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Early Applause Wins AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular

February 14, 2008 – Wellington, FL – “Early Applause is the most amazing animal I have ever ridden,” commented Kelley Farmer after she rode him to victory in the 13th annual AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular in Wellington, FL. “He is quiet. He is careful and he tries hard. He is an absolute brat and demands attention from everyone at all times, but he goes from the stall to the ring and he has never let me down,” she continued.

On Saturday night, February 14th at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival hearts were pumping and hugs were plentiful and a victory for Kelley was the perfect Valentine’s Day present for her and her partner Larry Glefke, Keswick, VA. As owners of Early Applause they echoed each other in the brilliance that the seven-year-old, bay, 16.1H, Warmblood clearly showed.

“He is the personification of a hunter,” commented Larry. “He jumps in perfect form. You never have to work on his style, his shape or his attitude. It’s just keeping him happy.”

“I have an amazing animal. I am very lucky I get to ride him. He is a First Year horse and tries so hard every time he walks in the ring. He’s only shown in eight horse shows total in his life. Every time he walks in the ring he gives me 110%,” concluded Kelley.

Early Applause impressed the judges and took the lead in both the first and second rounds. In the first round he scored 92.50 ahead of Vedette, ridden by Morgan Thomas (90.66) and Argentum with Sandy Ferrell aboard (88.33). The scores in the second round combined with their first round kept the top two the same but Andora ridden by the defending champion Liza Boyd claimed the third spot with Sunshine and Peter Pletcher riding fourth and Argentum fifth (Early Applause 92.50+92=184.50, Vedette 90.66+87.50-178.16, Andora 86.33+89.66=175.99, Sunshine 87+87.66=174.66, Argentum 88.33+84.33=172.66).

Morgan also spoke highly of his mount but admitted, “Vedette is not a very experienced horse in terms of mileage and he’s a little unpredictable. He is honest about the jumps but also very aware of his environment. He can be distracted by little things off in the distance, yet he is learning to become focused.

“In the first round I was truly unsure of what he might or might not do. It was his first time stepping on a real stage like that. About a third of the way through the course I started to feel like this was how it was supposed to feel and I haven’t had a horse feel like that in awhile. I wasn’t nervous. I was just enjoying it because I didn’t have tremendous expectations for him.”


“I would rather win this class than any other class in America,” commented Larry. “This horse will go on for years now and this is something they can never take away from him. It is like winning the Kentucky Derby for a hunter. It is the best single event and best staged event in America. “

“For us as riders, it’s a blast,” added Kelley. “I love just being in this field under the lights, having us showcased. The horses shine. It’s lovely for the hunter people to get to see our hunters at the top of their game.

“The American Hunter-Jumper Foundation does a beautiful job making this class very important,” she continued, “putting it on a beautiful stage under the lights at night. It makes us all want to ride in it. To show in the field for this week is prestigious. Our hunters get to be showcased.”

“The cream always rises to the top of this class,” noted Larry. “All the quality horses have won this. Horses don’t leave and fall to the depths of despair. They continue to be quality horses.”

“Even to be in the top eight and to come back for a second round is an honor,” added Morgan.


Rarely do the hunter riders have such an opportunity to be the highlight of the show and for this one week that’s exactly what happens at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All week long it is the hunters that you see testing their skills in the International Arena while the jumpers compete in one of the many other rings on the grounds. The AHJJF Hunter Classic Spectacular is the final test and on that night the seats are packed, the hum of the many voices of the people attending the party can be clearly heard and that night “you are either in the class or you're watching,” chimed both Kelley and Larry.

Geoff Teall, AHJF president, agreed. “The thing that is different from any other event is that the Hunter Classic still is the only class that happens by itself. There are no other classes happening at the same time, which means that you don’t have to run off to a different ring to compete. You are either in the class or you are watching and I think that makes a huge difference.”

That combined with so many other factors creates a unique aura that sets the AHF Hunter Classic apart from any other event.

“Here at this show it is the premier stage,” commented Larry. “The best horses in America come here. It is difficult just to get into the class. He was shown in two divisions this week because I couldn’t bear not getting in. To be a great horse this class is one you have to win. I would rather do this than be champion at any other horse show in America.”

Geoff had more to say as well adding, “This one class has led to so many other exciting new type classes, like the USHJA Hunter Derbies. Yet, what I like is that it hasn’t changed its identity at all. The AHJF Hunter Classic started the process and at the same time it is holding an even keel. This class is still different from any other.”

All of this creates an incredible opportunity for these hunters to be both showcased and challenged by the uniqueness of this annual event. Even the course sets it apart. Course Designer Michael Rheinheimer made use of the entire massive arena and only put in one related distance (an in and out combination). There were lots of turns and jumps off corners.

“I thought the course rode beautifully. It had a good gallop to it and a nice flow. You could be prompt and handy but you never had to get in their mouth,” commented Kelley.

“Every skill that a horse has was tested,” added Larry. For the second round Kelley admitted that her plan was to “try to be smooth and not to do anything drastic to let it go wrong but you’ve got to take your chance in these kinds of classes. There were amazing riders and animals in this class at night. In the second round you went for brilliance and big scores.”


The AHJF was formed in 1992 to further the development of the equestrian sport of show hunter rider and show jumping competition by providing a national office to organize, coordinate and support hunter rider and show jumping equestrian competition. Other programs of the AHJF include the World Championship Hunter Rider Awards, the AHJF BSA Inc. 401k and Profit Sharing Plan and the AHJF Junior Hunter Challenge.

Since its inception in 1997, the AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular has been a highlight. Champion and reserve champion riders, who are current members of the AHJF, qualify throughout the week in the various hunter divisions to compete in this prestigious two-round competition under the lights. This year a total of $42,500 (through 12th place) was awarded with $12,000 guaranteed to the winner.

Six judges were paired in teams of two and positioned in three places around the arena. Twenty-eight horses competed in the first round and the top eight came back for a second round. The height of the fences varied from 3’6” to 4’.

Mr. & Mrs. S. Craig Lindner along with Mr. & Mrs. Jeremy Jacobs chaired the Valentine’s Day party which took place in the Jockey Club. The annual dinner party overlooking the main arena is one of the AHJF's major fundraisers and is organized by Kim Tudor.

“The AHJF extends a grand thank you to Michael Morrissey, David Burton Jr., Mark Bellissimo and the entire staff of Equestrian Sports Production. Without their support and recognition of the value of this event, the night would not be possible. Over the years our partnership with the management of this Wellington winter circuit has succeeded in creating an event that all hunter riders aspire to compete in,” commented AHJF Executive Director Michele Perla.”

In addition to the prize money being distributed, the winner received a custom jacket specially designed by Personalized Products, a cooler donated by Grazing Fields Farm and a framed scarf by Hermes. Custom Jackets were given to the winning rider, owner, trainer and groom from Whipstick Farm LTD; Essex Riding Shirts were given to1-6th placed riders in the Classic and to the winner of the Peggy Cone Memorial Adult Hunter Classic. Leather halters went to 1st–6th placed riders and leather shanks for the 7th–12th place ribbon winners. Additionally, Larry, who is also the trainer of Early Applause, received a check for $1,000, 2nd place $750, 3rd $500 and 4th $250. The grooms of the 1st through 4th place winners received a check for $500, $300, $200, $100 (consecutively) sponsored by Archie Cox/Brookway Stables.

All competitors were in contention for the “Strapless Challenge,” with a trophy and check going to anyone winning the class four times.

Kelley received “The Dark Continent” trophy, courtesy of Jim Green and the “Let’s Dance Trophy,” which was established by the AHJF in 2005 in honor of friend and horseman Eugene R. Mische for his support of the AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular.

In addition to the Classic, special honors are presented throughout the week. Pletcher and Arabella tied with Kelley and Early Applause for the High Score of 90 in the Pro division; Ellen Toon and Invincible topped the Amateur-Ownerswith 91 and Jennifer Waxman was not only the Leading Hunter Rider but rode Red Panda to the highest score of 92.5. Grand Champion Junior honors went to Pharrell, owned and ridden by Laura King from the Older Large Junior division. She won the Lyrick Trophy. Fernando Zuniga, groom of Angelo ridden and owned by Katie Dinan, received the Mark R. Gregory Memorial Trophy for Excellence as the best conditioned horse in the first round.

In 2009 the AHJF also hosts the WCHR Professional Finals (October 2 in Upper Marlboro, MD).

For information about the Hunter Classic, the AHJF or its programs, contact the AHJF at PO Box 369, West Boylston, MA 01583-0369, call 508-835-8813, fax 508-835-6125, email ahjf@earthlink.net or visit their web site at http://www.ahjf.org.


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