The 2023 Athletic Equestrian League National Championships

The Athletic Equestrian League held their 12th annual National Championships at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA on May 13th & 14th, 2023. Teams from all over New England, New York and Virginia converged at the Mount Holyoke Equestrian Center to compete in individual as well as team competition. Athletes from 1st-12th grade as well as Adults competed in all levels from Beginner up to Open, as well as the inaugural AEL Medal Class sponsored by Lake Erie College.

Judges James Morris, W. Brookfield, MA and Kim Ablon Whitney, Newton, MA scored the athletes on the flat and over fences or ground poles based on the unique AEL objective scoring system. The AEL system scores the riders against a set of standards, rather than against each other, with the Flat phase counting 40%, the Fences or Ground Poles phase counting 40% and an unmounted horsemanship Practicum counting 20%. “As a USEF judge, the AEL format is a really nice change from the usual horse show because it focuses on each rider being evaluated in terms of an ideal and not evaluated against the others in the class. While there are certainly winners, the overall feeling is more about competing against yourself and riding the best you can. It also lets the judges focus on giving each rider some meaningful feedback about their ride on the scoresheets which the athletes get to not only see but take home.” says judge, Kim Ablon Whitney.

Athletes competed both individually and as teams due to the unique scoring system. Each athlete scores between 0-100 for their division and then that score counts not only for the individual placings but also the highest score in each division counts toward the team total. The team competition is divided into two separate Championships: AEL Team National Championship for 4th-12th graders was won for the first time by the Dana Hall School Equestrian Team from Wellesley, MA; the AEL Team Plus National Championship for 4th-12th graders plus Minis (1st-3rd graders) and Adults was won for the third consecutive year by Faith Hill Farm in E. Greenwich, RI.  “Dana Hall’s AEL team has worked incredibly hard this year and it was so exciting to see our students rewarded for their dedication and determination. The horses provided by both Mount Holyoke and Oak Hill Farm, Croyden, NH, were fantastic.” says the Dana Hall School Head Coach Francesca Stefano.

“We love the AEL format. The AEL is a league that truly meets all riders where they are in their equestrian journey. For both our new and seasoned athletes the AEL Nationals is a goal and a bucket list item each year and this year did not disappoint. The competition was well run, user-friendly, had wonderful horses and the beautiful ribbons and generous prizes were the icing on the cake.” says Lara Sloan, Faith Hill Farm Assistant Coach.

The AEL Medal Class was a new addition this year with the top Intermediate and Open Youth riders competing against each other for scholarships offered by Lake Erie College in Painesville, OH. The top prize was won by Lexi Sperduti, Warwick, RI, from Faith Hill Farm who took the top placing with a score of 96. Lexi said, “Winning the first AEL Medal class felt amazing and I was so surprised when they called my name that I couldn’t stop smiling!”

Championships and Reserve Championships are listed below, contact the AEL at the email above for a complete list as well as photos from the competition:


Champion: Zoe Cole, Dana Hall School, MA

Reserve Champion: Makayla Long, AP Equestrian, VA


Champion: Lexi Sperduti, Faith Hill Farm, RI

Reserve Champion: Mckinlee DePaola, Dana Hall School, MA

Novice 4th-8th Grades:

Champion: Zora Randolph Smith, Concord Equestrian, MA

Reserve Champion: Samantha Winesette, Healing Strides, VA

Novice 9th-12th:

Champion: Erin Cassidy, Westford Academy, MA

Reserve Champion: Hallie Dunstan, Healing Strides, VA

Advanced Beginner 4th-7th Grades:

Champion: Elizabeth Cornwell, Healing Strides, VA

Reserve Champion: Caroline Hartwell, Dana Hall School, MA

Advanced Beginner 8th-12th:

Champion: Savannah Zimmerman, Harmony Equestrian, VA

Reserve Champion: Lily Gallaugher, Concord Equestrian, MA

Beginner 4th-6th Grades:

Champion: Carly Grimm, MET CT, CT

Reserve Champion: Ava Toomey, Nashoba Valley, MA

Beginner 7th-12th:

Champion: Jenna Jin, Dana Hall School, MA

Reserve Champion: Cynthia Li, Nashoba Valley, MA

Minis Ponies:

Champion: Ana Fialho, Faith Hill Farm, RI

Reserve Champion: Rowen Smith, Lucky Star, NH

Minis Unicorns:

Champion: Brendan Baker, Faith Hill Farm, RI

Reserve Champion: Keira Thompson, Dana Hall School, MA


Champion: Emily Cohler, Concord Equestrian, MA

Reserve Champion: Marianne Dennis, Floyd Woods Farm, NH

For more information about Athletic Equestrian please visit:

Athletic Equestrian League (

Athletic Equestrian Clinics (

 Athletic Equestrian is the organization that oversees the Athletic Equestrian League, Athletic Equestrian Clinics the Athletic Equestrian Riding in College Podcast and the book published by Horse and Rider Books, The Athletic Equestrian by Sally Batton and Christina Keim.

 The Athletic Equestrian League is an organization of equestrian athletes who compete in individual competition offered in the English and Western discipline.  The AEL includes a Minis development division for 1st-3rd grades and competition for 4th-12th graders, Collegiate riders and adults.

Athletic Equestrian
Sally Batton, Founder and President
Cell 603-359-0008 /