Thursday, May. 23, 2024

Kurtz And Evermore Shine At Devon

The top junior and pony riders earned their championships.
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Devon, Pa.—May 28

Once the last hunter fence of the junior hunters at the Devon Horse Show is has been jumped there’s still more to be done. There’s awards for all four sections of the division and a number of special awards.

And there was one person who’s name was called over and over again.

Emma Kurtz.

The teenager from Hudson, Ohio made a clean sweep of the small junior, 15 and under, division aboard David Gochman’s Evermore to take home the division championship, the overall small junior championship and the grand junior hunter championship.

Each time her name was called Kurtz would stride up with the bay gelding, smile at the photographer’s directives as she was presented with yet another ribbon, saddle pad and other goodies. Each time she’d walk away, hand off her new loot to co-show manager Peter Doubleday before turning around to start it all over again.

But it was the moments between those iconic Devon photos that showed the kind of horsewoman Kurtz is. The 7-year-old gelding would lip playfully at the stray wisps of hair and instead of pushing him away, Kurtz smiled with a laugh and played with him. She gave him a playful pat before getting back to business.

When it came time to give her interview, Kurtz was quick to sing her mount’s praises.

“He’s amazing,” she smiled. “I started riding him at the beginning of circuit in Florida, and he’s a first year horse. He’s pretty impressive. He’s never been in this ring, so he was so brave. He’s amazing.”

Kurtz is a catch-rider. She trains with Amanda Lyerly and Rheinheimer and has lots of rides for Scott Stewart and the Gochman family. Though she doesn’t see her mounts on a day-to-day basis it’s clear she loves them as if they were her own.

“I had no expectations at all for him. I know he’s an amazing horse, but he’s still green so sometimes he makes mistakes; it’s normal,” she said.

Vlock’s Triumphant Swan Song
Teddy Vlock’s season has had much of a similar story. After not winning a single blue ribbon at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) in years past he took home the 2016 circuit championship in the large junior, 16-17, division. Similar story with Devon. He’s had few if any ribbons at the historic show and this year he won two over fences classes to take him the large junior, 16-17, championship and the overall large championship with Grey Street.

“Grey Street was my first junior hunter, said Vlock. “We’ve just been building since then. I started off and I was OK; I made it to the National [Ky.] the past two years, and then this year at WEF I was circuit champion, and now we’re here. Last year I didn’t even get a reserve championship. It’s been awesome. There’s not really a better way to end my junior hunter career.”

Vlock put in a lot of effort to get to this point—putting his riding at the forefront by hiring Don Stewart as his hunter trainer for this year. With a top coaching staff at the helm Vlock had a lot going for him, but the most important part of the question in his mind is Grey Street.

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“That’s a horse of a lifetime for me,” said Vlock. “He took me from irrelevant to ‘that’s a thing.’ Not only is he a famous horse, but he’s also helped me get some exposure. I’m really grateful to him.”

Kingston’s Crowned At Devon
Augusta Iwasaki may have been the busiest rider during junior weekend. The 12-year-old was running back and forth between the Dixon Oval and the Gold Ring, with a slew of junior hunters and ponies. All that swapping between jodhpurs and tall boots paid off when she earned the large pony and grand pony hunter titles with Kingston, and the judges crowned her Best Child Rider on a Pony for her great riding.

“He’s perfect,” said Iwasaki,12. “He’s like riding a horse. He’s amazing. He takes leg, but not a lot of it. Other than that, he’s perfect.”

Iwasaki rides out of her family’s Makoto Farm in Agoura Hills, Calif., and trains with her mother, Liz Reilly. She’s been riding the 13-year-old German Riding Pony on and off since 2015.

“They work on being straight,” said Reilly. “Other than that, she takes the lessons with the big kids. They could jump the horse jumps, take the horse strides.

“She’s been working with Kingston for about a year and a half,” she continued. “His rider at home rides him too, Ava Peck. She’s just gotten too big for him. They both take lessons on him. That’s what is so unbelievable about the pony: anybody can ride him.”

It’s Iwasaki’s second year coming to Devon, and last year she claimed the medium pony hunter title on Grand All Over.

“It’s my favorite horse show,” she said. “I just like the fair and it’s just fun to be here.”

Double Winner
Sophie Gochman dominated the small pony divisions at Devon on ponies owned by Betsee Parker, winning the championship on Bit Of Love and the reserve title on Love Me Tender.

Bit of Love won the handy and another over fences classes then placed second in the model and stakes, third under saddle and sixth in the small pony hunter conformation class. Love Me Tender won the under saddle and the small pony conformation classes, the finished second in the model and sixth over fences. The only blue that escaped Gochman went to today’s stakes winners, Armani and Claire Campbell.

Gochman has had the ride on Bit Of Love (English Lad—Miss Pretty) for two years, and last year they finished as small and grand pony hunter champions at Devon. He goes by “Chester” in the barn.

“Chester is a bit sassy,” said Gochman, who trains with Scott Stewart. “He doesn’t really like other ponies, but he loves a lot of attention from humans. He loves treats. I think he thinks that he’s adorable. He’s so cute and tiny. I love him so much”

Love Me Tender, who goes by “Princess” in the barn, used to be a ride of Gochman’s sister Mimi, and Sophie took over the ride three years ago.

“When I first started riding her, Mimi gave me a lot of tips and she helped me a lot with her,” said Sophie.

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“Bit of Love is a little bit more round,” she continued. “His stride is a bit bouncier, while Love Me Tender is really long and low. So for Princess you have to be really soft on her neck, or she gets a little sassy. For Chester, you just have to move very slow and smooth.”

Sophie counts Devon as among her favorite shows because of the country fair and the pony hunt teams. This year has special meaning for her because at 13, this is her last year riding small ponies. She’s already started riding junior hunters, though she didn’t bring any to Devon.

A Pleasant Surprise

Before the medium pony hunter stakes class kicked off, Grace Debney may have felt a few butterflies in her stomach as she sat on Sportster, but her trainer Stacey Schaefer was already smiling.

“She could have fell off in the last class, and she would have been champion,” said Schaefer.

“She had no idea she was going to be champion, but I knew before she walked in the ring. We had a great model and a great hack which put us off to a great start.”

After winning the model, Sportster jumped to second and third yesterday, and added a win in the handy and second in the stakes today. Dubney also won today’s stakes class on her other mount, Denmark.

“They’re different rides,” said Dubney. “[With Denmark] you just get the rhythm and settle, then steer him at the jumps and he knows what to do. And Sporty you have to ride him all the way to the base and leg him. He’s always good.”

Dubney lives in Hampden, Mass., and meets up with Maryland-based Schaefer at shows.

“We work on getting the rhythm and keeping it the same throughout the whole course,” she said. “I work on my heels a lot.”

Sportster also was on the winning medium pony hunt team along with Lily Ezrow (Small Suggestion) and Libbie Gordon (Tiffany Blue) who competed to a James Bond theme.

Tidbits
—Hunter Seibel made her cross country trip from California to the the Dixon Oval well worth it with a championship in the small junior, 16-17, with Krave and the reserve championship in the large junior, 16-17 with Pure Abundance.

—It was Rockette’s day in the large junior, 15 and under. In a division that saw a lot of point swapping, the young mare stayed consistent with Kaitlyn Williams to pull out the win over McKayla Langmeier and Levland.  

—McKayla Langmeier, who is riding a number of horses in the hunters, jumpers and equitation was named the Best Child Rider.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I actually thought Emma [Kurtz] was going to get it. It’s such a prestigious horse show, and it’s an anniversary year, which makes it even more special.”

Want more Devon? Don’t forget to meet Toga the Devon Woodchuck. Check out photos from Thursday here, read about the R.W. “Ronnie” Mutch Equitation Championship here and stay up with all the Chronicle’s online coverage here. Find full results from junior weekend at Ryegate and check out full analysis from junior weekend in the June 20 issue of the magazine.

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