Devon, Pa.—May 31
You can forgive Becky Gochman for wiping away a few tears during the amateur-owner hunter awards presentations. Her partner for many major hunter wins, including the 2012 Devon amateur-owner championship, Sambalino, died of colic recently. So when her mount Empire earned the amateur-owner, 36 and over, hunter and grand amateur-owner hunter titles, as well as a new award she donated in Sambalino’s honor she felt incredibly moved.
“Today of course was probably my most meaningful victory ever because of losing Sambalino, who was my best friend and greatest dance partner ever, a month ago,” said Gochman.
Gochman donated a perpetual trophy, named the Sambalino Trophy, to be awarded to the hunter that, in the opinion of the judges, best exemplifies the classic hunter horse in movement, style and presence.
“I just feel like Sambalino was definitely up there and looking down on us, and that felt really, really good,” said Gochman, who also earned the leading amateur-owner hunter rider title.
“Empire has just really stepped up,” she continued. “I’ve had him a long time—I’m not sure how many years now, but it took me a while to really bond with him. We made the hard decision to geld him at the end of Florida and he’s softened up; he’s easier for me to ride.”
During the awards ceremony Gochman, New York City, handed Empire’s blue ribbon from the amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, stakes class he earned with a score of 92 to a young onlooker, and distributed several of the champion rosettes she was awarded as well.
“I remember coming here when I was 6 years old when I didn’t have a horse,” she said. “It was magic to me. I think it was the start of something, and I’ll never forget feeling the magic when I was little. So I like to watch the little kids on the side of the ring too.”
Katie Robinson rode Amarillo to the reserve amateur-owner hunter, 36 and over, title.
A Devon Breakthrough
Kimberly Maloomian has been coming to Devon since 2009, but she’s never considered herself a championship contender.
“We’ve gotten ribbons in almost all the classes, but we’ve never been good enough to be first or second,” said Maloomian, Needham, Mass. “It was kind of like, ‘Yes, we got into Devon, let’s just go enjoy.’ ”
But this year she and Russian Gold won two over fences class and took fourth under saddle to earn the low amateur-owner, 18-35, and the grand low amateur-owner titles. Whisper and Taylor Willever claimed reserve.
“We’ve developed into a team,” she said. “I used to go pet him and he’d head butt me and say, ‘Get away!’ Now he looks for me. We trust each other a lot more. Before I’d ask him to move up and say ‘I don’t think you know what you’re doing,’ but now he’s like ‘O.K., yeah, you’re fine.’ ”
Maloomian had a little extra luck at Devon too. Her horse had a banana charm in his braids, a habit they started at Pennsylvania National last year and that they think tends to bring about a good day. That's to honor that horse's favorite snack.
“I forgot it at Old Salem and it was bad,” said Maloomian, who works fulltime as a dietician at Mirium Hospital (Mass.).
A Long Time Coming
Kelsey Thatcher’s always known that Fredrick was a special mount. But this year at Devon marked the first time he was able to really showcase that talent at a high profile event.
“Usually when we get to the bigger shows he gets spookier because of the crowds or the jumbotrons,” said Thatcher. “It’s been a very frustrating road because he’s so nice. He’ll spook to the first fence sometimes, and that’s it. It’s really cool that he finally took a deep breath at this show. It’s just been getting him in the ring and letting him take a breath. We always do a grand entrance and cruise around and you can literally feel him take a breath. He did that this past weekend too. He’s constantly improving.”
Thatcher earned the amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, title after riding the chestnut to a first and two seconds over fences, as well as winning the under-saddle. They edged out Tenerife and Noel Fauntleroy who took reserve.
Thatcher nominally calls Bluffdale, Utah, home, but she’s just walked for her graduation from the University of Georgia, where she helped their varsity equestrian team win at NCAA Nationals this year. She still has to complete her student teaching requirement before she’s technically done with school, and then she plans to tutor a bit while decided exactly what path to take with her degree in early childhood education.
Portela Pushes Out Pain To Win
When Daryl Portela, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., woke up on the first day of her low amateur-owner, 36 and over, classes, she knew something was off. She’s managed chronic back issues for years, and she could tell a disc had slipped.
But she enlisted a friend to help her with hot compresses, cold packs and kinesiology tape, and managed to ride Winner to that horse’s third consecutive division title. Jane Fraze and Academy Award claimed the reserve championship.
“If it was any other show, I wouldn’t have gone, but we’re at Devon!” said Portela, who credited trainer Jimmy Torano for getting Winner ready for the ring when she couldn’t. “I can’t take a lot of painkillers and medications, but I’ve taken so much Aleve I’m shaky. My back felt better today though.”