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It's a World Cup Hunter Challenge Rematch You Won't Want to Miss

World Champion Hunter Rider World Cup Team Hunter Challenge

Las Vegas – March 18 -- The Las Vegas World Cup may be focused on Show Jumping and Dressage but for the second time it will also showcase the sport of Hunters; this time as a rematch. On April 21, 2007 at 3:00 p.m. the World Champion Hunter Rider World Cup Team Hunter Challenge will take place at the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas. The Challenge pits four of the top U.S. hunter riders against four of the top European jumper riders on world class horses that will be on loan for this special occasion.

In 2005, when international riders Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA), Marcus Ehning (GER), Michael Whitaker (GBR) and Nick Skelton (GBR) faced off against Louise Serio (PA), Scott Stewart (NJ), John French (CA) and Peter Pletcher (TX), the world was watching. Although the U.S. Team lost to the Europeans, the impact of that competition was far reaching. For the first time in history, show hunters were showcased on an international stage. The Hunter Challenge proved that this sport has the potential of appealing to a worldwide audience.

Now, two years later they are going to have yet another chance to face the Challenge that was first presented to them: could American show hunter riders win against a team of Olympic show jumping veterans in the hunter arena. In the rematch, the riders will all be the same except that Nick Skelton will be replaced by Germany’s Christian Ahlmann. All of these riders have credentials that put them at the top of their league. All the European riders are Olympic medalists; Pessoa won an Individual Gold, Ehning a Team Gold, Whitaker a Team Silver and Ahlmann a Team Bronze. If the Olympics offered hunter competition, the four U.S. riders would surely have added that prestigious event to their list of accomplishments. Instead their credentials showcase them as each having won the Monarch International Show Circuit Magazine WCHR Professional Hunter Rider title at least twice.

Now as the rematch approaches, you can rest assured both teams are grooming their skills, polishing their boots and getting ready for their chance to prevail. The American riders are looking to beat the defending champions and the Europeans are hoping to defend their title.

THE COMPETITION

Most of the riders will be arriving in Las Vegas on Wednesday, April 18th. The draw for their horses takes place that evening (6:00 – 8:00 p.m.) at Mix at The Hotel at Manadalay Bay, along with the draw for the order of go for the World Cup show jumpers and dressage riders. The horses arrive the next day, on Thursday, April 19th.

Once in Las Vegas, the schedule includes schooling on Friday and Saturday morning. The tentative times: Friday 5:30-6:00 a.m.; Friday 9:30-9:45 a.m;. Saturday 6:00-6:30 a.m. There will also be opportunities to school in an outside arena. The riders are allowed to ride in their own saddles. The horses will come with their own trainers and grooms.

While show jumpers are judged on what happens in the ring based on objective criteria (where faults are accumulated and speed is a factor in who wins), hunters are judged subjectively, with the scoring based on the horse’s smooth way of going, jumping style and overall presentation.

The format of the competition will consist of two rounds. In the first round each team of four riders will compete over a 3’6” course and will be judged by three pairs of judges and will receive three scores, which will then be averaged. The lowest scoring competitors total will be dropped for the team competition and the remaining scores added together for a single round team cumulative total.

The second round will be a handy course where the rider’s interpretation of the course will be rewarded and emphasis will be placed on turns and promptness (again the lowest score is dropped). Riders will compete on a different horse. The scores of both the first and second rounds will be combined. The team with the highest two-round score will win. The horse with the highest two-round score will claim the title of “High Score Horse.” Plus the rider producing the highest cumulative total will earn the title of “Leading Rider.”

The horses have been divided into two teams and a flip of the coin will decide which team will ride which set of horses. Once each rider completes his or her first round, then the teams will switch horses for the Handy competition, which might include turns, gallops, inside tracks and a trot jump.

The Show Jumping Manager for the event is Robert Ridland. Karen Healey and Geoff Teall have been named Chef d’Equipe of the U.S. Team, Ann Symes for the European Team and Louise Serio will captain the U.S. Team.

The Judges who will be there to decide the outcome will include: Scott Williamson, Wellington, FL; Julie Winkle, Reno, NV; George Morris, Wellington, FL; Linda Hough, CA; Ralph Caristo, Saugerties, NY and Tom Wright, Cincinnati, OH. The Course Designer will be Richard Jeffrey, who was the first person to receive the AHJF’s inaugural Hunter Course Designer award.

THE TEAM HUNTER CHALLENGE AND THE AHJF – WORKING TOGETHER

The first WCHR World Cup Team Hunter Challenge (held in 2005), presented by the AHJF, was the outcome of a phone call to Healey by Pessoa, Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and a few other riders while they were together on a ski outing. They thought that Vegas would be a perfect opportunity to face off some top European show jumper riders against the best in the U.S. and challenged Healey to make this happen. She did just that, presenting the idea to Ridland and to the Las Vegas organizers who agreed to this new addition to the show schedule. Ultimately, the American Hunter-Jumper Foundation was approached as they were the obvious organization to help coordinate such a prestigious event.

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, AHJF Educational Programs, the AHJF BSA Inc. 401k and Profit Sharing Plan and the Dover/Junior Hunter Challenge program.

The AHJF also annually hosts the AHJF Hunter Spectacular in Wellington, FL in February, the Legacy Cup (May 9-20, 2007 in Kentucky) and the Monarch International's Show Circuit Magazine Professional WCHR Finals (October 5, 2007 in Upper Marlboro, MD).

For more information about the WCHR World Cup Team Hunter Challenge, presented by the AHJF contact the AHJF (335 Lancaster Street, West Boylston, MA 01583-0369), Phone: 508-835-8813, http://www.ahjf.org, email: AHJF@earthlink.net.

PHOTO CAPTIONS – Diana De Rosa Photos

BOTH TEAMS (l-r): Marcus Ehning, Michael Whitaker, Nick Skelton, Rodrigo Pessoa, Peter Pletcher, Scott Stewart, Louise Serio, John French.

 

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