NEEC 2009 October 19 2009, 0 Comments

We arrived home last night around 9:00 PM after watching Samantha Smith of Wakefield, RI, win the 2009 New England Medal. The final riders were all outstanding–including Devon Wood of Dover, NH; Kelsey Hart of East Greenbush, NY; and Carolyn Lichtenberg of Pelham Manor, NY.

The highlight for me was the presentation of the Katie Battison Memorial Horsemanship Award.

According to the NEEC committee, “This award is intended to identify from among our many competitors the ‘all-around horseperson’ who can do it all. A young horseperson who not only rides well, but understands the great importance of quality horse care.”

The competition for this award consists of three phases.  First, there is a written test with 100 questions that is taken on Friday evening. There is a “hands-on” practicum in the stable area administered by two veterinarians intended to assess a horse person’s knowledge of equine care, confirmation and health. The third component is the rider’s first round score in the New England Medal Finals.

As you know, one of the reasons I was at the NEEC was to watch Larissa Laffey compete in her last event as a junior rider. Larissa is the daughter of the woman who taught me how to ride, Olana Laffey owner of Evenstride.

Larissa has been a finalist for this award for the past several years. This year, the competition was stiff. Emma Johnson was back, having won the award twice–in 2007 and 2008. That had never been done before. Many thought she would have a three-peat.

Karen Clark, who administers the written and practicum parts of the test, keeps the results secret, so no one knows anything until the results are announced.

They called the final eight into the ring. Joe Dotoli announced the results and said a few words about each competitor. The delay, um, I mean suspense was killing me. As a member of the NEEC committee, Olana was in the ring participating in the proceedings. She had no idea what the results were either, and I know she was ready to pull her hair out of her head. Joe pulled out all the stops when it was down to Larissa and Emma, making both young ladies (and the rest of us) practically beg for him to just S-P-I-T  I-T  O-U-T!!!!! Finally, he announced Emma as the second place finisher. I screamed. It was out of my mouth before I knew I had done it. (No offense Emma!)

Larissa Laffey

Larissa Laffey

The tears flowed and I could not have been happier for Larissa and Olana. It was quite a moment! As I have watched Larissa grow up, I can attest that she lives and breathes the values that this award represents. She is an inspirational role model for every little girl who dreams of horses. I’ll stop gushing now. Ok. Really. Pass the tissues.

Larissa is now a freshman at Kansas State University, a chemical engineering student.

Larissa capped off the whirlwind weekend by also receiving the Junior Sportsmanship Award, “awarded to a rider in his or her last junior year, who is not only an effective rider, but more importantly, a good horseman, one who cares for their horse and about their horse, a young horseman who is competitive yet gracious in defeat as well as in victory; and someone who demonstrates a sincere interest in their family, friends and fellow exhibitors.”

It was a great weekend! Congratulations to all of the NEEC committee members and volunteers for putting on such a fabulous event!X