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Red Panda and Jennifer Waxman win Grand Championship at USEF Junior Hunter Championship

SAUGERTIES, NEW YORK (August 7, 2008)--After three days of exciting competition, a new champion was crowned when Jennifer Waxman rode her mount Red Panda to the Grand Championship at the 2008 East Coast USEF Junior Hunter Championship on Wednesday afternoon at HITS Saugerties.

The Ohio native used an overall score of 87.63 aboard Red Panda, who is owned by John Ingram, in the Small Junior Hunter 16-17 Division to win the title. “Jen rose to the occasion,” said trainer Emily Smith. “It was a new venue for Red Panda and that horse put its entire heart into it.”

“I started riding him a few months ago,” said Waxman. “It has really worked out well. The courses were really hard for the finals. But I thought that was good because it divided the people competing easily.”

Taking the honors of Reserve Grand Champion was North Country, piloted by Johanna Hyyppa. Hyyppa, who is trained by Andre Dignelli of Heritage Farms, had an overall score of 85.63 in the Large Junior Hunter 16-17 Division. Other division winners include Caprice, with Genevieve Zock in the irons, who won the Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under Division and The War Dress Memorial Trophy for the Leading Mare. Taking the top honors in the Small Junior Hunter 15 & Under Division was Corvette Z, who was owned and ridden by Samantha Schaefer, while Christina Gellos and Sirius Black earned the Reserve Champion in that division.

Other Reserve Champions included Caitlin Hope and Lyle in the Small Junior 16-17 Division, Adrienne Sternlicht and Mimosa in the Large Junior 15 & Under Division and Taylor Brown and Bering C in the Large Junior 16-17 Division.

“It was very competitive,” said Smith, who operates Ashland Farm with her husband Ken. “I thought it was wonderful. Everyone here was very accommodating and friendly. It was a job well done by everyone involved.”

“This year's competition not only had an increased number of riders, but also had high caliber riders,” said Marion Maybank, USEF’s Director of Hunter Divisions and coordinator for the Finals. “Jerry Dougherty's fantastic courses were flowing and really gave the kids a chance to be sharp and demonstrate to the judges the skills that got them here.”

“My trainers, Ken and Emily Smith, are amazing,” said Waxman. “I also want to give special thanks to John Ingram. Winning this title was certainly a team effort.”

The 2008 East Coast USEF Junior Hunter Finals also included the Essex Classics USHJA Hunterdon Cup Equitation Class. Virginia native Katherine Newman won the special three-round class on Tuesday afternoon. Newman is trained by her mother Kathy Newman and SBS Farm’s Jen Alfano.

The USEF Junior Hunter National Championship East Coast Grant Fund winners were also announced yesterday at HITS Saugerites. Essays submitted by applicants were reviewed by a committee and the winners were selected based on writing abilities, originality and spirit of the sport in response to the question “How has riding influenced your life?” The winners included Scott Goodwin, Lucy Parrish, Bria McCurdy and Catherine Maher.

Maher is from Avon, Connecticut and trains with David Wilbur of Folly Farm. She is looking forward to celebrating her 16th birthday at the end of the month and was excited about being selected. “My essay focused on how when I started riding as a little girl I had no idea what I was getting into and how through the years it’s been a lot of hard work and at times, emotional, but always worth it,” said Maher. “I’ve learned through this sport that even when you don’t win it’s okay because the experience and perspective you gain is always something to feel lucky about.”

Having just recently moved up to 3’6” this past winter in Ocala, it was Maher’s first trip to the Finals and, at first, walking into the Grand Prix ring at HITS Saugerties was a bit overwhelming. “It was intense, watching the other riders have good rounds and bad rounds,” said Maher. “My first day out wasn’t my best in the ring because of my nerves, but the second day, after working with Christy Smith, I was able to relax and I ended up having one of the best rides of my life. It was a great experience. Some of the nicest horses in the country were here and it was really exciting to compete at such a big show.”

Maher and the other three winners will receive a $1,000 grant from USEF to use towards their education (academic or riding) or some other equestrian related causes. Maher plans to use her award for more riding lessons. “It’s an expensive sport and I’m looking forward to being able to contribute on my own a little instead of having to always rely on my parent’s money.”

In other news, trainers Susie Schoellkopf, Diane Carney, Stacey Schaefer and Andre Dignelli, respectively, were awarded the 2008 Junior Hunter Finals Trainer Award, sponsored by Heritage Farm and HITS, Inc. In addition, a special Groom’s Award awarded $500 to each Champion’s groom and $250 to each Reserve Champion’s groom in the four main divisions. The 2008 Groom’s Award was sponsored by Don Stewart Stables, Inc. and Laura King-Kaplan.

Hunter action will continue at HITS Saugerties through the rest of the NY Horse & Pony Show (VI) with the $10,000 ASG Software Solutions USHJA International Hunter Derby and the all new $5,000 Pony Commotion highlighting the week. Both events will take place in the Grand Prix ring on Thursday, August 7.

HITS, Inc. is a special events management company primarily focused on producing hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the village of Saugerties, HITS produced its first horse show circuit in Gainesville, Florida in 1982. Since that time, HITS has grown into a nationwide company with world-class hunter/jumper circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, New York and Virginia.

For more information and a complete schedule of classes and events, visit http://www.HitsShows.com

PHOTO: © Lili Weik Photography; Johanna Hyyppa and North Country are congratulated by Christina Schlusemeyer and USEF’s Lauren Fahey for being named the 2008 East Coast USEF National Junior Hunter Reserve Champion


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