October 6, 2006 -- Upper Marlboro, MD – The generally quiet and reserved John French was all smiles when he won the 2006 Monarch International Show Circuit Magazine Professional World Championship Hunter Rider finals. During the presentation he was almost giddy with laughter. He hadn’t expected to make it to the final four never mind win this prestigious class, which took place on October 6TH during the eight-day Capital Challenge Horse Show at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD.
French, Redwood City, CA claimed his second victory against three-time winners Scott Stewart, Wellington, FL and Peter Pletcher, Magnolia, TX and defending champion and two-time winner Louise Serio, Kennett Square, PA. French’s score of 346.82 was less than a fraction ahead of second place finisher Pletcher (346.65). Third went to Stewart (337.99) with Serio placing fourth (323.98).
Before the class Capital Challenge show manager Billy Glass commented, “Tonight you guys are in the spotlight. You are under a lot of pressure but it is a fun competition. I applaud you for your professionalism. We are all doing the best we can to make a good fair competition to pick out this year’s top World Hunter Rider.”
Co-manager Oliver Kennedy added, “This is the true test of a hunter rider’s ability to showcase their riding skills on a variety of different horses.”
After the class Pletcher commented, “It takes a lot of hard work to pull this all together. I love riding in this class. It is really fun to work all year long to get to this point. When it gets to the final four it’s great to know you are competing against the top riders in this sport. It just gets better every year.”
Riders had to qualify to compete in this class by earning points in WCHR recognized shows (of which there were 50 throughout the U.S. in eight regions: Southeast, South Central, Central Mountain, Mid-Atlantic, Southwest and Midwest). AHJF tallies the points based on each rider’s top four WCHR shows. The top six riders from each region and the top 10 riders in the standings are then invited to compete at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in the WCHR Challenge Class. Their top score in WCHR recognized divisions earned at the Capital Challenge is added to that total. Those points are then combined with the overall points to determine the final four.
Glass and Kennedy put a lot of time and effort into making this class as special as possible. “It’s pretty exciting,” commented Glass. “The best riders from all over the country come to compete at this horse show. There are more professional riders under one roof than you will ever see. It’s the best hunters and hunter riders in the world.”
This year the final National Point Standings which qualified the riders to be in the Finals were Scott Stewart, 2163 pts, who led the National Rider Award Standings, Louise Serio, 1868, Peter Pletcher, 1778, and John French, 1743.
The riders alternated on riding four different horses. These included Intuition, a 15.3H, 8-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding, owned by Madaline and Rosemary Toulas. Locatelli is a 15.3 7/8H, 10-year-old, brown, German Warmblood, owned by Morgan Hill Partners. Larona is a 16.1H, 8-year-old Belgian Warmblood bay mare, owned by Jimmy and Danielle Torano. Fortunate is a 16.2H, 9-year-old, bay, Hanoverian gelding, owned by Crystal Row and Rolling Oaks Equestrian Center. The alternate was Guns and Roses, a 16.2H, 9-year-old, chestnut, Warmblood gelding, owned by Veronica Tracy.
The riders were allowed to briefly warm-up on their first horse but for all subsequent rides they had to go directly to the 3’6” course in the ring. And while the fences were the same for the first three courses, the order in which they were jumped changed each time. For the fourth, the course was changed to a demanding Handy Hunter course.
After the first round Stewart took the early lead (87.33) followed by French (87), Pletcher (84.66) and Serio (80.66). After the second round while the high score of 87.33 went to Pletcher, the combined score total put French in the lead (172.16) followed by Pletcher (171.99), Stewart (170.99) and Serio (165.32). After round three Pletcher’s high score of 90 when combined with his earlier rounds turned the lead over to him (261.99), followed by French (257.49), Stewart (249.99) and Serio (249.65). A score of 89.33 to Pletcher’s 84.66 in the final round was what gave French just the slightest of an edge to win the 2006 title.
CAPITAL CHALLENGE IS THE HORSE SHOW FOR HUNTERS
All of the riders who qualified this year have competed in the past in this class multiple times and yet their enthusiasm is still evident.
“It still holds the same appeal for me as it did when it was started 13 years ago,” noted Serio. “I am honored to be in this competition with these riders. To get and compete here and hold your standings through the show is stressful and then to get in the class means a lot. Competing in the finals stretches your abilities a little bit. We show horses we don’t know and it’s a real challenge. To me it is a really big deal. There is nothing else like it.”
French was glad to be back in the game. He’d only qualified once before when he had the honor of winning the class. “I am glad I made it. I came here thinking I wouldn’t be doing this class. It’s important because you are riding in a special class against the top hunter riders. It’s good to do something where you are not just on a horse of your own that you show all the time. It’s modeled after the World Championship for the jumpers.”
Stewart admitted that despite the fact that he has competed before, “It’s not easy to make it. To stay in this group is difficult. It is a great accomplishment to stay with this level of riders. This is a yearlong competition for which you have to work your way up.”
Pletcher agreed with the prestige of this class. “Ultimately, it is the best riders we have in our country and I think that is proven over the year at the horse shows we all attend.”
AHJF President Geoff Teall noted, “What’s so great about this class is that we’ve done it enough to know and understand it and in this particular case even the riders are familiar with the format. We’ve had more time to concentrate on the quality of the class. It’s also really great that it’s the same team that represented us at Las Vegas for the World Cup Hunter Challenge. It’s a great way for them to have that team spirit again. Even though they are competing for themselves they are also showing us how great they.”
Representing Show Circuit magazine, Joe Thorpe, trainer of Nicoletta Heidegger, remarked, “We are happy to sponsor something like this for the professionals. They are the hard working guys around here all times of the day and night and they deserve this chance to be showcased and honored for their talents.”
The rounds were scored by three teams of two judges using the open numerical system. The judges were: Mindy Minetto, Susan Ashe and Jim Clapperton, all three from Wellington, FL; Hap Hansen, Encinitas, CA; Randy Mullins, Germantown, TN; and John Roper, Franklin, TN.
AMERICAN HUNTER-JUMPER FOUNDATION
The AHJF is a member-supported non-profit organization formed to further the development of the sport of show hunter competition. Programs of the AHJF include the World Championship Hunter Rider Awards, the AHJF Emergency Relief Fund, AHJF Educational Programs, the AHJF Investment Plan, and the AHJF/Dover Saddlery Junior Hunter Challenge.
The AHJF also sponsors other featured events throughout the year, including the AHJF Nations Cup Hunter Challenge at the Washington International Horse Show (October 28, 2006), AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular of Palm Beach (February 24, 2007), which is done as an Add-Back competition with $12,000 going to the winner; the World Cup Hunter Challenge (April 21, 2007) and the Legacy Cup at the Kentucky Springs Horse Show, May 9-20, 2007.
At the Capital Challenge the Professional Championship honors were part of an overall World Championship Hunter Rider Awards Program, which included junior, professional, amateur-owner, adult amateur, children’s and pony hunter riders. The program was established by the AHJF to recognize and reward excellence among hunter riders. In order to qualify, a rider’s top four WCHR shows plus their performance at the Capital Challenge determined the ultimate champions. A number of special awards were given out as well. Olin Armstrong was the winner of the Old Springhouse Lifetime Achievement Award. The Jeffery Katz Memorial Award went to Boulevard Deir, ridden by Tim Goguen, Newtown, CT and owned by Janet Read, Wellington, FL who won the Rox Dene Award. The China Blue Hunter Challenge went to Grey Slipper, ridden by Louise Serio and owned by Bridgett Hallman, Oyster Bay, NY. Jenny Karazissis, Calabasas, CA, won the Winter’s Run Sportsmanship Award. New this year was the AHJF Hunter Course Designer Award which was presented to Richard Jeffrey, Dorset, England.
MONEY, TROPHIES, PRIZES AND MORE
This was the 13th year that the AHJF had hosted the Monarch International Show Circuit Magazine Professional World Championship Hunter Rider finals, which was sponsored by Stillwell Hansen, Inc./Carol and Gordon Stillwell Vornehm II and Joy Johnson. The winner not only received the trophy but also $3000 for the Pletcher Pro Incentive Award as well as a $1000 Cash Prize from Personalized Products and the All The Way Trophy donated by Elizabeth Busch Burke and Lysa Burke Horkan. New this year was an award for the horse that earned the highest cumulative total. The Far West Farm Perpetual Trophy was won by Intuition. In addition the winner received a sponsorship from Monarch International’s Show Circuit Magazine, which designates money to be used specifically to ensure coverage of both the championship and of French as its winner. Press Link PR, an equine focused PR firm, handles that sponsorship.
A special thanks also goes to Capital Challenge co-managers Kennedy, Brookville, MD and Glass, Bokeelia, FL, who invited the AHJF to host its Finals at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, which has been home to these classes ever since.
For more information, the AHJF can be contacted at 335 Lancaster Street, West Boylston, MA 01583-0369, 508-835-8813, fax: 508-835-6125, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
. For complete results and photos go to http://www.ahjf.org
AHJF OLD SPRINGHOUSE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Olin Armstrong, Staunton, VA (Presented to a person who exemplifies great support and lifetime commitment to the sport of hunter and jumper competition.)
JEFFERY KATZ MEMORIAL AWARD: Boulevard Deir, ridden by Tim Goguen (owned by Janet Read)
Total Points: 1611 (Jeffery Katz was a 38-year-old trainer from Chicago who was killed in a car accident in 1999. The award goes to the horse/rider combination that accumulates the most points in the 1st Year Green, 2nd Year Green, or Green Conformation Hunter Divisions at their best four WCHR shows, plus the divisions at the Capital Challenge.)
CHINA BLUE FARM WORKING HUNTER CHALLENGE AWARD: Grey Slipper, (rider/Louise Serio, owner/Bridgett Hallman). The owner, rider and trainer each receive a check for $3,500 and the groom receives a check for $500. (1498 points)
(Donated by Priscilla Tamkin and China Blue Farm, this award honors the horse and rider combination that accumulates the most points in either of the 4’ hunter divisions at their best four WCHR shows, plus their divisions at the Capital Challenge.)
AHJF/DOVER SADDLERY JUNIOR HUNTER CHALLENGE: Erin Larson, Oronaco, Minnesota and Caitlin Miller, Haslett, Michigan.
This annual competition provides a goal for junior riders currently competing at the non-recognized level. Horse shows which hold the Challenge class all follow the same set of class specifications and judging criteria. The winners are invited to the Capital Challenge Horse Show as guests of the AHJF and Dover Saddlery. Their agenda includes sitting with a horse show judge to learn how they mark their card, meeting the show vet and farrier and discussing their roles at the show, and spending time in the stables with barn managers to experience all that goes in to prepping horses for the show ring.
WINTER’S RUN SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD: Jenny Karazissis, Calabasas, CA
(Sponsored by Tricia Bosley in memory of her mother Sylvia Hechter. The boot trophy is one of Sylvia’s treasured Vogel boots which was bronzed and mounted on a walnut base. The purpose of the award is to encourage better sportsmanship throughout the entire horse show community.)
ALABAMA CLAY CONFORMATION HUNTER AWARD: Boulevard Deir (ridden by Tim Goguen) owned by Janet Read, 1611 pts.
(Presented for the first time in 2004 by the Weisman Family. To be awarded to the horse and owner of the WCHR high score horse who has accumulated the most points at their best four WCHR shows plus their divisions at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in the Green and Regular Conformation Hunter divisions.)
ROX DENE AWARD: Janet Read (owner of Boulevard Deir who was ridden by Tim Goguen to 1611 points) (Donated by Elaine and Chanda Boylen, this award is presented to the Owner of the WCHR High Score Horse ridden by a professional, which has accumulated the most points using the four best WCHR sanctioned shows plus the divisions at the Capital Challenge.)
HEARD A RUMOR AWARD: Lucky (16 Year Old Danish Warmblood bred by Peter Masden in Denmark), owner Samantha Hallman, Wellington, FL.
(Donated by Mimi Edwards and presented to a horse that has shown exceptional ability and epitomizes the important partnership of show hunter and hunter rider.
FINAL RESULTS OF THE WCHR NATIONAL PROGRAM
PROFESSIONAL: 2006 PROFESSIONAL WCHR: 1. John French (87, 85.16, 85.33, 89.33 = 346.82), 2. Peter Pletcher (84.66, 87.33, 90, 84.66 = 346.65), 3. Stewart (87.33, 83.66, 79, 88 = 337.99); 4. Louise Serio (80.66, 84.66, 84.33, 74.33 = 323.98).
JUNIOR: 1. Jennifer Waxman, Chagrin Falls, OH, 2032 pts.; 2. Nick Haness, Coto de Caza, CA, 1775 pts.; 3. Lucy Davis, Los Angeles, CA, 1587 pts.; 4. Nicoletta Von Heidegger, Chatsworth, CA, 1534 pts.
PONY: 1. Schaefer Raposa, Wellington, FL, 1851 pts.; 2. Lillie Keenan, New York, NY, 1846 pts; 3. Samantha Schaefer, Westminster, MD, 1683 pts; 4. Megan Davis, Lutherville, MD, 1624 pts.
AMATEUR-OWNER: 1. Rachel Geiger, Malvern, PA, 1896 pts.; 2. Bridget Hallman, Oyster Bay, NY, 1691 pts.; 3. Lesley Bulechek, Los Altos Hills, CA, 1548 pts.; 4. Ellen Toon, South Salem, NY, 1506 pts.
ADULT AMATEUR: 1. Carol Cone, Weston, MA, 1604 pts.; 2. Holly Caristo, Hauppauge, NY, 1546 pts.; 3. Victoria Watters-LeBlond, 1468 pts. 4. Bruce Duchossois, Aiken, SC, 1351 pts.
FINAL RESULTS FOR REGIONAL STANDINGS
SOUTHWEST: Professional: Jenny Karazissis, Calabasas, CA, 1270 pts.; Amateur-Owner: Katie Polk, Malibu, CA, 1186 pts.; Junior: Nicoletta Von Heidegger, Chatsworth, CA, 1404 pts.; Pony: Corinne Miller, Los Angeles, CA, 1239 pts.; Children’s: Melissa Doddridge, Tustin, CA, 1399 pts.; Adult Amateur: Tonia Cook Looker, San Dimas, CA, 828 pts.
MIDWEST: Professional: Tim Goguen, Newtown, CT, 980 pts.; Amateur-Owner: Leah Schwendeman, Belleville, IL, 892 pts.; Junior: Amelia McArdle, Barrington, IL, 1123 pts.; Pony: Megan Davis, Lutherville, MD, 1082 pts.; Children’s: Colleen Holton, Hilliard, OH, 1143 pts.; Adult Amateur: Carol Cone, Weston, MA, 1380 pts.
SOUTH CENTRAL: Professional: Tracy Fenney, Flower Mound, TX, 1102 pts.; Amateur-Owner: Laurie Lewis, Oklahoma City, OK, 688 pts.; Junior: Erin Nelson, Flower Mound, TX, 1090 pts.; Pony: Emma Roberts, Houston, TX, 960 pts.; Children’s: Carson Gibson, Magnolia, TX, 752 pts.; Adult Amateur: DiDi Mackenzie, Flower Mound, TX, 1133 pts..
NORTH EAST: Professional: Scott Stewart, Wellington, FL, 1359 pts.; Amateur-Owner: Ellen Toon, South Salem, NY, 1233 pts.; Junior: Alexandra Stathis, Short Hills, NJ, 1080 pts.; Pony: Schaefer Raposa, Wellington, FL, 1300 pts.; Children’s: Alexandra Thornton, Bedminster, NJ, 1003 pts.; Adult Amateur: Holly Caristo, Hauppauge, NY, 1050 pts..
SOUTH EAST: Professional: Hunt Tosh, Cumming, GA, 1171 pts.; Amateur-Owner: Lee Cesery, Jacksonville, FL, 667 pts.; Junior: Jack Hardin Towell, Camden, SC, 820 pts.; Pony: Alise Oken, Charlotte, NC, 1064 pts.; Children’s: Courtney Rodrigue, Longwood, FL, 621 pts.; Adult Amateur: Bruce Duchossois, Aiken, SC, 1131 pts.
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN: Professional: Keiri Kaneps, Elizabeth, CO, 839 pts.; Amateur-Owner: Ashley Dennehy, Greenwood Village, CO, 1115 pts.; Junior: Lindsay Sceats, Colorado Springs, CO, 883 pts.; Children’s: Paige Perla, Lone Tree, CO, 501 pts.; Pony: Megan MacPherson, Niwot, CO, 894 pts.; Adult Amateur: Nancy James Shaw, Fredericksburg, TX, 1138 pts.
NORTH WEST: Professional: Jack Hammond, Sommamish, WA, 1116 pts.; Amateur Owner: Caroline Schultz, Sommamish, WA, 881 pts.; Pony: Ashley Pryde, Medina, WA, 1183 pts.; Children’s: Kelsey King, Monroe, WA, 842 pts.; Junior: Stephanie Barnes, Seattle, WA, 954 pts.; Adult Amateur: Sarah Olmsted, Federal Way, WA, 1159 pts.
MID ATLANTIC: Professional: Sandy Ferrell, Bernville, PA, 1165 pts.; Amateur-Owner: Alexa Weisman, Sherborn, MA, 1205 pts.; Junior: Kacy Jenkins, Potomac Falls, VA, 1154 pts.; Pony: Samantha Schaefer, Westminster, MD,1360 pts.; Children’s: Jordan Pischke, Middleburg, VA, 979 pts.; Adult Amateur: Lara McPherson, McLean, VA, 726 pts.
PHOTO: John French aboard Intuition after winning the 2006 Monarch International Show Circuit Magazine Professional World Championship Hunter
Rider Finals which took place October 6th at the Prince George's Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD. (l-r Nicoletta Heidegger and Joe Thorpe).
©Diana De Rosa Photo
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