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Valentine's Day to show Lot of Heart for AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular

WELLINGTON, Fla., Feb. 10--On Saturday night, Feb. 14, the top hunter riders will be hoping that they will be the lucky Valentine's Day winner.

On that evening, The American Hunter-Jumper Foundation will host its 13th annual AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular at the 2009 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

The riders may be thinking hearts and roses but when they enter the arena after qualifying for this no entry fee event, the top national amateur, junior and professional show hunter competitors will show their true heart to the judges under the lights in the beautiful all-weather footing International Arena.

Watching from the International Club will be those taking part in the AHJF's major fundraising dinner.

Since its inception in 1997, the AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular has been a highlight event for hunter horses and riders. Champion and reserve champion riders, who are current members of the AHJF, qualify throughout the week (February 11-14) in the various hunter divisions to compete in this prestigious two-round competition. Approximately $50,000 (through 12th place) is awarded with $12,000 guaranteed to the winner. Since it is an add-back competition the final prize money is not determined until that night.

Eight judges are paired in teams of two and positioned in four places around the arena. Roughly 25 horses compete in the first round and the top eight come back for a second round. The height of the fences varies from 3 ft. 6 ins. to 4 ft. The winner of the class is the horse with the highest two-round score.

The final list won't be decided until that day but a number of competitors are already qualified. These include Sandy Ferrell, of Bernville, Penn., the 2008 WCHR Pro Champion; Liza Boyd, Camden, S.C., who was last year's winner; Patricia Griffith, Katonah, NY, the winner of the 2008 WCHR Pro Challenge; Tammy Chipko, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2008 WCHR Amateur-Owner Champion and Samantha Schaefer, Westminster, MD, 2008 WCHR Junior Champion.

Mr. & Mrs. S. Craig Lindner along with Mr. & Mrs. Jeremy Jacobs will chair the activity happening in the International Club.

This year's annual dinner party will have a heartwarming Valentine's Day theme.

Activities start about 6:30 p.m. While the VIP Tent is humming, the horses and riders begin by first walking the course before the formal introduction of each of the riders to the public. Riders and horses will then be prepping in the schooling area before they enter the ring, beginning at 7:00, to each take their turn over the galloping hunter course. The evening will end around 9:30 p.m.

In addition to the prize money, the winner will receive the "The Dark Continent" trophy, courtesy of Jim Green; a custom jacket specially designed by Personalized Products; a cooler donated by Grazing Fields Farm; Leather halters and leather shanks for the top 12 riders. Additionally, the winning trainer will receive a check for $1,000, 2nd place $750, 3rd $500 and 4th $250.

The winning rider receives the "Let's Dance Trophy" established by the AHJF in honor of Eugene R. Mische. And all competitors will be in contention for the "Strapless Challenge," with a trophy and check going to anyone winning the class four times.

The AHJF was formed in 1992 to further the development of the equestrian sport of show hunter competition by providing a national office to organize, coordinate and support hunter rider equestrian competition. The following evening, Feb. 15, the AHJF also hosts "Bowling for Equestrians," a fundraiser for its Emergency Relief Fund (in Greenacres, Fla. and the WCHR Professional Finals (Oct. 2 in Upper Marlboro, Md.).

For more information contact the AHJF, PO Box 369, West Boylston, MA 01583-0369, Phone: 508-835-8813


Email: ahjf@earthlink.net

PBIEC INFORMATION & TICKETS: http://equestriansport.com or 561/793-5867

DIRECTIONS: From the Florida Turnpike south, take Exit #93, Lake Worth Blvd., and travel west, crossing over US 441. Travel five miles to Southshore Blvd., turn right on South Shore and proceed one mile to Pierson Road. The Stadium is at the southeast corner of Southshore and Pierson.

From Interstate I-95, take Exit #49. Travel west on Forest Hills Blvd. 11 miles to South Shore Blvd. Turn left on South Shore and follow to Pierson Road.

Photo: Elizabeth Boyd and Fiyero, winners of the 2008 AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular. 2008 Diana De Rosa


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