May 22—Devon, Pa.
To win a major equitation championship takes more than just great position over fences and riding in a lesson or two a week. Hunter Holloway and her trainers named four components that boosted her to her win in the R. W. “Ronnie” Mutch Equitation Championship at this year’s Devon Horse Show:
Holloway rides at her family’s Equi-Venture Stables with her mom, Brandie Holloway, and meets up with Don Stewart at shows. She rides everything she can get her hands on at home, and last year she was champion here in two divisions of junior hunters.
“It’s rare that you get a junior with that much depth to her riding,” said Stewart, of the 17-year-old. “She has the feel and the timing.”
She topped sections of the Pessoa/USEF Medal, ASPCA Maclay and Washington International Horse Show Equitation Classic and took third in the USEF Talent Search Medal on her way to the title.
Hunter tacked up Any Given Sunday for the championship. Brandie originally competed that 12-year-old Oldenburg (Indoctro—Victoria, Condor), and Hunter started getting a leg up in 2013. First they focused on the jumpers, dabbling in the grand prix ring, and at indoors last year she tacked him up for his first equitation classes. Hunter finished second at both the WIHS and ASPCA Maclay Finals on “Sunny.” These days they swap easily between hunter derbies (they’ll go in the USHJA International Hunter Derby later this week), equitation and grand prix classes.
“It’s nice because I’m so confident on him,” said Hunter. “I’ve jumped bigger jumps, and so has he, so going in it’s easy for both of us. We know each other so well, and we’re used to jumping bigger tracks. He’s a confident horse on his own, so it’s a confidence boost for me. I know he can definitely do this, so there’s no reason I can’t do it too. It’s amazing to get to ride such a great horse.”
Stewart joked that in lessons Hunter will never stop asking for feedback, and she’s constantly trying to improve herself until he runs out of things to say. And just because she’s at home doesn’t mean she’s taking it easy.
“Hunter loves flatwork,” said Brandie. “She’ll flat all the time. The week before a show I’ll say ‘OK Hunter, we have to jump some and get those jumping muscles going.’ That’s pretty rare for a kid. I know every time I rode when I was little I had to jump something.”
Nerves Of Steel
While Brandie describes herself as wired, Hunter’s the opposite.
“When we were getting ready for the [Great American $1 Million Grand Prix (Fla.)] and she’s eight or nine out, and she’s over there playing Candy Crush,” said Hunter’s stepdad, Larry Ellerman.
Asked how she mentally prepare to shine at big competitions like Devon, Hunter, the ever-composed teenager from Topeka, Kansas, just smiles and shrugs.
“I just try to stay calm and not worry about anything,” said Hunter. “I always feel like I’m at my best when I’m relaxed, and I just go out there and ride. That’s what I know how to do, is just ride.”
Want more Devon? Here’s a link to all our coverage from the show and we’ve got photos from Day 1 of junior competition, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for lots more fun. Check out the June 8 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse for news and analysis from Devon Junior.