LEXINGTON, Ky.--For the first time in the history of the Platinum Performance/USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Championships, two champions were crowned on Aug. 16.
In the 3'/3'3" Championship, Patricia Griffith rode Callie Seaman's Endeavor to the top spot and $23,321 in total prize money over the three days of competition.
Then, Sandy Ferrell rode Stephanie Bulger's Hemingway to win the 3'6"/3'9" Championship, taking home $10,441 over the two rounds.
For Griffith, who has had the ride on Endeavor since May when Seaman purchased him after the Old Salem Farm Horse Show in New York, the Championship has been on their radar.
"I think that before this Championship there weren't that many people buying these young hunters," said Griffith of Heritage Farm in Katonah, N.Y. "Now, they have something to look forward to and a goal. It seasons the horses so well for the First Years and for the bigger things to come."
GRIFFITH AND Endeavor placed third in Round 1 and tied for 40th in Round 2 after a late lead change before returning to capture the Championship Round with 265 points and scores of 88.50, 88.50 and 88.
"He's been everything we hoped for and more," said Griffith of the 9-year-old warmblood by Zento out of Rosette.
"The first thing we noticed was that he really exhibits all the qualities of a true hunter," said Griffith. "He goes around with beautiful movement. He's still, his ears are forward and he jumps beautifully. He's just the epitome of a hunter."
Tracy Fenney and MTM First Dibs, the pair that won Round 2, placed second in the Championship Round, just .5 points behind the winner.
When combined with their 11th place in Round 1, the pair earned a whopping $24,083 over the three rounds.
"I'm just thankful they've come up with this program," said Fenney, who piloted MTM Farm's 11-year-old warmblood as well as several other MTM mounts from Flower Mound, Texas. "All the money they put into these divisions is great. As owners of all of our horses, it allows us to be able to keep them a little bit longer and make them more seasoned for someone who would want them, instead of selling them off of a dream. At least they can see them, and it allows us to be able to afford to do it as we go."
Sara Taylor and Ingrid Avera's Noah placed third in the Championship Round for a total of $10,083 over the three rounds.
"We've really been taking our time, and he's just surpassed the expectations we had for him," said Taylor of the 8-year-old warmblood gelding. "We're really thankful that we took the time with him and that his owner, Ingrid, has allowed that. He's been consistent everywhere he's shown, and we did the Incentive last year in the 3'."
Taylor, 27, of Marshall, Va., also received this year's Rider Style Award which went to the rider who best displayed the American style of riding in the ring and sportsmanship outside of the competition arena.
The recipient serves as a role model for preserving the integrity of the sport and maintaining a standard of excellence and tradition in his or her riding.
The judges sat in pairs around the Walnut Arena today during the competition, with Carleton Brooks and Holly Orlando at Panel 1, Chris Wynne and Shane George at Panel 2, and Bobbie Reber and Chance Arakelian at Panel 3.
THEY REWARDED Hemingway and Ferrell with scores of 93, 90 and 92 for 275 points and victory in the 3'6"/3'9" Championship Round, which was 11 points higher than runner-up Kelley Farmer aboard Aizlynn Radwanski's Shameless, who had 264 points.
Scott Stewart rode Betsee Parker's Private Life and Harvard Hall to equal third place with 259 points.
"It was so fun to win the inaugural 3'6"/3'9" Green Hunter Incentive Championship," said Ferrell. "It's so nice that they recognize the 'bigger' horses so to speak. There's a place for the 4' and beyond horses, so it's nice that they have this new championship. Not every horse is a derby horse; they don't always go to that level. But in instances like this, the green horses have four years now of coming out and being showcased."
Hemingway, an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding, has come up the ranks through the USHJA's Green Incentive Program, and Ferrell has been his rider for the past four years with support from Bulger.
"I think when the time is right he'll be an amazing amateur horse for her," she added.
Farmer, of Keswick, Va.,, competed Shameless in the Championship as a prelude to their start in the Platinum Performance/USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship.
"This is so much fun to have this Championship for the green horses," said Farmer, who earned $5,918 over the two rounds. "We bought this horse at the beginning of the year, and he's done nothing but be a good horse for Aizlynn and me. So, every time you ask him to do something he tries harder."
Scott Stewart of Fleminton, N.J., was one of the busiest riders during the Championships, and he finished third on both of his mounts in the 3'6"/3'9" Championships on Betsee Parker's Harvard Hall and Private Life.
"It was great to ride out there, and both of my horses were great," he said of the courses designed by Bobby Murphy of Lexington, Ky. "I thought it was a good class. The horses went well, and the courses were great. They could gallop and jump today, which was a nice change."
Both Championships offered recognition and additional prize money through the Green Hunter Rider Ranking System, which categorizes riders into two tiers based upon their prior earnings within the program.
Tier I riders are those who are ranked 1-30 in money won in the program over the past three years, and all other riders are considered Tier II.
Tier II bonus awards were based on the cumulative scores from Rounds 1 and 2 for 3'/3'3" competitors and Round 1 scores for 3'6"/3'9" competitors.
Tara Metzner, of Encinitas, Calif., earned the top Tier II prize of $11,611.95 on Davlyn Farms' Lion in the 3'/3'3" Championship, which brought her three-day total to over $20,000 with a second place in Round 2 and a sixth-placed finish in Round 1.
Haylie Rolfe of Wellington, Fla., won $7,741.30 for being the second highest-placed Tier II rider aboard Pony Lane Farm's Queen Celeste, and Christopher Payne,of Cincinnati, Ohio, was third in the Tier II bonus awards and a check for $5,805.98.
In the 3'6"/3'9" Championship, Jamie Taylor, of Tarzana, Calif., earned $3,667.95 for being the highest-scoring Tier II rider aboard Iwasaki & Reilly's Small Occasion.
Payne earned another Tier II rider award of $2,445.30 with Still Water Farm LLC's Fibonacci, and Phoebe de Mott, of Cedars, Pa,, was the third-placed finisher among Tier II riders and got a check for $1,833.98 for her ride on Marla Parente's Last Light.
The 3'/3'3" Championship also included bonus awards based on performances in the First and Second Rounds:
The $5,000 High-Score American-Bred Bonus Award inwent to Like Always, a 6-year-old Holsteiner owned by Patrick and Jana Rodes, of Argyle, Texas and trained by Patrick Rodes.
The High-Score 4- and 5-year-old Bonus Award went to Sandstone, a 5-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Rivers Edge, ridden by Scott Stewart and trained by Kenneth Berkley.
The $2,500 Texas Super Series Bonus Award went to MTM First Dibs, an 11-year-old warmblood owned by MTM Farm, of Flower Mound, Texas, ridden by Tracy Fenney and trained by Mike McCormick.
The High-Score Sallie B. Wheeler/U.S. National Hunter Breeding Championship Alumni was Jump!, a 5-year-old warmblood mare owned by EMO Stables, of Warrenton, Va,, ridden and trained by Winn Alden.
The Thoroughbred Bonus Award was won by By Golly, a 6-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, owned by Barbara Baker of Blowing Rock, N.C., trained and ridden by Ashley Lovegrove.
The High-Score Mare Award went to Queen Celeste, a 7-year-old Holsteiner, owned by Pony Lane Farm of Bluffdale, Utah, ridden by Haylie Rolfe and trained by Alex Jayne.
The USHJA Green Hunter Incentive Program has gained popularity since its debut in December 2012 and has garnered praise from members across the country for its encouragement of the development of young horses.
The program would not have gotten off the ground without the early support of many people, including USHJA committee members and staff.
The Founding Members include: Colleen McQuay, Amanda Lyerly, Bill Ellis, Betty Oare, Diana Strumberg, Don Stewart, Emil Spadone, Geoff Teall, Jenny Karazissis, Joey Darby, Liza Boyd, Louise Serio, Peter Pletcher and Susie Schoellkopf.