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Saline Makes Triumphant Comeback with Stephanie Riggio in La Mundial Adult Amateur Hunters 18-35 Section B

RELEASE: February 18, 2013
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Lauren Fisher and Laura Cardon for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Stephanie Riggio with ringmaster Cliff Haines (Anne Gittins Photography)
Stephanie Riggio with ringmaster Cliff Haines (Anne Gittins Photography)
Wellington, FL
- After a year away from the show ring recovering from a foot injury, Saline is back in a big way at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF). Owner and rider Stephanie Riggio of New York City piloted the 15-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare to victory in the La Mundial Adult Amateur Hunter 18-35 Section B division. Riggio and Saline were named champions of the division after placing sixth and fourth over fences on day one and two blue ribbon finishes over fences on day two.

Reserve champion was Utah and Alex Paradysz. Utah, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Jennifer Martucci, won one of the over fences rounds day one and was second in both over fences classes on day two with Paradysz in the irons.

Riggio was elated to have her beloved mare back in action after battling an injury the horse sustained almost exactly a year ago. "She's had a full year off and I'm just so happy to have her back. I started to cry yesterday when I walked in the ring for my first class. She's an amazing mare and I feel so lucky to have her back," Riggio stated.

"She had a foot injury that led to lots of little complications. We thought we were going to have to retire her," Riggio continued. "But she's got the heart of a champion and she really wanted to come back. She's amazing."

Riggio credits their show ring success to Saline's superior intelligence. "She's definitely the smartest horse I have. She remembers the strides from class to class, she remembers the courses from class to class," Riggio described.

Saline's independent nature took some getting used to, but Riggio relishes the ability to let her talented mare take the driver's seat. "She likes to take over and do it for you, which is really fun as a rider to have that luxury of just sitting back and letting her do her job. Learning to trust her at first was a little bit challenging for me, but now that I do it's just a really fun experience every time I ride her," Riggio explained.

While the cold weather may have been a hindrance to some riders and horses, Saline came into her own during day two of competition. "I think she may have been a little tired since it was her first show back and it was day two. The cold weather sort of helped her actually a little bit," Riggio smiled.

Riggio was also complimentary of course designer Patrick Rodes' creative layout. "The courses rode very well. I thought all of the turns were really fun. I liked the bending lines. They were very different and it was a nice change from the usual," Riggio described.

Although Saline has clearly shown she has returned to her previously high caliber of performance, Riggio is committed to bringing the mare along at her own pace. "We'll be here for the rest of WEF and I'll continue to show her in this division. I think our goal eventually might be to move her up, but for now we're just happy to have her back at all. At this point we just want to do what's comfortable for her and what makes her happy," Riggio stated.

Sunday's competition concluded week six of the 2013 FIT Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. Week seven, sponsored by Hermès, runs February 20-24, 2013. The week will feature World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) competition in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) all week.

The highlight $50,000 WCHR Peter Wetherhill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular will be featured as the "Saturday Night Lights" main event. Also on Saturday is the Special Olympics Palm Beach County Equestrian Games.

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