Hunters Rule the International Arena for World Championship Hunter Rider Week at WEF

Scott Stewart and Catch Me. Photos copyright Sportfot.

Conor Swail and Dillinger Win $35,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 6

Wellington, FL – February 18, 2016 – The arrival of World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week at the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival heralds the traditional beauty of the hunter discipline, which is featured all week long in the main International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). The professional hunter divisions were completed today and seven divisions named champions. WEF 6 runs through Sunday, February 21, with the highlight event, the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular, as the “Saturday Night Lights” event starting at 6:30 p.m. under the lights.

Jumper competition during week six is held at The Stadium at PBIEC. Ireland’s Conor Swail and Dillinger took the win in the $35,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 6.

The international jumpers get a fresh change of scenery competing in both the International Ring and the Derby Field at The Stadium through Sunday. The $130,000 Grand Prix CSI 3* will be the highlight event on Friday night in the Global International Ring, the $10,000 Artisan Farms U25 Welcome Grand Prix sponsored by EnTrust Capital and the $35,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic will both be held on the derby field at The Stadium on Saturday, and the $25,000 Artisan Farms U25 sponsored by EnTrust Capital as well as the $50,000 WEF 6 National Grand Prix will both be held on the derby field at The Stadium on Sunday. The 12-week WEF circuit runs through April 3 offering more than $9 million in prize money.

Perennial favorite Scott Stewart of Flemington, NJ captured two championships today; he rode Dr. Betsee Parker’s A Million Reasons to the tricolor in the High Performance Hunter division and David Gochman’s Catch Me to the Equine Tack & Nutritionals Second Year Green Working Hunter championship.

Stewart topped two of the three over fences classes and placed second in the under saddle with the nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding. Havens Schatt settled for the reserve honors with Shaw Johnson Price’s 11-year-old Mecklenburg gelding, Custom Made, topping the under saddle and earning a fifth and two second place ribbons over fences.

Catch Me was recently named the USHJA WCHR Hunter of the Year for 2015 and will receive the WCHR Peter Wetherill Cup on Saturday night. In May of 2015, Catch Me became ill and was diagnosed with botulism, a neurologic disorder that can result in paralysis and may be fatal. Since the disease was caught early and treated, Catch Me was able to make a full recovery and returned to the show ring in August.

“When you saw him at the clinic you would not have thought he was going to make it,” Steward remarked about the ordeal.

He was especially impressed with the gelding’s performance this week. “He’s so careful, and he was awesome,” Stewart detailed. Catch Me’s performance has led him to consider competing him in the Hunter Spectacular.

Stewart looks forward to earning a spot in the coveted class each year. “It’s certainly one of the most special weeks for us here,” he remarked. “It’s still a great thing to try to do.”

Stewart and A Million Reasons won the stake round of the High Performance Hunters with a score of 88 and placed third in another of the three over fences classes. A Million Reasons also earned a blue ribbon in the under saddle class.

The 11-year-old Holsteiner mare walked right into the International Arena on Wednesday, competing for the first time since the National Horse Show in November. “She doesn’t show that much,” Stewart detailed about the mare’s light show schedule. When asked what helps the mare continue to impress year after year, Stewart explained, “I don’t really jump her [four feet high] at home. She has an easy job, so I think she stays pretty interested.”

A Million Reasons, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, may be a small horse, but she never appears to be when on course. “She’s not that big a horse, but she has a giant stride,” Stewart stated. “You just have to do things her way. She’s a little temperamental, but very scopey for a small horse.”

Kelley Farmer and Like I Said settled for the reserve honors after winning two of the three over fences classes. The pair also placed sixth in the under saddle. Like I Said is an eight-year-old Mecklenburg mare, who was recently purchased by Pony Lane Farm.

Farmer and Like I Said moved up to the top tricolor ribbon in the Equine Tack & Nutritionals First Year Green Working Hunter. Farmer, who splits her time between Lexington, KY and Wellington, piloted the mare to wins in two of the three over fences classes. The pair also placed fourth over jumps to clinch the tricolor win.

Like I Said received the highest score of the week, earning an impressive 94 in the stake round today. “She was amazing; what a horse,” Farmer stated. “The only reason she wasn’t champion in two divisions this week was because I got in her way.”

Farmer and Like I Said also won both of the over fences classes in the High Performance division on Wednesday. “For a First Year horse to walk in the International ring yesterday and win both classes… she’s a heck of a horse, and I think she speaks for herself,” Farmer laughed. “I couldn’t be happier with her.”

Reserve champion honors in the First Year Green Hunters went to Victoria Colvin and Style. Style, who is a seven-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Take the High Road LLC, earned a second place ribbon in the under saddle, and a first and a sixth over fences.

Farmer topped another division in the Shapley’s Grooming Products Green Conformation Hunters with Clever Conversation, a seven-year-old Warmblood gelding by Celestial owned by Kensel, LLC and Woodland Way, Inc. They placed second in the model, won the under saddle, and were first, second, and second over fences. Trainer Larry Glefke was pleased that the horse continued his winning ways from earlier in the circuit in WCHR week, but the young gelding will not compete on Saturday night. “All of them that Kelley rides can jump big jumps, but going out there for the first time under the lights is a lot to ask from him as a First Year Horse,” he explained.

“Clever” is like a “baby Huey”, Glefke described. “He’s like a big puppy dog. He’s beautiful, and he has a tremendous canter. He just flies across the ground. When you’re cantering around, you feel like his feet don’t even touch the ground.”

Farmer added, “He was ready to come into his own. He’s been winning a lot. He’s brave, he’s quiet, and he has a ton of ability. I knew he would walk out there (in the International Arena) and love it.”

Farmer also rode the reserve champion in the division, It’s Me, owned by Farmer, Pinney, & Hill. The seven-year-old Warmblood stallion by Quality won two over fences classes and was third over fences, and placed third in the model.

Farmer, like Stewart, has been reigning in the professional hunters since the WCHR Hunter Spectacular started 20 years ago. When asked about her success during WCHR week at WEF, she stated, “I’ve won that (Hunter Spectacular) class once. I’d really like to say I’m a multiple winner! To keep having horses that are capable of competing on that field and at this week, [qualifying for] the class, it’s a testament to all of my team and what a great job they all do. Larry, Bucky (Reynolds), Debbie (Buchanan) in the barn, and all my great guys, and the horses. I’m lucky to have a group like I do. It’s nice to keep being back in the mix every time.”

For Farmer, it’s a balance of peaking her young and experienced horses at the right time and keeping herself healthy. Last year at WEF 4, a horse she was riding tripped and fell. Farmer tore her rotator cuff and had a hairline fracture in her sternum. Despite her injuries, she was back week 6 and competing.

“Truthfully I wasn’t in good enough shape to ride, and I pushed myself. It probably didn’t benefit my horses, and I didn’t ride the way I should for my horses. This year, I’m back and I feel good,” she said.

Chris Payne of Cincinnati, OH brought home another championship for the circuit with Truman, a nine-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Debbie Bass and Maypine Farm, in the Shapley’s Grooming Products Regular Conformation Hunters. They won two over fences classes and were third in the remaining over fences class, and won the model and the under saddle.

“He’s an absolutely amazing horse,” Payne said. “He’s a beautiful horse, he’s very correct. He hasn’t lost an under saddle. He just has a great style and technique. He is what you think of, when you think of a hunter.”

Payne, who imported Truman as an inexperienced five-year-old from Europe, did not have any expectations coming into WCHR week. But he is excited to showcase Truman’s talent in the horse’s first ever Hunter Spectacular at WEF. “The International Ring is very imposing for some. I went into it hoping that he and I had a good time,” he explained. “If the cards played out in our favor, I was happy. (On Saturday night) I’ll go out and have a good time. I’m lucky to get to ride him, and Debbie Bass is an amazing owner for letting me do this.”

The reserve champion in the division was Lucador, ridden by Scott Stewart for Dr. Betsee Parker. They were third in the model, second under saddle, and first, second, and third over fences. Stewart plans to compete Lucador in the Hunter Spectacular on Saturday night.

A field of 58 horses vied for the Performance Working Hunter 3’6″ championship, resulting in a California split of the division. Elizabeth Boyd piloted Stella Styslinger’s O’Ryan to one of the two championships following two wins and a fourth place ribbon over fences. The pair also placed fourth in the under saddle. Brady Mitchell rode Cassanto to the second championship title. The pair placed first and second over fences and topped the under saddle. Cassanto is a nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Emily Perez.

Jimmy Torano piloted Mia Holstead’s Sutherland to one of the Performance Working Hunter 3’3″ division championships. Torano placed second in the under saddle and earned fifth, second, and first place ribbons over fences on the 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding. Victoria Colvin also earned a championship tricolor aboard Havana, who is a 16-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by Take the High Road LLC. The pair topped the under saddle class and earned a second and two third place ribbons over fences.

Conor Swail and Dillinger Win $35,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 6

Richard Jeffery (GBR) set the course for 70 starters in Thursday’s Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 6. Ten entries cleared the first round course to advance to the jump-off where only four jumped double clear.

Conor Swail and Dillinger
Conor Swail and Dillinger

Laura Kraut (USA) and Cherry Knoll Farm, Inc.’s Constable were first to clear the short course in 42.29 seconds, eventually finishing third. Sayre Happy (USA) cleared the track next with HC Sport Horses’ Ludwig’s Joker B to finish fourth in a time of 44.29. Conor Swail was next to clear the jump-off course with Ariel and Susan Grange’s Dillinger, stopping the clocks in the winning time of 39.98 seconds. Last to go, Peter Wylde (USA) jumped into second place with a time of 41.28 seconds aboard Kathleen Kamine’s Paloma.

Speaking of his jump-off round, Swail said, “One to two was just a nice seven strides for him. The rollback was pretty nice and then the eight strides up to the Liverpool were nice for him. Then just on the landing he had a little bit of a stumble and it made me turn a little late there, but thankfully we still got that inside turn. Then the in-and-out and the last fence he did great.”

Dillinger, a nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion (by Contender x Capitol I), is a horse that Swail has high hopes for.

“He just turned nine years old, so this would be the start of the higher level in his career,” Swail stated. “He is a very good horse. We have had him since he was five years old, and he has been very good basically the whole time we have had him.”

“He jumped his first couple of 2* and 3* grand prix at Angelstone at the end of last year and he jumped clear in five out of the six ranking classes, so he has been very consistent,” Swail noted. “This is probably his first big win, but he has had some good placings. He is a fabulous horse. He is very scopey and very careful. It is what we are all looking for,” he said.

The smaller International Ring at the Stadium was a change for Dillinger, but the young horse proved his versatility and made great turns.

“For a big horse that ring is actually quite difficult, so I think it is a testament to how good he reacted, and I was delighted with him,” Swail said.

Dillinger will jump again in Friday night’s $130,000 Grand Prix CSI 3*, but Swail plans to take his time developing the horse further.

“We have been building him up gradually,” Swail detailed. “He was out a few weeks ago jumping the two 1.45m ranking classes. He had one down with the fastest time in the first class and he was third the next time, so he is slowly improving. I think he is going to be a championship horse. I really do think a lot of him. Whenever he is more comfortable and more ready to jump the bigger jumps, I think he will tell me when he is ready to do that. In the meantime, he is getting good experience all of the time and I never want to over face him too much, so we will keep just going along nicely. Hopefully towards the end of this year he will be doing some pretty nice things.”

In addition to the winning prize money, Swail picked up a $3,000 bonus for wearing SSG ‘Digital’ style riding gloves as part of the SSG Gloves ‘Go Clean for the Green’ promotion.

While jumper action continues at The Stadium on Friday featuring the $130,000 Grand Prix CSI 3* in the evening, the third day of WCHR competition will host more championship presentations on the main show grounds. For more information and full results, please visit

Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

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