Tampa, Fla. - April 11, 2013 - Young competitors lined up along the side of the grass fields outside of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa for the $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational, presented by G&C Farm, on Saturday, April 6, 2013. The stakes were high as they showed over beautifully decorated fences, but the irony of the competition was that there were no horses in sight. The JustWorld International Horseless Horse Show has become a staple for some of the world's largest equestrian events, and the 41st edition of the American Invitational was no exception as children of all ages took their turn over the fences. All of the proceeds from the horseless horse show benefited JustWorld's mission of raising funds within the global equestrian community to help provide education, nutrition, healthcare and vocational training programs to children in impoverished communities around the world.
The JustWorld Horseless Horse Show has helped provide children with a dream-that they may one day compete on the international scale alongside their role models. On Saturday night, JustWorld Ambassador Reed Kessler rode to the pinnacle of the rankings in a heated two-horse jump-off to emerge second in the $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational. The 18-year-old has been passionate about the organization since she was 13, and attended a trip to Honduras. Her support for JustWorld has only continued to grow as she climbs to the top of the sport.
"It's important to stand back from our privileged lives at the horse show and see the bigger scheme of things. There are kids in underprivileged countries that need help," Kessler explained after receiving the reserve prize Saturday night. "I can't give them my time, but I try when I can. As one of the Professional Ambassadors, I'm proud to say, I've been involved for years."
Kessler continued, "I love those moments where even though I'm so busy, and I should be doing so much more, I can still be like, 'If I can convince one person to join, I've done a great thing,' JustWorld is great, as much as the Ambassadors and the young kids that are involved give back, the organization gives back to us. Most of the ambassadors are my age and their involvement gives them a sense of perspective on their life. It gives to the people who help the charity, just as much as it gives to the kids."
Kessler was one of the very children to partake in the horseless horse show experience when she was an adolescent. She admitted that she used to dream of the day that she would take leaps and bounds in Grand Prix classes, and represent her country abroad. Her dreams came true, and now other children aspire to do the same as they use their foot speed to navigate courses and take the top honors.
Winner of the Low Jumpers, Kayla Bartlan described, "I did the JustWorld Horseless Horse Show for the last couple of years. One year I was Champion, and I also picked up the reserve championship. I love participating in competitions like this, and then having the opportunity to watch such a major competition right after. It's a great organization, I'm happy to help, and it's fun."
The JustWorld International Horseless Horse Show truly embraced the level of international competition on Saturday. Canadian Phillip Rozon acted as the jumper judge, while British announcer Steven Wilde provided commentary for each of the rounds.
"I just came in through Jessica Newman, I have announced for multiple shows which they are tied into, and it became a natural thing to announce for the American Invitational," Wilde stated. "It was a good fun day, and it expands into so many nations. They are worldwide. I think that the volunteers and the organization are so positive about the change they are making, and the work they do. There are so many top riders and supporters involved, it is fantastic to see how much it has grown and how many people volunteer their time."
As the charity partner for the $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational, top international riders had to master the first round course on the green stadium field, as well as tackle the JustWorld International fence.
Kessler concluded, "It is such a pleasure to be able to walk the course and know that I am part of an organization that gives back in so many ways. I looked at that vertical while I was out there, and aside from not wanting to knock it down, I couldn't help but smile because I am part of something so much larger."
Kessler joined fellow Professional Show Jumping Ambassadors Laura Kraut and Candice King on Saturday night as they competed for the coveted win. Kraut piloted Cedric to the sixth place finish, while King rode Kismet 50 to the tenth place finish.
Founded in 2003 by Jessica Newman, JustWorld International is a not-for-profit, humanitarian organization, which funds life-changing nutrition, health and hygiene, education, as well as leadership and cultural development programs for impoverished children in Cambodia, Honduras and Guatemala. There are currently more than 500 Rider and Technical Official Ambassadors representing 40 different countries, whose efforts to support JustWorld's projects have raised in excess of $6 million to date. For more information on JustWorld, please visit www.justworldinternational.org.