GLADSTONE, N.J. — Hunter action returned to the main arena on Aug. 15 for another day of competition at Monmouth at the Team, featuring the $10,000 Bobcat Derby, sponsored by The Nature Conservancy.

Located at historic Hamilton Farm, former home of the United States Equestrian Team (USET) and current headquarters of the USET Foundation, the show features seven full days of hunter/ jumper competition. Staff, competitors and spectators got into the spirit by donning fluffy, bobcat ears. The Nature Conservancy hosted an ice cream social with special bobcat-themed flavors and offered a fun bobcat photo booth. Visitors to Tha Nature Conservancy booth learned more about bobcat conservation efforts, collected free swag and entered to win prizes.

Bobcat Derby riders participated in the Nature Conservancy’s “bobcat challenge” which consisted of a series of questions and an essay that tested their knowledge of bobcats. The top-five responders of the quiz were guaranteed a spot in the second round of competition, regardless of their first-round results. Competitors were awarded one extra point per round if they competed in their bobcat ears.

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The derby was divided into a combined non-professional 2” and 2’6” category, and an open 3” category and included a field of over 80 combinations for the first round. Fifty-two entries lined up for the combined 2” and 2’6” division, while another 33 horse and rider combinations competed in the open 3’ height. The track was designed by Skip Bailey and those judging the derby included Mary Drueding of  Andover, Massachusetts, and Kris Cheyne of Bucyrus, Kansas.

Both height sections offered $5,000 in prize money to be divided among the top 12 highest-scoring riders. Winners in each height division also were awarded bobcat-spotted championship coolers and plush bobcat puppets and the top eight finishers received custom Nature Conservancy bobcat-patterned saddle pads.

After the first section rounds, young amateur rider Evelyn Smith held the lead with a score of 83.00 points. She and her 9-year-old Zangersheide mare (Conrad D’Esquelmes Z x Randella Z), C’est A Dire Z, landed several points below their first score in round two, but managed to maintain the lead by producing a total score of 159.50.

“I was really surprised and thrilled with our finish today because we don’t normally even compete in the hunters,” Smith explained. “We mostly do equitation because we haven’t had much success in the hunters. I really just brought her in here to have a good time and give her a good round, so I wasn’t expecting this at all!”

After such a successful start, Smith’s plan was to remain smooth and consistent through the handy phase, and she focused on riding the correct track of the bending lines.

“We were three points ahead going into the handy so I didn’t want to do anything risky,” she said. “She got a bit playful after the fence which I think knocked us down a few points, but overall I couldn’t be happier.”

Despite her newly found hunter success, Smith will continue to chase her equitation dreams as she works toward qualifying for the Ariat Medal at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in the fall.

Young junior Sophia Chimenti and Chase Hollow Equestrian Partners, LLC’s ‘Bel of the Ball paired scores of 77.00 and 79.00 for a second-place finish with 156.00 total points. Barn mate Lauren Reid piloted Chase Hollow Equestrian Partners, LLC’s Top Shelf to a score only half a point behind Chimenti to round out the top three on 155.50 points.

After the award ceremony for the first section, fences were raised and 33 professional, junior, and amateur athletes contested the three-foot course. First-round leader, Morgan Ward, and Comissario ultimately took the fourth place position with a total two-round score of 162.50. Skyrocketing from the fourth position of an 83.00, 20-year-old Centenary University student Madison Myro dominated the handy phase to produce a score of 88.00 and take the win on a five-point lead. She and Katherine Driscoll’s 14-year-old Warmblood gelding, Rock A Feller, created their own handy track to wow the judges and ended both phases with a total of 171.00 points.

“Madison is a wonderful and hard-working student,” said Michael Dowling of the Centenary sophomore. “She is up and mucking stalls  before dawn, never complains, and can come out here this late in the evening and win a great event like this.”

Myro hails from Nevada and has only been working under the tutelage of Windham Hill’s Michael Dowling and Michael Meyers for the past several months. The win was Myro’s first time competing in a hunter derby and that she has never competed in the hunters until this week.

“She has only ridden this horse since Sunday and already they were Champion of the division they did earlier in the week and now this; but she is really an exceptional horsewoman and rider,” Dowling continued. “The way she rode the course tonight was so unique and she was the one to come up with her plan. We just coached her through it.”

A jumper rider, Myro is experienced with handy rollbacks and turns she displayed that gave her the edge.

“I really enjoyed the course tonight and thought it was nice that it gave the riders so many options and multiple ways to show how handy their horses could be,” she said. “I don’t really know this horse. The approach I took to the first several jumps could have been considered risky, but I just put my trust in him and he performed flawlessly.”

Official show photographer Anne Gittins was recognized for her exceptional work throughout the week and in previous years of Monmouth at the Team. In a show of appreciation, horse show owners Tucker Ericson and Michael Dowling presented Gittins with a shadow-box frame that including several of her incredible photographs and an article published about Gittins and her work.

“Anne is such an integral part of why this show is so great and is able to produce such great content,” Ericson said. “We are so fortunate that she takes the time to come and be here with us."

Lauren Reid and Top Shelf were awarded the Top Trip of the Day, presented by Stal De Eyckenhoeve. Addison Blumenthal earned the Sportsmanship Award, sponsored by Lineage Equine.

Results of the $5,000 2”/2’6” Bobcat Derby, presented by The Nature Conservancy:

Horse/Rider/ R1 Score / R2 Score | Total

1.C’est A Dire Z/Evelyn Smith/ 83.00 / 76.50 | 159.50

2.’Bel of the Ball/Sophia Chimenti/ 77.00 / 79.00 |156.00

3.Top Shelf/ Lauren Reid/ 75.5 / 80.00 | 155.5

4.Black Cat/Katarina Muhlhauser/ 75.25 / 78.00 | 153.25

5.Lissandro Van’T Sianshof/Danielle McGotty/ 75.00 / 77.00 | 152.00

6.Practical Magic/Jordan Rupich/ 78.00 / 73.50 | 151.50

7.ARBOR HILL/Natalie Meyers/ 76.00 / 75.00 | 151.00

8.Steel City/Hannah Politsky/ 80.00 / 70.50 | 150.50

9.Shine On Me/Ava Farley/ 74.00 / 76.00 | 150.00

10.Chocolat 15/Caroline Sameth/ 76.50 / 71.00 | 147.50

11.Arion/Natasha Raikhovski/ 74.50 / 69.00 | 143.50

12.Caribbean Martini/Zoe Schafer/ 69.00 / 67.00 | 136.00

Final Results of the $5,000 3’0” Bobcat Derby, presented by The Nature Conservancy:

Horse/Rider/R1 Score / R2 Score | Total

1.Madison Myro/Rock A Feller/ 83.00 / 88.00 | 171.00

2.Anton/Emma Lynch/ 85.00 / 81.50 / 166.50

3.Adele/Katarina Muhlhauser/ 84.00 / 82.00 | 166.00

4.Comissario/Morgan Ward/ 86.00 / 76.25 | 162.25

5.Ericsson/Mia Chimenti/ 77.50 / 84.00 | 161.50

6.Oration/Alexandra Desiderio/79.50 / 81.00 | 160.50

7.Carpedi/Lindsey Ward79.00 / 80.50 | 159.50

8.Bugati Sitte/Cheyenne Bianchi/77.00 / 80.00 | 157.00

9.Cat Daddy/Elizabeth Solomon/78.00 / 77.00 | 155.00

10.Chendru/Leslie Verdi/80.00 / 74.00 | 154.00

11.Argyle/Katherine Pepi/ 76.00 / 69.00 | 145.00

12.Come What May/Mia Fondacaro/ 63.00 / 76.00 | 139.00

Since the late 1950s, The Nature Conservancy has been working to protect New Jersey’s land, freshwater resources and coastal habitats. The membership-funded 501c3 nonprofit organization sponsors the Bobcat Derby—one of the largest hunter derbies in the U.S. — to raise awareness of their work, including a current key land protection initiative in the Garden State: a 32,000-acre forested corridor where New Jersey’s last remaining wild felines, bobcats, can thrive.

Bobcats went virtually extinct in New Jersey in the 1970s, and conservation groups reintroduced a small number of cats in the 1980s to restore ecosystem balance (bobcats help keep rodent populations under control). The species has established a tenuous foothold but remains under a struggling state-endangered status. Car impacts continue to be the chief cause of bobcat mortality in New Jersey, since the cats travel an average of seven miles per day to feed, rest and reproduce.

Support from equestrians at Monmouth at the Team gives a critical boost to The Nature Conservancy for creating “Bobcat Alley," a habitat corridor spanning from the Highlands to the Appalachian mountain ranges in northern New Jersey, and connecting to vast protected forested regions in the New York and Pennsylvania. The Nature Conservancy and partners are aiming to connect and protect 3,500 acres within this mosaic of lands to ensure the migration route stays healthy and intact for bobcats and other wildlife.

“Thanks to awareness initiatives like the Bobcat Derby, and generous donations from supporters, the project is on track to reach 41% of that goal by the end of 2019,” says Barbara Brummer, The Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey State Director. “It is a big accomplishment, but there are many hundreds of more acres yet to go. We are so pleased to see the enthusiasm of the Monmouth at the Team competitors and spectators for this important initiative.”

Land conservation is just one of the concentration areas for The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey. The organization also focuses on projects to safeguard freshwater drinking resources, to protect the Jersey Shore, and to help position New Jersey as a leader in sustainable energy.

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