Saturday, Sep. 23, 2023

Duchanin Leaves Alaska On A High Note

The college-bound rider triumphs in the hunter and equitation realms at the Alaska Hunter/Jumper Association Horse Show.



The college-bound rider triumphs in the hunter and equitation realms at the Alaska Hunter/Jumper Association Horse Show.

The sun peeked out over the surrounding Chugiak and Talkeetna mountain ranges for one of the first times all weekend as Jamie Duchanin dismounted after winning the Alaska State Horseshows Medal Final.

It may have been an omen of good things to come for the 18-year-old from Anchorage, who is entering New Mexico State University as a freshman. Just hours after the 35th Annual Alaska Hunter/Jumper Association Inc. Horse Show, held Aug. 13-16 at the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer, Duchanin was scheduled to make an arduous, three-segment plane trip to NMSU in Las Cruces, where she intends to try out for the varsity equestrian team later this fall.

“My feelings are bittersweet right now,” Duchanin admitted, “because the ASH Medal victory feels really good, but I’m also saying goodbye to my friends here. But I guess I’m going out with a bang, right?”

There were emotional hugs and tears all around as Duchanin held court amid a crowd of well-wishers at the end of the medal final class, which she won aboard Docs A Dempsey Two, a Quarter Horse owned by Michelle Barr.

Duchanin and “Dempsey” also earned the junior hunter championship, and Duchanin won reserve in the equitation, 14-17, division.

Duchanin’s exit from Alaska was preceded by a suspenseful buildup in the ASH Medal Final, a prestigious statewide competition.

The first round of the course, designed by John Manning of Massachusetts (who also served as sole judge and course designer for the entire show), included one bending line, one triple (a two-stride to a one-stride), a one-stride in-and-out, and a long gallop to a single diagonal oxer. Following a flat phase, four riders were called back for the work-off, which called for a counter-canter to the diagonal oxer, followed by a halt, then a left turn to a low vertical trot fence, ending with cantering a single oxer on the rail.

For the final phase, Manning asked his two top-scoring riders—Duchanin on Dempsey and Alexandra Mason on her horse Tiamo—to swap mounts and repeat the test. Neither of the riders, who train at separate barns, had ridden each other’s horses before, but each pulled off an admirable trip. Earlier in the show, Mason had defeated Duchanin for the equitation, 14-17, championship.

“Switching horses was the hardest part of the whole medal event,” Duchanin said. “That and overcoming my anxiety, which I had to keep under control so I could think through the course and test. In the end, I’d say that trading horses was the most challenging aspect of the day, but it was also the most exciting. I really had fun.”

For her success this season, Duchanin credited the versatile, 16.1-hand Dempsey, whom she’s been leasing since January, and who also competes in the jumpers (level 0 and level 1) with owner Barr.

“Dempsey can get strong sometimes,” Duchanin said, “but he’s an honest, good boy, and he’s very forgiving. If he likes you, he’ll do pretty much anything you ask.”


“Jamie’s just a fabulous rider,” effused Duchanin’s trainer, Jaimie Thurman, of Diamond H Ranch in Anchorage. “She gets on a lot of different horses all the time, and she works very well under pressure. Jamie spends hours practicing, has classic equitation, and tends to come through in the heat of the moment. She definitely proved that today.”

Grace Under Pressure

Thurman also trains 14-year-old Kari Hancock of Anchorage, winner of the local Forever Young Farm Mini Medal Final, which includes fences up to 2’9″, as opposed to a 3’3″ maximum in the ASH Medal.

Hancock piloted her horse Save The Date to first place in the FYF Medal, as well as championships in children’s hunter and the equitation, 13 and under, division.

In the FYF Medal jumping phase, Hancock had the unenviable position of going into the ring immediately following a rather serious crash of another horse and rider. But the ninth-grader credited Thurman for helping her and her fellow Diamond H riders maintain their focus.

“Jaimie had us walk away and just kind of re-group,” Hancock explained, “to think about our own rounds and what we were going to do.”

“Kari went right into the ring and didn’t let it faze her at all,” Thurman marveled.

And “Nick” came through for Hancock, despite some mild nerves on his rider’s part.

“I thought the in-and-out was a little tough, because my horse isn’t always the best at those,” Hancock said, also noting that she found the tight rollbacks and end fences challenging as well. “But I really liked the flat test; that’s always my favorite.”

Hancock’s goal is to compete in the 2010 ASH Medal and to possibly step up to junior hunters as well. She acquired Nick, a 16.2-hand, 9-year-old Thoroughbred, in 2006 from Colorado.

“When I first got him, he was very green and high-strung,” Hancock recalled. “We pretty much had to train him to behave and jump nicely—not so big. We had to work on lead changes and convincing him to jump anything I pointed him at.”

These days, Hancock continued, “He’s lazy and needs leg, but he also has a lot of energy. If you ask him for too much, he’ll give it to you! But he’s very sweet and will do just about anything for me. He bails me out a lot, and he seems to be a one-girl horse.”


“Kari has a major dedication to her sometimes difficult horse,” Thurman said. “She’s the only reason that this horse goes as well as he does. Kari is the epitome of the perfect student—she works extremely hard and wants to do everything perfectly. She’s a joy to teach.”

Hancock also competes on Nick in level 0 jumpers, and transitioning from the hunter ring to the jumper ring at a single show is a feat the pair literally takes right in stride.

“In hunters, we concentrate on getting the strides and keeping a steady pace,” she said. “But in the jumpers, I just let him have fun and gallop the courses.”

Jumping For Joy

Joy Ludy was ecstatic with her weekend’s results, especially since it marked the first show in two years of ownership at which she and her 15-year-old Holsteiner-Thoroughbred cross, Conrad, earned a championship.

Ludy scored the adult amateur hunter and adult equitation tricolors and also won the Robertson Hunter Derby, a modified version (2’9″ maximum) of The Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derbies held at numerous major horse shows in the lower 48.

“I’ve had to get over some fears I’ve had, but everything came together this summer,” said Ludy, 59. “I’ve come to trust Conrad over time. I’ve had several really nice horses [during a 30-year span of riding on and off], but he’s the best one I’ve ever owned, even though he doesn’t have the most talent.”

Ludy said the biggest challenge of riding Conrad has been adjusting to his short stride—a significant trait, despite the gelding’s height of 16.1 hands.

“I’m pretty good at getting the strides from him now,” said Ludy, a resident of Palmer who teaches at a juvenile detention center. “I have to go faster on course, but not make it too rushy. Of course, it’s an ongoing process—I’m always striving to get him to be the best he can be.”

Ludy rides with Jenny Rousey-Dick, a trainer at Sindorf Equestrian Centre in the Palmer-Wasilla area.

“When I first went to Jenny seven years ago, I let her know I wanted to re-start from the bottom and do this correctly,” said Ludy, who grew up in Las Vegas, Nev., and moved to Alaska in 1974. “I’ve had three different horses with Jenny, and before I bought Conrad [from a hunter/jumper barn in Seattle], I told her I just wanted a horse that could get me over the fences. Well, we found him.”

Rousey-Dick was beaming as she watched Ludy collect her trophy. “I’m so excited for Joy,” the trainer stated, “because I know how far she’s come. It’s been a huge battle to get her confidence level up, but she just went out there, had a good time and felt great about it. Joy trailrides so much on this horse, I think this type of class feels natural to her.”

Ludy said she also rides Conrad through intersections on city streets, responding to traffic lights right alongside the cars.

“In the beginning, Joy wasn’t sure she should have bought him,” Rousey-Dick added. “But she sure doesn’t think that any more.”




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