Meredith Darst Tops Hermès WIHS Equitation Finals

RELEASE: October 27, 2013
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Lauren Fischer for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Meredith Darst and Soldier in their winning presentation. 
(Shawn McMillen Photography)
Meredith Darst and Soldier in their winning presentation. (Shawn McMillen Photography)
Washington D.C.
- The 2013 Hermès WIHS Equitation Finals concluded this evening with an exciting win for 16-year-old Meredith Darst of Lebanon, OH. Darst rode Elizabeth Gabler's Soldier, a seven-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Carolus II, through the first two phases of competition finishing with a score of 88.75 in the hunter phase and a 91 point total in the jumper phase. Returning for the final work-off sitting in first place overall, Darst's ride aboard Charlotte Jacobs’s mount Patrick scored an 87.25, giving her a three round total of 267 for the win. 

Darst was presented with The WIHS Equitation Classic Trophy donated by Mr. and Mrs. G. Ralph Ours, III as well as a brand new Hermès 'Cavale' saddle. Soldier was awarded The Lugano Memorial Trophy donated by Stoney Hill as the winning horse of the night. Darst was accompanied by the trainers of Beacon Hill Show Stables for her winning presentation, including head trainer Stacia Madden.

Victoria Colvin of Loxahatchee, FL, finished second with a 263 point total. Colvin rode her horse Monsieur du Reverdy in the first two rounds with a score of 86 in the hunter phase and an 85.5 in the jumper phase. A great ride aboard Caitlin Boyle's mount Loredo in the final work-off gave Colvin a 91.5 to finish in second place overall.

Michael Hughes of Morriston, FL, placed third with scores of 86.25 and 89.5 riding Whipstick Farm Ltd.'s Joey and an 86 in the work-off aboard Meredith Darst's mount Soldier to total 261.75.

Darst rode Soldier for the first time at the Capital Challenge Horse Show a few weeks ago and then showed him in Harrisburg last week. The gelding competed successfully in USHJA International Hunter Derby classes with professional hunter rider John French in California. Since Darst and Soldier were first paired up, she has worked to get to know him better, and the effort paid off. “I kind of just played around with him a little bit,” she explained. “He learns so fast and has come really far since then.”

Darst's mount in the final round was Patrick, the same horse that topped the final work-off last year with 2012 winner Elizabeth Benson. Darst gave trainer Stacia Madden her third win in a row, and Benson was on hand to pass on the title as 2011 winner Chase Boggio was for her.

“I had seen him a lot,” Darst said of Patrick. “He is very lazy. I had to keep him going. I am not used to riding quiet horses, so it was a bit of a different ride for me. He was super easy, and he had a huge stride.”

Madden noted, “I was really fortunate to work with Patrick last year in the ride-off. Archie Cox had the horse, and I texted him and asked him what I needed to know. He said, 'He will not lose for you.' What I did for Maddy was that Elizabeth was here. She took a moment to sit with Elizabeth, and she looked at the video and Charlotte’s round. I was ecstatic when I found out that was the horse I got. A top horse with a top rider; you just need the chips to fall right.”

Darst and Colvin have been showing at WIHS and top horse shows around the country since they were kids on ponies and have each won major hunter championships at this horse show. The experience of catch riding many different horses has taught them to be versatile, adjustable riders, which is a great advantage in these equitation finals.

“I think catch riding definitely helps being able to ride so many different horses. I definitely thought about that,” Darst noted. “Confidence in my horse is important; I was very confident. I got to go to the farm and practice a lot. I knew he would try his hardest, and I would try my hardest.”

“What made this win special was that last year was her last year on ponies,” Madden stated. “That is quite the achievement for her. It’s not a fluke. She has worked very hard. She made the effort.”

This was Colvin's third year showing in the finals and her best finish yet at just 16 years old. She was proud of her ride on both of her mounts, including Monsieur du Reverdy and a beautiful round in the work-off riding Laredo.

“I had never really been in the top in the equitation finals. It felt amazing to be top three,” Colvin said after the class. “The horse I rode in the second round was amazing and very easy. Monsieur du Reverdy was supposed to be in the High Junior Jumpers. He has never done a hunter round or an equitation round. For him to go in there and go how he did, he was just amazing.”

Colvin has trained with Scott Stewart and Ken Berkley for most of her young riding career and has had help from Missy Clark and John Brennan at North Run for her ride in the equitation. Clark also coached third place finisher Michael Hughes and fifth place finisher Charlotte Jacobs tonight. She was very proud of Colvin and noted the qualities that make her an exceptional rider.

“I always say it's like going to the basketball court with Michael Jordan,” Clark stated. “She's amazing. She has an innate feel that nobody can teach and she is a competitor beyond belief and a great human being and a hard worker. She's all of it. She's a unique and special person.”

“Her abilities to smooth it out and make a jumper-type of horse go and have that hunter round really is a testament to her abilities as a horsewoman,” Clark continued. “She can finesse one around and do it as well as anybody. With Loredo, there wasn't any doubt in my mind that she wouldn't get in and nail it.”

The judges for the class tonight were Walter Kees of Norwalk, CT, Sue Ashe of Wellington, FL, Patrick Rodes of Argyle, TX, and McLain Ward of Brewster, NY. The judges weighed in on the class upon its completion and were very happy with the top talent that they saw.

“It was a wonderful class, exciting to judge,” said Rodes. “It was extra exciting when they switched horses. You really got an idea of how they ride and the background they have to ride somebody else's horse around.”

“The kids absolutely rose to the occasion,” stated Ashe. “The most fun part of the class is of course tonight where there are ten instead of 40. The pressure these kids are under, and they rose to the top. I am so proud of them, and I am sure the other judges are too.”