Junior riders are a different breed. They have traded in their ponies and show bows for more serious pursuits. They have dreams; they set goals, and they work hard to achieve them. At the top of their list - winning The South Carolina Governor’s Cup. Since 1979, this coveted trophy has been the goal for many young riders in the Carolinas as they begin their journey to the national equitation ranks, or “Big Eq.” and national stage. In it’s 40th year, the Governor’s Cup still holds the same honor and glory as it did in the beginning. The collective group of winners has written the history of this trophy and their varied stories all have a common theme of hard work, dedicated trainers, and amazing memories.

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In 1979, 15 year old Ann Chester Terrill from New Prospect, SC, was the first winner of the Governor's Cup aboard Bright Lights and Promises, a horse owned by her trainer Cathy Kleve Granger. “It’s a memory that makes me smile every time I think about it,” says Ann, “It will always be special and dear to me. It’s stays with you forever.” Ann won the inaugural medal class at John Rush’s Ramblewood Farm in Aiken, SC - a frequent host in those days to A-rated shows in the state. Ann appreciated the opportunity to compete in a medal close to home. She says, “As a kid, it was a big deal to be able to set my sights on something this big without the expense of travel to the bigger shows in Harrisburg, PA and New York.” The following year, Ann had the honor of passing the trophy on to friend and former editor and publisher of The Carolinas Equestrian, Sally Floyd Kay. Governors Cup The Carolinas Equestrian 02

During the 1980’s the Governor’s Cup Medal continued to be an important class in the South Carolina circuit. The South Carolina Hunter Jumper Association accepted bids from popular show facilities to host the finals. Held the November weekend after the National Horse Show in New York, New York, this South Carolina show attracted top riders traveling south to their winter homes in Florida. One popular host was Lawton Stables in Sea Pines on the beautiful resort island of Hilton Head.

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Micheal Newman, owner of Aubrey Hill Equestrian Center near Pensacola, Florida, took home the championship ribbon in 1987, propelling him to the national stage and successful finishes in USET Finals (4th), Maclay Finals (6th), AHSA Medal Finals (6th). Micheal remembers his growing up years in the Carolinas and his Governor’s Cup win with great fondness. “ Looking back on that time, I realize how fortunate I was to have had the experience. For any junior rider, any type of final is important, but to win a final can exponentially help their riding and their future. People always talk about the win, but not the benefits that come out of such an event - confidence, maturity, responsibility, relationships, and numerous other qualities.“

Ten years later, Jenny Jones took top Governor’s Cup honors before going on to win the USET Talent Search East in 1999, the Washington in 2000, as well as placing second in the USEF Medal finals and third in the ASPCA Maclay finals. The most important part of Jenny’s win was the person standing at the in gate, trainer Judy Young. “ She took me in like her own child when I was 10 years old,” says Jenny, “ I did everything with Judy. She really gave me the experience and exposure to go forward in this business. I learned so much from her, and I cherish those days.”

As interest and participation in equestrian sport increased through the years, the Governor’s Cup continued to be an important building block in a junior career. Ashley Parker thought her appearance in the 2015 Governor’s Cup was going to be great practice for the Big Eq. With no expectations of winning, Ashley guided her partner, Calvin Klein, to a top spot before the final testing phase. “When the test was announced, I felt confident in my ability and in Calvin’s ability to put forth maximum effort,” says Ashley. “Hearing my name called as the champion was honestly a blur. I remember being filled with tears of pure joy and my trainer, Adrian Mack, reaching up to give me a huge hug. She put so much hard work into the partnership I had with Calvin that it was just as much a victory for her.”

As current president of the SCHJA, trainer Adrian Mack appreciates the honor and glory that comes with winning this trophy. “ I have always thought of the SC Governor’s Cup as ‘the one to win,’ “ says Adrian, “I was very proud to have one of my student’s names added to the prestigious cup.”

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2017 and 2018 were highlighted with back to back wins by sisters Celia and Eliza Cram. Mother and trainer, Cathy Cram, remembers the advice she gave Celia before entering the ring. “I said, Listen kid, I want you to come out of the ring and be able to say I am happy with what I did.” The following year, Cram found herself giving ringside advice to daughter, Liza. “You be Liza, and ride like Liza Cram.” Important advice from Cathy Cram to all of her riders is to not compare yourself to other riders, “I tell all of my riders to try and beat or meet their last good trip.”

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With a $1000 scholarship attached to the trophy, winning the South Carolina Governor’s Cup can lead to equestrian improvement, academic advancement or a combination of both. So how can junior riders prepare for the SC Governor’s Cup finals?

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According to the rules and regulations set forth by the South Carolina Hunter Jumper Association, The South Carolina Governor’s Cup Equitation class is open to junior members of the SCHJA and may be ridden on a horse or pony over a modified hunter course of 8 fences set at 3’. Two or more riders must return for additional testing as determined by the judge(s). The additional testing will count 25%. The 20 junior exhibitors with the most points accumulated at the end of the qualifying period will be invited to participate in the SCHJA Governor’s Cup Finals. The Finals are officiated by two judges sitting separately. Each rider is given a numerical score for their jumping round. The top 12 riders are invited back for a flat phase and testing. The top four riders may then be asked for additional testing at the judges’ discretion.

So, what are the judges looking for? R-rated judge, Carole O’Brien, cannot stress enough the importance of the responsibility of the rider to know their course, the number assigned to each obstacle, and the elements of testing found in USEF rules 1-17. “The fundamentals of good equitation don’t change just because it’s a medal final,” O’Brien says. “The correct use of leg, seat, and hands as well as establishing a good rhythm and smooth tempo throughout the course are skills riders should be close to mastering at this level. Meeting each jump in the middle, balancing the horse back after the jump, and preparing for the next obstacle are all keys to a successful round.”

Riders should pay close attention to the design of the course and should assume it will be more challenging than the qualifying classes; however, the course will be built with the group of top 20 riders in mind. Once successfully around the course and flat phase, the key to winning the medal is in the testing. “The testing is based on what the judge saw on that day in that class with that group of riders and horses in mind,” O’Brien says.

Winning The South Carolina Governor’s Cup is an honor 41 junior riders can call their own. Every year it is special and sets a group of young riders apart for their hard work, talent, and dedication to this sport. Each winner has a story to tell and a memory to share. Each winner had someone at the in gate cheering them on. Each winner prepared, practiced, and executed their best round. Each winner had a dream, set a goal, and achieved it.

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