The Capital Challenge is one of my very favorite horse shows. For me, a variety of factors contribute to the overall feeling of quality and excellence that this show exudes.
Even back in my pony and junior days, I always looked forward to competing against horses and riders from other parts of the country whom I had only heard about earlier in the year. It is such a treat to see all the top combinations and beautiful rounds at this show. The fact that there are only two show rings enables this luxury for exhibitors and spectators alike. Many shows these days have so many rings going at the same time that everyone has to scramble to stay on top of their own personal schedules, and there just isn’t the time to sit and watch. I know that I relish the simple opportunity to do that at Capital Challenge, especially with it being the first show of the indoor season.
There really isn’t another show that showcases and celebrates hunters in such a spectacular way, from the regular divisions to the WCHR Challenges. Each class feels every bit as important as the last. I can remember getting goose bumps watching the WCHR Pro Finals for the first time as a young pony rider, and I can honestly say that I still feel the same way, now years later and a young professional. To qualify for and compete in that class remains one of my most prominent goals.
It is truly an inspiration for me to see a group of such talented riders, all with their own style but nonetheless making each horse go beautifully in their own way. To me, it is hunter riding at its best: smooth and stylish, but also a little gutsy at the same time. Furthermore, there seems to be a sense of camaraderie associated with this final that I admire.
This year’s class included a particularly veteran group of riders, each one undeniably accomplished and successful. They all seemed so sure of themselves: competitive by nature and striving to produce the best round possible, but also rooting for the other riders and horses as well. Everyone watched and cheered for everyone else. It felt to me like they were all competing for more than a ribbon or an award, but for the sheer passion for and betterment of the sport of hunters.
Personally, this year’s Capital Challenge was a nice start to the indoor season for my horses and me. I really appreciate that this show includes the future hunter sections as a part of their schedule. It provides a great opportunity for the younger horses to experience the atmosphere of such a prestigious show. My pre-green horse handled it all so well and got some ribbons, making me confident that he is ready to move up to a bigger division next year.
My first year horse was very brave and solid. He went nicely and despite a couple of small, green mistakes, he was consistently close to the ribbons in all of his classes. You really never know how first year horses are going to handle spooky indoor arenas such as the one at Capital Challenge until you walk into that ring, and I was very proud of my horse’s attitude and demeanor. It was a confidence-building experience heading into Harrisburg and Washington.
Developing younger horses can be a bit touch-and-go at times, and it is always a nice feeling when they rise up to a new challenge.
I can’t wait to head to the next show!
Jennifer Berol Bliss had a very successful junior career, which included achievements such as earning USEF Pony Finals championships, national championships in the pony and junior hunter divisions, and top 15 placings in all the major equitation finals. She ran her own business, Harris Hill Farm, from 2007 until 2011. In September 2011, she joined Sleepy Hollow Stables in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., as a rider and trainer.