Parker leads U.S. Saddle Seat team to gold medals

Brunswick native Christy Parker represented her community, and her country, well this past week when she coached the 2019 U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Stripes Team to a sweep of all four gold medals at the 2019 U.S. Saddle Seat Invitational Test Event in New Orleans, La., from July 1-5.

A former Glynn Middle School teacher, and now the owner of the Pine Haven Stables and Riding Academy, Parker was selected to lead the 2019 Stars and Stripes Team by U.S. Equestrain back in January, and with the help of assistant coach Mary Mag Wilson (Cave Creek, Ariz.), she proved it was the correct decision as the U.S. team secured all four gold medals in competition against two teams from South Africa.

“As proud I am of their rides, I am beyond proud of this team’s character. Their inclusiveness, positivity, and attitude is absolutely second to none,” Parker said in a statement. “Win, lose, or draw, all three teams competing have won much more than any medal. With this group leading the way, our future is bright.”

The international saddle seat competition was hosted at Cascade Stables, where the U.S. team made up of Alayna Applegate, Lauren Beck, Gabriella Costantini, Alayna LoCascio and Hallie Ricci earned double gold in three-gaited sections against the South African junior and senior teams.

Makayla James, Max Michalek, Haily Miller, Stephanie Sanders, Clayton Stinnett and Mackenzie Todd earned double gold in the five-gaited sections.

The teams were put together by a panel from applications sent to United States Equestrian Federation with the riders’ resume, background, and film.

As a true test of the riders’ equitation and horsemanship skills, they were required to compete on unfamiliar horses. A draw for the horses was held July 1, and the teams had limited practice time over the following two days to familiarize themselves with their partners.

The judged portion of the event began July 4 before competition concluded the next evening.

Adding to the importance of the Saddle Seat Invitational Test Event, the competition serves as an opportunity to develop and observe potential riders for future team competitions, including the Saddle Seat World Cup.

“I definitely want to try out for the 2020 [Saddle Seat] World Cup team, it would be amazing to represent my country in South Africa,” first-time team member Michalek said in a statement. “Being part of the [young riders] program has boosted my confidence and made me a more defined and versatile rider, and it’s a very supportive environment.”

With 25 years of experience teaching, training, and coaching, including the instruction of multiple saddle seat equitation champions and U.S. Saddle Seat Team members, Parker was pegged to serve on the coaching team for the 2017 U.S. Saddle Seat Young Riders Stripes Team. She is also USEF R Judge, United Professional Horsemen’s Association Chapter 17 Chairperson, and serves on the American Saddlebred Horse Association Marketing Committee Riding and Youth Council.

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