The Capital Challenge Horse Show, presented by World Equestrian Center, continued on Wednesday evening with two major classes for professional riders. Repeating their 2015 victory, Scott Stewart and Catch Me won the $25,000 World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) Professional Challenge, presented by The Gochman Family. In the $5,000 WCHR Developing Professional Challenge, presented by the John R. Ingram Fund, Amber Henter rode Si Bene to the win. The Capital Challenge Horse Show, held at the Prince George's Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD, runs through Sunday, October 5. Every class of the show is live streamed and available to watch online at tv.coth.com or www.capitalchallenge.org.
The $25,000 WCHR Pro Challenge had 33 entries, and 12 were called back for the second round. Stewart and Catch Me, a nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Casiro owned by David Gochman, set the scores to beat in the first round with judges’ scores of 95, 93, and 92 for an average of 93.33.
While Stewart, of Wellington, FL, has been in plenty of pressure-filled situations, returning for the second round tonight gave him some trepidation. “It's always hard coming back,” he acknowledged. “The first round felt great too, then trying to have to do it again…then I saw John [French] go, and he had such a good round, so I knew it had to be just as good.”
Luckily, Stewart was sitting on Catch Me, a horse he calls “one-of-a-kind”. They returned with judges’ scores of 95, 96, and 95 for a second round score of 95.33 and a total of 188.66. They would finish more than nine points ahead of the second place finishers.
“I thought that that was probably one of the best rounds that I've ever had on any horse,” Stewart revealed.
For their win, Stewart and Catch Me were presented with the Little Brook Farm Perpetual Trophy, donated by Gary Duffy.
Second place went to John French and Boss, who scored 88.33 and 91 for a total of 179.33. Elizabeth Boyd and O’Ryan placed third with scores of 87.66 and 88.66 for a two-round total of 176.32.
“It feels awesome,” Stewart said of his win. “He tries so hard. Even though he's a little bit tired, he went in there, and he really tried. I think even from round one, the scores seemed higher than they've ever been for everybody (in the class). It seemed like it was a good class, so it means a lot to be able to do that. It's all the horse really. That's a special horse. There's not too many like him. He's a mover, he jumps great, he's so nice to ride. It's easy. He's just phenomenal.”
Last year’s win was a special one for Stewart as Catch Me had recently returned to the show ring after a life-threatening illness. This year, he felt more prepared and ready to go for the win.
He noted, “I think he's even stronger this year, physically. He was good (last year), but he started to get better, better, and better. He was a little bit greener at indoors last year. He was very good here, but this year he's even more relaxed. It feels like he has even more jump.”
Stewart thanked the Gochman family for the opportunity to ride such a special horse.
“I'm lucky the Gochmans are letting me ride him. I just want to thank [them] for letting me ride him and supporting him. It's nice to ride a great horse like that for a great family,” he said.
Riders for Friday’s $5,000 WCHR Professional Finals, sponsored by Madison Hills Farm, have been determined. Going head-to-head in the competition will be John French, Kelley Farmer, Scott Stewart, Hunt Tosh, John Bragg, and Katie Gardner.
Amber Henter Tops Developing Pro Challenge
Amber Henter of St. Petersburg, FL, rode to the top of the Developing Pro Challenge, sponsored by the John R. Ingram Fund, with two solid performances on Si Bene, a nine-year-old gelding owned by Findlay’s Ridge Group. In recognition of their win, Henter and Si Bene received the Bittersweet Trophy, presented by Rachel Kennedy.
Henter, who is just 24 years old, has been training with and riding for Findlay’s Ridge and Val Renihan for just over a year in her first job as a professional. Her main ride has been Si Bene, who competes in the First Year Green Hunters. This was Si Bene’s first indoor horse show, and the first big competition for Henter, who graduated from the University of South Carolina and rode for the equestrian team.
“I'd first like to say how much I appreciate [Val] and all that she's done for me,” Henter said. “She couldn't be here tonight (because) she's getting ready for USET Finals. We're really missing her tonight, but I know she would have done anything to be here. It's been a crazy year, but I've learned a lot, and I've gotten back into things. It's really nice. Since Val wasn't here, I'd like to thank Louise Serio for helping me.”
Henter and Si Bene led from the start with a first round score of 87.41, and they returned just as strong despite the pressure to record a second round score of 87.16 for a total of 174.57.
Second place went to Geoffrey Hesslink on Chabliano Z. They scored 86.33 and 87.66 for a two round total of 173.99. Erica Quinn and Kodachrome placed third with scores of 85.08 and 87.33 for a 172.41 total.
Henter did not have it in her original plan to compete in the Developing Pro Challenge because she “hadn’t ridden that much.” She explained, “Last year was my first time going to indoors in five years, and not competing, I was just training. I knew about the class and I was like, ‘You know what, I might as well give it a try.’ He just showed in the First Year division, and he's the only one that I showed this week. I know him so well, so I was really hoping that we'd have a great outcome just because he deserves it all the way. We've kind of been teetering in the ribbons all year. I feel like he finally got his recognition this week.”
Leading the class and returning on top was “definitely a little nerve-wracking,” she admitted. “I haven't had pressure on me in awhile. I knew everyone was counting on me no matter how I did, so it was nice. It was a good feeling going in the ring knowing that it was okay to make a mistake, but if I didn't that was even better.”
She said of her victory, “I think that tonight was a big step in my career and in feeling confident moving forward, knowing that I can be successful. Hopefully I will keep on track and keep pushing forward. We have Harrisburg next week, and I'd really like ‘Zip’ to get a nice show in. I just want to keep moving forward off of that.”
The Capital Challenge Horse Show continues tomorrow with championships for the Amateur-Owner 3'3” and 3'6” Hunters and three sections of Adult Amateur Hunters. The WCHR Amateur-Owner Challenge 3'3” and 3'6” will be held in the afternoon, and the $10,000 Children’s/Adult Jumper Challenge, sponsored by Equis Boutique, will wrap up the evening festivities.
Additional highlights of the Capital Challenge Horse Show will include the North American Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Challenge Cup (two rounds held on Oct. 7-8), the ARIAT National Adult Medal Finals (Oct. 7), and the WCHR Professional Finals (Oct. 7).
For additional information, full results, and live stream coverage from Capital Challenge, please visit www.capitalchallenge.org. For behind-the scenes photos, videos and more, find Capital Challenge on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.