Samantha Schaefer Dominates Amateur Division Taking WCHR Amateur-Owner 3’6” Challenge and Earns Grand Champion Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunter Honors

October 1, 2015 - Upper Marlboro, MD

Samantha Schaefer and Classified.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Samantha Schaefer and Classified in their presentation ceremony.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Samantha Schaefer and Classified after winning the Grand Champion Amateur-Owner Hunter.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Stephanie Danhakl and Quest.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Stephanie Danhakl and Quest in their presentation ceremony.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Alexis Maida and Tolstoy.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Alexis Maida and Tolstoy with trainer Nicholas Haness.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Caroline Moran and Bacardi.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Caroline Moran and Bacardi in their award presentation.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Micki Reisman and Za Zou.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography
Micki Reisman and Za Zou in their award presentation.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

Danhakl and Quest Win WCHR Amateur-Owner 3’3”Challenge, Maida and Moran Collect Grand Champion Honors, Reisman Finishes on Top in $10,000 Children’s/Adult Amateur Jumper Challenge

Amateur riders were the highlight on the sixth day of competition at the 2015 Capital Challenge Horse Show (CCHS) presented by Well Placed Smile, as a number of divisions crowned their champions and gifted prestigious awards. Local superstar and homegrown talent Samantha Schaefer of Westminster, MD, continued to add to her successful career at CCHS, amassing two more major championship wins as she earned Grand Champion Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunter honors and topped the $2,500 WCHR Amateur-Owner 3’6” Challenge aboard Classified. Competition at CCHS will continue through Sunday, October 4.

Caroline Moran, of Wellington, Florida, and Bacardi picked up the Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’3” 36 and Over division and earned Grand Champion Amateur-Owner 3’3” presented by Will and Lindsay Roberts. Stephanie Danhakl of Pacific Palisades, CA, rode Quest, a former mount of Scott Stewart, to victory in the $2,500 WCHR Amateur-Owner 3’3” Challenge presented by Milestone LLC and Havens Schatt. Alexis Maida, traveling from Danville, CA, piloted Tolstoy to the Grand Adult Amateur Hunter title presented by Steve Martines, while Micki Reisman dominated the $10,000 Children’s Adult/Amateur Jumper Challenge presented by Equis Boutique.

Schaefer, who earned Grand Champion Pony Hunter and Grand Champion Junior Hunter accolades early on in her storied junior career and has risen through the ranks of the WCHR program, felt the toll of taking time away from the saddle. A senior at Baylor University, she will complete her Communications degree this December, which put a hiatus of sorts on her competition schedule this year.  

“I went to Saugerties in September and I don’t think I felt very in the groove or in practice, which for me, someone who is used to riding multiple horses every day, was hard,” Schaefer honestly revealed. “He’s absolutely amazing and can make about anything look great though. He’s an easy horse to come in on and have fun and that’s why we have him, you know, to have one nice one that we can always count on.”

Before capturing the $2,500 WCHR Amateur-Owner 3’6” Challenge, Schaefer was also awarded with the CCHS Grand Champion Amateur-Owner 3’6” title presented by Troy Hendricks and Kimberview Stables, as well as the Dr. Harold M.S. Smith Trophy awarded by Dr. Suzanne Smith. The duo received top ribbons in each major class in the division including a win in the under saddle. Aboard 2005 Hanoverian gelding Classified (Lordanos x St. Pt. Hauptstutbuch) Schaefer capitalized on her consistency as the first combination to ride in The Show Place Arena for the WCHR Amateur-Owner 3’6” Challenge. Laying down a near perfect round, Schaefer remained unbeaten throughout the class as 21 entries attempted to catch her averaged score of 87.50.

“The first day I felt like he was doing really well but maybe not at our absolute best. We rubbed a rail twice which left us in third both times and then we won the hack, but in the Challenge today he was just incredible and we had a little bit of luck work in our favor,” she continued. “That was the round where it really felt like it all came together and that is what it’s supposed to feel like. It was smooth and I’m really happy with it. He’s done now till Florida and the winter season so he’ll get a really good rest."

In an effort to preserve her horses for the winter season ahead, Schaefer decided to forgo the heavy indoor season this fall and looked to have a solid outing this week before returning to school to enjoy her last semester of college, “I wanted to have a successful Capital Challenge and then let the horses be done for the year. Now that I’ll be in Florida consistently this winter, I think we’ll be asking a lot more of them than in the past and I want them to hit the ground running and still feel fresh.”

The duo has only been together for a year and Schaefer is excited to see what lies ahead, as Capital Challenge marked the year anniversary of his purchase, which she noted, has brought them truly full circle, as the duo competed in the Amateur-Owner 3’3” division a year ago. After only a single trial ride, Classified switched hands to Schaefer with the help of Kate Conover, who dotes upon the inquisitive chestnut gelding as much as Schaefer. Schaefer said with a smile, “I like to say that we have joint custody. Kate loves him as much as I do and he’s really like her baby.”

The gelding’s expression and consistency continue to earn him top marks from judging panels in the hunter ring and Schaefer will look to extend that success into the competitive winter season, as the gelding checks all of the right boxes in her eyes.

“I would say that one of the biggest things that I love about that horse is that he doesn’t ever look to lose. He’s never going to try to lose and I think that’s a really important quality,” continued Schaefer. “There are a lot of horses with talent but they don’t have that will to win. He always is trying his best and has a great attitude and is just a fun horse with a lot of character.”

Stephanie Danhakl captured reserve honors behind Schaefer in the division, piloting her own Golden Rule. 

Krista Weisman of Sherborn, Massachusetts, and Reality finished just behind Schaefer, receiving an 87.00 to take second place honors in the Challenge class. Elizabeth Faraci of Annapolis, MD, rounded out the top three placings, receiving an 85.66 aboard Chamonix.

Schaefer also collected the honors for Best Amateur-Owner 3’6” Hunter Rider presented by Betty and Ernie Oare.

Becky Gochman and Last Call, owned by David Gochman, earned a tricolor in the Amateur-Owner Hunter 3’6” 36 & Over presented by Betty and Ernie Oare, while Ellen Toon and Mirror Image followed in reserve.

The EMO Best Amateur-Owner 3’6” Trip of the Show was presented to Ellen Toon and Mirror Image for their score of 89.25, awarded by Sue Bopp and EMO Agency.

Danhakl and Quest Win WCHR Amateur-Owner 3’3” Challenge

Stephanie Danhakl of Pacific Palisades, CA, and Quest captured the $2,500 WCHR Amateur-Owner 3’3” Challenge in fine fashion, as the duo received a total score of87.50 to nudge out Becky Gochman of New York, NY, and Touchdown for the top prize, as they followed in second with an 86.50 while Lisa Arena Davis of Penfield, NY, and Balou finished in third place with an 84.33.

Danhakl piloted Quest, a 2007 Warmblood gelding, to top honors after concluding a solid week of competition at CCHS. Danhakl purchased Quest from trainer Scott Stewart almost two years ago after he was campaigned through the First Year Green Hunter classes with Stewart. Once she took over the ride, the duo excelled in the Amateur-Owner division before the gelding developed a chronic foot condition that led to nearly a year off.

“I’ve really only shown him six or seven times in total even though I’ve owned him for a while. He’s an amazing horse and he’s a beautiful jumper. I love his rhythm and I’m really happy to have him back,” she explained.

Alongside her other top mounts, Enough Said and Golden Rule, who have both found success at Capital Challenge in past years, Danhakl was excited to bring Quest out this week with the hopes of continuing to develop their partnership for the future.

“Every time he goes into the ring he gives his all and he’s truly a sweet horse. I feel like this is his time to shine because he is an amazing horse and has never really had a chance to prove how good he is,” she continued. “He hasn’t gotten the name he deserves yet.”

The gelding’s swift and steady movement make him an ideal hunter for Danhakl, as she believes the gelding’s jump is a true highlight and ultimately sets him apart, “He tries so hard over every jump and its just a great feeling. He’s so round and he gets a ton of height. I think he excels at everything and he’s really easy to ride. He did everything perfectly.”

With a busy work schedule, Danhakl took a short break from competing this summer, as she prepares to move to Boston, MA, to work for the Museum of Fine Arts as a Graduate Research Associate and prepare for the journey to receive her PhD. Even with a strict agenda, Danhakl was excited to make it to Capital Challenge this year as she prepares to balance both of her passions. She will compete through the rest of the indoor series, while adjusting to life in a new city.

“To be with the horses I love and go around the ring and have the trips we did, it’s really just icing on the cake for me to win this class and overall I’m feeling really excited,” she remarked.

The pair also collected champion honors in the Amateur-Owner 3’3’ 18-35 division presented by Cindy Cruciotti, Serenity Farm and Endeavor Farm. Hannah Goodson-Cutt and Prime Time followed with reserve champion honors.

Maida Collects Grand Champion Adult Amateur Hunter 

The Adult Amateur classes at Capital Challenge Horse Show draw a generous number of dedicated competitors each year. Hailing from the west coast, Alexis Maida and Tolstoy, owned by Ashley Weiman, dominated the Adult Amateur 18-35 division presented by Lainie Wimberly and Brigadoon Show Stables, Inc., capturing divisional champion honors before being named as the 2015 Grand Champion Adult Amateur Hunter presented by Steve Martines. Maida also was awarded with the Best Adult Amateur Hunter Rider sponsored by Phoebe Weseley and River Run Farm and the Best EMO Adult Amateur Trip of the Show presented by Sue Bopp and EMO Agency with a high score of 86.5. Her trainer Nicolas Haness received the Leading Adult Amateur Trainer award.

“I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to ride him and I can’t thank Ashley enough for allowing me to compete him. He’s a great horse all around,” said Maida. “This means everything to me to be Grand Champion here. It’s a dream come true to be honest. I never thought that I would ever have the opportunity to ride a horse like him, let alone be champion or best adult rider.”

With an equestrian-immersed childhood, Maida began riding at the age of 3 and worked with a number of trainers on the west coast, soon becoming a regular of the indoor series, competing in the Maclay and Medal Finals and WIHS Equitation Finals several times. After finishing her junior career in the big equitation divisions, Maida decided to focus on her career before returning to the sport a year ago.

“I’ve competed at Capital Challenge before, but this is the first time back in like ten years for me. Being on the East Coast to compete is on a whole new level. The competition here is unreal and to get a prize here let alone to win just feels amazing,” she smiled. Taylor Willever of Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, and Short Stop, owned by Troy Hendricks, earned reserve champion honors behind Maida.

Kimberly Jungherr of Williston, Florida, and Shock Top owned by Brook Run Farm LLC earned champion honors in the Adult Amateur Hunter 36-50 presented by Gina Badagnani and JOD’S. Lisa Cox of Richmond, VA, and Castleton, owned by the Barracks, followed with reserve honors.

Laurie Stevens of Boca Raton, FL, and her own Santiago captured a divisional championship in the Adult Amateur Hunter 51 & Over while Gina Day, of Boulder CO, and Premier, owned by Day, earned reserve champion.

Moran and Bacardi Make Mark at CCHS

Caroline Moran and Bacardi, a veteran of the Future Hunter program at CCHS collecting Grand Future Hunter Champion honors in 2011, Future Hunter Championship awards in 2012, and Grand First Year Green Hunter in 2013, were back in the winner’s presentation again in 2015, as they earned Grand Champion Amateur-Owner 3’3” honors presented by Will and Lindsay Roberts, after a phenomenal week, in which they swept the over fences classes in the Adult Amateur-Owner 3’3” 36 & Over division presented by Margaret O’Meara and Paige Tredennick.

Bacardi has continued to build confidence through the years with Moran’s and trainer Havens Schatt’s guidance and a highlight of the pair’s week this year, was their recognition for the EMO Best Amateur-Owner 3’3” Trip of the Show presented by Sue Bopp and EMO Agency, as they averaged a score of 93.00 in one of their over fences classes.

“My horse just loves this horse show. He absolutely does. I think from when he did so well in the Future Hunters a few years ago right on through the First Years, he just loves this horse show, as do I,” commented Moran. “We love the footing and the jumps. He definitely lets you know when you get somewhere if he feels comfortable or not. Havens [Schatt] said when she got on him here that he just felt comfortable right off the get go.”

Blessed with an incredible jump and knack for leaving the judges wanting more, Bacardi continues to impress with scores now consistently reaching the upper 80s and low 90s. Moran, who was even surprised with their consistency this week, commented on the gelding’s skill for the hunter ring, “I’m thrilled but still surprised. When I went the first day outside I was overly critical of myself and then we got an amazing marker of a score, I said maybe I shouldn’t be so critical. He was definitely on his game. I can tell from the moment I pick up his trot if he is.”

The pair has grown together and their bond is obvious and Moran feels the pressure when she knows the 2006 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Casco x Varilla R) has brought his game face to the ring. Moran bought Bacardi as a five-year-old and has worked with Havens Schatt to continue molding his talent and consistency.

“He’s consistent when he wants to be, but if he doesn’t like something he’ll let you know. When he is on and good he’s really good,” she said. “There is a sense of pressure though because when you know you’re on a horse that can score in the 90s it falls more on you, but at this show I feel like I don’t even need to be here. He knows exactly what he’s doing and I’m just here to enjoy the ride.”

The duo captured divisional champion honors in the Amateur-Owner 3’3” 36 & Over division presented by Margaret O’Meara and Paige Tredennick, while Dawn Fogel of Louisville, Kentucky, and Summer Catch earned reserve champion recognition.

Reisman Finishes on Top in $10,000 Children’s/Adult Amateur Jumper Challenge

At the young age of 16, Micki Reisman of Cleveland, Ohio, captured her first major jumper victory at CCHS, as she and the feisty chestnut mare Za Zou raced to victory, besting a class of more than 70 entries. The duo crossed the timers in 38.558 seconds in the jump-off to seal their win. Will Kennedy of Brookeville, Maryland, and Ontario finished in second with a time of 41.363 seconds, while Phoebe Alwine of Delray Beach, Florida, and Zenith Dance rounded out the top three with a time of 41.381 seconds.

The immediate jump-off format proved nerve-wracking for competitors slated to compete in the middle of the order such as Reisman, who didn’t think her jump-off time would outlast the vast number of entries in the class.

“I went in the middle of the class, I think about 29th and tried to think to myself that I wanted to go double clear. I had a rail yesterday and I wasn’t planning on going that fast,” she explained. “When I went double clear and that fast I was just ecstatic. She’s a new mare for me, we only purchased her in August, so this is a huge win for us.”

“I’ve never had a win like this before and I’ve just been waiting for it to happen. We competed her locally after we took her to Kentucky this summer and she really loved this show,” said Reisman. “I’m so excited and ecstatic. There was some really good competition in the class and I’m really proud that we were able to maintain our lead.”

The Best Presented Model Horse sponsored by Equis Boutique was awarded to John French and Laura Wasserman’s Boss, who is cared for by Carlos Soriano and Alex García of Brookway Stables, in the Green Conformation Model, while Scott Stewart with Dr. Betsee Parker’s Lucador was awarded in the Regular Conformation Model and is prepared by the River’s Edge Farm team.

Capital Challenge Horse Show continues tomorrow with the highlight class of the week, the $5,000 WCHR Pro Finals, beginning at 7pm in The Show Place Arena at Prince George’s Equestrian Center. The day will also include the beginning of Junior and Pony competition, which will conclude on Sunday, October 4.

For more information on Capital Challenge Horse Show and to view a full show schedule, please visit or follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. The entire show will be live streamed via CCHS Live Webcast, which can be found at

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.