Friday, July 16, 2010

Canada’s Lisa Balaz Claims Children’s Jumper Championship in Vermont

Canada’s Lisa Balaz, 18, made her first trip to the Vermont Summer Festival worthwhile, winning the High Children’s Jumper Championship during the opening week of competition in East Dorset, VT.

Competing in the High Children’s Jumper Division with her horse, Athens, Balaz placed seventh in Friday’s competition before winning on Saturday to take the championship title.

“He is really short, but he makes up for it in his personality,” laughed Balaz, speaking of her 13-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding. “He is full of himself. He thinks he is the king.”

Balaz has been riding Athens for about a year. She had only returned to competition a month before her championship win, having broken her collarbone while competing in Florida this winter, but her injury did not slow her down in the least. In addition to claiming the High Children’s Jumper Championship, Balaz and Athens also placed third in both Saturday’s NAL/WIHS Children’s Jumper Classic and Sunday’s Marshall & Sterling Children’s Jumper Classic. Balaz’s younger brother, Michael, 16, placed second in the $1,500 NAL/WIHS Children’s Jumper Classic riding Ruffino.

When asked if there was a family rivalry, Balaz said, “It depends how we finish! It is fun showing together until he beats me, then he rubs it in my face because he is younger. On Saturday, he beat me by less than half a second.”

As a result of her strong finishes, Balaz is currently sitting second in the jumper standings behind Peter Gisborn of Erin, ON, for the $10,000 Canadian Circuit Awards, Presented by Ariat International, Inc. At the end of the six-week horse show, the top Canadian based on points in the jumper standings is awarded a $3,000 bonus while second place receives $2,000. The same formula is used in the hunter divisions, with the highest ranked Canadian receiving $3,000 with the runner-up receiving $2,000.

In addition to the show jumping ring, Balaz also competed in the Large Junior Hunter 16-17 division, earning fifth and sixth place ribbons with Nautique, an 11-year-old grey Percheron/thoroughbred-cross gelding that she has been showing for the past three seasons.

“The jumpers are my favorite, but I have had my hunter for three years and I still compete with him in the hunter and equitation divisions, even though that is not my forte,” explained Balaz. “He is such a trooper. Even if I make a mistake in the ring, he will save me, no matter what happens. He is a really solid horse. He is also a big teddy bear, and is really sweet.”
Balaz of Oakville, ON, has been riding all of her life, and currently trains with Canadian Olympian Chris Delia, whose Chris Delia Stables is also based in Oakville.

“My coach tries to find new places to go, so we decided to come to Vermont,” said Balaz, who is entering Sheraton College this fall where she will study advertising. “I like the level of competition, it is a lot higher than at home, but the show itself is more relaxed. It is not like Florida where everyone is stressed.”

In addition to competing, Balaz has also taken advantage of the many other activities available in the Manchester area.

“There is great shopping, Ralph Lauren is my favorite,” said Balaz, referring to the numerous outlet stores in the area. “Swimming at the quarry is really fun, and we went zip lining at the Bromley Sun Mountain Adventure Park.”

Now in its 19th year at Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, the Vermont Summer Festival offers more than $750,000 in prize money throughout the six weeks of competition, making it the richest sporting event in the state. Each week features a Friday $10,000 Open Welcome Stake, sponsored by Manchester Designer Outlets, and a Sunday Grand Prix, several of which are sponsored by local businesses that recognize and appreciate the important impact that the horse show competitors have on the local area.

The Vermont Summer Festival runs for six consecutive weeks, from July 7 to August 15, and features a Grand Prix each Sunday beginning at 1 p.m. This year’s event ends with the $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix on Sunday, August 15.

Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children Wednesday through Saturday. On Grand Prix Sunday, admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children. All gate proceeds benefit Manchester Elementary-Middle School (MEMS).

For more information about the Vermont Summer Festival, please e-mail: info@vt-summerfestival.com or visit www.vt-summerfestival.com.

$10,000 Canadian Circuit Awards, Presented by Ariat International, Inc.
(Standings as of July 11, 2010)

Jumper Standings
1. Peter Gisborn/Erin, ON/40.5 points
2. Lisa Balaz/Oakville, ON/18
3. Aimee Deluce/Campbellville, ON/16.5

Hunter Standings
1. Paige Mawson/Toronto, ON/36
2. Lily Russell/Bolton, ON/32
3. Rebecca Marshall/Beeton, ON/26

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