Katie Robinson and Amarillo.
Katie Robinson and Amarillo have won tricolors up and down the East Coast, but until Saturday there was one that neither of them had earned: a Devon Horse Show championship. That changed this weekend as Robinson claimed not only the Amateur-Owner Over 35 Hunter championship, but also Devon’s highest Amateur-Owner Hunter honor: the Grand Amateur-Owner championship title.
“It’s as special as it gets. For me and for this sport – this is it. This and the National [Horse Show],” Robinson said. “I’ve been showing here since my teenage years, and I’ve been reserve but never champion. This is my first time, and I’m really, really, really happy. I’m glad it was with Milo because he’s a good boy. He’s my steady guy.”
Robinson and Amarillo kicked off the division on Friday with two scores of 88, earning them back-to-back blue ribbons in the day’s over fences classes. Robinson then returned Saturday morning to earn two more identical scores, giving her and Amarillo the second place spot in the stake class and the blue ribbon victory in the handy.
“[The handy] is something that we’ve been really, really working a lot on, Andre [Dignelli] and Brady [Mitchell] and I,” Robinson said, referencing the team at Heritage Farm, with whom she trains.
“We practice over low jumps at home and just work on getting more comfortable with the turning and the changes. They’re hard; handies are hard. It really has paid off. We got lucky we were able to win it. That was great.
“We’ve also been working on just galloping and cantering and trying to jump jumps out of pace, which I really felt like I was doing particularly in the last class,” Robinson said in reference to her stake round. “I loved that class. I know I didn’t win it, but the round was fun. It was such a fun ride on both of my horses. They were great.”
Robinson’s second mount in the division, Tradewind, was also successful throughout both days, finishing second in the handy round on Saturday.
“I was a little nervous my first time in because they’re not old horses. They’ve not done a lot,” Robinson said of Amarillo and Tradewind, both 8. “They definitely brought their attention, and they jumped really, really well. They tried hard, and it was fun. I just had a really fun weekend. Andre and Brady have been so good to me. They have been really patient and worked really hard, and I really appreciate it.”
Finishing as the reserve champions in the Amateur-Owner Over 35 Hunters were Ellen Toon and Mirror Image.
In the Amateur-Owner 18-35 Hunters, the championship went to another first time champion, Taylor Willever and her mare, Whisper.
“I haven’t been champion at anything major yet,” Willever said. “I’ve been reserve like four times so it means a lot. It’s very awesome. Especially with [Whisper].”
This year marks Willever’s fourth year showing at Devon and second year showing with Whisper, an 8-year-old Holsteiner mare imported by Cindy Bohn of Heron Hills.
“We were trying other horses, and we just happened to come across a video online,” Willever, who trains with Troy Hendricks, her mother Joni Willever and her sister Hayley Willever said. “We hurried over [to Heron Hills] and tried her and rode her for about 10 minutes and then bought her the next day!”
Willever continued, “In the beginning, she was pretty jumper-y. She got really excited in the handies. She thought that they were quite fun. Over the past year and a half she’s totally settled in. Her jump has gotten way more hunter-y. She’s become really handy. She’s gotten more acclimated to the hunter jumps. She used to kind of look at them, but she’s totally okay with them now.”
More than okay, Willever and Whisper competed successfully in the Amateur-Owner 18-35 3’3″ Hunters throughout their first year together, receiving the reserve championship in the division at last year’s Devon Horse Show. This year, they made the move up to the 3’6″ division, and they have been champion at every horse show they have entered so far this year.
Finishing as reserve champions behind Willever and Whisper in the Amateur-Owner 18-35 Hunters were Stephanie Danhakl and Golden Rule. Danhakl also earned the Amateur-Owner 18-35 3’3″ Hunter championship aboard Enough Said. The reserve championship in the division went to Reid Patton and Sincere.
In the Amateur-Owner Over 35 3’3″ Hunter division the championship went to Caroline Moran and Bacardi, and the reserve championship was presented to Dorli Burke and Charming.
Emily Riden for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International