Never underestimate the underdogs.
A team of five riders from P & L Stables in Bunnell competed at Horse Shows in the Parks' “Battle of the Barns” competition and came out the 2017 Grand Champion team, earning two cruise tickets and $300.
The competition was held on June 23 to 25 at the Grand Oaks Resort – Home of the Florida Carriage Museum in Weirdsdale. Nine teams made up of 200 riders trotted, cantered and jumped their way to the finish, and P & L Stables reigned victorious.
The team was made up of Palm Coast residents: Anjolie Brun, a 12-year-old who’s been riding for four years; Jocelyn Pletcher, a 15-year-old who’s been riding for four years, Isabella Rodrigues, a 13-year-old who’s been riding for eight years; Ella Santilli, a 16-year-old who’s been riding for eight years; Morgan Hale, a 14-year-old who’s been riding for three years; and her mother, Sara Hale, who’s been riding for one and a half years, as well as in college.
Sisters Pamela Stolsworth and Liz O’Grady guided the team through a seven-day summer boot camp to prepare for the competition, as well as lessons three to four times a week and practice rides four times a week.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Stolsworth said. “Even though we’re a small barn and we don’t have many show students at this time, we’ve always been in the high ribbons.”
Individuals on the team brought home many ribbons in addition to the overall grand champion award. Brun rode her horse Sam, whose show name is Imagine That, and earned two reserve champions in the schooling hunter class. Rodrigues rode her horse Badger, whose show name is Pleasant Dreams, to earn grand champion in large pony hunters, first in Marshall Sterling and two reserved champions in children’s large pony equitation, which focuses on the positions and ease of the rider rather than the horse. Morgan Hale rode Max, whose show name is Maximo, and earned second place in mini medal equitation. Sara Hale rode Mr. Max and placed fifth and sixth in hunters class. Santilli rode Trouble Follows and earned fifth and sixth in hunters, as well.
Pletcher was the team’s physical and emotional support, as she helped feed, wash and tack up and down the horses, as well as taking photos.
While the teammates didn’t expect to win the competition, they said they most enjoyed showing the horses and bonding with their teammates.
The riders are now preparing for an interscholastic team competition that will commence in October for students in grades 6 to 12 in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.