East Dorset, Vermont — It came down to the final competitor in the $3,000 NAL Open Speed class held Thursday at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, VT. As the final challengers, Alison Robitaille of Upperville, VA, and her speedy mare, Pourquoi, sailed to victory.
As 17 entries took their turn over Conrad Homfeld’s course, each faultless trip out did the last. Robert Mendoza of Newport, NH, turned in the first clear effort aboard Andiamo Pyon in a time of 68.55 seconds. Alexa Lowe of Upperville, VA, and Credit Cruise then topped that time by four seconds. Then Sulu Rose-Reed of Manakin, VA, and Lendore, beat that time by one second.
More rails fell as the class wound down and it seemed as though Rose-Reed and Lendore wouldn’t be caught. But as the class’s final challenger, Robitaille, an experienced grand prix rider, had an ace up her sleeve.
“When I walked the course, I walked jumps two to three in five strides,” Robitaille explained of her strategy. “But as I watched how other people were riding it, I saw some of them doing it in six.”
Having the advantage of multiple entries, Robitaille tried the line in six strides first aboard Garfield 211 but accumulated more time than she wanted.
“So I did it in five strides on Pourquoi and let her take some good turns and gallop where we could,” continued Robitaille. “She’s naturally fast and doesn’t spend a lot of time in the air.”
The pair stopped the timer at 61.55 seconds with no fallen rails.
A close relationship with Pourquoi, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, has paid off for Robitaille. Her parents, Bertram and Diana Firestone of Newstead Farm in Uppperville, VA, imported her from Holland as a two-year-old. Robitaille started her and has brought her along ever since. But it wasn’t exactly love at first sight.
“When she came off the plane, she was fat because she was in foal and her mane was down to her shoulder,” Robitaille remembered. “I must admit I didn’t have a lot of confidence in her at first sight.”
But her parents saw talent they couldn’t resist when they watched the mare free jumping in Holland.
“She’s definitely a real winner and competitor now,” Robitaille said. She hopes to step Pourquoi up to some bigger classes in the near future.
Before coming to the Vermont Summer Festival this year, Robitaille and Pourquoi found success north of the border at the Classique Internationale de Blainville and Bromont International horse shows in Quebec, Canada, in July. After a week of rest, she met her parents at the Vermont Summer Festival at the beginning of week five.
“They didn’t come all the way up to Blainville and Bromont, but they love to come here,” Robitaille said. “We love the area and the town and the great atmosphere here.”
The North American League offers a year-long Series in six divisions—Children’s Jumper, Adult Jumper, Pony Jumper, Open Jumper, Children’s Hunter, and Adult Hunter presented by Practical Horseman. The Series includes classes held at hundreds of horse shows across the United States and Canada. Finals for all divisions are held at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, PA, in October. Riders need not be members of the NAL to compete in the qualifying classes, but only members earn points toward the year-end finals.
Competition at the Vermont Summer Festival is held daily Wednesday through Sunday, beginning at 8 a.m. and running until approximately 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children Wednesday through Saturday. On ‘Grand Prix Sunday’, admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children. All gate proceeds are donated to the Friends Foundation for MEMS, benefiting programs in the local Elementary & Middle Schools.
New England’s largest “AA” rated hunter/jumper horse show, the Vermont Summer Festival offers over $750,000 in prize money, making it the richest sporting event in the state of Vermont. Visit the Vermont Summer Festival website for more information, including full results.
$3,000 Open NAL Speed – Final Results
|1||Alison Robitaille||Upperville, VA||Pourquoi||61.55|
|2||Sulu Rose-Reed||Manakin, VA||Leondor||63.47|
|3||Alexa Lowe||Upperville, VA||Credit Cruise||64.47|
|4||Jaime Maillet||Chester, NJ||Caletto Z||68.12|
|5||Robert Mendoza||Newport, NH||Andiamo Pyon||68.55|
|6||Julie Welles||West Simsbury, CT||Unicum||68.99|
|7||Alison Robitaille||Upperville, VA||Garfield||70.84|
|8||Jaime Maillet||Chester, NJ||Sunny Face G||76.57|