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Hunter Champions Return to Winter Equestrian Festival to Defend Titles

Wellington, FL – January 22, 2007 – The Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) show grounds at Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club will come alive in just two days, with horses and riders looking to defend their wins from last year during the 10-week circuit. The final two weeks of WEF will be held in Tampa, FL, at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center.

With more than $400,000 in prize money up for grabs in the ‘AA’ rated hunter divisons, the competition will be fierce in all sections, and the champions are honored with ceremonies before the Budweiser American Invitational CSI 4* at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL, on Saturday, April 7.

Horses that compete in the hunter divisions demonstrate the qualities that are essential in the sport of Foxhunting, including the ability to carry the rider safely and comfortably over obstacles found in the hunt field. The sport has evolved into judging horses’ form over jumps and the way they move across the ground.

Horses are divided into sections that relate to either the experience of the horse or the status and age of the rider. Green Conformation and Regular Conformation hunters are judged on their performance over fences and their “conformation,” or physical build. Green Working Hunters are divided into sections for horses in their “First Year” or “Second Year” of rated showing, and Regular Working Hunters are the most experienced show hunters. Pre-Green divisions are for rookie equines in their first year of competition.

Circuit champions from last year who will show again at WEF include top professional rider Scott Stewart of Flemington, NJ, who earned four circuit championships in 2006, and Ken and Emily Smith of Ashland Farm in Wellington, FL, who regularly make it to the winner’s circle. In 2006, the Smith’s horses and riders brought home eight championships, and the Smith team is bound to have a repeat performance in 2007.

Jennifer Waxman, an Ashland Farm student, earned three championships in the Junior Hunter division and won two in 2005. She will enter this year’s festival looking to defend her tricolors. Schaefer Raposa, at 12 years old, earned two circuit championships on ponies owned by Stewart and Jimmy and Danielle Torano. She too will return to the show grounds this year.

As for the Adult Amateur divisions, Carol Cone will be back to compete for the circuit championship she and her stallion October Sky won in 2006, 2003 and 2002. In addition, Cone doubled her success and earned the circuit reserve champion award in the same division on Glory Road. In the 36 & Over Hunter division, Ellen Toon will again make an appearance, having won the tricolor three years in a row and the 2006 reserve champion as well.

The Golden Horse Jewelry Hunter Rider Challenge is an added bonus to the festival and is awarded to the horse-and-rider combination that earns the most points from the following hunter divisions during WEF: First Year Green Hunter, Second Year Green Hunter, Green Conformation Hunter, Regular Working Hunter, and Regular Working Conformation Hunter.

The award, which counts points up to March 16, 2007, is a custom made, 18 karat gold ring set with precious stones from Golden Horse Jewelry. The Golden Horse Jewelry Hunter Rider Challenge winners will be honored with a ceremony during the Parade of Champions on March 18 in the Internationale Arena.

WEF, which kicks off on Wednesday, January 24, 2007, is the largest and longest consecutively running sporting event in the world. Riders from around the world flock to Wellington to participate in the finest displays of horsemanship, and the best horses and riders will compete for more than $4 million in prize money.

PHOTO CREDIT: Scott Stewart and Banner, 2006 Green Conformation Hunter Champions at the Winter Equestrian Festival. PHOTO BY: Randi Muster.


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