Three Children’s Hunters Top Marshall and Sterling League National Standings

Kingston, N.Y. – May 18, 2023 – As we near the final quarter of the Marshall and Sterling (M&S) League qualifying period, the spotlight is on three young, outstanding equestrians that are not only on their way to securing a spot at the Marshall & Sterling League’s National Finals on September 13-17, 2023, but also earning Year-End High-Point Awards in their divisions.

Thirteen-year-old Shea Pearson from Davie, Fl began competing at the age of 7 and rides with trainer, Portia Hinze, who is also her proud mother, at Navinshire Farm. Together with her horse Friend Request, owned by Bonnie Navin, Shea has risen to the top spot in the M&S Standings in both the Children’s Hunter Horse Division and the Pyranha™ Children’s Horse Medal.

“I love working hard at the barn and then being able to go out and succeed at competitions,” said Shea. “It was amazing to find out that after only eight months, we were Champion in two divisions in the M&S National Standings! I was also thrilled to place third in the Bit O’ Straw Hunter Classic at the 2022 M&S League Finals aboard Redfield Farms Iganis and to win a Top-Ten Award in both the Bit O’ Straw Hunter and the Children’s 2’6” Medal at the 2022 M&S League Year-End Banquet.”

Shea thanked Heritage Horse Shows in Plantation, FL, for being a member-show of the Marshall & Sterling League and offering their classes to young equestrians such as herself. “Surrounding myself with a good support system will continue to help me through the highs and lows of competition. Competition has taught me that things don’t always go as planned,” she commented. “The one thing I believe is ‘Keep riding no matter what!’”

Gabriella Hecker, age 12 from Plantation, FL, is sitting pretty in the Marshall & Sterling League National Standings in both the Children’s Large Pony Medal and the Children’s Hunter Large Pony division on Woodland’s Sam I Am. She also competes in the Small/Medium Pony division with Megan Thee Stallion and in the Large Pony division with Woodland’s Teddy Bear. Gabriella began riding at the age of five and noted, “I like jumping, trail riding and showing. I have had the opportunity to ride many different ponies and horses over the last six months, and I love the challenge of figuring out each one.”

Gabriella and Woodland’s Sam I Am are proving hard to beat with 236 points in the M&S League Children’s Hunter Large Pony Standings and 128 points in the M&S Children’s Large Pony Medal earned at Heritage Horse Shows in Plantation, FL. Besides being most proud of these accomplishments, Gabriella has recently started showing at more recognized shows, which are quite competitive. “I recently showed my new pony Woodland’s Teddy Bear in the Children’s Hunter Large Pony at the ESP Spring Series and was Division Champion in the 11 and Under,” she said. ESP has been a member-show of the Marshall & Sterling League for decades and offers M&S League classes at their Wellington, FL showgrounds.

When asked what competition has taught her about coping with succeeding and losing, Gabriella commented, “I have learned how to go back and fix my mistakes and to try harder.”

Gabriella’s trainer, Matthew Trent of Boca Raton, FL, added “Being in South Florida gives us the opportunity to show in the warm weather all year. I would like to thank Lauren Medlin-Manasseh and Butch Medlin of Heritage Horse Shows for holding Marshall & Sterling League qualifying classes and for allowing us the opportunity to participate.”

The youngest of our three equestrians is eleven-year-old Sloane Heck of Fairfield, CT. Sloane rides with trainer Jenny Martin-Rudaz at Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, CT. Sloane currently takes top honors in the M&S National Standings in both the Children’s S/M Pony Medal and the Children’s Hunter S/M Pony on Butterfly Kiss.

Sloane began riding at the age of 7 and said, “Riding was my first experience at feeling freedom. Growing up in New York City and having divorced parents, I didn’t know what to expect when getting on a horse for the first time. I love animals, but riding and connecting to the horse was the most wonderful experience of my life and I was hooked! I love competing in shows and love applying myself to the sport. It’s a privilege to take care of my pony.”

Wise beyond her years, Sloane stated, “When I win, I never brag because that can hurt my other competitors’ feelings. When you win, you should feel proud of yourself because you did better than your composite, which is hard to do. When I lose, I think about what I could have done better and ask my trainer how I can improve for the next show. I tell myself, no one is perfect, even in sports!”

When asked what her favorite memory has been so far, Sloane concluded, “About a week before an away show called Old Salem, I was riding outside, and I was trotting along and saw this beautiful, vibrant, yellow butterfly. Molly’s show name is Butterfly Kiss, so butterflies are good luck for me.” Old Salem Farm offers M&S League Hunter, Jumper and Medal classes at more than 25 shows each year at their beautiful show facility in North Salem, NY.

The Marshall & Sterling League has served to encourage and enhance the competition level of Children's and Adult Amateur Hunter and Jumper riders by providing the opportunity to compete at a prestigious National Finals Competition. The League offers competition in 25 divisions with fences 2’ to 3’6”, providing a unique opportunity for riders at novice and advanced levels to compete at the Marshall & Sterling Insurance League National Finals. For more information please visit