World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) competition took place throughout the third week of competition, held July 17-21, at the Vermont Summer Festival, attracting the East Coast’s top hunter riders as they prepare for WCHR Finals this fall.
Professionals were among the first to compete for championship honors at Harold Beebe Farm, located in East Dorset, VT. Amanda Steege, who has made frequent trips to the winner’s circle over the years, claimed champion and reserve titles in the High Performance Hunter division with two of her clients’ horses. Steege collected the tricolor honors with Tony Arena’s Majestic and finished reserve champion with Susan Darragh’s Zidane.
Steege’s clients also racked up WCHR points throughout the week with her student, Charlene Graham riding Only You, being named reserve champion in the Adult Amateur Hunter 36-49 division. Championship honors went to Barbara Spizzirro and Hundred Acre, trained by Brooke Baldwin DeGrazia.
“We had a great WCHR week,” Steege beamed who operates Ashmeadow Farm in Bedminster, NJ. “We always put Vermont on our schedule, but now that there is a WCHR week, we’ve incorporated always coming during week three. It gives us an added reason to come.”
Steege acknowledged that the quality of shows recognized as WCHR horse shows add an extra incentive for competitors.
“The horse shows that are recognized as WCHR shows are supposed to be the best horse shows in the country,” explained Steege. “There’s a select group of them, and that in and of itself draws us to them because they (are) shows with the best footing, the best judges, the best jumps. Just the fact that it’s a designated WCHR show makes us want to come.”
In Steege’s expert opinion, the Vermont Summer Festival more than lives up to the WCHR hype.
“(Show manager) Billy Glass and (show owners) Dotty and John Ammerman put so much extra effort into making sure everybody is happy,” complimented Steege. “I love that Jennifer Glass is at the ring doing the awards and that they always offer such nice awards. It feels important when you win something.”
Steege continued, “Billy is super organized, so the show always runs on schedule and you can expect how it’s going to run timing-wise. They do a really good job trying to maintain the arenas, too.”
Besides the quality assurance that comes with WCHR designation, Steege looks forward to the fierce competition that takes place.
“I think it really spices up the hunter competition here. This was, for sure, the strongest week competition-wise. Lots of other hunter riders are after the same thing that we are,” she described.
What Steege and countless other riders are after is top placings in the year-end WCHR standings.
“WCHR is a really good goal. The program gives great awards and since they only count your top four shows at the end of the year, it doesn’t encourage you to over-show the horse. I think a lot of people set their sights on the WCHR awards, not only being a regional or national champion, but being in the top six of their region or the top ten in the nation.”
Steege has her eye on the WCHR Finals, to be held September 30 through October 6 at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in Upper Marlboro, MD.
“Capital Challenge is one of my favorite shows of the year,” said Steege. “It’s a lot more relaxing if you go into Capital Challenge already knowing that you’re qualified for those special classes as opposed to depending on having a great week there since it’s such a hard show.”
Perennial WCHR champion Scott Stewart collected champion and reserve titles in the Conformation Hunter division. Stewart was champion aboard Humor Me, owned by Stephanie Danhakl, and guided Krista and Alexa Weisman’s Concept to reserve honors.
Stewart also enjoyed success in the Second Year Green Working Hunter division with Rose Hill Farm’s Enjoy. The pair was named division champion while David Wilbur was named reserve champion with Eloise, owned by Caroline Connal.
Jennifer Bauersachs and Avignion, owned by Francesca Miglior, took the First Year Green Working Hunter Championship while Stewart earned reserve champion with Loyalty, owned by Fashion Farm.
Stewart’s clients at River’s Edge Farm in Flemington, NJ, also had plenty of reason to celebrate after Lili Hymowitz conquered the Large Junior Hunter division. Hymowitz was champion with her own Statement and finished reserve with Tiffani, owned by Danielle Stacy.
Hymowitz also triumphed in the pony ring, finishing as reserve champion in the Large Pony Hunter division with Dr. Betsee Parker’s Enjoy the Laughter. Ali Tritschler riding KAR, LLC’s Won Up won the division championship title.
Stewart’s success in the pony ring continued with his pony, Show Me Love, winning the Medium Pony Hunter division championship with Taylor St. Jacques. Isabel Ryan was reserve champion with Cleverist, owned by Daisy Farish.
Hymowitz’s older sister, Cloe, was named reserve champion in the Small Junior Hunter division with Rose Hill Farm’s Enjoy. The division was topped by Elle Young, who piloted Karen Young’s Boris to the win.
Gina Day, another student of Stewart’s, finished on top of the Adult Amateur Hunter 50 and Over Division with her horse, Premier. Reserve champion for the division was Kim Miller and her own Fair Wind.
Day wasn’t the only rider from River’s Edge to collect top honors in the adult amateur divisions. Alexa Weisman and Showman were champions of the Amateur-Owner 3’3” 18-35 division. Jean Sheptoff and Alavanta, trained by Cory Hardy, finished as reserve champions.
River’s Edge continued to dominate the Amateur-Owner divisions over the weekend. Krista Weisman and Reality were Amateur-Owner division champions while barnmates Nancy Hooker and Castlewalk were named reserve champions.
Stewart was thrilled with how his horses and students performed, describing the week as exceeding his expectations.
“It’s been great!” said Stewart. “We won quite a bit so we’re very happy. The kids and the amateurs all went well, so it’s been really nice. The week really couldn’t have gone much better. It’s something you hope for.”
He continued, “For the heat, I guess it’s still best to be here! I like this show a lot. It’s quiet, the rings are nice, and they did a great job with the courses this week. The Town of Manchester is also just a nice place to be.”
Stewart came to the Vermont Summer Festival specifically for WCHR week, but plans to extend his stay next summer. Both he and his clients enjoy the show and especially value the opportunity to earn points towards WCHR Finals.
“We always work towards trying to do our best going into Capital Challenge. That show, for me, is one of my favorites of the year because of the special WCHR classes. It’s the first indoor horse show of the year for most of the horses, so I think they go their best,” Stewart commented.
The Small and Green Pony Hunter divisions were among the last to name their champions as WCHR week at the Vermont Summer Festival came to a close. Ellie Ferrigno rode her pony, Clovermeade Peekaboo Street, to the division championship title in the Green Pony Hunter division. Reserve honors went to Copperfield, owned by Catherine Black and shown by Madeline Schaefer.
Schaefer was also reserve champion in the Small Pony Hunter division with Further Lane Farm’s Rolling Stone. The championship title was awarded to Believe in Blue, owned and ridden by Nicole Boyle.
The Vermont Summer Festival continues on Tuesday, July 23, with the fourth ‘Equitation Tuesday’ of the six-week circuit.
The Vermont Summer Festival, celebrating its 20th anniversary in its current Manchester location, offers more than $750,000 in prize money, making it the richest sporting event based on purse in the state of Vermont.
The first five Saturdays of the Vermont Summer Festival feature a $30,000 Grand Prix. The $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix will be held during the sixth and final week on Saturday, August 10. The weekly $10,000 Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, is held each Thursday. The hugely popular $5,000 3’3” Hunter Derby is also held each Thursday for the first five weeks, with week six featuring the $15,000 Hunter Derby.
The Vermont Summer Festival is a proud member event of the Show Jumping Hall Of Fame, the Marshall & Sterling League, and the North American League (NAL). Please e-mail us or visit our website for more information about the Vermont Summer Festival.