On the final day of the 2015 Capital Challenge Horse Show (CCHS) presented by Well Placed Smile, junior hunter riders stole the show and concluded an elite week of competition at Prince George’s Equestrian Center, highlighting the prestigious World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) yearly finals. Hosting three WCHR Challenge classes throughout the day, the WCHR Junior Challenge 3’6”, WCHR Junior Challenge 3’3”, and the WCHR Children’s Hunter Challenge, Sunday proved to be a competitive day for many of the country’s top junior combinations. The final Grand Champion awards of the week were also presented in the Junior Hunter and Children’s Hunter divisions.
Vivian Yowan of Lexington, KY, was crowned Grand Champion Junior Hunter 3’6” presented by Shadow Ridge Farm aboard Ransom owned by Saddle Ridge LLC. Emma Kurtz of Hudson, OH, aboard Prologue owned by Rendezvous Farm, captured top honors as the High Point Junior 15 & Under combination for their performances in the Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under division, in which they also earned champion. Sara McCloskey of Pound Ridge, NY, and her own Austin picked up Grand Junior Hunter 3’3” honors as the final Grand Champion combination awarded at the 2015 Capital Challenge Horse Show. Samantha Karp of Wellington, FL, piloted her own Central Park to the Grand Champion Children’s Hunter title presented by Mary Jane King.
Yowan Rises to Top of Small Junior Hunter 3’6” Division Aboard Ransom
Vivian Yowan completed a successful week at the 2015 Capital Challenge Horse Show, picking up several top-place finishes throughout the week in all three disciplines offered at the competition with hunter, jumper, and equitation mounts under her guidance. Yowan continued with her success today in the Small Junior Hunter 16-17 division, which she championed, and would ultimately go on to collect Grand Champion Junior Hunter 3’6” accolades aboard Ransom owned by Saddle Ridge LLC.
Yowan and the 2008 Dutch Warmblood gelding nearly achieved a clean sweep, earning only first and second place finishes throughout the four divisional classes in the Small Junior Hunters. Ransom’s talent and consistency over fences lifted the pair to Yowan’s first Grand Champion recognition of the week, alongside earning the High Point Junior Hunter 16-17 presented by The Clothes Horse and receiving the Best Junior Rider Award 3’6” sponsored by Karen Healey and Karen Healey Stables.
“For the past two days in the Small Juniors he just jumped unbelievable. He’s really a powerhouse. He comes out everyday and we say he has springs on his feet because it’s kind of freaky how well he consistently jumps day in and day out. I’ve never had a horse that has really tried as hard as he does for me,” she remarked.
The duo received a score of 89.00 from the judges for their handy round to receive the EMO Trip of the Show presented by Sue Bopp and EMO Agency for all Junior Hunters rounds, as the score was unmatched by the rest of the competition.
“My handy with him was definitely the highlight of the week. He just jumped the first jump on course better than anything I’ve ever felt and I knew that if we kept it throughout we’d be able to get a good score,” she remembered.
Morgan Ward of Milton, NJ, and Flirt picked up reserve champion in the Small Junior Hunter 3’6” division behind Yowan.
Gabriella Cinquini of Pana Point, CA, aboard Coffeetalk earned the championship award in the Small Junior Hunter 15 & Under while Lara McHale of Chagrin Falls, MI, and Mine collected reserve honors in the Small Junior Hunter 15 & Under.
Bailey Smith of Portland, OR, and Papyrus earned top honors in the Large Junior Hunter 16-17 3’6” division capturing the champion title, while Kimmie Gottwald of Richmond, VA, aboard Casallo took the reserve champion award for the division.
Ward, Smith, and Iwasaki Take WCHR Challenge Honors in Respective Divisions
Morgan Ward of Milford, NJ, was elated with her first place finish aboard Broadway in the WCHR Junior 3’6” Challenge presented by Elena and David Graves, which hosted 33 entries. The duo bested the class with a score of 86.50 to narrowly edge out Emma Kurtz of Hudson, OH, and Prologue who followed in second with a score of 86.41, as Rachel McMullen of Chagrin Falls, OH, and Clear Sailing rounded out the top three receiving an 86.33 from the judging panel.
Ward and Broadway won their second trip over fences two days ago in the Junior Hunter 3’6” division but Ward was quick to admit that she didn’t ride her best on the second day of competition and felt the need to redeem herself in the WCHR Challenge class.
“I didn’t have the best rounds yesterday and I felt like I owed it to my horse to have a good ride. I went in and he sure helped me out a lot but the round went really well and he just jumped awesome,” she commented. “It means a lot to win this class. I didn’t think that I was qualified coming here because I had only done two WCHR weekends, but coming in when I saw that I was qualified I thought ‘Oh I’ve got to pull this off,” and it was really fun. A great way to end.”
Ward, who comes from a family of equestrians, felt the pressure in the WCHR class, as she and Broadway headed down the final line after a very solid trip, “Going to the last line I was like, ‘OK Morgan, please don’t mess anything up now. Please see the correct distance to the last jump,’” she laughed. “One day this week my trainer whistled before I was finished and then I did something wrong so I was like please don’t whistle yet, please don’t whistle yet.”
The bubbly blonde commented on the talent of Broadway, who she says is one of the greatest horse she’s ridden. The Wards bought him in January during the winter circuit, but Ward admittedly understands that as her last time in the Junior divisions comes to a close with the conclusion of indoors this fall, Broadway will most likely find a new young rider to show the ropes.
“I just bought him in January and ever since then we’ve been a great team. He’s been champion or reserve every time in Ocala and all of that. We qualified for Devon and then we still have indoors left, but I know that it might be my last time owning him because I’m aging out and it’s sad, but I understand that it is part of the sport.”
Enjoying not only her WCHR win, Ward stated that Capital Challenge has a way of making the riders feel so special for their achievements, “Not only does this show get you prepared for indoors, but they give you great prizes, which I think is a big deal. They make everything so special and its not just ‘Oh, here’s your ribbon’ it’s more important than that. I just love this show.”
Alexandra Smith of Wellington, FL, aboard Perfekionist, owned by Tracey Topping of Wellington, FL, rose to the occasion in the WCHR Children’s Challenge presented by Stephanie Bulger and MeadowView, which saw 21 entries. The duo scored an 87.75 to finish atop the only WCHR Challenge class held in the outdoor this week. Hensley Humphries of New York, NY, and Pomodoro finished in second with a score of 86.75 and Lauren Katz of Potomac, MD, aboard Highland’s Right Royal earned third place with a score of 86.50.
“I’ve never done a challenge class in the children’s division, but I did it last year for in the pony division. We got him about two months ago when we decided to lease him from Tracey Topping and this is our third show together,” she explained. “He’s really sweet and I like him a lot already.”
At only 12 years old, Smith, who rides with parents Ken and Emily of Ashland Farms, comes from a long line of successful equestrians as older brother Spencer is making his way through the upper level jumper ranks. The course, which was set at two different heights for ponies and horses, rode nicely for Smith and long-strided Perfektionist, who is known around the barn as Fred.
“I think it was a very good course and it was fun. Fred can be a little bit lazy but I still have fun. You have to get him going but after that he’s really good,” she explained. The duo will take the next few months to fine tune their skills before entering the show ring again at the Winter Equestrian Festival in just a few short months.
“We aren’t going to do indoors this year so our next show will probably be at WEF. He’s really nice and I feel comfortable on him already so it hasn’t been that hard getting to know him,” she remarked.
Continuing on with her fantastic season, Augusta Iwasaki of Calabasas, CA, was victorious in the WCHR Junior Challenge 3’3” presented by Canterbury Farm and the Durpetti Family, aboard Illusion with a score of 86.66. Kirsten Ostling and Given followed in second with a score of 85.66 while Caroline Dance and Aate earned third place with a score of 84.16.
Illusion, a 1999 Hanoverian gelding owned by Dogwood Hill LLC, is a veteran in the show ring and helped Iwasaki to another major victory in her young career, winning her first WCHR Challenge class.
“It’s really exciting and I love riding him so it was really fun. I’ve been riding since him since maybe March or April. He used to do the 3’6” juniors before I started riding him,” said Iwasaki. “The first time that I showed him there were these brick roll-tops and he jumped them really, really high. It was fun and felt good. I like riding him.”
Even though Illusion may be considered older on the spectrum of competition horses, Iwasaki loves his personality and the attitude he brings to show ring for her. Competing with numerous upper level riders throughout his career, Iwasaki said she could tell that he knew the class was special.
“I really like his personality because he’s really outgoing and always is asking for treats. It’s really exciting to win this class because I’ve never done well in a Challenge class before. I was eleventh in the pony class this week and he was perfect today,” she continued. “I’m so happy that I get to ride him because he’s 16 and he’s been around a long time. He knew that it was something important for me.”
Iwasaki will next head to Harrisburg where she will show Bit of Laughter, Kingston and True Colors in the pony divisions then heading home to California for a week of rest before returning to the east coast for the Washington International Horse Show.
McCloskey Takes Final Grand Champion Honors at 2015 in Junior Hunter 3’3”
Sara McCloskey was the final Grand Champion to be recognized at the 2015 CCHS, as the Junior Hunter 3’3” division was the second to last division of the day. Earning two first place finishes while also collecting a second place in the three over fences classes, McCloskey and Austin made themselves difficult to beat for Grand Champion honors, as their consistent riding propelled them through the large division in McCloskey’s first appearance at CCHS.
“I am so excited. This is the first time that I’ve ever competed at Capital Challenge and the courses were set so perfectly. Austin was great throughout the week and I couldn’t have asked for a better show,” she remarked. “We’ve had him for about two and half years now and we bought him as my Children’s Hunter horse. He’s taken me all the way through the Junior Hunters. He’s taught me so much and he was just great this week.”
Capping her first CCHS with success, McCloskey commented on the show and how much she is looking forward to returning next year, “I thought overall it was a great week and even with the weather the rings held up amazingly and they weren’t sticky or muddy. I think the courses rode beautifully all week and overall it was just a great show for us. We’re looking forward to coming back!”
Kirsten Ostling of New Canaan, CT, and Given earned reserve champion accolades in the Junior Hunter 3’3” 14 & Over division while Briana Sukert of Newport Coast, CA, aboard Nonchalant took home the champion tricolor in the Junior Hunter 3’3” 13 & Under. Sophie Gochman of New York, NY, and World Time received reserve awards for the division.
Emma Kurtz Wins Grand Champion Junior Hunter 15 & Under
Emma Kurtz of Hudson, OH, dominated the Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under division to receive the Grand Champion Junior Hunter 15 & Under presented by Sherri Geddes and Geddaway Farm.
“I started riding him two winters ago in Florida but he hasn’t lived with us for most of the time so I would just meet him at the shows. After Devon this year though he came home with us and has been living with us and I’ve gotten to know him better,” she said. “He’s jumps amazing and he has a huge stride which makes him really fun to ride. I’m really excited to have been named Grand Champion and I think it is a big honor.”
In the duo’s handy round, Kurtz was pleased with the boldness of the 2005 Warmblood gelding who tried his hand at the jumpers before switching disciplines, as he can be green to certain obstacles, but didn’t bat an eye today in the ring. She explained, “He can be pretty green to trot jumps and I was really excited that he did that well today in the handy. He didn’t even react to it, which was really good.”
“We’ll head to Harrisburg, Washington, and the National over the next two months but we really like coming to Capital Challenge. I really like that you are outside one day and inside the next day because I feel like it balances you out and gives you experience in both atmospheres, especially if a horse doesn’t like being indoors,” she noted.
Hunter Siebel of Woodside, CA, was honored with reserve champion awards aboard As Always in the Large Junior Under 15 & Under division.
Samantha Karp and Central Park Earn Top Spot In Children’s Hunter Division
Samantha Karp was thrilled with her performances aboard 2005 Hanoverian gelding Central Park in the Children’s Hunter division as the duo collected two first place finishes alongside a fifth. Karp noted that after the conclusion of the upcoming indoor circuit, she will have aged out of the Children’s Hunter division and will continue to show as an amateur. Karp was also honored with both champion and reserve champion honors in the division, as she piloted McGraw owned by Kimberly Quinn to reserve champion behind Central Park.
“This win feels amazing. This is really my first year going to any of these bigger shows, so to come out here and do these bigger classes I was really nervous, but all of my horses were incredible and they each brought their A-game this week,” commented Karp. “This is my last division in the Children’s. I’ll do the Children’s Hunter Finals at Harrisburg and Washington International and then I’ll be done with the division, which is bittersweet.”
Karp, who trains with Andre Dignelli at Heritage Farm, piloted three horses through the Children’s Hunter 15-17 division, also picking up a blue ribbon aboard McGraw in an over fences class. Her point-awarded performances on all three horses helped her to capture champion awards for the Children’s Hunter 15-17 division, also leading to the her presentation as Grand Champion Children’s Hunter for the 2015 competition. Karp also collected Best Children’s Hunter Rider awards presented by Wild Sky Farm and the Nelson Family, which is awarded to the Grand Champion Children’s Hunter rider.
Ellia Giuliani of Middleburg, VA, and Quillaja earned champion honors in the Children's Hunter 14 & Under division, while Zoe Ganek of New York, NY, and Bellagio caputred reserve champion. Libbie Gordon of Statesville, NC, and Q-2 were crowned champions in the Children's Hunter Pony division while Laura Katz of Potomac, MD, and Highland's Right Royal finished with reserve champion.
Capital Challenge Horse Show would like to thank all staff, sponsors, vendors, exhibitors, and volunteers who helped to make the 2015 competition possible. Please visit www.capitalchallenge.org to see a full list of results.
About Capital Challenge Horse Show
In its 22nd year, the Capital Challenge Horse Show sets itself apart with a distinct and unique focus on preeminent hunter competition. Held each autumn at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, MD, this year’s show will take place on September 26-October 4. In addition to several prestigious equitation events, the Capital Challenge Horse Show will once again host the World Champion Hunter Rider Finals and will assemble the country’s best horses and riders to compete in junior, amateur, and professional hunter classes.