Harrisburg, Pa., Oct. 20
It didn’t take Dedication long to figure out that the prizes given out with each blue ribbon were bags full of horse treats. And by the time the professional hunter divisions concluded at the Pennsylvania National, Dedication might not have needed dinner, as he’d munched his way through quite a few treats.
With Scott Stewart aboard, the elegant bay gelding collected two wins and three seconds in the first year green hunter division. The results brought him the first year green tricolor, the grand green championship and the overall grand hunter championship.
Stewart found the 6-year-old Holsteiner gelding in Europe last year for owner Glenn Senk. Dedication (Casado—Dithmarschen) hadn’t shown much, but Stewart liked his look. In fact, the plain bay gelding looked very familiar to Stewart. He looks remarkably like the now-retired Diplomacy, who Stewart rode and trained for Georgina Bloomberg. Bloomberg had a prolific junior hunter career on Diplomacy.
“He’s been really good all year long, but this is the most consistent he’s been. Usually, he’ll win one, then I’ll do something wrong,” Stewart said. “He’s really pretty green. He does it really easily, but he’s one of my greenest rides. His stride is so big, sometimes the lines would get short for him. He’s definitely one of the most athletic horses I’ve ever had. He’s perfect to ride.”
While Stewart and Dedication’s partnership in the ring is seamless, there’s another rider who contributes to the results. “I hardly ever ride him. Samantha Conroy [who works for Stewart] rides him every day, and I just get on for the shows. She’s done a great job. She’s gotten him much better broke—I just get on, jump a couple of jumps and go. She gets a lot of credit for his success,” he said.
With three wins over fences, Early Applause claimed a big win in the regular conformation division. His tricolor joined the one won by Maggie Jayne’s other champion, Summer Place, in the Pony Lane Farm tack room. Summer Place topped the second year green division.
Jayne hasn’t shown Early Applause much this year—the elegant bay warmblood has primarily been a mount in the amateur-owner classes with owner Kelsey Thatcher. But he and Jayne were right in the groove, topping the handy class with a very smooth round. “He is so scopey. I can turn really tight to a jump, and he still jumps so well; he does it easily. Everything is in slow motion with him, so he doesn’t get quick in the turns, so it looks good,” Jayne said.
Early Applause is a bit of a character—he looks quite cranky as he trots into the ring, with his ears back and teeth grinding. But as soon as he’s pointed at a jump, his ears go up and his expression brightens. “When you point him at the jump, he’s all business. He doesn’t want to be told what to do. He’s such a character, and [Kelsey and I] both appreciate that,” said Jayne.
Early Applause doesn’t jump much at home. He spends a lot of time hacking in the woods at Jayne’s farm in Elgin, Ill. “We have a beautiful bridle path through the woods at our farm. I think it’s an advantage, especially when we come here, because even if it’s spooky, our horses have seen dark corners in the woods; they’re a little more desensitized,” Jayne said.
The Pennsylvania National was the celebration of the first anniversary since the Thatchers bought Summer Place from Stewart. The gray does double duty with Jayne in the second year green classes and Maddy Thatcher in the junior hunters. “He’s been super for Maddy and I both, and we learn more and more about him at every show. He’s a lot more rideable, and he’s extremely brave as well,” Jayne said.
Sometimes Jersey Boy just doesn’t want to play, but at the Pennsylvania National, he definitely wanted to be in the game. He and Jen Alfano showed off in the high performance handy hunter class, scoring a 92 to clinch the tricolor of the division.
Alfano was also at an advantage in an earlier high performance class, when course designer Blake Alder built massive oxers. “They said the last jump was 4’6″. That course rode harder than any derby! It was fun,” said Stewart.
The size of the fences caused some chatter at the in-gate, but Alfano had a grin on her face as she walked into the ring. “The jumps were huge, and I came out of the ring and said, ‘That was so much fun!’ It’s amazing to have a horse like him. I can look in that ring at a 4’6″ oxer, and I’m not saying, ‘Oh my God!’ I’m saying, ‘Awesome!’ When you’re sitting on him, it’s fun. I loved it. He’s so scopey, and it’s easy for him. You can just gallop to the jumps,” she said.
Sandy Ferrell has just as much fun on Moshi. She rides the typey brown gelding for owner Stephanie Riggio, and the pair claimed the green conformation hunter championship. “He’s a true athlete, and he has all the characteristics of a winner. He’s beautiful, he’s got a great brain and spectacular jump, and he wants to win. My job is really just not to mess him up,” Ferrell said.
Riggio bought Moshi, a 7-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Quintus—Quilaya d’Hessy) in January. Colin Syquia had developed him from the baby green division to the green conformation ranks. “Many of us had watched him kind of grow up, because he really catches your eye when he walks into the ring. Luck was on [the Riggios’] side, and they got him. I’m just lucky enough to get the ride,” Ferrell said.