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Babylon Gets His Pennsylvania National Grand Championship

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Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 13

Devon. Washington International. Capital Challenge. The National. Adequan USEF Junior Hunter Finals—East. Babylon and Ariana Marnell have been champion in the small junior hunters at every major horse show around, save one. That is, until today.

Babylon topped all three of his jumping classes with scores that only dipped to 92 and earned third in the under saddle to claim his first small junior hunter, 16-17, championship at the Pennsylvania National and the grand junior hunter championship. Eleanor Rudnicki and Knowingly captured the reserve small junior, 16-17, title.

Babylon and Ariana Marnell. Mollie Bailey Photos

“Now he’s been grand at all four indoors,” said Marnell, 17. “So I’m just really proud of him. I’m happy that I rode well and I could do that for him, because I think he really deserves to win every class he goes in.”

This is Marnell’s second year riding the Oldenburg gelding by Crumbie. While she lives in Las Vegas, “Crumbles” lives with John French in Wellington, Florida.

Babylon and Ariana Marnell.

“He definitely goes with some pace, and then you get there and give him his head and neck,” she said. “[He likes] a little bit of a gap. We were joking this week since John really taught him from the beginning he doesn’t really know how to miss or chip or any or that. You find a good one and you find it on the gap because you can’t really chip—he doesn’t know how because John never misses.”

Marnell opted not to do the $10,000 3’6” Junior Hunter Winners Stake—won by Maddie Tosh and Twain—because she wanted to give her mounts a break.

“Between my last round and the [championship] photos he went back and slept for like an hour,” she said. “Then he rolled over and started eating on the other side. It was the right decision [not to do the stake], and he was even kind of over the awards by the end.

Knowingly and Eleanor Rudnicki.

“He’s still a young horse, he’s only 8,” she continued. “I really think the only way you can show appreciation with horses is by being nice to them,” she added. “That’s how I try to let them know. I’m very thankful and thank you and just be nice and let them be done when they’re good. You can’t tell him ‘You were amazing.’ So I try to give him a lot of food and pet him and tell him thank you and let him sleep.”

Next up for Crumbles? He’s heading to Upper Marlboro, Maryland, to compete at the Washington International and try to repeat last year’s championship with Marnell. The added pressure of having a well-known mount—he just won the WCHR Pro Challenge with French at Capital Challenge (Maryland) for the third year in a row and last year the Chronicle honored him as their show hunter and overall horse of the year in 2022—isn’t lost on Marnell.

“It was really, really difficult at first and it still is a little bit, but we’ve both kind of gotten over it and now it’s exciting,” she said. “I like walking up to the gate and seeing a bunch of people take their phones out. I think it’s exciting that he gets that much attention. He really deserves it. It’s good there’s a lot of pressure with him.

“It used to be harder for me and I used to have to really work on it more. I’ve gotten really comfortable and confident and I think preparation is the most important part for that. With such a good coach who is so seasoned at these things, any preparation we do is correct and I know I’m prepared and the horse is prepared and I think ‘OK now it’s time to go showcase everything we know.’ ”

A Short Partnership Doesn’t Stop Rinehart

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Rinehart partnered with Bond about three months ago, and it’s already paying off. The pair won all three over fences classes in the 3’3” small junior hunter, 15 and under, division in Harrisburg and the grand 3’3” junior hunter title over Lesly Moore and Earnest.

“Going in, I was a little nervous, but after my first round I relaxed a bit and it was a lot of fun,” said the 13-year-old.

Elizabeth Rinehart and Bond.

Rinehart trains with her parents, Richard and Catherine Rinehart, out of Carmel, Indiana.

“It’s fun training with my parents,” she said. “It’s different sometimes because, well, they’re my parents. It can get a little stressful, but it usually works out.”

Lizzie is already enjoying her time spent in the show ring with Bond, who she describes as a professional.

“Bond is super fun especially when he’s focused on showing and in gear,” she said. “He likes showing, and I think he likes winning.”

And it’s true: Bond, an 11-year-old warmblood gelding, won the small junior hunter, 16-17, championship at the Pennsylvania National last year with Augusta Iwasaki in the irons. And he earned plenty of success before that with Isha Swani.

“He’s kind of like a pony,” said Lizzie. “He has opinions about everything. But once you get along with him, he’s really sweet.”

While Bond and Rinehart are on the waitlist for Washington International (Maryland) and the National (Kentucky), she is incredibly pleased with her results in Pennsylvania.

“It’s my second time at Harrisburg,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. The rings are really nice and the experience here is really cool—and I like seeing all my friends.”

The Comeback Kid

Two years ago, Vivian Palmer wasn’t sure if she would ride her long-time mount, Central Park, ever again. The gelding had a non-cancerous tumor blocking his intestines, causing him to colic,  necessitating an eight-hour life-saving surgery.

“They told us when we got [to the clinic] that he would’ve died within 24 hours if we hadn’t gotten him to hospital that quickly,” said Palmer, 18. “They weren’t sure if he was going to make it through the surgery, so I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to ride him again.”

Central Park and Vivian Palmer.

But ride him, she did. Palmer and “Parker,” 16, topped the 3’3” small junior hunter, 16-17, division at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, clinching the tricolor with an over fences win on the division’s final day. Sophia Masnikoff and Heartdancer H claimed reserve.

“I’ve had Parker for three and a half years now,” she said. “I’ve always had a really great relationship with him. It’s really special to have him back here and doing so well again.”

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Palmer, a native of Radnor, Pennsylvania, has trained with Jonathan Martin and Hunt Hill Farm for eight years, and competed in the junior hunters for four years. Palmer and Martin had a concrete plan coming into the division’s final day of competition.

Heartdancer H and Sophia Masnikoff.

“I wanted to make sure I got a forward canter to the first jump and stay out so I could see it really well,” she said. “The bending line and the final line were super forward, so I wanted to stay really far out, kept the balance up, kept his head up, and got him down it in a forward canter.”

This year marks Palmer’s third time competing at The Pennsylvania National. “I’ve never won something this big before,” she said. “It’s really special. And it’s nice that [the Farm Complex] is only two hours away. It’s kind of in our backyard-ish compared to how far other people are having to travel for it, so we’re very lucky.”

After her win here in Harrisburg, Palmer is setting her sights on the upcoming weeks. “I’m not doing anything else here, just preparing for Washington. It’s just really exciting to have this happen for my last junior year, my last year in this division.”

Mercer Scores Big With Primrose

As Katherine “Pippa” Mercer put it, “I think Harrisburg likes me.”

The 12-year-old only started the junior hunters about five months ago, but she has quickly taken to the division, earning champion with Primrose in the 3’3” large junior hunter, 15 and under, division at the Pennsylvania National. First And Goal and Jessica Gulden claimed reserve.

Mercer, of Wellington, Florida, won a class on Thursday, but had low expectations regarding the championship.

Primrose and Pippa Mercer.

“Going into today, I wasn’t expecting anything, so I just rode it normally,” she said. “I approached it like a regular hunter course. I didn’t put pressure on myself, so it worked out better.”

Better is an understatement. In the over fences class on Friday, Mercer earned a 92 on the Frog Pond Stables entry, Mercer’s highest earned score to date.

“Primrose is really cool,” Mercer said. “Her jump is amazing—it’s a little hard to sit. I’ve ridden her for nine months now, so I’ve kind of gotten the hang of how to make her jump the best.”

While Primrose is a complete professional in the show ring, she has her own quirks that she exhibits at home.

First And Goal and Jessica Gulden.

“Like all horses, Primrose is unique,” Mercer said. “She has her own little things. She has to chew on something at all times—normally, my glove.”

Mercer, who trains with Savannah Talcott and Ali Sweetnam, will compete in the medium and large pony hunters on Saturday.

“Riding is the only sport I’m not hopeless at,” said Mercer. “I really love the sport, and I love riding here [at Harrisburg]. I like how it’s all indoors, so I don’t overheat. It’s a great venue.”

A Winning Catch Ride

Schuyler Dayner knew coming into the final day of the 3’3” large junior hunter, 16-17, division that she and Apanage were in a good spot.

“I kind of knew I was in a position to be champion, so I wanted to have a good round and just stay in the ribbons,” said the 17-year-old from Odessa, Florida.

Apanage and Schuyler Dayner.

She did just that, riding to a red ribbon to secure the division championship over Grace Shipman and Calamanzo. Dayner also earned the 3’3” junior hunter sportsmanship award.

Dayner just met the 10-year-old Swedish warmblood, owned by Chloe Canter, two days ago. “Sam [Schaefer] called me earlier this week and asked if I’d be able to show him,” she said. “Chloe is showing him next week at Washington, so [Schaefer] wanted him to go around the ring and have a good experience before next week.”

Grace Shipman and Calamanzo.

Dayner is no stranger to impromptu catch rides; as the daughter of trainer Heather Dayner, she has catch ridden all her life. Schuyler also trains with Don Stewart of Don Stewart Stables, which has only increased her chance to show a plethora of different horses.

Schuyler has seen Apange go in the junior hunters with other riders, but this is the first week she has ridden him.

“He has a super great canter, he has a great jump, and he’s a very confident ride. He’s a lot of fun,” she said.

Schuyler began competing at The Pennsylvania National four years ago, when the show was held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (North Carolina), and she’s been back every year since. Schuyler is also competing in the Dover Saddlery/USEF Medal Finals on Sunday, where she’ll catch ride yet again. Her attitude is just as nonchalant as it was heading into the junior hunter championship.

“I don’t know what horse I’m competing yet, but we will find out,” she quipped.

Ever So Often Is Ever So Great

While Ever So Often, or “Snooze,” as she’s known around Elvenstar Stables, can typically be found living up to her name taking naps in her stall, she did no such thing when she stepped into the Harrisburg Coliseum this week at The Pennsylvania National Horse Show. Piloted by Paige Walkenbach of Paradise Valley, Arizona, Snooze kept it consistent over two days of showing to capture the small junior hunter, 15 and under, championship over Evermore and Violet Tatum.

This week marked the 9-year-old mare’s first show in the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, but the atmosphere did not faze her.

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Ever So Often and Paige Walkenbach.

“She won the hack and was consistent in all the jumping rounds,” 16-year-old Walkenbach said. “Yesterday, she was covered in shavings, lying down in her stall. She’s so chill.”

Walkenbach has competed with Snooze in the junior hunters for about a year.

“I’m still getting to know her jumping the 3’6″, so I just wanted to come in and give her a good ride and give her confidence around the course.”

Evermore and Violet Tatum.

Despite Snooze’s appreciation for a good cat nap, she knows how to turn it on in the show ring.

“She has a huge stride and you feel like you’re floating because she’s such a nice mover. She’s really scopey over the jumps, too, which is helpful. She’s so perfect. I just love her.”

Walkenbach was especially grateful to compete Snooze at Harrisburg. “It’s super cool to go through the tunnel into the ring. We feel special as riders. The horses feel special. It makes everyone feel special, and that’s super cool. It’s been a long year, but I’m super grateful.”

Drumroll Dominates in the Large Junior Hunters

Caroline Signorino and Drumroll have been crowned champion in the junior hunters this year exactly three times. Granted, the 18-year-old from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, has only shown the 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding three times. The pair was champion at a show in Traverse City, Michigan, champion last week at Capital Challenge; and have now added the large junior hunter, 16-17, Pennsylvania National Horse Show division championship to their resume.

Maddie Tosh and Twain claimed the reserve title.

Drumroll and Caroline Signorino.

“Drumroll is a newer horse for me. We purchased him after Devon this year,” said Signorino. “He’s different from my other horses. He has so much stride and he really tries so hard over every jump. I never have to worry about getting down the lines or getting over the jumps with him.”

Despite his “silly” attitude in the barn, “Doug” is no stranger to success in the hunter ring. He was second overall in the Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Championship with Signorino’s trainer, Geoffrey Hesslink, over the summer.

Twain and Maddie Tosh.

“I was just hoping for a smooth ride. I knew if I didn’t interfere with him, he would do the rest and it would work out.”

And work out it did. The pair won two over fences and were second in the third over fences as well as the under saddle.

“This week was really special for me,” Signorino said. “I’ve had so many experiences and successes with the ponies here. I was champion in the medium pony hunters some years ago. When I come here, I remember that, and I was able to channel that today.”

Because Signorino and Doug have only shown a handful of times together, this is their final show this fall, though Hesslink will compete with Doug throughout the remainder of the fall season.

“This is a really great note to end on this year,” said Signorino. “I’m very thankful.”

A “Propp-er” Ending for Arabesque and Clara Propp

If there is one word 16-year-old Clara Propp would use to describe winning the large junior hunter, 15 and under, championship over Rivers Edge’s Dialouet and Vivian Golden at The Pennsylvania National Horse Show, it’s “special.”

While she and 10-year-old Arabesque are more than familiar with leading the victory gallop this win tastes slightly bittersweet.

“This year is going to be our last year together in the juniors,” said the New York City native. “I just know it’s time. She’s really done everything for me and I couldn’t ask more of her. I’m happy we started [indoors season] this way.”

The pair has been grand champion the past two years at Adequan/USEF Junior Hunter Finals—East (Michigan), along with handfuls of other tricolors from Devon, the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida), and The Pennsylvania National Horse Show.

“She’s incredible, and she has the results to prove it,” said Propp. “She never lets me down. I have to do my job because she is always doing hers.

“We’re just trying to have a good, consistent year,” she added. “We don’t jump much at home, so we do a lot of flatwork. We want to save her.”

Beyond a light schedule at home, Arabesque is also rewarded with lots of attention.

“Right now, she is super excited because we have been feeding her treats all week at the in-gate, so she is being greedy and spoiled. She is kind of like a queen, she wants her personal space. You can’t kiss her on the nose at all—she’ll literally dodge you.”

Though this is the pair’s last year in the junior hunters, Propp will still compete with the mare.

“I think I’m going to start doing International Derbies with her. I think she wants to see something new. It would be something new for us both. There is no pressure, it’s my first time doing those and I think she would have a blast doing it.”

Find full results here. Check out all the Chronicle’s coverage from the Pennsylvania National here. Check out the Oct. 30 issue of the Chronicle of the Horse magazine for analysis from the competition.

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