Stephanie Danhakl Sweeps Grand Amateur-Owner Champion Awards at Capital Challenge Horse Show

Stephanie Danhakl and Golden Rule. Photo © Shawn McMillen Photography.

Howell and Swingtown Win Grand Adult Hunter Championship, Ingram and Moran Receive Top Tricolors, Batchelor Victorious in Children’s/Adult Jumper Challenge

Upper Marlboro, MD – October 1, 2014 – Adult and Amateur-Owner riders were center stage today at The Capital Challenge Horse Show, presented by The Gochman Family. Four divisions of amateur-owner hunters and three of adult amateur hunters competed. Stephanie Danhakl swept the Grand Amateur-Owner Hunter Championships with her horses Golden Rule and Enough Said. Rachel Howell and Swingtown won the Grand Adult Amateur Hunter Championship. In the evening session, Hope Batchelor was fastest on Orlando to win the $10,000 Children’s/Adult Jumper Challenge. The Capital Challenge Horse Show, held at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD, runs through Sunday, October 5.

Thursday was Stephanie Danhakl’s day at Capital Challenge. The rider from Pacific Palisades, CA, who is currently in graduate school in Philadelphia, piloted Golden Rule and Enough Said to top honors.

Golden Rule was the Amateur-Owner 18-35 3’6” champion, sponsored by The Hallman Family and MerryLegs South LLC, and with their top ribbons of two firsts and a sixth over fences and second under saddle, they also garnered the Grand Amateur-Owner 3’6” Championship and Best Amateur Rider title. Danhakl was presented with the Dr. Harold M.S. Smith Trophy, donated by Dr. Suzanne Smith and Dr. Peter Craig for the grand championship. For the Best Amateur-Owner Rider Award, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest M. Oare, Danhakl was presented with The So Many Ways Challenge Trophy, donated by Karen Kramer.

Winnetoe, ridden and owned by Montana Coady, was the reserve champion. They placed first and fourth over fences and were sixth under saddle.

Danhakl and Golden Rule, an ex-grand prix horse from Europe, have been paired together for six months. The 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding has a large stride, and Danhakl adjusts her ride to take that into account. “I’m usually having to shorten around the ends of the ring because then I get down the lines too soon,” she acknowledged. “He likes to go really slow and jump slowly. He sort of knows that he has to collect his stride between jumps. He’s sort of an old pro.”

The pair “clicked right away”, and trainer Scott Stewart competes with him in the High Performance Hunter division. They were worried at first that the 3’6” height for the amateur division would not be enough to impress Golden Rule. “But he’s proven us wrong,” Danhakl pointed out. “He tries over every jump, no matter the size. He has a ton of scope. Sometimes Scott makes me jump really big oxers in the schooling ring and it scares me, but he always just flies over them with ease. It’s a great feeling.”

Danhakl rode Enough Said to the Amateur-Owner 18-35 3’3” Hunter championship, sponsored by Doug and Missy Smith. They won two over fences classes and were second in the under saddle. The reserve champions, Classified and Samantha Schaefer, placed third, third, and fourth over fences and fifth in the under saddle.

For their top ribbons, Danhakl and Enough Said, an eight-year-old Warmblood gelding, were awarded the Grand Amateur-Owner 3’3” Hunter Championship, sponsored by The Oberkircher Family and Southfields Farm LLC, and Danhakl won the Best Amateur-Owner 3’3” Rider title.

Going from the diminutive Enough Said to the large Golden Rule takes some adjustment for Danhakl. “I sort of have to change my frame of mind. They’re very different to ride. They both suit my style of riding though, because neither requires a lot of hand or leg. They have their own motors, which is the type of horse I like to ride.”

Although Enough Said is a Pre-Green horse, Danhakl said that he has always been mature with a good brain. “He’s such a blast to ride, so he makes it very easy. He’s sort of just on auto-pilot all the time. He’s like a little wind-up toy,” she described. “You just get him going the right pace, and he does the rest. He has a big stride, he’s very careful, so he doesn’t usually hit the jumps. Even though he’s small, he has a lot of scope and stride.”

Danhakl last won at Capital Challenge as a junior rider in 2004. After a break from riding, she started competing again two years ago. “Over the last year, I’ve felt like I’ve gotten back to how I was riding as a junior. I took a seven year break in between,” she explained. “I have great trainers in Scott and Ken, and they’ve helped me get back on track with my riding and become more consistent. I have a lot more confidence going into the ring than a year or two ago.”

She said it’s “sort of a dream” to win again at Capital Challenge. “It’s been a great year for me. I have some amazing horses, so I’m very lucky,” she remarked. “I had a slight hope that I’d be champion in one division, but I didn’t think that I would be champion in both. I was just trying to be consistent and focus on each round as I went into the ring, and not focus on the points or being champion or not. It was more about trying to ride well. That’s the strategy; to focus on riding and put the rest to the back of my mind.”

Another rider to return to Capital Challenge and win after a hiatus from riding is Caroline Moran of Wellington, FL. She rode Bacardi, her eight-year-old KWPN gelding by Casco, to the championship in the Amateur-Owner 36 & Over 3’3” Hunter division, sponsored by Woodland Way, Inc., Wood Run Farm, and The Tredennick Family. They were fourth yesterday but returned today with a bang, winning both classes. The reserve champion was Summer Catch ridden by Dawn Fogel, who was second, second, and fourth over fences.

Moran last competed at Capital Challenge seven years ago and had success with top horses such as St. Nick, Prince Charming, Glass Castle, and Just Jack. “This is very exciting,” she said. “Not only for being out of the ring for so long, but to do it on him because he loves this horse show. I was a little bit nervous yesterday. I was riding a little bit defensive. In the handy, he really relaxed and I was very happy to end on that note.”

She continued, “It’s nice to be back in the ring. I only do a couple horse shows a year. I’ve allowed myself to do other things outside of horse shows. It’s nice to do well here. There are great horses and riders here. When I saw there were 40 in my division, I thought, ‘Wow!’ They’re really good riders and horses, so I was extremely happy.”

Bacardi lives in Kentucky with trainer Havens Schatt, who competed him in the Performance 3’6” Hunters, so Moran only rides him at horse shows. This year, that has only been at three events: Blowing Rock, Middleburg Classic, and Capital Challenge. “I’m a little out of practice, so I’m thrilled with what he did here,” she said with a smile. “I haven’t been riding him in between, which is difficult. It’s hard to get your rhythm again. But he’s a great horse. Once you get the rhythm with him, there’s no other feeling like it.”

Terming Bacardi as “super comfortable,” Moran said, “When you canter around, it’s like cantering around on a sofa. It’s the most incredible feeling over the jump because he’s so high and lofty, but he doesn’t jump you loose. When he’s relaxed and you can go forward, it’s such an easy ride.”

John Ingram of Nashville, TN, and Airport 48, owned by John and Stephanie Ingram, LLC, received two firsts and a second over fences to claim the Amateur-Owner 36 & Over 3’6” Hunter championship, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest M. Oare. Katie Robinson rode Tradewind for Deeridge Farms to the reserve championship after placing first, second, and third over fences.

The Ingram family originally purchased Airport 48, an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding, to be an equitation horse for their daughter Martha. When she wasn’t ready to ride him, rider Hayley Barnhill tried him in hunter derby classes, where they had great success. Ingram took over the ride recently, and they were champions at Hampton Classic Horse Show.

“He was an ex-grand prix horse. He’s pretty, and he jumped pretty good. Almost on a lark, we decided to let Hayley have a go with him in the derbies and he was fantastic. I just started riding him because he looked like a lot of fun, and he is. I would say he’s the best damn equitation horse I ever bought!” Ingram laughed.

“Airport gives you a very confident ride,” Ingram said. “He’s a little bit uphill. He’s brave. It’s pretty joyful. I think the fact that he could be a really great equitation horse makes him very versatile and able to do lots of things. He can answer anything in the hunter or equitation divisions.”

Ingram thanked trainer Tom Wright as well as Barnhill, Tori Hardison, Mitchell Robinson, and those that help get him and Airport to the ring. “It takes a village, and we have one,” he noted.

Ingram has won a reserve championship at Capital Challenge before with Hush, but this is his first top tricolor ribbon. “I’ve never gotten over the final hurdle to champion, and Katie (Robinson) sure made it difficult. She’s an excellent rider and has great horses. It’s particularly gratifying when you can eke out over good people, and there are a lot of them here. It’s incredibly gratifying to win here.”

The Amateur-Owner 3’3” EMO Trip of the Show was a 91 from Stallone and Samantha Schaefer. Katie Robinson and Tradewind had the 3’6” EMO Trip of the Show with an 89. Becky Gochman’s Sambalino was posthumously honored with the Grey Slipper Award.

From Trail Rides to Grand Championship in the Adult Hunters

Rachel Howell rode Swingtown, a seven-year-old Westphalian gelding by Avec Cover, for Quiet Haven Farm LLC to the Adult Amateur 36-50 Hunter championship. They won an over fences class and the under saddle. The reserve champion with a second over fences and second under saddle was Undergrad, ridden by Alexandra Beaumont for Brook Farm LLC.

Howell’s two blues led to the Grand Adult Hunter Championship, sponsored by Steve Martines, and she and Swingtown were presented with The Equus Entries Challenge Trophy, donated by Equus Entries and Sue and Ralph Caggiano. The Best Adult Amateur Hunter Rider Award, sponsored by Phoebe Weseley and River Run Farm LLC, went to Howell. Ginny Edwards won The Gail Knieriem Memorial Trophy, donated by Lynley Reilly and Randy Johnson, as the trainer of the Grand Adult Amateur Hunter Champion.

Rachel Howell and Swingtown. Photo © The Book LLC
Rachel Howell and Swingtown. Photo © The Book LLC

Howell received Swingtown as a present two years ago, and she keeps him at her mother’s house, where they both take care of him. They trail ride, ford rivers, and he lives outside most of the day. This was Swingtown’s seventh show of the year. Swingtown made the transition from the jumper ring, and Howell said, “I couldn’t ask for a sweeter, more wonderful horse.”

Howell said that she has to work on containing Swingtown’s big stride while jumping. “That’s the effort, sitting down, calming him, and being peaceful,” she explained. “He’s always very eager to jump. It’s a tremendous confidence builder for me because you know when you point him at a jump, you’re getting to the other side. You can get him six inches under the base or pull a Superman. It gives you a lot of breathing room and comfort as somebody who works, has a kid, and does this in stolen hours.”

This is Howell’s fifth time competing at Capital Challenge, but her two blues were her first ribbons here. “It was really nice to pull it together today,” she expressed.

The Adult Amateur 51 & Over Hunter championship went to Pure Giving, ridden and owned by Julie Holzberger of Cincinnati, OH. Holzberger and the 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding were second in both over fences classes and sixth under saddle. The reserve championship went to Saratoga, ridden by Lindsey Evans-Thomas and owned by Patricia Raynes. They were first and fifth over fences and fifth under saddle.

Holzberger has had “Q” for three years and said his best traits are that he’s consistent, sweet, and loves what he does. “At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing. He loves to walk in the ring and do what he does. I just always feel good when I’m on him. He’s a steady Eddie for me,” she said.

Holzberger has won at Harrisburg, and shown at Capital Challenge for six years, but says today’s championship is the pinnacle of her riding career. Having started at the age of five and progressed through the pony and junior hunters, she took a 25-year break from riding before returning to the sport 12 years ago. “I had so much fun today. It’s one of my all-time favorite horse shows,” she said.

Since her return, she has trained with David Belford and Chris Payne of New Hope LLC. “I have to thank David and Chris. I’ve been riding with them for 12 years. They’re incredible, and I wouldn’t be where I am without their support and great direction,” she expressed, also giving thanks to her husband and her groom, Fred Marin.

The Adult Amateur 18-35 Hunter champion, sponsored by Bridgadoon Show Stables Inc. and Lainie Wimberly, was Maximus, ridden by Meredith Mateo of Oak Ridge, North Carolina, and owned by Reflections Farm. They were first over fences and second under saddle. Alex Paradysz and Paradysz Farm’s Late Entry were reserve champions with first and sixth places over fences.

Maximus is a seven-year-old Warmblood stallion by Mynos who was bred in the United States. Mateo has not been riding him long, and this was only their third show together. “I can’t take the credit because Archie really helped me out with him,” she said. “He stays with Archie; I’ve only ridden him a few times not at shows. He is actually really easy. You need to add leg, and when you turn the corner and see the distance, you just let go and let him pick the distance. He doesn’t act like a stallion. He acts like a gelding and is well-behaved.”

This is Mateo’s second time competing at Capital Challenge and said her win today was very meaningful. “A lot of really good riders, the best riders of every region, come here and compete. It means the world to me.” Goals for the pair include qualifying for the full indoor season in 2015. She added, “I look forward to getting to know him better.”

Caroline Clark Stoney and Smiles won the EMO Adult Hunter Trip of the Show with an 88.5. The winner of the Amateur World Champion Hunter Under Saddle was Fitzhugh, ridden and owned by Grace Stuntz.

Hope Batchelor Makes the Most of Jumper Challenge

Dr. Hope Batchelor DVM, of Chester Springs, PA, piloted Orlando to victory in the $10,000 Children’s/Adult Jumper Challenge. In a jump-off full of fast competitors, it was Batchelor and Orlando who set the winning time with a clear round in 30.998 seconds. Michelle Stacy and Enrique VHV were close behind in second place with a time of 31.367 seconds. Vicki Lowell and Tippitoo placed third when they stopped the timers in 31.521 seconds.

For her win, Batchelor was given the Best Adult Amateur Jumper Rider Award, sponsored by Meadow Grove Farm and presented with The Belfield Trophy, donated by Julie Karpan.

Batchelor works for Dr. John Steele and also runs a rehab facility for horses, so she has limited time in the saddle. Orlando, who she purchased three years ago, was her first jumper. “I wasn’t sure if I could even ride the jumpers. Before I wouldn’t go real fast or take chances because I was used to going slow in the hunters. You just have to change your mindset,” she explained.

She found Orlando through trainer Joanne Copeland, who has worked with the horse for eight years. Her groom, Kelsey Ostberg, keeps Orlando fit when Batchelor can’t make it to the barn. “He’s the perfect horse. Normally he’s really quiet at home. When I tell people he can get wild, they don’t believe me,” she said.

After learning the ropes in the jumper ring, Batchelor and Orlando went on to place second at CCHS and Washington International last year before this victory. “It’s amazing, it’s so exciting,” she said.

For tonight’s class, Batchelor said of her plan, “There weren’t a lot of options for inside turns, so it had to be very neat and efficient. He’s totally game and very fast through the turns. He’s very careful, but he doesn’t spend a lot of time in the air, so I can make up time that way too.”

Carolina West and Boulogna, who placed fifth, were the highest Children’s Jumper pair in the class, and West was awarded with the Best Children’s Jumper Rider Award, sponsored by Memorial Park Hunters.

The grooms of the winning horses were honored today as well. They include:

Amateur-Owner 18-35 3’6” Hunter: Golden Rule/Antonio Aguilar
Amateur-Owner 36 & Over 3’6” Hunter: Airport 48/Aurelio Pacheco
Amateur-Owner 18-35 3’3”: Enough Said/Antonio Aguilar
Amateur-Owner 36 & Over 3’3”: Bacardi/Daniel Gomez
Adult Amateur 51 & Over Hunter: Pure Giving/Fred Marin
Adult Amateur 36-50 Hunter: Swingtown/Juan Morales
Adult Amateur 18-35 Hunter: Maximus/Alex Garcia
Children’s/Adult Jumper Challenge: Orlando/Kelsey Ostberg

The Capital Challenge continues tomorrow with the start of the junior and pony hunters and will host the WCHR Adult Amateur Finals, the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals, and the North American Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Challenge Cup Round 1. The evening session includes one of the highlight classes of the week, the WCHR Professional Finals.

Additional highlights of the Capital Challenge Horse Show will include the North American Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Challenge Cup (two rounds held on Oct. 3-4), the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals (Oct. 3), and the WCHR Professional Finals (Oct. 3).

For full results, more information, or to watch the live webcast, please visit Like the Capital Challenge Horse Show page on Facebook and on Twitter @capchallenge and Instagram @capitalchallengehorseshow.

In its 21st year, the Capital Challenge Horse Show sets itself apart with a distinct and unique focus on preeminent hunter competition. Held each autumn at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD, this year’s show will take place on September 27 – October 5.

Top competitions include the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals and the THIS National Children’s Medal Finals, along with the Capital Challenge Equitation Weekend, presented by In addition to these prestigious equitation events, the Capital Challenge Horse Show will once again host the World Champion Hunter Rider Finals and will assemble the country’s best horses and riders to compete in junior, amateur, and professional hunter classes.

Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

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