HARRISBURG, Pa. — Leslie Schillat of Malvern, Pa. made her debut in the North American League (NAL) National Finals a winning one.
After a year of earning points to qualify, riders headed to the 2018 finals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, held Oct. 11-20, 2018, in Harrisburg, Pa.
The winners of each Final were presented awards including gift certificates donated by EquiFit, SmartPak, and The Clothes Horse, as well as a NAL coolerette. NAL gift bags were given to every participant in the Finals which were filled with an assortment of goodies including a commemorative NAL Finals stall plaque and photo box.
Schillat rode SLF Destiny to the win over 29 finalists in the $10,000 NAL Adult Jumper Final, Presented by SmartPak. The pair turned in two fault-free rides and a jump-off time of 35.991 to claim victory.
Schillat was one of eight entries to reach the jump-off by riding fault-free over the first-round course designed by Michel Vaillancourt. Izabelle Quadracci of Hartland, Wisc., took an early lead in the jump-off with a clean ride in 36.547 seconds on Tipperary Hill, which held up until Schillat, the second-to-last entry, mastered the course with a quicker time on her 12-year-old Hanoverian mare.
The final entry, Stephanie King of Saint Augustine, Fla. on Co-Starr, beat Schillat's time, finishing in 34.119 seconds, but a rail down gave her four faults and a fifth-place finish.
"This is my first time at this show so we were both nervous," said a jubilant Schillat. "I expected none of this. I thought, if I have a nice round I'll be happy with it and see what happens after that. This is beyond what was expected.
"My mare was wonderful. She's the best and when I'm nervous, she just takes care of me," said, Schilla. "We watched a whole bunch of the children's class and then a few of the adults. It was helpful for me to watch, for sure. The whole experience was really fun. It goes by so fast. I wish I could do it all again in slow motion."
Schillat said that this was her first year competing in the NAL. "The NAL is a great program," she said. "I think the way they calculate the points is really fair. It allows for the best people to qualify coming from the best horse shows. At the same time, we don't go to Florida, we stay up North in the winter and we were still able to qualify, which I think is great. It's kind of like an equal opportunity league, which I really like."
The NAL qualifying season runs from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31. NAL qualifying classes are open to all competitors but only current members are awarded points. By joining the NAL, riders can accumulate the points necessary to make it to the West Coast Finals, or National Finals. Annual memberships are $40 per rider.
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