Devon, Pa.—June 4
A week ago, Evermore came center ring at the Dixon Oval to accept the grand junior hunter championship, and on amateur weekend it was his father’s turn. Empire earned the amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, and the grand amateur-owner hunter title with Becky Gochman, who also earned the leading amateur-owner hunter rider title.
Susan Baker and Q won today’s handy and the stakes classes to claim reserve.
After buying Empire, Gochman’s trainer Scott Stewart went back to Germany to check out a few of his babies, and picked out Evermore as a 2-year-old. Fast forward five years and father and son both earned Devon grand championships.
“He really didn’t want to be outdone!” said Gochman, New York City. “He said ‘OK, I’ll step up too.’ On my Facebook page this morning I put a picture of each of them jumping. They’re not exactly the same but you can tell that Empire definitely put his stamp on Evermore.”
Gochman and Empire, now a gelding, also claimed the grand amateur-owner title at Devon in 2014.
“Empire is 14 years old now so we’re treating him a little bit differently,” said Gochman. “Thank God he’s been a very sound horse all the way through, but he gets a little bit bored at [the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.)], so his year we tried to show him less. He’s been such a good horse for us for so long, we’re making a promise to him to just showing at the really special shows. That way his mind stays clearer and crisper. He seems to really enjoy coming out for the big ones.”
Gochman’s daughters Mimi and Sophie earned their own tricolors last week in the pony rings.
“There were a couple classes that I got fearful with the long bending lines,” said Becky. “I watched my kids do it this week and they did it so naturally and easily, I said I’m going to just go forward and count, and it worked. It helped to watch them do it so effortlessly—they don’t think about it as much as I do! [Empire] also knows what he’s doing so much now that in the long bending lines if I move him up a he’ll find the distance himself.”
Repeat Victory For Enough Said
For the second year in a row Stephanie Danhakl piloted Enough Said to the low amateur-owner, 18-35, and grand low amateur-owner titles. Enough Said won all three jumping classes and placed second under saddle to take the title over Vivian Yowan and Anytime.
To prepare for Devon, Danhakl, who lives in Boston but calls Pacific Palisades, Calif., home, focused on flatwork with the 10-year-old warmblood (For Pleasure—Rubia, Contender).
“Coming into this week I really wanted to work on his rideability,” said Danhakl, 29. “We worked on getting his hind end engaged. It definitely helped with the way he jumped. I think especially in the first round he really jumped brilliantly, smoothly and softly and I could let go with the reins and he went really nicely.”
Danhakl works at the Museum of Fine Arts (Mass.) and will be starting a Ph.D. program in art history at Boston University in the fall. Like Gochman, Danhakl rides with Stewart and Ken Berkley of Rivers Edge Farm in Flemington, N.J., though her recent move from Philadelphia to Boston means it’s tough to ride as much as she’d like.
“It’s a lot of travel but it’s worth it,” she said. “I love my trainers, and they do such a good job with all my horses and training me, even though it’s more to coordinate now.”
Senk Finds Time To Win At Devon
On the first day of his classes at Devon, Glen Senk was fielding eight conference calls for his job running an investment firm. Somehow in the middle of his work he still managed to find time to ride Loyalty to two blue ribbons that day, and coupled with today’s blue in the low amateur-owner, 36 and over, stakes he claimed the division championship.
“This is so much fun for me, I love my horse and I love riding,” said Senk, New York City. “The work and the horses give me balance.”
Missy Luczak-Smith and Executive topped today’s handy class to clinch the reserve title in the division.
A stone bruise kept Loyalty out of the ring much of last year, but luckily he showed well during WEF to earn enough points to qualify for Devon this year.
Like Gochman and Danhakl, Senk also trains with the Rivers Edge team. He said that barn’s domination on amateur weekend was hardly an accident.
“Scott is one of the hardest working people that I’ve ever known,” said Senk. “When I think back to my success in business I think to my earliest beginnings in the horse world, when I started riding with George [Morris.] Whnever I see him I tell him that I’ve learned more from him than anyone else. Scott has that same work ethic.
“Also, Scott has the most incredible eye for a horse,” said Senk. “I don’t think there’s anyone else in the world that has that kind of eye.”
Sexton Rebounds To Win Big At Devon
Laura Sexton hasn’t had the best year. Last June she suffered a tragedy when her jumper, Jessy du Brau, collapsed and died after a jump-off at the Ox Ridge Horse Show (Conn.).
“I can just talk about it now,” she said. “He was my unicorn of a jumper. I ended up in the hospital with a small brain bleed, but I didn’t need surgery and there literally wasn’t a bruise on my body. I think she was looking out for me from above.”
On top of that her top hunter partner of the last eight years, Zoom has been taking a break from the show ring.
But this season she’s been getting back in the groove with Set To Music, and at Devon the claimed the amateur-owner, 18-35, championship over Samantha Schaefer and Classified.
“He’s little which suits me because I’m little, but he has a huge stride and he’s so lovely to ride,” said Sexton, Greenwich, Conn. “He can be lazy, so I ride him in big spurs. He likes a soft ride, and as long as you get him going forward he’s very straightforward.”
Sexton paired up with Set To Music in September, and counts Havens Schatt, who brought him along as a young horse, as helping them mesh. Sexton rides with Bonnie and Frank Cunniffe of Whipstick Farm and squeezes in saddle time around her job running her private tutoring business.
“[Bonnie and Frank are] my family at this point, just the most amazing people,” she said. “At home we keep things pretty low key. I get to ride him pretty much every day, which is unusual for most amateurs. He’s bombproof, I can trail ride him, no problem.”
Check Ryegate for full results.
We have more photos from yesterday’s amateur classes at Devon.
The Chronicle’s Devon coverage continues all weekend with stories and photos from the amateur divisions and breeding day. Stay tuned to www.coth.com all week for coverage of the open and amateur hunters, the Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon, and so much more. Check out all the Chronicle’s online coverage of Devon. Find full results from all of Devon at Ryegate and check out full analysis of the whole show in the June 20 issue of the magazine.