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Equestrian Vaulters Earn Qualifying Scores

South Hadley, MA -- Vaulters arrived from all corners of the United States. They said it couldn't be done. Some said the vaulters would not come. They were wrong. The opportunity for vaulters to showcase the partnership they have spent the last year perfecting with their horses brought them to Massachusetts. They overcame many obstacles; the distance was just one of many. The horses, the vaulters, the longeurs and coaches made the first American Vaulting Association (AVA) National Vaulting Championships held in the Northeast a spectacular event.

Not every vaulter is eligible to participate. Most of the vaulters who were made the sacrifices necessary to undertake the journey. Two hundred and sixty-three (263) vaulters representing more than 40% of the vaulting clubs registered with the AVA arrived with hopes that they would leave Massachusetts one of the 17 division champions. Fifty-one vaulters competed in Gold and Silver divisions. For those competitors, becoming a champion was not the only goal. They each attempted to earn scores high enough to submit to USA Equestrian (formerly American Horse Shows Association) for a World Equestrian Games (WEG) 2002 qualifying score. Nineteen were successful.

Eleven of the 40 women who participated in the USA Equestrian recognized classes earned qualifying scores for WEG 2002. Many of the names are familiar in the AVA. Vaulting enthusiasts have watched them develop their personal style. In the years of training, they have increased the difficulty of their freestyle and precision of their compulsories. Mari Inouye, Samantha Smith, Megan Benjamin, Jessica Ballenger, Greta Shryock, Shannyn Poer, Ginny Kaufmann, Alexis Garrod, Michele Cunningham, Alethea Shelton, and Emily Gleason and their horses await future selection trial events. Others may join the list. Only three female vaulters will be selected next summer to participate at WEG IV in Jerez, Spain in September 2002.

Inouye with Faustus, an experienced vaulting horse owned by Phoebe Hearst Cooke of Woodside, CA was crowned Women's Gold National Champion. Inouye dominated the field with a spectacular performance, scoring a half point above her nearest competitor. From 1991-2000 Kerith Lemon was the reigning queen of American vaulting. Lemon's retirement last year may have opened the door to a new legacy.

Eight participated in the USA Equestrian recognized classes. Seven were successful in earning potential qualifying scores for WEG 2002. Former World Champion Devon Maitozo did not prevail at this event. Challenger Kenneth Geisler with his horse Goliath of Diamond Bar, CA was named Men's Gold National Champion. Geisler is no stranger to international competition. He also represented the United States at WEG in Rome, and was named alternate at the World Vaulting Championships in Mannheim, Germany. Goliath is owned by Connie and Dave Geisler of Diamond Bar, CA.

Blake Dahlgren, Brent Dahlgren, Chris Erwin, Stephan Czyzewski and Adrian Matsumoto and their horses have also earned their first potential qualifying score for WEG IV. Over the next year, they will continue to participate in USA Equestrian recognized events, but only three will triumph in the selection procedure. Erik Martonovich (Golden, CO), unable to participate at this event, intends to join the list of WEG IV hopefuls.

The excitement of selection trials is undeniable, but the true story at this National Vaulting Championship was sportsmanship. Nowhere was this more evident than in the B Team competition. Four teams from California, Georgia, Virginia and Connecticut would battle for the title of B Team National Champion and carry home the prized perpetual trophy. Before the team from Connecticut could begin their freestyle, the judging panel dismissed their horse Mirabella. Horse inspection is required each time a vaulting horse enters the arena, and prior to the first vaulters mount. The Vaulters of Ice Pond led the division after the compulsories round and without a freestyle score would have lost an opportunity earn the title. The Team from Virginia immediately approached show management and offered the use of their horse, King. After careful review and analysis of horse use, management and the judge agreed to the substitution. The Vaulters of Ice Pond won the division with the generosity of their competitors from the Mt. Tabor Vaulters of Virginia. (Note: AVA rules limit the amount of time each day a horse may participate at a competition.)

The accomplishments of the vaulters and horses in the other AVA recognized divisions must be acknowledged. In addition to the Gold and Silver competitions the AVA salutes all of their national champions: A Team-FACE Vaulters, Agoura, CA; B Team-Vaulters of Ice Pond, Amston, CT; C Team-Golden Gate Vaulters, Golden, CO; Trot Team-Emerald City Vaulters, Lakebay, WA; Bronze Men-Aaron Hoster, Small Wonder Pony Club, Milford, DE; Bronze Women-Hannah Feuerstein, Golden Gate Vaulters, Golden, CO; Trot Men-Scott Barnes-Siegert, Agape Vaulters, Eau Claire, MI; Trot Women-Rebecca Clark, Emerald City Vaulters, Lakebay, WA; Open Pas de Deux-Devon Maitozo/Shannyn Poer, FACE Vaulters, Agoura, CA; Preliminary Pas de Deux-Jesse Copper/Jennie Jones, Falconwood Vaulters, Covington, GA; Open Pairs-Sally Boyd/Shannon Wright, Falconwood Vaulters, Covington, GA; Preliminary Pairs-Megan Betz/Miranda Wahl, Cadence Vaulters, Maquoketa, IA; and Trot Pairs- Aileen Phalen/Jill Messenheimer, Great Falls Vaulters, McLean, VA.

The next National Vaulting Championships will be held August 2002 in Livermore, CA.

Partial scores follow (limited to qualifying scores and National Championships titles):

Gold Men:

Kenneth Geisler with Goliath, Diamond Bar Vaulters, Diamond Bar, CA 8.230

Devon Maitozo with Marshall, FACE Vaulters, Agoura, CA 8.060

Blake Dahlgren with Shakespeare, FACE Vaulters, Agoura, CA 7.916

Brent Dahlgren with Shakespeare, FACE Vaulters, Agoura, CA 7.874

Chris Erwin with Doc, Golden Gate Vaulters, Golden, CO 7.142

Stephen Czyzewski with Doc, Golden Gate Vaulters, CO 7.018

Gold Women:

Mari Inouye with Faustus, Sundance Vaulters, Woodside, CA 8.502

Samantha Smith with Ureon, Pacific Coast Vaulters, Saratoga, CA 7.940

Megan Benjamin with Loreander, Mt. Eden Vaulters, Saratoga, CA 7.464

Jessica Ballenger with Loreander, Mt. Eden Vaulters, Saratoga, CA 7.174

Greta Shryock with Ureon, Albuquerque Vaulters, Albuquerque, NM 7.165

Shannyn Poer with Shakespeare, FACE Vaulters, Agoura, CA 7.116

Ginny Kaufmann with Loreander, Mt. Eden Vaulters, Saratoga, CA 7.042

Silver Men National Champion

Adrian Matsumoto with Marshall, FACE Vaulters, Agoura, CA 7.037

Silver Women

Alexis Garrod with Loreander, Mt. Eden Vaulters, Saratoga, CA 7.306

Michelle Cunningham with Scarletto Sun, Sundance Vaulters, Woodside, CA 7.297

Alethea Shelton with Doc, Golden Gate Vaulters, Golden, CO 7.188

Emily Gleason with Thunder Rode, Northwind Vaulters, Hillsboro, OR 7.188

Bronze Men National Champion

Aaron Hoster with Black Jack, Small Wonder Pony Club, Milford, DE 5.950

Bronze Women National Champion

Hannah Feuerstein with Doc, Golden Gate Vaulters, Golden, CO 6.522

Trot Men National Champion

Scott Barnes/Siegert with Sahara, Agape Vaulters, Eau Claire, MI 6.522

Trot Women National Champion

Rebecca Clark with Thunder Rode, Emerald City Vaulters, Lakebay, WA 6.401

A Team National Champion

FACE Vaulters with Klassic Song, Agoura, CA 7.783

B Team National Champion

Vaulters of Ice Pond Composite with King, Amston, CT 6.608

C Team National Champion

Golden Gate Vaulters with Boone, Golden, CO 6.505

Trot Team National Champion

Emerald City Vaulters with Thunder Rode, Lakebay, WA 5.820

Open Pas de Deux National Champion

Devon Maitozo/Shannyn Poer with Marshall, FACE Vaulters, Agoura, CA 7.259

Preliminary Pas de Deux National Champion

Jesse Copper/Jenni Jones with Gareth, Falconwood Vaulters, Covington, GA 6.109

Open Pairs National Champion

Sally Boyd/Shannon Wright with Gareth, Falconwood Vaulters, Covington, GA 6.134

Preliminary Pairs

Megan Betz Miranda Wahl with Rio Bravo, Cadence Vaulters, Maquoketa, OR 5.534

Trot Pairs National Champion

Aileen Phalen/Jill Messenheimer with Goldie, Great Falls Vaulters, McLean, VA 5.634

Full scores available on request.

The American Vaulting Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization for the education and promotion of vaulting. Vaulting is the sport of gymnastics and dance performed on and in harmony with an equine partner. For more information about vaulting please visit our website at

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