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October 23, 2011

Champion Goes From The Worst Of Times To The Best Of Times At Pennsylvania National

Kelly Champion had a rough two weeks before capturing the NAL Adult Hunter Classic title aboard All In.

Harrisburg, Pa., Oct. 22

Kelly Champion made sure to make her trip to the Pennsylvania National count, since she’s had a rough time leading up to it. “The last two weeks of my life have been a living hell, a big blur,” Champion said. So winning the NAL Adult Hunter Final on her All In was a sweet reward.

Champion had a pretty good reason to miss showing at the Capital Challenge Horse Show two weeks ago. Her husband of 15 years, Tony, hadn’t been feeling well, so he left the show to see a doctor. He was expecting to be prescribed some antibiotics for the flu, but doctors actually found a large brain tumor. Tony was rushed to surgery to remove it.

Kelly spent two weeks nursing him through recovery, but as the Pennsylvania National approached, Tony urged her to go and show. “I wasn’t going to come, but he made me!” she said. Kelly’s trainer, Robert Beck, had been keeping All In in work while she was busy, and she got to travel to Harrisburg just in time to have a lesson and show. She earned scores of 88 and 85 for the blue.

Tony came through the surgery very well and is recuperating at their home in Washington, N.J., and should be fine.

Kelly, 42, had also won the NAL Final in 2000 on her Copperfield, but had gone quite a few years without owning a horse. She leased horses and catch-rode until last fall, when she found All In at Emil Spadone’s farm. “It was time for another horse!” she said.

Kelly hopes to eventually move up to the amateur-owner divisions with All In, an 8-year-old warmblood.

He Is Invincible

Ellen Toon reprised her 2008 performance in the amateur-owner hunters, claiming the grand and amateur-owner, 36 & over championships with her Invincible.

It was an exciting result for Toon since Invincible missed the 2009 Pennsylvania National due to feeling under the weather, and then had a less than stellar year last year. “Last year, we were just in a little bit of a slump. We were having some issues,” Toon said. “We've been gradually working through them, and starting in Florida, things started getting better and better. It's been a fabulous year for him. He was amazing here.”

Toon’s husband, Jimmy, and Rodney Bross both help her with Invincible, and they helped her work through their issues. “I think it was just that I'd been riding him myself and he was getting a little bit spoiled. He wasn't doing anything awful, just spoiled brat things. Jimmy rode him some. I started riding differently, and things came around,” she said. “They're ever-changing and you have to keep changing with them. Sometimes it's for the better, and sometimes it's for the worse and you have to work through the worse to get to the better.”

Invincible’s Pennsylvania National wins came on the heels of a win in the WCHR Amateur-Owner Hunter Challenge two weeks earlier. The flashy bay gelding will now start a well-earned vacation. “He's a seasoned show horse. He gets to the horse show and he knows his job and he's very willing to do it,” Toon said.

Welcome Reward

Keri Guanciale laid claim to the amateur-owner, 18-35 title on her Thoughtful. “I knew he could do it—it was just a matter if I could!” she said.

Guanciale, 19, bought the black warmblood last spring, and campaigned him successfully in the amateur division last year and this year. For Guanciale, who trains with her father, Ben, Thoughtful is a just reward for years of catch-riding naughty ponies. “He's a horse of a lifetime. It's my payback,” she said.

Guanciale, of Clarksburg, Md., graduated from Frostburg State College (Md.) this spring with a degree in physical therapy, and decided to take a year off to concentrate on riding. The decision paid off with her tricolor, and she plans to return for physical therapy graduate work next year.

Just One Look

Winning the 3’3” amateur-owner hunter stake clinched the division championship for Tracy Scheriff-Muser. She rode her elegant black stallion Macallan to first and fourth in the other two over-fences classes.

“He's so comfortable and slow. He doesn't ever care about anything. He's just a lot of fun,” Scheriff-Muser said of Macallan, an 8-year-old Holsteiner by Carentino.

Scheriff-Muser’s trainer, Haven Schatt, found Macallan in Europe and imported him in January. “When I saw him, I just thought he was adorable and had to have him,” Scheriff-Muser said.

Schatt also shows Macallan in the first year green division. Scherrif-Muser, of Wellington, Fla., started showing him in the 3’3” amateurs this spring, and moved up to the regular amateur-owner division in July. It was too late to qualify for the Pennsylvania National at 3’6”, so she returned to the 3’3” classes for the show.

Find full results of the Pennsylvania National here. 

Read all about the Pennsylvania National here.

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