Meet Your Devon Junior Weekend Hunter Champions

May 27, 2017 - 10:25 PM

Devon, Pa.—May 27

Through the hustle and bustle of the Devon Horse Show & Country Fair grounds, ponies and horses alike capped their weekends with tricolors. Here are the junior and pony riders that bested the best this year where champions meet.

Sophie Gochman and Garfield. Photo by Kimberly Loushin

Sophie Gochman and Garfield—Large Junior Hunter, 15 & Under

Between the crowds, the lemon sticks, and the flashy pony hunt teams, Devon always held a special place in Sophie Gochman’s heart. This year, Gochman added yet another reason to love Devon: overall grand champion junior hunter with her family’s Garfield.

In her first Devon since transitioning to the junior hunters, Gochman relied on the trusted champion to pilot her around the Dixon Oval, earning the younger large junior honors and overall large junior honors as well.

“With Garfield, I’m always very confident,” she said. “I usually know when we mess up it’s my fault. And he’s just been everywhere so you always know he’s going to be on his game.

“I did ponies for 13 years, so it was fun to try something new.”

Emma Kurtz and Dedication. Photo by Kimberly Loushin

Emma Kurtz and Widsom—Small Junior Hunter, 16-17; Kurtz and Dedication—Large Junior Hunter, 16-17

Emma Kurtz isn’t a stranger to entering the Dixon Oval with a tricolor on her horse’s brow band and a smile on her face. And this year was no different. She collected the small junior hunter, 16-17, championship ribbon with Grace Debney’s Wisdom, and made a sweep of the large junior hunter, 16-17, with Betsee Parker’s Dedication and Popish Farms, LLC’s Due West.

“It’s really, really nice especially with different horses,” said the 16-year-old. “Due West and Dedication are newer to me, so it’s really cool. This is my first big show on both of them, so it’s nice that they came into this atmosphere, even though they’re been there, done that, it’s nice that they came here and were perfect.”

Emma Kurtz and Wisdom

To top off her 2017 Devon experience she earned the Best Child Rider on a Horse award from the judges, and Dedication received the Angelo Award—given to the horse that the judges feel exemplifies the classic hunter horse. This was Dedication’s first year back at Devon since 2013, when he and Scott Stewart earned the championship in the high performance working hunter division.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Kurtz. “It’s a little nerve-wracking though because you know that you’re walking in on a really nice horse that’s won a lot, so you want him to live up to his name. He does it for himself.”

Mimi Gochman and Evermore. Photo by Kimberly Loushin

Mimi Gochman and Evermore—Small Junior Hunter, 15 & Under

Last year, Evermore captured the grand junior hunter championship with Emma Kurtz. And this year he walked away with yet another tricolor—but this time with his new partner in crime, Mimi Gochman. In her first year focusing on the horses—with no calls from the pony ring to distract her, Mimi earned top honors in the younger small junior hunters.

“Originally I rode him when he was young and [my trainers Scott Stewart and Ken Berkley] liked me on him,” said Mimi. “But I was young for him, and he was young—and I wasn’t the best rider to teach him how to really do the junior hunters correctly.”

Even though both are underway learning the ways of the junior hunter ring together, Mimi said, “I can rely on him to be a rock horse for me.”

Alexa Lignelli and iParty. Photo by Laura Lemon

Alexa Lignelli and iParty—Small Pony Hunter

When you go through a streak of winning, there’s always the fear of it ending. And Lignelli was on a streak as she headed to Devon, Pa.

“We had a great Harrisburg, so we came here, and I was actually pretty nervous because she’s been having a great year. I was like ‘Oh my god,’ ” said Lignelli’s trainer Bill Schaub. “Everyone expects you to do well and when you don’t do well they’re like ‘What happened?’ ”

But those fears were quelled when Lignelli captured the small pony champion and reserve champion honors on iParty and Rollingwoods Knee Deep. To top off her weekend, she earned Grand Pony Hunter champion honors and collected the Best Child Rider on a Pony award.

“[I felt] very confident because I came here last year, and we just wanted to get used to the ring, and then I knew this year,” said the 10-year-old.

Stella Wasserman and Spellbound. Photo by Laura Lemon

Stella Wasserman and Spellbound—Large Pony Hunter

Stella Wasserman made the odds in her favor this year at Devon. With one medium pony and two large ponies, she used each of her rides as learning experience—fixing mistakes here and there, if there were any, from one pony to the next. Her ring time paid off with her new mount Spellbound.

“Spelly” and Wasserman, from Beverly Hills, Calif., united last year at the Washington International Horse Show (D.C.). And with her first Devon Horse Show on him, Wasserman felt the butterflies fluttering a little.

“They’re very opposite,” she said, in reference to her two large ponies. “So going from one to the other was a bit difficult. It was fun. It was fun having two chances and both of them were good.”

Augusta Iwasaki and Unforgettable. Photo by Laura Lemon

Augusta Iwasaki and Unforgettable—Medium Pony Hunter

At any given moment, you would hear Augusta Iwasaki’s name called through the loud speaker. She swooped in between the Dixon Oval to the Gold Cup Ring like a flying trapeze with the greatest of ease—collecting the medium pony hunter tricolors with Forget Me Not Farm’s Unforgettable along the way.

With Unforgettable’s normal partner away in Sweden, Forget Me Not Farm’s Stephanie Mazer looked to Iwasaki to pilot the 8-year-old chestnut gelding.

“[Iwasaki] actually showed him here last year when he was a lot greener,” said Mazer. “His owner is 10. She hadn’t quite moved up to the mediums last year. It was sad that she had to be in Sweden, but Augusta did an amazing job.

“He won the under saddle here last year,” she continued. “He’s had a good career so far, but now he’s 8-years-old and finally grown up.”

And catching Iwasaki as she motored from the junior land back to pony world for hunt teams, I wondered if she felt a little short of breath. “I’m used to it,” she said simply.

See full results here.

To see all of the Chronicle’s coverage from the Devon Horse Show, click here. And make sure to read the June 19 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse for more in-depth coverage from Devon.

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