Category Archives: Championships

IHSA Members Lead Nation at USHJA Emerging Athletes Program and Horsemanship Challenge Finals

Julianna Empie aboard Woody. Photo by Rachel Sowinski/USHJA.

Fairfield, Conn. – Nov. 16, 2019 – Members of the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) from across the country participated in the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund/USHJA Emerging Athletes Program (EAP) National Training Session and Horsemanship Quiz Challenge held at the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio Nov. 7-10.

Out of the 252 riders that applied for the EAP this year, 192 participated in a Regional Training Session. Sixteen riders and three stable managers were invited to the finals, six of whom are IHSA members.

The 2019 Horsemanship Quiz Challenge had 426 registrants. Of the entrants, 309 completed the Level One quiz and 106 of those made it to the Level Two quiz. Only 24 were invited to participate in the HQC Finals. Three IHSA members made the shortlist of finalists.

The EAP was created in 2009 to provide opportunities for young riders to advance their horsemanship and riding skills. EAP winners and participants have gone on to win numerous championships in the hunter, jumper, and equitation arenas including the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals, ASPCA Maclay Finals, USEF Prix des States, and at IHSA Nationals.

Finalists are evaluated on their riding skills, stable management, combined with their score on a written test. Throughout the four-day event, riders train with Olympic Gold Medalist and IHSA Cacchione Cup winner Peter Wylde. Each finalist trained and cared for a horse generously provided by the University of Findlay, Lake Erie College, and Henry Pfeiffer.

Julianna Empie, a 19-year-old Penn State Equestrian Team member, bested the field of 15 nationally-qualified riders after a rigorous four days of evaluation and a Nations-Cup Style competition. Empie has ridden at regional training sessions since 2016 with clinicians Kip Rosenthal, Anne Kursinski, Joe Fargis, and Karen Healey.

“I was excited to just be at EAP National Finals,” Empie said. “It was amazing because I’ve looked up to other riders and past winners, and now to be a winner of this program is just crazy.”

Empie spent the first few days of the EAP Finals figuring out her mount Woody, provided by Henry Pfeiffer. She said that he was a different ride than she is used to but her consistency in the saddle helped her secure the win.

“Riding multiple horses through the IHSA has given me the skill to feel my horse out in those first few moments and put it all together for a smooth ride,” Empie said.

Wylde complimented Empie as a natural rider with a big future. He commented on her effortless and consistent her rounds aboard Woody in the Nations Cup-style competition. Four riders were called back for a ride-off on different mounts after two rounds of competition on Sunday. Empie’s ride-off round was aboard Clark, owned by the University of Findlay, and won the EAP Outstanding Horse Award. The judges gave Empie the nod and the national finals honor.

As this year’s winner, Empie received a spot in the 2020 USHJA Gold Star Clinic in the 1.10/1.15m section. “I’m so excited for the Gold Star Clinic,” Empie said. “The opportunity to ride in Florida and learn from other professionals in stable management is huge.”

The IHSA members that took part in the EAP National Training Session are:

  • Julianna Empie, 19, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania – Penn State University
  • Joelle Hylton, 19, Manteca, California – Cal Poly
  • Rose Kauffman-Skloff, 19, Los Angeles, California – Savannah College of Art and Design
  • Evelyn Smith, 18, Morristown, New Jersey – Delaware Valley University
  • Alicia Weismann, 19, Southampton, New Jersey – Rider University
  • Mara Picciochi, 20, Morristown, New Jersey – Centenary University

Also held at the University of Findlay was the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge (HQC) Finals. The HQC consists of two levels of online horsemanship quizzes comprised of multiple choice and true/false questions that cover horsemanship, anatomy, nutrition, riding theory, and welfare. To be eligible for finals, participants must score an 80 or higher on Level One and a 90 or higher on Level Two. The HQC Finals includes the written test and a hands-on practicum that puts the finalists to the ultimate test.

Keedysville, Maryland native Chloe Bellerive topped the field of HQC finalists to stand atop the podium as winner of the overall competition.

“The IHSA has helped a lot participating over the years,” said Bellerive, a 20-year-old University of Kentucky senior. “The horsemanship you learn from being able to figure out your horse while riding and what it needs from bits and tack to barn management.”

Bellerive is no stranger to HQC competition. She has participated since its inaugural year in 2012. “It was truly very rewarding to take my years of experience after competing for so many years to rise above and win,” she said.

Part of her winner’s package includes a two-month paid internship at Spy Coast Farm in Lexington, Kentucky during the summer of 2020. Bellerive said that she is excited to experience all aspects of the top-notch Warmblood breeding and training facility.

On her way to the overall win, Bellerive scored third on the written exam, first on the horsemanship/identification exam and second on the practicum.

When asked what advice she’d give to those looking to ride in the IHSA, Bellerive said, “Ride as many horses as you can and take every opportunity to keep learning because you can truly never learn enough.”

Two other IHSA members competed in the HQC Finals. University of Michigan student Rebecca Hopkins (Northville, Michigan) scored second on the written exam and fourth on the horsemanship/identification exam. Lauren Obermeyer from Hamilton, Ohio, who rides at the University of Findlay, scored third on the horsemanship/identification exam and fourth on the practicum exam.

For more information, go to IHSAinc.com or contact media@IHSAinc.com.

Veterans and Mustangs Are Perfect Match at WDAA World Championship Show

Jimmy Welch and Patti Gruber performing a Color Guard with mustangs Little Red Hot and OWH Pearl Harbor. Photo Courtesy of the Western Dressage Association of America and Don Stine Photography.

Marine Corps veteran Jimmy Welch (Woodstock, Ill.) and dressage trainer Patti Gruber (Woodstock, Ill.) competed with two mustangs at this year’s Western Dressage Association of America’s (WDAA) World Championship Show. These World Show first-timers also paid tribute to the flag and all veterans with a Color Guard every evening before the freestyle tests.

Welch and Gruber brought Gruber’s five-year-old mustang gelding OWH Pearl Harbor and her eight-year-old mustang mare Little Red Hot from Welch’s organization, Operation Wild Horse (OWH), to demonstrate the powerful impact a combination of Western dressage and mustangs can have in the healing process of both mind and body for veterans. OWH focuses on engaging veterans and their families with domesticated mustangs in a therapeutic setting. There the veterans are taught about horse care, horsemanship, and riding skills through Western dressage.

In his first ever national championship, Welch went on to compete Little Red Hot successfully in several tests over the course the competition, earning a top-10 placing in the Introductory Test 3 Amateur division.

Welch and Gruber shared why the seemingly unlikely combination of a mustang, a veteran, and Western dressage are a perfect match in supporting American veterans.

Why are mustangs and veterans a good fit?

Welch: “Considering that these animals lived in the wild, there are a lot of parallels between American military veterans and mustangs. The biggest one being fight or flight. These mustangs are very hyper-vigilant, very aware, and so are America’s veterans. It’s what we’re trained to do when we serve. And that’s for safety. Truly, working with the mustangs is like working with a mirror and being able to see yourself for the first time. What we feel we’re doing and what the horse shows us we’re doing is undeniably one of the most therapeutic things that I’ve ever experienced. I love everything there is to love about a mustang. They lived in the wild. Anything that can live in the wild and then learn to be domesticated and take care of someone like myself … there’s nothing not to like about it.

“We believe there is a special bond between veterans and something that has lived in the wild and had to survive. We have a new mustang coming to us that has claw marks from a cougar or a mountain lion, and there’s an Army Sergeant Major that did 22 years in the military that has already been working with her with a colleague of Patti’s. We don’t even have her yet and he’s working with her.”

Gruber: “We don’t know what his draw is to her yet—he’s relatively new to the program—so we don’t know what he sees in her, but he met her at a fundraiser and that was it for him. He’s texting me about her blankets for winter, asking if we need to pick out a color for her. You know, he’s a tough Army veteran who has two sons and this is like his daughter. It’s amazing.”

Where do you get the mustangs?

Gruber: “Our mustangs come from different sources. Some have come through the Mustang Heritage Foundation, we have a couple that have come through private homes, including veterans or the families of veterans, and we also get them through a rescue network that gets them out of auctions and kill pens.

“So our motto has become “horses helping veterans helping horses,” because as much as the horses do for [the veterans], we also do some rescue work to get these mustangs into better situations. We get the mustangs into forever homes where we never have to worry about where they’ll end up. They get all the food that they want, and they come in at night to their stalls where they can just relax and chill. They have their own space and they aren’t fending for their lives or wondering if they’re going to end up in a bad situation. The ones that come to us never have to worry, because they have a forever home with us.

“Mustangs are not seen as the most valuable horses; a lot of them get overlooked for what they can do. A mustang can naturally jump six feet from a standstill … and do, regularly! They make great mounts, whether it’s for dressage or cowboy mounted shooting or barrel racing, and they’re amazing endurance horses because, naturally, they travel 20 to 30 miles a day to find enough food and water when they’re out in the wild.”

Welch: “Our veterans are very, very big into the mustang rescue aspect. There’s more draw for our rescue mustangs than anything, because a lot of us felt like we needed to be rescued. One of our key things [at OWH] is to ensure that we have enough funds to have horse treats in the veteran aisle so that whenever veterans come, they can interact with their horse. That’s so important, because that is the relationship-building aspect of it.

“I had maybe been on a horse once or twice [before OWH.] Patti approached me with this idea for OWH, and in my first humbling experience in all of this I said, “Honestly, I don’t think that horses and veterans have anything of value to offer each other, but I’m willing to listen.” She just had a completely different approach to it. Then I met her mustang, Padre, and in a barn full of 30 domestic horses, there was just something so special about him. I just connected with him.”

How does Western dressage aid the veterans’ healing process?

Gruber: “Dressage itself is the oldest form of military riding, dating all the way back to the Knights of the Round Table and the battle maneuvers those horses used to do, so it has a direct link to the military already. The structure of Western dressage gives the veterans we work with something to work towards, goals to work towards. ‘Can I move up the levels?’ is the same idea as ‘Can I get more rank when I’m in the military?’ So there are direct correlations on multiple levels.

“And who doesn’t want to be a cowboy? Who doesn’t want to throw on cowboy boots and jeans and go get on a horse? It’s just cool. We’ve had veterans tell us being on a horse is the closest thing they’ve had to being in the military, because you’re in control but at any moment you could be out of control.”

Welch: “Western dressage is a perfect fit for us because the most important thing to us is safety. Safety of the rider, safety of the horse, and safety of the spectator. That safety is built through a foundation of the basic principles of riding, dressage. If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right, so Western dressage being the foundation of what we do is creating that undeniable safety in working with mustangs.

“Doing the tests in Western dressage reminds me a lot of marching. It reminds me of being aware of your position, your form, all of these things very disciplined and being top-notch.”

How does having the WDAA’s support advance your mission of helping veterans and mustangs?

Welch: “Our relationship with the WDAA is fairly new, but it has been the most welcoming relationship, one of the top welcoming relationships we’ve had in the horse world. It was very fitting. I can’t say enough about the decisions the WDAA Board of Directors have made to immediately put into play a veteran membership and a veteran lifetime membership, which comes with a buckle. They have opened their doors to us. I now serve as Veteran Liaison to their board, which means that the board is hearing proposals for how to include veterans, what we wanted to do, and so on, directly from the Operation Wild Horse veterans that I relay back to the board.

“In a short amount of time, they have done so much for us and for veterans already. That’s why we’re here. We want to be part of organizations that want to take care of veterans. WDAA is leading the way in what will be a very successful veteran program, and I hope other breeds and disciplines will model off of that.”

Gruber: “WDAA is doing great work and leading the way in integrating veterans into the Western dressage community and competitions. The other areas of the sport and their organizations could absolutely open their doors and open their membership to encourage more veterans to get involved with it. I don’t think they need to have specific classes for them, but [they can] award and acknowledge their achievement when they are out there in the ring at a show.”

The WDAA recently announced that the USEF Youth Sportsman’s Grant has been awarded to OWH for their youth outreach program. Through the program, children of veterans and active duty military learn horsemanship and riding skills utilizing Western dressage. Additionally, OWH works with active duty military under the age of 22 and Poolees, individuals under the age of 22 who are going into the military. This program concentrates on the therapeutic attributes of horse riding, ground work, and the comradery that accompanies the equestrian community atmosphere.

This no fee annual program has been in place since February 2017, but participants were limited due to the shortage of equipment. The $1,500 grant will allow OWH to implement the curriculum on a larger scale as proper equipment can be purchased to provide the safest atmosphere possible for participants ages 2-21.

by Ashley Swift
© 2019 United States Equestrian Federation

Harper JR Named ‘Sport Horse of the Week’ at IFHSA World & Grand National Championships

Photo Courtesy of IFSHA and Avalon Photography.

Springfield, Ohio (November 4, 2019) –Nearly 300 classes were presented over five days in October when the International Friesian Show Horse Association (IFSHA) 2019 World and Grand National Championships came to the Champions Center in Springfield, Ohio, but it didn’t take long for N2 Saddlery to find its Sport Horse the Week: Part-Bred Friesian English Pleasure World Champion, Harper JR, owned by Lauren Riehle of Kernersville, NC, and competed by amateur rider Anaiah Powers, who trains under one of the top handlers ever to enter a Dressage at Devon ring, Bruce Griffin, of Griffin Sport Horses in Virginia.

Griffin, whose professional training career with Friesians like Harper JR began under the tutelage of great horsemen like Jeff Wonnell and Barbara Cross, says, “It’s a dream come true to be blessed with such talented and versatile horses.” The 2019 World Champion and N2 Saddlery Sporthorse Award winner had previously earned overall Part Bred High Point and overall High Point in Hand Horse titles at the 2016 IFSHA World Championships.

But the real story of this gentle giant, says Riehle, just keeps growing. “I lucked into my dream horse. I met him the day he was born,” she says of her nine-year-old, 17.3-hand (“he just keeps growing!”) Friesian/Percheron/Thoroughbred cross.  “You may not see the Thoroughbred but he’s got a whole lot of go. He’s also a kind, fun guy and he’s great with Anaiah.”

When Riehle brought the young Friesian to Griffin Sport Horses, she told its trainer, “I just want a nice trail horse. Let’s take our time.” Then three months later Bruce called her back and told her, ‘I don’t know what you think you got, but you’ve got yourself a show horse here.’”

The N2 Saddlery Award recognition couldn’t have come at a better time. “Saddles have always been a challenge for him. So thank you, N2, for your sponsorship and this lovely award.” Because, as Riehle lovingly notes, finding anything to fit her great big World Champion can be a challenge, “Do you know how hard it is just to find a 90” blanket? Ninety inches – I’m not kidding!”

Contact: Sue Newell
www.n2saddlery.com
sue@n2saddlery.com

Ava Stearns Wins ASPCA Maclay National Championship at National Horse Show

Ava Stearns on Acer K.

Lexington, Ky. – Nov. 3, 2019 – On the final day of its 136th anniversary, the National Horse Show welcomed junior equitation riders to the Alltech Arena for the ASPCA Maclay National Championship, presented by Chansonette Farm, the last of the four major equitation finals held each fall season. The National Horse Show has come to be known as one of America’s premier indoor equestrian events thanks to its rich history and classical traditions, one of which is the prestigious championship that is regarded as one of the most coveted equitation distinctions in the sport. Since 1933, an elite junior rider’s name has been etched into history as the annual champion, and this year the deserving victor was 18-year-old Ava Stearns, who topped the scorecard during her final junior year ahead of 175 athletes to capture the tricolor honors as the 2019 ASPCA Maclay National Champion and winner of the esteemed ASPCA Horsemanship Trophy.

Throughout the majority of the day, entries contested designer Bobby Murphy’s course one-by-one in attempts to showcase their abilities over the expertly created 14-effort pattern. The efficient course featured a diverse collection of fence types ranging from sturdy to airy, with the majority of the jumps not implementing standards, and was a nod to popular obstacles of the past as Murphy incorporated a series of fences that were reminiscent of those seen in previous generations. Exhibitors were offered fair opportunities to shine or fall short, with a forward 5-stride line, a collected 6-stride line, two in-and-outs, and an obstacle jumped twice both directions all integrated into the course.

Faced with the task of whittling down the initial start list of 176 pairs to only the top 25 performers, judges Jimmy Torano and Tamara Provost ranked the collection of participants who had earned a callback into the next rounds of competition. As the 92nd to ride in the original order-of-go, Stearns, riding Acer K, proved to answer Murphy’s questions the best as they exemplified the pinnacle of equitation, completing a textbook trip to jump to the head of the standby list following the first phase of competition. Headed into the under saddle and second over fences portions of riding, Stearns, Isabelle Song, Breanna Bunevacz, Emma Fletcher, Alexa Aureliano, Juliette Joseph, Catalina Peralta, Jordan Toering, and Savannah Hemby were pegged as the frontrunners, all riding head-to-head in the same flat section.

During the under saddle phase, riders’ balance and strength, as well as their horses’ adjustability, were put to the test through a series of directives from the judges, which included lengthening of stride, flying changes, and changes of gait, most of which was done without stirrups. Thanks to impeccable showings, both Bunevacz and Fletcher managed to usurp the early leader to claim the first and second positions, respectively, ahead of the final over fences phase. Hemby, Casas, Pielet, and Griffiths also performed well and leapfrogged up the ranks to inch that much closer to the top spot.

Returning in reverse order of the standings for their last chance to display their skills, all of the top 25 contenders navigated the Alltech Arena once more in an effort to either win the competition or force a work-off. With the points too close to make a championship decision yet following the second jumping phase, the judges requested a final test for six riders, which included highest-placed Stearns, Fletcher, Casas, Hannah Hoch, Sophie Gochman, and Elli Yeager. Originally outside of the top six, Hoch, Gochman, and Yeager were each able to maneuver their way up the leaderboard to keep them in contention.

For their final ride-off, competitors were asked to canter directly to fence one, counter-canter fence 11, canter fences 12a and 12b, canter to fence 13 in six strides, halt, canter fence eight, hand gallop fence five, and exit at the walk. The first five partnerships each turned in solid performances with no major errors, keeping the competition tight as the final entry walked through the arch for the last over fences trip of more than 200 throughout the day. As the ultimate challenger to ride, and with the lead to lose, Stearns jockeyed Acer K to an exemplary and seemingly effortless round, concluding the day’s activities on a high note with her precision, correct form, and aid effectiveness. After waiting through the nerve-wracking announcement of results, Stearns was rewarded for her superior efforts with Acer K as the 2019 ASPCA Maclay National Champion.

As the 2019 victor, Stearns’ name now sits amongst some of the sport’s greatest athletes and icons, including past winners such as Bill Steinkraus, Frank Chapot, Lillie Keenan, Victoria Colvin, and 2018 winner Sam Walker. Even more impressive is the fact that the junior rider claimed the championship aboard 8-year-old Acer K, North Run’s gelding who has just completed his first indoor season competing in the equitation finals. Though their partnership is relatively new, Stearns and Acer K have already achieved an incredible amount of success together, earning the reserve champion honors in both the 2019 Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East as well as 2019 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Equitation Final, in addition to topping the inaugural Dudley B. Smith Equitation Championship at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival during the summer. As the trainers of the winning rider, Missy Clark and John Brennan of North Run were also awarded a one-year lease of an Audi, courtesy of Audi of Lexington.

Hot off third place honors in Saturday’s Hollow Brook Wealth Management $25,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur-Owner/Junior Jumper Grand Prix CSI4*, 18-year-old Casas continued her successful weekend with the reserve champion honors. The 2018 Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Equitation Final winner, 17-year-old Yeager added to her equitation reputation by earning the overall third place status. The 2019 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final winner just weeks ago, Fletcher clinched fourth place, while Gochman earned fifth place and Hoch rounded out the top six.

Sunday’s competition concluded the 2019 National Horse Show, but the equestrian event will return in 2020 to once again host the ASPCA Maclay National Championship.

To learn more about the National Horse Show, click here.

Darragh Kenny Wins $36k Free x Rein Int’l Jumper Welcome Speed CSI4* Costume Class at NHS

Darragh Kenny on Billy Dorito.

Lexington, Ky. – Oct. 30, 2019 – Donning festive costumes to celebrate the Halloween season, 57 horse-and-rider partnerships representing 10 nations tested their footspeed Wednesday evening in the $36,000 Free x Rein International Jumper Welcome Speed CSI4*, the first show jumping class of the 2019 National Horse Show. Ranked No. 9 in the world based on the Longines FEI standings, Darragh Kenny (IRL) proved why he deserves that distinction with a rapid navigation of the course with the reins on Vlock Show Stables LLC’s Billy Dorito, besting a field comprised of riders in guises such as the Flintstones, Toy Story characters and the Joker, among many other inventive outfits.

Operating under a one-round speed format, the class challenged exhibitors to be quick and careful over designer Ken Krome’s (USA) 13-effort track, which ultimately only saw a total of 26 clear rounds from the initial start list. Riding first in the order, Katie Dinan (USA) and Brego R’N B wasted no time as the first pair to successfully tackle the course without incurring any faults, serving as the trailblazers and setting the standard at 72.46 seconds. Just a few trips later still early in the order of go, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) substantially improved upon his peer’s time, slicing across the course and tripping the timers in 64.11 seconds aboard Karlin Van’t Vennehof to propel themselves to the early lead.

Amazingly trimming even more time off the clock, Daniel Coyle (IRL) and CHS Krooze maneuvered the pattern at a breakneck pace, galloping across the finish line almost ten full seconds faster in 53.80 seconds. Their time would not hold for long though, as fellow Irishman Kenny jockeyed Billy Dorito to the slightly faster time of 53.74 seconds, capturing the lead by mere milliseconds as the 16th duo in the order. More than 40 subsequent contenders, which featured costumes such as jockeys, a judge, Mario and Luigi, multiple generations of Madonna and more, chased down the frontrunners over the remainder of the class, but the swift speed put forth by Kenny and Billy Dorito proved uncatchable, solidifying the Irish partnership as the 2019 winners of the $36,000 Free x Rein International Jumper Welcome Speed CSI4*. Dressed as a skeleton, Coyle retained second position with his own CHS Krooze, and Andy Kocher (USA) jumped to the final podium spot aboard Eye Candy Jumpers’ Fashion V, breaking the beam in 54.070 seconds as Freddie Mercury and his golden steed.

Appropriately outfitted for the Kentucky crowd, Sloane Coles (USA) dressed as a bottle of bourbon for her ride aboard Calisto 26. Going all out with a body suit and cut-out photos of the famous Kentucky liquor, she was awarded the Best Costume Award for her creative efforts.

Scott Stewart and Becky Gochman Reign Supreme

Wednesday morning at the 136th annual National Horse Show brought top hunter horse-and-rider combinations to the Alltech Arena of the Kentucky Horse Park. As the oldest indoor horse show in the United States, the National Horse Show has earned a permanent spot on the calendars of many elite professionals and amateurs who make the trip from far and wide to vie for the titles and perpetual trophies up for grabs each year. Following Tuesday’s start to the hunter divisions, the first round of championship honors was awarded for the 2019 National Horse Show on Wednesday. Of the contenders, it was Dr. Betsee Parker’s Lucador, piloted by Scott Stewart, who received the Grand Champion Professional Hunter title. Stewart also went on to claim the Leading Hunter Rider trophy for his 13th time, while Becky Gochman and Catch Me earned the Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter trophy, walking away with the iconic black cooler embroidered with the National Horse Show historic emblem.

Stewart and Lucador have a long-standing history of excellence together. After years of accumulating tricolor ribbons across the nation, the pair earned their final Grand Champion Professional Hunter title in their last show together. Stewart and the 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding earned their points in the High Performance Hunter division, taking top three placings in all of the over fences classes and first in the under saddle class over the course of the two days, resulting in their championship honors in the division. Lucador’s name is already etched on the Grand Champion Hunter Trophy four times, adding his name once again to the coveted centerpiece in 2019 for the fifth time. The talented horse will go on to compete in the Junior 3’3” Hunters 15 and Under with Maddie Tosh, a transition that is bittersweet for Stewart as their successful partnership comes to a close.

During the awards ceremony, Stewart was once again invited back to the arena for the Meralex Farm Leading Hunter Rider Award for the Leading Hunter Rider Challenge Trophy. Phenomenally, this was Stewart’s thirteenth time placing his name on the Leading Hunter Rider Challenge Trophy, which was originally donated by Mr. and the late Mrs. Kenneth Wheeler. The well-known hunter rider accumulated his points towards the trophy with a whopping seven horses, including Everwonder, Cabrio, Critics’ Choice, Lucador, Private Life, Catch Me, and Cameo.

Also returning competitors to the National Horse Show, Gochman and Catch Me, owned by Gochman Sport Horse LLC, clinched the Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter title for the “Ruxton & Scot To Do” Challenge Trophy. The pair made a clean sweep in the Amateur Owner 3’6” Hunter 36+ division, winning every single class for a perfect 40 points. This is Gochman and the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding’s second year in a row securing the Ellen Van Dyke-donated trophy. With “Snoopy,” Gochman has found much success in the Amateur divisions across the country, most recently taking Grand Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunter Champion at the Washington International Horse show.

To learn more about the National Horse Show, click here.

Costume Inspiration from US Equestrian Breed Affiliates’ National Championships

Sjaantje as a honeybee and Gail Aumiller as a beekeeper at the IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show (Avalon Photography)

With Halloween just around the corner, equestrians are brainstorming or perfecting costumes for themselves and their horses. Several of US Equestrian’s breeds have costumes classes at their national championships that allow competitors to get creative and show their individual style. Costumes ranging from whimsical creatures to native tack and attire acknowledging the breed’s heritage impress the judges and spectators at the national championships. US Equestrian spoke with three experts to hear about their creations and tips they have to help you be successful in the show ring.

Molly Rinedollar and Welsh Pony Helicon Just Notice

The Welsh Pony & Cob Society of America’s American National Show was livestreamed on USEF Network this year, and the costume class was arguably one of the most entertaining classes to watch from the show. One standout entry in the class was Helicon Just Notice, owned by Molly Rinedollar of Helicon Show Stables in Parker, Colo. The Welsh pony entered the ring dressed as a piñata with children from the barn dressed up as M&Ms who tossed candy into the crowd.

Rinedollar’s barn has worked together to create other impressive pony costumes, including the flag of Wales, which involved Helicon Just Notice masquerading as a red dragon and children from the barn dressing up as knights and peasants at the 2018 American National Show. Rinedollar’s inspiration for the flag of Wales dragon costume was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the WPCSA.

“One of my [barn] moms, Sue Williams, helped me with the piñata,” Rinedollar said. “She sewed all the felt pieces on for the piñata. So we had to cut strips and sew them on, then we did the cuts up to make the layers of the piñata.”

The dragon costume for the flag of Wales was more time consuming. “Laurie Grayson, from Boulder, and her group helped with the dragon, which was a little hard because she lives over an hour away, so trying to get that together was tough,” Rinedollar explained. “We got one of those blow-up dragons that go in your yard and cut it up, sewed it, and painted it. That one took a lot of time. It had wings and the tail, so it was pretty time consuming.”

Rinedollar estimated that the piñata took two to four hours to assemble, while the dragon for the flag of Wales took at least 10 hours. The dragon costume also required several sessions to make sure the various pieces were fitting and coming together properly.

Rinedollar recommended trying costumes out before competing in them, especially if you plan on riding your horse or pony in the costume as things can shift unexpectedly. Having an easy-going pony to dress up was another tip from Rinedollar, as Helicon Just Notice was unfazed by his elaborate costumes. “He’s very tolerant and really likes it,” Rinedollar said. “He is pretty simple about the whole thing. I think he likes wearing costumes.”

Rinedollar enjoyed that the whole barn – kids and parents alike – can get involved in the costume class.  “I think it brings everybody together,” Rinedollar said. “The camaraderie of it is fun, and the kids all have a great time. They like dressing up, too.”

While the next American National Show is about 11 months away, Rinedollar and her barn are already making plans for next year’s costume. “We kind of have one that we want to do, but I don’t know how we will pull it together,” Rinedollar said with a laugh.

Gail Aumiller and Friesian Sjaantje

Gail Aumiller of Dreams Come True Farm in Carlisle, Pa. is frequent competitor at the International Friesian Show Horse Association World & Grand National Championship Horse Show, and she has partnered with her Friesian mare Sjaantje to make two carriage pleasure driving costumes come to life. Aumiller and Sjaantje teamed up as a beekeeper and honeybee in 2019, while they were a ringmaster and circus horse, respectively, along with Aumiller’s friends joining as a trick rider, a fortune teller, and a clown for a circus theme in 2016. Both years, Aumiller and Sjaantje claimed the World Champion Friesian Carriage Pleasure Driving – Costume title for their efforts.

Aumiller said she tries to come up with unique and novel costume ideas. She had seen a Friesian dressed as an eagle, and the costume’s wings that fluttered with the horse’s movements inspired Aumiller to have a winged costume for Sjaantje, thus the honeybee costume. For the circus theme, Aumiller acquired a period costume for her horse, which got her brainstorming on ways to highlight the costume. Being able to include her friends in the circus theme was highly desirable for Aumiller, too.

“It was really a lot of fun because, from an exhibitor’s standpoint, you don’t often have the opportunity to share your show ring competition with friends,” Aumiller explained. “But in a costume class like that, where you can take others and you can share it with your friends, made it very enjoyable for me.”

Aumiller spent a full year working on her costumes, from coming up with the idea to perfecting details. She handled the dressing up herself and her horse, but her cousin helped her with anything that needed to be built and added to the carriage. She did one dress rehearsal at home with two to three helpers before each of the costumes’ debuts at the IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show.

“It seems like every time I use a costume, I tweak it a little bit more. One time with the circus show, I had to use a different carriage, so I didn’t have room to put more than the trick rider and one other person in it so I had to lose the fortune teller,” Aumiller said. “And with my honeybee, the second time I used it I thought, ‘I should have a basket with honeybee products,’ so I put honey in it and beeswax candles and different things like that.”

Aumiller recommended gradually introducing a costume to a horse, so there are no surprises and you are ready to shine in the show ring. “You just have to desensitize them, like if you are putting a flowing robe on them, you just have to do it and get them used to it,” Aumiller explained. “Sometimes it takes more than one or two sessions for them to get used to it.”

Aumiller pointed out that it is important to know what the judges are looking for in any costume class you enter. “In the costume class, originality is supposed to be one of the main things that the judges are focusing on. Of course, in a period costume class it would be on authenticity. If you really want to have a chance at winning, you need to know what the criteria is that the judges are judging you on. Then, you need to focus on that and develop that.”

Aumiller has begun working on her costume for next year’s IFSHA World & Grand National Championship Horse Show, and her cousin has already created a cardboard mockup for the carriage. Sjaantje will have to wait and see what her next costume will be.

“She is a true champion,” Aumiller said of Sjaantje. “She does anything she can to please me, so I like to think that if I like it, then she is going to like it.”

Mario Contreras and His Andalusian and Lusitano Mounts

Mario Contreras of MC Horse Training LLC in Elgin, Ill. has claimed multiple titles at the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association National Championships while displaying the native tack and attire that acknowledges the origins of the Andalusian and Lusitano horses, horses from Spain and Portugal, respectively.

When Contreras first got started showing in Andalusian/Lusitano classes highlighting the native tack and attire for the breed, he didn’t have many options until he found the right distributors, Lisa Oberman of El Sueño Español and Bill from Iberian Connection. Contreras said he now has eight to 10 outfits that range from traditional native attire to exhibition costumes.

While Contreras has a variety of outfits, each class has specific criteria that is being judged. “I have shown in the Nationals with Andalusians, the Spanish horses, and it is very important that you match the saddle, the saddle pad, the bridle, the [rider’s] shoes, the spurs, the hat, everything has to go with the Spanish outfit and a Spanish horse,” Contreras explained. “And it’s the same thing if you are riding a Portuguese horse, a Lusitano, you have got to make sure that you have everything that goes with it.”

Contreras noted that judges are taught to know the difference between Spanish and Portuguese tack and attire. “When you go into a competition, some judges are nice enough to tell you that that doesn’t go with the outfit and eventually you get more education,” Contreras said. He suggested that competitors in native tack and attire classes do their research or have an experienced individual guide their tack and attire selections.

In addition to compiling the rider’s outfits, the horses have specific tack that they wear as well. “If you see some of the bridles, the buckles that go into the bridles are actually different and sometimes it gives it away if it is Spanish or Portuguese,” Contreras said. “Also, for the doma vaquera classes (pattern work highlighting the breeds’ maneuverability and impulsion) on the presentations, the bridles have what we call a mosquero. The mosquero is actually made out of horse hair and it goes on the forehead on the browband of the bridle. You can use the same bridle, but you can use a different mosquero depending on the horse’s colors. … It is called mosquero because it kind of gets the flies away from the horse’s face. Also, when you are riding and doing doma vaquera, you want the mosquero to swing side to side and, to the judge, that will give a good sense of the horse having a good rhythm on the walk.”

Since some of the native tack pieces may seem out of the ordinary, Contreras suggested treating each horse as an individual as you introduce them to something new. “It just depends on the horse. Some horses are very sensitive, more so than others, just like people,” Contreras said. “I think the mosquero is one of the most difficult things because not all horses accept the mosquero right away, so you have got to be careful how you introduce it and, of course, doing it slowly will be the best thing to do. Sometimes just pass it by his face. What I usually do is when I see a horse who is not too comfortable with it in the beginning, I usually put a little shredded plastic bag at the end of my whip and slowly start petting him with it until the horse gets used to it. Then, eventually you put the mosquero on the browband of the bridle.”

In addition to native tack and attire and doma vaquero classes being fun, they also give a valuable recognition to the heritage of the Andalusian and Lusitano breeds. “It is important to continue the tradition, and I love that the association continues to promote and have those classes for people,” Contreras said. “Every time I go to Nationals, I think that is one of my favorite classes to dress up and really show the breed because, at the end of the day, we are promoting horses. There is nothing better than continuing to show their beginnings and the culture of how horses became what they are now.”

by Kathleen Landwehr
© 2019 United States Equestrian Federation

Eleanor Rudnicki Victorious in Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3’3″ Equitation Championship

Eleanor Rudnicki on Quinten F.

Lexington, Ky. – Oct. 27, 2019 – The final day of the 2019 National Horse Show’s Opening Weekend, which showcased equitation classes for all ages, offered two final championship opportunities for exhibitors. Up against a lofty field of 161 athletes in the start list, Eleanor Rudnicki proved her prowess in the equitation ring riding Quinten F throughout multiple rounds of competition to emerge victorious as the 2019 winner of the Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3’3″ Equitation Championship, the class which featured the most entries all weekend. In the Boggs Hill National Horse Show KHJA Equitation Championship, Emily White topped the scorecard aboard Scandeek thanks to two strong showings over fences and on the flat.

Designed by Bobby Murphy, the 12-effort track presented exhibitors with a number of opportunities to highlight their abilities in front of the judges’ panel, which was comprised of Emil Spadone and Mary Lisa Leffler. Following the first round of riding, 161 hopeful entries were whittled down to only 24 of the top performers, each of whom were invited back to the Alltech Arena to battle it out with their peers at least twice more, once under saddle and another time over fences, plus additional testing if required. Turning in the strongest showings during the first two rounds, Rudnicki, Ainsley Wade, Lilly Goldstein, Jordan Gibbs, and Vanessa McCaughley led the standings headed into the final jumping phase.

Once again, Murphy’s track provided a handful of route options in order for exhibitors to distinguish themselves from their peers, and many competitors took advantage of the opportunities with a series of inside turns. Sitting as the frontrunner after the first over fences and under saddle portions of the contest, Rudnicki had the advantage of jumping Murphy’s second pattern last since the qualified individuals returned in reverse order of the standings.

At the conclusion of the second jumping portion, only two riders, 14-year-old Rudnicki and 16-year-old Wade, were asked back for a final work-off in order for the judges to determine who would receive the 2019 class honors. Coincidentally, Rudnicki and Wade rode back-to-back in the initial order of go, with Rudnicki riding 45th in the start list aboard Jessie Rechs’ Quinten F and Wade as the 46th of the day with the reins on her own Cumano Boy Z. Returning for one final test, the two ladies switched horses for a competitive flat work-off. After a nail-biting ride-off, the results were in: Rudnicki had captured the championship after leading from start to finish in the 2019 Hamel Foundation National Horse Show 3’3″ Equitation Championship. Wade was awarded the reserve honors, and Lola Head moved up from eighth place to capture the final podium spot.

Impressively, Sunday’s victory came during Rudnicki’s first year competing in the equitation ranks as well as her first indoors season. Adding another level of prestige to her win is the fact that she only rode Quinten F for the first time one week ago, but the young rider quickly learned to adapt to the horse and rode as if on a familiar mount. Rudnicki is coming off an already successful week at the National Horse Show, having earned the championship tricolor in the Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett Under 14 Equitation, presented by Palm Beach International Academy, on Saturday. Moving forward, Rudnicki will continue to ride in the junior hunters and equitation, with her sights set on the major medal classes next year.

Commencing the day’s activities earlier in the morning, the Boggs Hill National Horse Show KHJA Equitation Championship brought a contingent of talented horses and riders to the forefront to compete for the tricolors over two rounds of riding. Athletes had the opportunity to jump at either the 2’6” height or the 3’ height, with the pack splitting in half to tackle their preferred fences. Up first, the 2’6” exhibitors took their turns around the Bobby Murphy-designed track, followed by the 3’ challengers, who ultimately proved to shine the brightest as the top three finishers each opted for the higher obstacles.

Headed into the flat phase, White, Melodie Robitaille, and Lilli Power each had garnered top scores to keep them in contention for the title with their respective mounts, but White’s faultless performance under saddle pushed her to the top of the scorecard, clinching the top spot on the podium as the 2019 Boggs Hill National Horse Show KHJA Equitation champion. Power and her own Wingman ultimately earned second position overall, followed by Robitaille and Coveted, owned by S&R Investment Group LLC.

A veteran equitation competitor and previously a coach, White took advantage of the opportunity provided by the National Horse Show to continue competing as an adult, which helped to allow her to remain partners with her own Scandeek, who she began riding in the equitation as a junior. Thanks to their longtime relationship, White and Scandeek have continued to accrue accolades in the adult classes, and earlier this year won the Ariat National Adult Medal during the Kentucky Spring Horse Show.

To learn more about the National Horse Show, click here.

Samantha Takacs and Brighton Take Top Pony Hunter Honors at WIHS

Samantha Takacs and Brighton. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography.

The final winners of the 61st annual Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) were named on Sunday, October 27, at Capital One Arena in downtown Washington, D.C., marking the conclusion of the six-day horse show.

Among those claiming victories on Sunday was Samantha Takacs, who rode Brighton to the Grand Pony Hunter Championship title, and claimed The Miles River Moonglow Perpetual Trophy, donated by Scott Novick and Rustic Woods. Hallie Moss topped the WIHS Pony Equitation Finals aboard Birtley’s Crowned Jewel to take home The Jane Marshall Dillon Memorial Perpetual Trophy, donated by the Friends and Students of Mrs. Jane Marshall Dillon.

Takacs, 14, of Oldwick, NJ, and Brighton, owned by Ellie Sadrian, won the under saddle and earned a first and second over fences in the Large Pony Hunter division to clinch the division championship and the Pegasus Stable Perpetual Trophy, donated by Ms. Fenwick Kollock, on their way to the grand championship title.

“It feels so good!” said Takacs of her major victory. “I can’t even describe how happy I am feeling right now. It’s such an honor at this amazing horse show.”

Takacs topped the WIHS Pony Equitation Finals last year riding Storyteller, and this year, she got the ride on Brighton from her good friend and fellow rider, Sadrian.

Hallie Moss Wins WIHS Pony Equitation Finals on Her First Try

Hallie Moss watched Sam Walker win the Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund WIHS Equitation Finals on Saturday evening at WIHS and carried her inspiration from that into her performance in the WIHS Pony Equitation Finals to take the blue.

Moss, 11, scored an 84.5 in the over fences phase of the class to stand in third before the flat phase, after which the judges, Sue Ashe and Timmy Kees, put her on top as the winner with Birtley’s Crowned Jewel. It was Moss’s first time showing in the WIHS Pony Equitation Finals, though she showed in the pony hunter divisions last year.

“It’s my last show on ‘Teddy,’ so it’s pretty incredible,” Moss said. “I wasn’t slow, which I’ve been working on, and I was able to find the jumps out of stride.” Teddy is a 12-year-old Welsh Pony by Eyarth Tayma and owned by Three Ships LLC.

For more information and results, please visit www.wihs.org.

Elizabeth Chenelle Wins THIS National Horse Show 3’ Adult Equitation Championship

Elizabeth Chenelle on Dimacho.

Lexington, Ky. – Oct. 26, 2019 – Back for the second day of competition during Opening Weekend, the 2019 National Horse Show honored its first set of champions Saturday, highlighted by Elizabeth Chenelle’s impressive victory in the second annual Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Horse Show 3’ Adult Equitation Championship ahead of a field of 41 other entries. A unique contest, the class allowed adult riders to showcase their equitation talents, a skill that is often celebrated only for junior equestrians. Held in the Alltech Arena, the final was open to riders over the age of 18 who have qualified by gaining points throughout the year. The popular class offered exhibitors a chance to compete in a national final amidst an atmosphere filled with history and tradition, for which the National Horse Show is synonymous.

A three-phase contest, the class first challenged the original start list of 42 horse-and-rider partnerships over course designer Bobby Murphy’s 11-effort pattern, which offered exhibitors opportunities to display their abilities via a series of lines and long approaches. Following the first round of riding, 15 contenders earned callbacks to qualify for the final two phases of competition, which consisted of a flat class in addition to another trip over fences. Whittled down to the best performers, the latter half of the class included Chenelle, Kayla Jacobs, Jaime L. Krupnick, Anna Rossi, Andrea Robbins, Madison Myro, Anna Koenig, Tyler Petrie, Claudia Millstone, Sabrina Hall, Jennifer Morton, Jeanine Cash, Olivia Jacob, Kiera Phlipot, and Allison Pelzel. Following the under saddle showing, riders Myro, Cash, Phlipot, and Morton impressed the judges with their excellent form and were moved up the standings to inch closer to the lead headed into the final phase.

Returning in reverse order of the standings, challengers showcased their abilities one final time over Murphy’s second track, each hoping to either leapfrog up the rankings or retain their top positions. As the class progressed, combinations turned in a series of exemplary performances in an effort to catch the early front runner, Chenelle, after her standout rides over fences and on the flat aboard A. Brooke Farr’s Dimacho, the chestnut gelding who was coincidentally the reigning champion after winning the inaugural chapter of the class in 2018 with Hannah Brown in the irons. Ultimately, Chenelle could not be caught as she consistently demonstrated textbook equitation over three rounds of riding on Dimacho, solidifying her victory as the 2019 Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Horse Show 3’ Adult Equitation champion thanks to her final performance that earned top marks from the judges’ panel.

Moving up the ranks from fourth place after the first phase into the reserve position was Rossi, who piloted her own Cakebread, and third place was claimed by California-based Jaime Krupnick and her own Conux. True to the mission of the class, the three podium finishers represented a variety of backgrounds that include motherhood and diverse careers, a testament to the ideals of the class as a competition that allows adults to continue in their pursuit of equestrian excellence in the show ring after their junior days have concluded.

As the trainer of the winning rider, Armand Chenelle was honored for his role in the championship, and Kayla Jacobs and Rebecca Patterson’s Dia Caspar were awarded the distinction of the Best Turned Out Pair by the Grayson Jockey Club Foundation.

Earlier in the day, champions were crowned in their respective age group divisions, with nine athletes leaving the Alltech Arena with new tricolors in tow. In the two sections of the Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett Under 14 Equitation, presented by Palm Beach International Academy, Vanessa McCaughley and Eleanor Rudnicki rode to victory, while Ainsley Wade and Isabel Rudaz claimed the rosettes in the Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett 14-15 Equitation. The older junior riders in the Cindi Perez and Anne Bennett 16-17 Equitation performed strongly over two days of competition, and ultimately Caroline Kelly and Sloane McGuire outshone the pack to claim the championship honors ahead of their individual sections. Chenelle earned double victories Saturday with a division championship in Section A of the Adult Equitation and Madison Myro topped the leaderboard in the second section of the Adult Equitation, while Blythe Goguen was awarded the championship in the KHJA Equitation.

To learn more about the National Horse Show, click here.

New Format for Voltaire Design Under 25 British Championship at Olympia

British Showjumping and HPower Group are pleased to confirm an exciting new format for the 2019 Voltaire Design Under 25 British Championship at Olympia, The London International Horse Show.

Twenty-four riders will be invited to compete in the Voltaire Design Under 25 British Championship Qualifier, scheduled to run during the morning session on Friday 20 December at 10.35am. The two-round class will have a start height of 1.40m, the second of which will be a thrilling competition held against the clock.

The top 10 from this qualifier will then advance to the Voltaire Design Under 25 British Championship which will run during the evening performance on Sunday 22 December at approximately 6.00pm. Faults will not be carried through from Friday, so each rider will start on a score of zero and riders will be jumping for the lion’s share of the £13,000 prize pot on offer. With a start height of 1.45m, the class will again run over two rounds with the top five progressing through to the jump off.

The qualification criteria for the twenty-four riders who will be invited to compete in the 2019 Championship are as follows:

  1. The five team members from the Junior team at the FEI European Championships
  2. The five team members from the Young Rider team at the FEI European Championships
  3. The Under 25 riders that have been selected as part of the squad of five for any Senior Nations Cup teams in 2019
  4. The top four Under 25 combinations (disregarding those riders already qualified) from the National 1.40m Open class incorporating the Voltaire Design Under 25 British Championship Qualifier at the following Winter Classic Shows**
    – Aintree Equestrian Centre Winter Classic (10-13 October 2019)
    – Addington Equestrian Winter Classic (30 October – 2 November 2019)
  5. One wildcard to be awarded based on results from 2019 Senior, Young Rider, and Junior Nations Cups, the September 2019 FEI Jumping Under 25 Ranking List, and also prospect for teams for the year 2020

Any riders who have qualified via points 1, 2, 3, and 5 and are unable to accept their place on a Grade A or Grade B horse, alongside any combinations from point 4 who have not jumped for four faults or less in the first round, will be substituted with riders in order from the September 2019 FEI Jumping Under 25 Ranking List.

* If there are more than five riders, the riders with the best results in the Nations Cup would take priority as decided by the Performance Manager dependent on the conditions of the respective Nations Cup

** Combinations must have jumped for four faults or less in the first round

To purchase tickets for Olympia, please visit www.olympiahorseshow.com or telephone the box office on 0871 230 5580.

For more information, please contact:
Gayle Jenkins / gjenkins@revolutionworld.com / +44 (0)203 176 0355