Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 18
The last time Stephanie Danhakl walked into the ring at an indoor final to receive a tricolor was when she was a junior. So when the 27-year-old piloted Golden Rule to three blue ribbons in the 3’6″ amateur-owner, 18-35, hunter championship on her way to the amateur-owner grand hunter championship at the Pennsylvania National, she was beside herself.
“It’s so exciting and I’m still kind of in disbelief,” she said. “I’d never been champion [here], so it’s just unbelievable to be here and be champion.”
Danhakl took the ride on the Oldenburg gelding seven months ago when her trainer, Scott Stewart, asked her to ride the horse for a prospective sale video at his Rivers Edge Farm in Flemington, N.J.
Stewart had purchased “Dreamy” off a video and competed him in the high performance hunters at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) before he offered the chestnut gelding up for sale and the match with Danhakl became clear. “We had a great partnership from the start,” she said.
“He’s been champion almost every time I’ve shown him this year,” said Danhakl, who also took home the championship yesterday in the 3’3″ amateur-owners on Enough Said.
“He’s such an unbelievable horse; he gives me so much confidence. Sometimes I joke that I try try to make a mistake and he won’t let me,” she added with a laugh. “I’ll try to leave out a stride and he’ll say, ‘No!’ And he’s just perfect. I’m so lucky to have him.”
Though Danhakl has hit it off with the 10-year-old ex-jumper from Germany, there are a few challenges to navigate.
“He has such a big stride that I’m always trying to manage his stride,” Danhakl said. “So we work on collecting on the ends of the ring. He can also be a little bit spooky which I think makes him jump really well and make a big effort. He usually needs to be ridden in the ring every morning. Also, we don’t like to give him a lot of time off. My other horses—we’ll give them a week off here and there, but with him, because he’s so big, he needs to keep moving. So we don’t work him very hard, but he always just needs to be out and moving because he’s so large.”
Danhakl took a break from riding while completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, then worked for a stint at the Museum of New York City before heading back to UPenn for grad school. She’s midway through her post-grad art history program, focused on her passion—Reconstruction-era America—and hopes to become a museum curator while keeping up her equestrian career.
Airport 48 Flies To The Top
You couldn’t wipe the smile off of John Ingram’s face if you wanted to—he had a good reason to be smiling. He and Airport 48, a horse he co-owns with his wife Stephanie Ingram, left Harrisburg with a few more ribbons to their name.
The pair took top honors in the 3’6” amateur-owner, 36 and over, division to claim the championship and earned the EMO Agency AO Hunter High Five Award for their top score in the handy round.
“Airport” started his career as a jumper and the Ingram’s purchased him as an equitation mount for their daughter Martha, 17, this winter in Florida. “But she’s gone another direction so he fell to me, and boy, am I happy to have him!” John said.
Airport made his hunter debut with Hayley Barnhill in April of this year and quickly progressed in the professional hunters. With Barnhill in the irons, he picked up a second place in the USHJA International Hunter Derby at Devon (Pa.) and competed at the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships (Ky.) in August.
He’s seen similar success with John in the tack, winning championships at the Kentucky National and Capital Challenge (Md.).
“He’s just a fantastically versatile horse,” he said. “I love riding him and feel super confident, even when I lose my stirrups, which I did in the stake class. That was a little extra excitement that I wasn’t counting on.”
And what did the Holsteiner gelding think of that extra excitement? “He didn’t seem to care; I was caring a lot more,” John joked. “I was going, ‘Oh, where are you stirrup? Come back, please!”
John’s been riding since he was a young child. His aunt, Alice Hooker, took them to horse shows and his uncle Henry Hooker was a master of foxhounds, so he had plenty of experiences showing and hunting his pony in all kinds of conditions.
He played polo for 17 years, something he said has made it difficult for him to keep his leg in place. “[My trainer, Tom Wright,] finally got my leg to stop swinging,” he joked.
These days, John does both the hunters and the jumpers and enjoys sharing with his horse-oriented wife and daughter. But today was John’s day to shine—Martha was on site to root on her father while Stephanie was at home in Franklin, Tenn., keeping a close eye on the live feed by USEFnetwork.com.
He’s been to Harrisburg a couple of times to show himself, but for him, the venue isn’t what’s important.
“If you have a nice horse and a nice go, whatever the venue, it just feels great,” he said. “I enjoy the jumpers and I enjoy the hunters. It’s just really satisfying to have this success.”
To read more about the winners at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, check out the October 27 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse print magazine.