Senior Justine Perrotti places at Marshall and Sterling Finals for individual equestrian

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Senior Justine Perrotti placed at the Marshall and Sterling Finals in Saugerties, NY. (Photo courtesy of Mary Kay Schultz)

AJ Traub

Senior equestrian team captain Justine Perrotti competed at the Marshall and Sterling Finals in Saugerties, NY, on Thursday, Sept. 13 and Friday, Sept. 14. Perrotti competed in one flats event, finishing seventh, and two fences events, finishing seventh and ninth. In each of the events, Perrotti competed against 21 other riders, all of whom qualified by accumulating Marshall and Sterling points in individual shows during the past year and reaching the top 30. Riders can earn points in Marshall and Sterling shows in several states.

“I qualified in the past but never actually went due to school conflicts,” Perrotti said. “This was my first year going.”

“I showed in adult hunters and I am the 16th overall for all the adult hunter riders based on my points over the year,” Perrotti added.

Perrotti has been to Saugerties for equestrian before for summer competitions when there were a lot more riders around.

“The second day when I did my classic [fences] round was probably one of my favorite courses I’ve ever done,” Perrotti said. “Even with the tiniest mistake, I was still in tears at the end of the course.”

Perrotti went to the finals with new equestrian team coach Kelly Poff, Poff’s partner at Top Notch Equestrian Centre Mary Kay Schultz, and fellow non-Lafayette rider Jessica Viola.

“I’d been to a show prior with [Poff, Schultz, and Viola] and it was [one of] my more favorable shows because we worked really well and Kelly [Poff] liked me to be around to keep Jess [Viola] calm. Now [Viola]’s one of my closest friends.”

Viola qualified for her class, but ended up riding Perrotti’s horse, named Koi, at the finals.

“One of the greatest memories I had from the show was when Jess couldn’t ride her own horse due to a sore back, I let her ride Koi for her equitation class of 75 riders,” Perrotti said.

Viola scored an 83 with Koi, which was good for a top-12 finish, qualifying her for the second round. Perrotti says the top score was an 87.

“I’ve never been more proud of my horse and a rider who’d only ridden her a few times,” Perrotti said. “Kelly [Poff] and I burst into tears. She had been working at this for years. Knowing that I made someone’s dream come true made me so ecstatic and proud of Jess [Viola].”

Perrotti said she bought “lucky taco socks” with Viola between the competition days.

“We got taco socks on Thursday for a lucky Friday and we both competed very well, placing in our classes,” Perrotti said. “They’re light blue with a ton of mini tacos, all different types. For the first IHSA show, I’ll wear them again.”

Perrotti said her mom, who has come to her individual and team shows, was with her at Saugerties for the finals.

“[My mom is] very supportive,” Perrotti said. “[She] doesn’t try to stress me out at all, helps in any way she can, whether it’s carrying the groom bag or giving Koi treats. She’s a great horse show mom. I’ve been showing since sixth grade, so she knows how shows work, whether it’s for team or individual.”

Perrotti is looking to move up from 3’ fences to 3’6” fences in individual shows this season to qualify for the next Devon Horse Show in the summer, and to continue to reach goals with the Lafayette equestrian team.

“I hope to be as selfless as a captain and put other team members before myself and help them be at their best like I did for [Viola],” Perrotti said.

Perrotti said she and Poff have gotten so close that Poff doesn’t want her or Koi to leave.

“Looking back on two years ago when Koi had to go into surgery for a tumor the size of a bowling ball and her almost dying on me, I can never thank Kelly and Mary Kay enough for saving my horse’s life and taking me to where I am now,” Perrotti said.