beat Schillat’s time, finishing in 34.119 seconds, but a rail down gave her four faults and a fifth-place finish. Quadracci wound up second with third going to Anna Lerch of Wilton, CT, on Carany and fourth to Hope Batchelor DVM of Chester Springs, PA on Ciola.

“This is my first time at this show, so we were both nervous,” said a jubilant Schillat. ” I expected none of this. I thought if I have a nice round, I’ll be happy with it and see what happens after that. This is beyond what was expected.” “My mare was wonderful, but a little like, ‘What is this, where are we’ and then she was a champ all the way around. She’s the best and when I’m nervous, she just takes care of me. We watched a whole bunch of the children’s class and then a few of the adults. It was helpful for me to watch and talk with Missy about our plan; really helpful for us to watch, for sure. The whole experience was really fun, it goes by so fast, I wish I could do it all again in slow motion.”

 Schillat said that this was her first year competing in the NAL. “The NAL is a great program,” she said. “I think the way they calculate the points is really fair, it allows for the best people to qualify coming from the best horse shows. I think it’s great. At the same time, we don’t go to Florida, we stay up North in the winter and we were still able to qualify, which I think is great. It’s kind of like an equal opportunity league, which I really like.”

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