Professional hunter competition concluded on Friday, October 6, at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, presented by World Equestrian Center, with the heralded $5,000 World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Professional Finals. The top six professional hunter riders in the country went head-to-head over three rounds, before Liza Boyd of Camden, SC, emerged victorious. Capital Challenge continues at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD, through Sunday, October 8.
Liza Boyd, Victoria Colvin, Tracy Fenney, John French, Scott Stewart, and Hunt Tosh each contested the first two rounds on a borrowed horse donated for the class before bringing a horse of their own into the ring for the third and final handy round.
Boyd earned an average score of 90 in the first round to move into the second place position, and an average score of 90.50 in the second round would move her to the top of the leaderboard where she would remain through the end of the class.
“I had a little bit of luck of the draw,” said Boyd of her second mount, Redfield Farm’s Carolino. “I got the horse that was a little bit nervous the first round for Scott (Stewart), and Scott did a beautiful job of warming him up for me. So, I kind of felt like the amateur rider that got to get on after the pro rode it around. Thank you, Scott!”
The 2017 WCHR Pro Finals was one of the most closely contested Pro Finals in recent memory, with scores in the first and second rounds just fractions apart. It was up to riders to set themselves apart aboard their own mounts in the handy round, and they each pulled out all the stops.
“We had to go for it in the handy. Everyone was amazing in the handy,” said Boyd who elected to ride her veteran partner O’Ryan, owned by Stella Styslinger. “I was actually probably the most nervous on O’Ryan, which I thought it was going to be the opposite going into, but I think Tori really put the pressure on us going first and doing those really, really hard turns.”
To add to the pressure, Boyd was aiming to better the leading point total posted by her close friend Tosh. The two had flip-flopped wins during the week, and Boyd was ready to take her turn.
“I did not want to do that left lead to the first jump at all—the angle that Tori did started the trend,” Boyd said. “Actually, when we walked the course, we didn’t even think about that. I almost didn’t do it, but then Hunt was so good, and I kind of wanted to beat him. We have had a little rivalry since the [age] 12-14 days, where I did win.”
“We have a picture to prove it,” added Tosh with a laugh.
“Then, this week, he beat me by half a point in the 3’6” Performance, so I was like, ‘I’m getting you tonight buddy, sorry,’” Boyd added with a smile.
Tosh collected the reserve championship title after riding Betsee Parker’s Gotham to a brilliant handy round.
“It’s always a fun class,” he said. “We always laugh and tell jokes and try to help each other out a little bit or make each other nervous—I don’t know which it is! We had a good time.”
Following the conclusion of the class, Scott Stewart’s mount Private Life, owned by Betsee Parker, also received the Shapley’s Best Presented Award. The Far West Farms Perpetual Trophy, donated by the Karazissis Family and given to the donated horse with the highest cumulative points of the WCHR Pro Finals, was presented to Falcon, owned by The Barracks.
Mahala Rummell Rides to ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals Win
The win in the 2017 ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals was presented to Mahala Rummell of Jacksonville, FL, riding Bellagio.
Rummell, 25, rode the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, owned by Zoe Ganek, to a first-round average score of 89.66 to immediately take over the lead in the class of 30 entries.
With Rummell atop the leaderboard, the top ten from the first round were then invited back in reverse order of their standings to jump a second course. As the last to return, Rummell delivered another well-executed round, earning a score of 88.83 for a cumulative total of 178.49.
At the conclusion of the class, Allyson Blais of Boynton Beach, FL, sat in second behind Rummell having earned scores of 88.66 and 87.16 for a 175.82 total aboard her own Captain Darco Heldenlaan Z. With more than three points separating Rummell and Blais, further testing was not necessary, and the victory was awarded to Rummell. Rounding out the top three behind Rummell and Blais was Ashley Foster of Brookeville, MD, with a total score of 175.24.
“[Bellagio] gives me a lot of confidence and makes you feel like you can do the hard stuff,” said Rummell, who began leasing and riding the horse in May of this year. “He’s pretty quiet. I’m always worried that I’m going to run out of horse; I feel like I’m kicking a lot, but he carried me around really well today.”
Since its inception in 1994, the ARIAT National Adult Medal has given adult riders the opportunity to ride in competitive equitation class over fences 3’ in height. The classes are held at select horse shows throughout the country, with riders vying for points to qualify for the Finals, held each year at Capital Challenge.
“As a junior I was used to that competitive, point accumulation championship to look forward to,” said Rummell, who last competed in the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals in 2011 when she finished in second. “I think it’s special that there’s a final for the adults to do, whereas there’s not something for us at Harrisburg, or Washington, or the National.”
Rummell has trained with Stacia Madden and Beacon Hill Show Stables for nine years, and now balances riding with a job as an analyst covering investment banking and private equity in the financial services department of executive search firm Spencer Stuart in New York, NY.
“I’m a weekend warrior,” said Rummell. “I don’t ride as much these days. So it means a lot for me to be here and get to do this.”
The winner of the $2,500 WCHR Adult Amateur Challenge, sponsored by Kate Considine and Willow Brook Farm and held immediately prior to the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals, was Dawn Fogel of Louisville, KY, riding Story Teller.