By: Jamie Saults on Oct. 22nd, 2016

In only his third year of riding, Dean Dignelli, 27, Katonah, NY, captured the win in the North American League (NAL) Adult Jumper Finals, presented by Smartpak, riding Redefin, owned by Heritage Farm, at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, presented by The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund. Phoenix Cooke, Chardon, OH, and Skys Burnin Blue were second and Joy Slater, Unionville, PA, was third on Oilean Uno, owned by Fat Chance Farm.

"It meant the world to me to win. I just won a national championship! I went from a lunge line to competing here now in just three years," said Dignelli. "This was a huge achievement for me and I am just very blessed to have a great family and great support behind me. I owe it all to my horse and the whole staff at Heritage Farm."

Dean Dignelli and Redefin © Al Cook - alcookphoto.com

The top 30 in the nation qualified for the Finals; with eleven going in the jump-off and six going double clear on the Bernardo Cabral-designed course. Samantha Karp blazed the trail on David, owned by Coker Farm, going clear in 32.824 seconds. Courtney Logan and Prince Royal, owned by Patty Foster and Whitney Lind and Wanant, owned by Whish, LLC, went clear, but not fast enough. Slater and Oilean Uno jumped to the top of the leaderboard, going clear in 32.180 seconds, but it was short lived. Dignelli went next and shaved off two seconds, stopping the clock in 30.045 seconds. Cooke and Skys Burnin Blue tried to catch Dignelli, but crossed the timers in 30.156 for second place.

"My strategy was to go as fast as I could and really believe in everything that my coach and brother, Andre Dignelli, told me. He said to believe in myself, stay focused, execute the plan and not to do anything fancy. My brother is unbelievable and I listen to anything he says," said Dignelli. "I just had faith in my horse and put it in his hands. I just tried to stay tall and stay out of my horse's way."

Dignelli had good reason to believe in his horse. Redefin once belonged to Olympic legend Ian Millar. "He was Ian's grand prix horse and he's been an absolute saint across the board, from grand prix to now teaching and developing me in the adults. That horse doesn't owe me anything. He is very special to me."

Dignelli started riding because of his family's involvement and the one-on-one relationship with the animal. "I grew up on Heritage Farm, but it didn't really appeal to me at first," said Dignelli. "When I finished playing baseball in college, I thought, 'you know, I think I can do this', I got a good feel for it. 

"Winning here was a huge achievement for me and I am just very blessed to have a wonderful family and tremendous support behind me. The horse industry has great people and great horses. I was able to start a horse transportation company, Iron Horse Transport, and I take great pride in that and my riding. I think if you work hard and stay focused, good things will happen. The sky is the limit." 

Dean Dignelli Triumphs in NAL Adult Jumper Finals © Al Cook - alcookphoto.com

The NAL hosts National Finals annually at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg, PA, and West Coast Finals at the Las Vegas National Horse Show in Las Vegas, NV. Both Finals include the following five divisions - Children's Hunter, Adult Hunter, Children's Jumper Presented by EquiFit, Adult Jumper Presented by SmartPak, and Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper.

The NAL qualifying period runs September 1 through August 31. NAL competitions are open to all who wish to compete, however points are only awarded to current members. For more information regarding the North American League, please call (717) 867-5643, email to NAL@Ryegate.com or visit www.ryegate.com.

NAL Adult Jumper Finals Results

Place, Horse, Rider, Owner, Score

1. Redefin/Dean Dignelli/Heritage Farm/0/0/30.045

2. Skys Burnin Blue/Phoenix Cooke/Phoenix Cooke/0/0/30.156

3. Oilean Uno/Joy Slater/Fat Chance Farm/0/0/32.180

4. David/Samantha Karp/Coker Farm/0/0/32.824

5. Wanant/Whitney Lind/Whish, LLC/0/0/33.624

6. Prince Royal/Courtney Logan/Patty Foster/0/0/34.143

7. Cassandra Dreams/Olivia Lawton/Olivia Lawton/0/4/31.608

8. Black Friday/Alyson Gurney/Alyson Gurney/0/4/32.449

9. Au Girl/Caitlyn Epperson/Kierland Farm/0/8/34.197

10. CL Debutante/Maureen Blackstone/Maureen Blackstone/0/12/33.197

11. Baileymenta Z/Jennie Edwards/Shannon Stimson/0/12/44.385

12. Vendetta/Nicole Wood/Nicole Wood/4/56.482