Lexington, Ky. – Oct. 25, 2019 – The first day of the 2019 National Horse Show took place at the event’s home in the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park on Friday, commencing the highly-anticipated Opening Weekend that is now in its second year after a successful debut in 2018. Three days of competition will showcase age group equitation classes as well as three championship events, offering unique opportunities for athletes to gain experience in the ring at the 2'6"-3’3” height and vie for a series of coveted blue ribbons. Following a day of equitation excellence, the most impressive exhibitors, many of whom are experiencing the National Horse Show for the first time, maneuvered to their respective leads headed into day two of competition. The day's divisions included the Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett Under 14 Equitation, presented by Palm Beach International Academy, the Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett 14 - 15 Equitation, Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett 16 - 17 Equitation, Adult Equitation, and the KHJA Equitation. 

Commencing the 2019 horse show as the first contest of the morning, Section A of the Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett Under 14 Equitation Over Fences, presented by Palm Beach International Academy, brought a talented group of 40 young exhibitors to the forefront. Earning the highest score over fences, Vanessa McCaughley and River Hill Farm’s Center Line claimed the first win of the day and continued to add to their success with second place in the under saddle, behind winners Kaitlyn Kiely and Adele McKenna’s Kocu, to keep the duo in contention for Saturday’s tricolors. Section B of the class saw Francesca Guidi and her own Citation ride to victory in the over fences portion of competition, putting the pair in a strong position for the championship honors headed into Saturday’s finale, though they will have to surpass Eleanor Rudnicki and Julia Strawbridge’s Castino, who earned first prize on the flat and second position over fences to claim the early front runner spot.

In the slightly older age group division, the Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett 14 - 15 Equitation, Ainsley Wade and Elena A. Haas each concluded the day with new accolades to their names in Section A, while Isabel Rudaz emerged as the big winner of the day after topping both classes in Section B ahead of her counterparts. Leading the scorecard ahead of 32 other riders in the Section A over fences class, Wade navigated her own Cumano Boy Z to victory thanks to a standout trip, and Rudaz subsequently piloted Donald Stewart’s Ullrich to the top honors in Section B of the class over fences, which also boasted 33 entries. On the flat, owner-rider Haas was the first winner after demonstrating superior form aboard Kalgary DV, and Rudaz maintained momentum to wrap up the division with first position in the irons on Ullrich as the Section B leader. 

Hosting the eldest of the junior equitation contenders, the two sections of the Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett 16 - 17 Equitation attracted a total of 52 horse-and-rider combinations to the Alltech Arena. Kicking off Section A over fences, Caroline Kelly rode her own Hopscotch to top marks to secure the initial lead in the division, and Claire Walls followed suit with an exemplary performance under saddle on Amy Daspit’s San Paolo that earned them first place. Section B once again saw a series of skilled young athletes, led by Alannah Argyle and STS Enterprises LLC’s KT Caraco in the over fences portion of the division and Rachel Perry and Doni Biggs’ Valedictorian, who have only been paired together for one week, in the hotly-contested under saddle class. Both partnerships earned blue ribbons to keep them in contention for the championship, which will be crowned Saturday following one final over fences contest.

Throughout the National Horse Show’s opening weekend, the hospitality in the Taylor Harris Club and Maxwell Place will offer elegant atmospheres for exhibitors and VIP guests. The exclusive and stylish Taylor Harris Club features an unbeatable view overlooking the Alltech Arena – perfect for equestrians, families and business professionals to enjoy the exciting competition in VIP fashion. Maxwell Place, presented by the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Foundation, offers Riders’ Lounge hospitality with exciting food options, as well as a select number of premier boutique vendors. It is open to the public for shopping and dining throughout the horse show, with the Riders’ Lounge hospitality open during show hours.

The National Horse Show will return for its second day of riding Saturday, Oct. 26 and will highlight the championship crowning of the age group equitation divisions, as well as the second phase of the KHJA Equitation and the first round of the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Horse Show Adult Equitation Championship.

Francesca Guidi - Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett Under 14 Equitation Over Fences, presented by Palm Beach International Academy, Section B winner

On winning first place at the National Horse Show:
“This is my first time at the National Horse Show. It feels amazing to get a blue ribbon and I am so happy and proud.”

On her horse and her round:
“I’ve owned ‘Cash’ for just over two years now. He is the most amazing horse with the biggest personality. He will even actually stick out his tongue when he is happy! Today I realized the main source of my problem in the ring was my nerves, so I put all of those behind me and went in and had a good time.”

On the Opening Weekend:
“I really like it a lot! I like having it separate so that there isn’t a mix of a bunch of people. There are a lot of people you can look up to around here, like in the [ASPCA Maclay Championship]  next weekend. I think it is awesome to have a bunch of people you can look up to and a bunch of friends here.”

Isabel Rudaz - Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett 14 - 15 Equitation leader

On winning the flat and over fences:
“It definitely feels really good and is a confidence booster for me. I get really anxious in the show ring so it took a really big weight off of my shoulders. I was just happy to get a ribbon, honestly. The division was so big and so competitive!”

On her rides:
“This is my first year here and first time doing the 3’3” finals. My horse felt really good today. I just wanted to go in and get around so that I could get a little less nervous in the ring. He has been the best horse I have ever been able to work with. His name is Ullrich but we call him Fudge in the barn. It just all came together today!”

On her partnership with Ullrich:
“I have ridden him for almost two years, and Don Stewart owns him. We know each other pretty well. I would say that he has my back and I do my best to have his!”

Rachel Perry - Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett 16 - 17 Equitation Flat Section B winner

On her horse:
“His name is Valedictorian and I have been riding him for about a week now. This is a new relationship we have, but he is amazing. He has been around and done everything! He had just enough energy to pull through for the flat.”

On winning with a new ride:
“It feels really good! It feels like everything we have done this past week has really paid off, so it means a lot that we were able to do that.”

On the flat class, which included call-backs:
“It was a lot! This is probably the biggest class I have ever done and I am kind of new to the equation scene, but it was good. You have to take one thing at a time and not let it overwhelm you.”

On being at the National Horse Show for the first time:
“It feels amazing! This is an amazing facility and I feel happy that I get to compete here.”

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